Some thoughts on a Holistically-Biased Model of Dramatica

So we all know that the existing implementation of dramatica is a K-based system that favors linear thinkers over holistic thinkers.

I’ve been wondering what a holistically biased, D-based model of Dramatica’s Story Mind would look like for some time, and while reading through the Narrative First archives, I had a flash of insight into how such a model might be constructed, and I just wanted to throw that idea out here and see if it resonates with anyone else.

In this article Jim describes how stories with a holistic problem solving style deemphasize the importance of achieving the story goal:

In a Holistic story, the Goal indicates Intention—not a finish line. And not just the Intention of individual characters, but rather the Intention of the Storymind itself.

He’s completely right, of course. But then I started asking myself a holistic thinker’s favorite question, why? Why should the achievement of the story goal be deemphasized in this way?

And then it occurred to me:

Because for a holistic thinker, selecting the right goal IS the goal. Success/failure is simply one factor in evaluating which goal is the correct one.

In other words, all holistic stories share the exact same goal, and that goal is to achieve the ideal self-alignment with the central inequity so as to minimize negative outcomes and maximize positive ones on a story-wide level.

This is why framing stories as a choice between Goal and Consequences has always seemed strange to me. Goal and Consequence aren’t opposites! If I’ve selected a goal, that means I’ve already considered what the likely consequences will be if I fail to achieve it. That’s why I picked that as my goal.

If a chosen path is only worth taking in the event that it leads to victory, then it’s a bad path (so long as there’s another path available to me that’s worth taking in the event that it leads to victory AND ALSO in the event that it leads to defeat).

The question is not “will achieving my goal allow me to avoid these negative consequences,” it’s “am I correct in my evaluation of the likely outcomes of my selected approach to dealing with this inequity.”

For a story with a linear mindset, the central dramatic question is: did I succeed?

For a story with a holistic mindset, the central dramatic question is: was I right?

Consider two gamblers betting on the same horse. The starter pistol goes off, and both watch the race unfold with bated breath, praying for the exact same outcome.

The first one asks: will my horse win?

The second one asks: have I picked the right horse?

To put this in dramatica terms:

For a linear thinker, story outcome is king, and judgement is secondary.

For a holistic thinker, story judgement is king, and outcome is secondary.

7 Likes

Your racehorse example makes me think of a lecture I went to once on the topic of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination (the idea that there are a chosen few, an elect, who have always already received grace, and nothing we mortals do can get us grace if we weren’t predestined to have it). The lecture was about why such a doctrine would still be an effective means of social control.
The explanation makes me think of linear vs holistic.
The linear might think ‘if I’m predestined to have grace or not, it makes no difference what I do so I may as well do whatever I want’
But a holistic mindset instead looks for signs in their life and in their behaviour that they are one of the elect. They behave well, never sin etc not to cause themselves to win grace but to answer the question ‘am I one of the elect’? With the answer ‘the signs are good’. As Tiffany says in The Silver Linings Playbook “You gotta pay attention to the signs”.

2 Likes

Wow!

This made me laugh out loud:

Because it’s so right! Thank you :pray:

I wish I had this explanation before I recorded this most recent video, but it’s totally what I was reaching for.

Thank you again for sharing.

1 Like