Less obvious Decisions

Because of something in my own story, I got to thinking about Decision Drivers and how some of them are kind of different, maybe less obvious than others.

  • Deciding to do something. This is kind of the obvious one – someone decides to take up jogging, or to go on a trip. This can also be deciding whether to do something, like in The Fugitive when the guards take their time deciding whether to free the choking prisoner or not.
  • Selecting something or someone. Here there are usually multiple options and someone picks one of them. Selecting a particular candidate for a job, say. Or you’re out looking for houses, and you pick one to make an offer on.
  • A group decision, like a negotiation between parties or a consensus being reached by a jury.
  • A delayed decision. This one is really interesting. Basically, you have someone who’s made a decision in the past (possibly even backstory) and is planning on following through with it. But if the Author shows them wavering on that, so there’s the possibility they might go the other way, then the decision to follow through with their plan when the time comes could be important enough to be an Act Turn Driver.

Of course, any of the above could follow (be driven by) an Action if you show it that way. For example, you’re looking at two candidates for a job, but then you discover (Action) one of the candidates is a Neo-Nazi, forcing your decision to hire the other guy.

Any other ideas for different kinds of Decisions that might be easy to overlook?

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The reason this was on my mind, BTW, is because I’m coming up to the Midpoint of my own story, where Roan the MC is going to travel to an alternate reality to try and find her missing dog.

I’d initially guessed that the Decision was kind of, she chooses to go despite the danger, and maybe that’s part of it. But Roan has been driven to find her dog no matter the consequences the whole story, so that doesn’t quite feel like the Driver here.

Meanwhile I was writing the scene right before the Midpoint, where she makes a deal with a Witch to find out how to travel to the “right Elsewhere”, the reality where her dog is. And it turned out that Roan has to find “the right tree”. But what’s really neat is, I didn’t understand why, but the Witch just would not tell her which tree to use. To the point of getting really angry when Roan was like “I don’t understand, there must be hundreds of trees in this forest, how can I know which one?”

I didn’t realize it, but that makes it possible for Roan’s selection of the “right tree” to be the Midpoint Driver. And it works well because OS Signpost 2 is Understanding, and the Witch was really trying to get her to understand how worlds-travelling works, so that she could select the right tree on her own. Once she does this, it should be a strong Bump into Doing: making the journey to Elsewhere, and whatever other Doing my muse throws at her once there…

But if the Witch had told her exactly which tree to use, or exactly what criteria to use to find it, it wouldn’t have worked so well for a Decision driver because she wouldn’t have any important choice or selection to make. That’s kind of neat.


I haven’t responded to this post yet, but I’ve been mulling it over.

Over the last day or two a few things have started to come together for me.

First, I have realized/come to terms with the possibility that the WIP I’m revising right now is actually Decision rather than Action. The main reason for this wasn’t the Drivers themselves, but the different signpost order it gave me, which seems to fit what I actually wrote a lot better. This is strange, given that I brainstormed quite a bit of the plot using the other (Action driven) storyform.

As an aside, making this change has so far set up some odd shifts in the PSR which is allowing me to (for example) shift whole sequences from one throughline to another (i.e. Value/Confidence/Worry/Worth was in the MC throughilne in Act 2, but now it’s in the OS in the same place – which works, because those first draft scenes really do describe conflict that concerns everyone, not just the MC).

Anyway, there remained the problem of Drivers. How to make them real Decisions instead of Actions that pretend to be Decisions?

Then I remembered this post and viola! Now it’s not that Mubin is deciding to send Belinda up to the house (which is really not different from just sending her – an action), but he is selecting her over Marianne because he thinks she’ll have a better shot of doing what he wants. This is great in addition because it adds an another source of conflict – the characters suddenly seem more real.

I should say I’ve listened to about half of @jhull and @jassnip’s last episode on subtext and that’s been extremely helpful too.


@mlucas This is all really neat! Thank you so much for sharing!

Drivers have messed with my head way too much in this theory, but all of this, plus the episode with @jhull and @jassnip that @Lakis mentioned have significantly helped.

Oddly enough, it all boils down to a Star Wars quote for me: “Always two there are.”** - In other words, to decide to do something doesn’t usually seem to be enough to make it a Decision Driver. There has to be a deliberation or some kind of cost that needs to be thought about, even if it’s immediately thrown out the window by a relatively impulsive character.

