One step forward, three steps back

Sometimes I wonder if this is all subjective

Home Alone OS Mind . MC Psychology (IC Physics?!-old man marley)


Monsters Inc OS Psychology MC Mind (IC Universe?!-boo)


Braveheart OS Universe MC Physics
Fugitive . OS Universe . MC Physics


Matrix OS Physics MC Universe

Why can’t I understand the very basic level of Dramatica?

So, how can I know which range of the mind the OS, RS, MC, IC go in?

I woke up this morning trying to understand why superhero plots are (trend)
OS Physics/Psych (activity)
MC Universe (situation)

and action plots are also (trend)
OS Physics (activity)
MC Universe/Mind (situation, fixed mind)

when Braveheart and Fugitive are both opposite.
OS Universe (situation)
MC Physics (activity)

All the superhero, the action hero, and Mel Gibson/Harrison Ford/Keanu Reeves figures would say they’re doing something to fix a situation.

Physics: The physical expression of conflict. (active)
Universe: The conflict in an external static state. (static)

The internal manifestation of what is at odds in the context of
Psych: thinking processes (active)
Mind: fixed attitudes. (static)

Is it: Protagonist hits a moving object (OS-Phy) vs acts upon a static object (OS-U)?
In which case how can we explain what OS-Mind or OS-Psych is, when Kevin McAllister is acting upon moving objects and Sully is responding to a changing environment?


We’ve all been there :slight_smile:

For me, it’s been most helpful to focus on the stories that follow a typical pattern first. Figure out – not just intellectually, but in terms of feel–what makes them the same.

So for example, the archetypal superhero/action arrangement is to have an OS in Physics and an MC in Universe. Domain in Obtaining, sometimes Doing (not always though). Usually it’s MC change, though not always. Often the Problem is Pursue or Avoid. Romances, by contrast, are more often in Psychology. Coming of age stories typically have a Concern of Becoming.

Once you start to get a feel for that, you can look at the stories that diverge, and ask why. What is it that makes the source of conflict for this movie different from the typical story in the genre? Why is The Incredibles a Psychology story? Because while there’s all kinds of action, the story is really about what it means to play a certain role in the world.

If you think about it, Home Alone is a very weird movie. Let’s make a movie about a kid who gets abandoned at Christmas time – and play it for laughs? How would that come to be? What sequence of events would lead to a kid being left home alone at Christmas? In order for the plot to work, you’d have to have parents and other adults who are, quite frankly, so clueless and locked into their own mindsets that they don’t notice that they’ve left a child behind. That’s the source of conflict in the story–the thing necessary to set up everything else and to keep the story going. And the resolution of the story isn’t really that he catches the burglars, or successfully fights back against them. It’s that he’s reunited with his family.


Don’t look at what they do, but why they are doing it, the underlying reasons for conflict.


@didomachiatto. Exactly what Greg said. I used to look at each story point as storytelling. I was wrong. Heck, I feel that’s why @jhull created Subtext.
Take it this way. ALL of the story points you have in your chosen storyform are seeds. These seeds once planted in the bedrock of your story will sprout. The shoots above the ground might have all sorts of colors and shapes and so on. This is what the audience sees. They do not see the seeds. They might be aware that the seeds exists but what their senses perceive are the story you present to them. So let me show you this image.

That seed is your story point.


Which means the solution comes after Reevaluation when they all say they were wrong about his uselessness. That makes sense.

So by this do you mean the throughlines and their gists are merely the cause for problems in attitudes, situation, psychology, and activity?

If a problem comes that’s related to attitudes, it’s going to sequentially come according to the four throughlines of that attitude (Mind) domain? All attitude problems come from that attitude domain?

When you add IC to attitude domain… it personalizes it. Is this right? “You’ve got such an attitude problem, all attitude problems are related to your attitude issues, dude!”

Or you have a conflict in activity. That is sequential according to the throughlines. And, if it’s OS, that’s totally because the OS has messed up goals. “They are so messed up, always wrecking the world with their activities!”

Or you have a conflict in the story that’s someone manipulating someone else. It will be in the realm of that issue, and will always be somehow connected to MC. “I’ve got to fix that person and get them to change, my whole life is messed up because I can’t change them.”

I suspect this is all wrong.

If I understand what you’re saying, yes. EDIT: Actually I re-read this and I’m not sure I understand now. The story points at any level (Universe, Mind, Evaluation, etc.) are the source of conflict – it seems like you might be saying the reverse?

The storypoint (say Universe - random gist, “being the parent of an infamous murderer”) is not the conflict – it’s the source of conflict (or as I sometimes prefer, the “root” of conflict). “Knowing that he is the parent of an infamous murderer, the community shuns Bob and makes him miserable, to the point where he contemplates taking his own life.”

This is what makes analysis tricky sometimes – you see all this conflict, but what is causing it? More importantly, what is the author saying is causing it? You can often argue different sources of conflict for a particular storypoint. It’s when you see the storyform as a whole where one arrangement clicks.

Have you read this article? (See part 2 especially):

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If it were merely the storypoints according to signposts, I’d understand. But tying the POV to the domain (layer 2) is what throws me. Can an IC Mind do anything? Or the mind is causing trouble, and his activities are sourced in mind issues?

If so, how does YOU come into it? (3rd layer, please!).

  • And is that You to the reader or Ya’ll to the author? Is the StoryMind talking out to the reader, or is the reader’s mind talking to the reader?

And what about ME

  • Is the Me the author, or the reader? Author saying, “You should be like me, you’re like the IC, but you should be like the MC.”
  • Or is it “You’re the MC, don’t be like the IC that’s those guys over there. Be the MC”

@Lakis, That link was great. Thanks. It got me to this, which I don’t remember seeing before:

Likewise very helpful.

I see a faint light at the end of the tunnel. But I feel the article stopped mid-stream. I was starting to understand. And suddenly, we’re at the end of the article.

Is this part true? Or is it facetious?

The four kinds of conflict:

  • a problematic Situation
  • problematic Activities
  • a problematic Fixed Attitude
  • problematic Manners of Thinking

The four key perspectives:

  • the Main Character perspective (I)
  • the Influence Character perspective (You)
  • the Relationship Story perspective (We)
  • the Overall Story perspective (They)

Each perspective, or Throughline, perceives a single area of conflict as the source of inequity in the story. Once complete, the narrative presents a totality of experience our real lives fail to afford. The Reader, or Viewer, soak in the conflict of the story both from within, and without.

I thought I understood it there, but when he continued, it sounded like it wasn’t the correct view and he had to clarify.

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I think the point he’s making is that the word Situation (as opposed to Universe) causes confusion, because, in common parlance, any kind of problem could be a “situation”. So a lot of writers using the newer termininolgy may start their story thinking that their OS is in Situation when it should be in Activities (for example). The Fugitive (which is an OS Situation story) offers a perfect example (according to Jim) as to why the older terminology (Universe) is more accurate and helps understanding even it takes longer to get it.

For my part, I find switching back and forth between the terms has been the most useful. That and always reading the gists.

what’s the hack? @Lakis

The inequity bringing the main character into the story is the arrest of her family. She comes to a city where she finds out her “kind” are by nature the enemy. But they don’t know she’s “that kind,” yet. She has to hide that bit.

The IC is a leader in that city who needs to use her abilities for his own infirmity issues, but blackmails her to secrecy. Her abilities help him to be well but cause trouble for others.

I initially had:
IC: Physics (doing things to promote the OS)
RS: Universe (blackmail situation)
MC: Psychology (dealing with this world)
OS: Mind (fixed attitude, everyone suspicious of others)
With this, the premise worked and the signposts/gists fit what was going on.