At least, that’s the feel that I got from that episode, and from these posts.

**Sorry for referencing eps 1, 2, and 3 for those aficionados who care! (I am one of them.)


That’s great, I’m really glad these ideas jived with you, @Hunter and @Lakis.

Once you think you know a driver instance, a really good test is to see what item of the opposite type it forces. Jim seems to use this all the time. For my example, I’d say Roan decides that the right tree is the one she and her dad planted together, and this forces the action of sneaking into her old backyard. (it’s at her old house so she has to sneak past the new owners)

What about this Driver, @Lakis, what action do you see it forcing or leading to?


Actually since I wrote that I’ve started questioning whether or not that’s the real driver. It seems as though the real Decision here could be Belinda’s – whether or not to accept Vaselko’s offer of a “seat at the table”. This would be a real deliberation, in which she hesitates but is prodded by Roger and Mubin to accept (they have their own reasons). When she finally says yes, she gets invited to the party and many actions/events ensue from that.

Of course, Mubin’s “behind the scenes” selection of Belinda could also be seen as a Decision, though it takes place before the beginning of the story.

I’ll have to think about this more!


That sounds good to me. I find the big Driver events (Initial and Act Turns) are the ones that really force the opposite type, e.g. Decisions that force Actions. Then within the acts, you may have some Decisions that are like smaller Drivers – they are more “unforced” than they would be if they followed from an Action in an Action story.

So Mubin’s selection of Belinda could be one of those smaller ones.


I found another interesting variety of Decision Driver in my story just now…

You know how a Decision Driver forces Actions? Well, one interesting thing about Decisions is that they can take a while – imagine a group debating a decision before putting it to a vote.

And then imagine you have one character who listens to the debate and can see which way the wind is blowing, and does something because of that (forced Action) – even before the Decision is put to a vote.

Is there anything wrong with that structurally? Not that I can see. It’s really just that the Decision occurred and became a Driver before the vote took place. The Author is saying that the group knew what they were deciding before the vote; the vote was just a formality.

Another way to look at it is that part of the Decision happened in the reacting character’s head – he decided the vote is going to go a certain way, and that forced his Action. So even if he were wrong and the vote went another way, I think this could still work.

Details from my story…

My Midpoint Driver is now* this big Decision that the cat Elders make, to involve Waverley Manor in the affairs of Other (an alternate Earth with magic), to help out refugees and aid the budding alliance of animals in the Other War.

The main Actions that this forces is, because Grandmother Cat does not agree with that decision at all (she has spent her life keeping Waverley Manor out of the affairs of Other), she scuttles Waverley Manor’s most important magic. And then she hands over control of Waverley Manor to the cats’ enemies, who promise to keep it out of the Other War.

What’s interesting about this is that she does some of that BEFORE the Decision is actually finalized, i.e. before the Elders put it to a vote. As in my example above.

* I say now because this is based on the new Midpoint of “surrendering Waverley Manor” which came out of a Subtext Writer’s Room session with @jhull. I previously had a different Midpoint, but this is WAY better because it’s strongly driven by and drives the OS Problem of Oppose making things worse.
You can also see the OS Focus of Help (refugees’ helplessness, aiding in the war) and Direction of Hinder (getting refugees out of harm’s way, scuttling Waverley Manor’s magic).


Yes, I agree with this. A Driver has to carry the Act in question. Right? It has to fundamentally change the course of the story, and it has to be challenged by a series of actions/decisions. Otherwise, there is no conflict if the decision leads directly to a successful action or it is remedied easily. It fact, I think that this type should be the easier kind of Decision Driver to identify.

Quoting myself:

So, I think that kind of fits the bill when talking about reading the room or prediction the outcome and responding based on this intuition.

If an action or decision can be remedied or counteracted by a single decision or action, then it probably isn’t a Driver. The Driver should be vigorous enough to resist efforts to remedy it.

Maybe we could think about Drivers being the nuclear option, and being the last resort that is often done out of desperation after other, less successful options were explored. A reasonable man won’t nuke a country if more reasonable options can be explored first.

I am really enjoying thinking about Drivers. I do think that a simple checklist of questions could be made to see if an action or decision qualifies as a Driver.

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