Jim suggested I rethink those categories.
It turned into…

OS: Physics (doing, hunting for certain people)
MC: Universe (security, being safe)
IC: Mind (confidence, on the brink because of health)
RS: Psychology (ability/trusting each other)

So from what I understand here, the cause of their problems are these realms, but not necessarily the actual actions they do. Like the IC in some scene can do an OS event (like hunt) all the while being worried by the confidence-breaker issue. And the MC’s involvement with the RS may lead her along a course that affects how she’s involved in the OS.

And the MC can do something action or have some thought irrelative of the other domains, as long as its cause is security along the lines the gist sent her. Right?

Is that what it means? The under-current of life, passing out their cards from the deck, they’ve got to make do with their hand.

They, OS, have issues caused by hunting which colors other parts of their Physics world.
I, MC, have issues caused by security which will color other parts of my Universe world.
You, IC, have issues caused by confidence which will color other parts of your Mind world.
We, RS, have issues caused by trust which colors other parts of our Psychology world.

If you look at everything the characters do, you will see them engaging in activities, dealing with situations, having attitudes about things, etc as they deal with their respective conflict. If you look at why they are doing those things as they deal with conflict you will find the source/root of conflict. The source of conflict will be an Activity, Situation, Attitude, or Psychology.

Why does Kevin’s family have to cut vacation short and rush home (activity), deal with no seats available on flights home (situation), deal with cops who think the mom is crazy and don’t want to deal with her (attitude and psych), etc? In short, because because of their Mindset regarding Kevin. When they were getting ready, no one was Mindful of Kevin. They thought everyone had been counted. They believed someone would be responsible for Kevin. Had they been Mindful of him, none of the other stuff would have taken place.

Not exactly. If there is a Mind problem, it will come from one of the four areas of Mind (the Concern). The throughline will put its efforts toward exploring and resolving the issue by looking at each area of the Mind in sequence (Sign Post order). So the Concern is like the throughline assigning all of the conflict to one area of Mind where the Sign Post order is like the throughline saying the conflict comes from the space between elements-a place it can’t look directly-so it’s going to look at conflict as coming from each in sequence.

ME is the Storymind, which is determined by the author. Suppose I were to ask you about a problem you have. You might say “I think my problem is x”. That’s your ME/I view of the problem. But then you might add something like “but I could also see my problem as y”, or “My friend has a similar issue as me, but instead of treating it as x, she treats it as y”. Either of those statements are You statements because you are looking at your problem from another’s perspective. Both the I and the You perspectives you took came from one mind. Your mind. In the same way, your story has a mind and can view the problem as x (Kevin being a jerk to his family) or as y (Marley won’t call his son or whatever).


The hack? Always listen to what @jhull says :grin:

Another way is to always look at the level underneath. For example, for the OS, ask yourself do the issues that affect everyone on the story have more to do with Learning, Understanding, Doing and Obtaining? Or are they more about Memory, Subconscious, Preconscious and Conscious?

OS Mind stories have a particular feel. Think of The Wizard of Oz. Of course on one level it’s a story about a journey which sounds like an activity. But when you get to the end, you discover that the source of everyone’s problems have a lot more to do with their “heart’s desire”. Someday I want to do a group analysis of Fahrenheit 451 which I read not too long ago. I could be wrong, but I would bet it has an OS in Mind.

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YES. This is super important. Your storyform doesn’t limit what the characters do or what happens. It just tells you what the sources of conflict are.


Let’s look at the mom in the van of men singing polkas. She’s learning that she should be more patient with annoying things, OS solution-re-evaluation. She is one of the OS characters, a protagonist of sorts, working toward the resolution of the mental-break which caused the problem. This is what you’re saying, right?

But she is the only one actually making the space smaller, so perhaps she is working on the RS (possibility/ probability with regards to transportation to close the distance–attempt vs repulsion). Yet these are caused by Universe (RS domain). Caused by the relationship pulling them. Correct?

All of Kevin’s physical comedy, the traps and tricks on the burglars, are planned and plotted for the sake of manipulation. Caused by a desire to manipulate. Is that it? And through his manipulating of the robbers he is able to stop being manipulated by his family’s view “evaluation” of him (his cousin’s/uncle’s/mother’s insults he keeps remembering) and find personal resolution. As the protagonist, he’s a boy chasing off burglars, as a MC he’s a Kevin scared about being alone and incompetent. The protagonist influences the MC.

Well, yeah! Bless his heart.

So, about “you.” Does the IC story, and all that character does, have to remain distant from the storymind? Or is it possible to know what he’s thinking and why–even outside the MC’s viewpoint–without spoiling the me/you difference? My gut tells me that as long as he’s keeping secrets from the reader, it doesn’t matter if we know his thoughts.

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I’d have to watch it again to do a breakdown of any particular scene, but what I’m saying is that the reason the mom has to call off vacation, the reason she has to wait in the airport for an available flight, the reason she has to hitch a ride with John Candy and his band of weirdos, the reason for all of her angst is, more or less, because-and it could be worded much better, but just to aim it directly at the term in question-she didn’t have Kevin in Mind while trying to leave the house. Broadly speaking, everything she goes through after not Minding Kevin is conflict she goes through in attempts to correct the problem.

Again, haven’t seen it in a while, but going off memory, I’d say the reason for the polka van scene is so John Candy can tell her that they’ve all also left a kid behind in some form. I don’t know where in the form it would fall, but it seems to play like a warning. “Hey, we’ve had Mind problems and look at us. If you don’t fix this, you will be like us!” I can see wanting to look at the RS aspects of it, but I’m thinking it may be kind of a foretelling of Consequences (not that I know what those are in the storyform off the top of my head) if she fails to fix the problem.


Mmm. It seems like you’re saying Kevin is setting traps because he wants to manipulate. That seems like too much of a view from within. And I don’t know that Kevin wants to manipulate anything so much as just protect the house.

I don’t know the official Dramatica view of those scenes, and I’m not the best person to analyze, but I’ll give you two ways I think we could look at them.

  1. As OS scenes, the burglars and Kevin are all experiencing conflict because the burglars believe/have it in Mind that Kevin, being a child, is harmless. This Mindset gets them all sorts of into conflict. Also, the reason Kevin is there is because, again, Mom didn’t think about him until they were on a plane.

  2. As MC scenes, Kevin is there because he was a jerk to his family who wanted them to disappear, because he’s dealing with a change in attitudes (meaning Psychology) of growing from what the French call les incompetente to being the man of the house.


Keeping the IC distant probably helps keep the message nice and clear. But personally—and I am not an expert here—I think you can see into the ICs mind and still maintain structure.


Right. Don’t forget that by this part of the story, Kevin has embraced his Change and gone away from being an irksome, immature* Be-er. He’s embracing the Physics needed to protect the house and teach (Learning) the burglars a lesson.

* being immature and being irksome are both gists for Psychology.

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This is definitely true. I don’t think it takes away from the experience of the story at all to show the IC’s mind and thoughts. He doesn’t have to keep secrets from the reader either.


I don’t want to take this too far off topic, but have you done Jim’s playground exercises? I am working through them again for a current project – I’d forgotten how helpful they were for a few things. In addition to generating a lot of different story ideas, following his directions is the best practice for really learning how to illustrate story points as a source of conflict rather than just storytelling. Finally, his description of how to illustrate the IC perspective (see the last two articles) is a really helpful way to get a feel for the difference between different throughlines.



The reason this should work is that showing your ICs thoughts is just storytelling. The IC could say it or think it or show it or whatever within the storytelling, and since storytelling is separate from the storyform it doesn’t affect the storyform. The storyform is an analogy for a mind and the storytelling, I guess, is an analogy for the storyform. Or at least it’s which analogy your storyform is using to get the message across.