Tenet storyform discussion

Haha, yeah I think this movie is like marmite. And I also loved Roma haha.

Kat as a main character is about 50% of Ethan Hawke’s character in Dead Poets Society (he’s usually MIA but the MC TL is still adequate) and 80% of any/all characters in Dunkirk.

I just wish Nolan had dramatica. It’s the first Nolan movie that I don’t need to see again.

Why dedicate a meeting of experts on analyzing it? Consider replacing Tenet with Herself. Or adding it (or anything) to the agenda so that you have something to discuss after agreeing that Tenet’s a tale.

I would disagree that it’s a tale.

I thought that too after first seeing, but after a couple days, a few more viewings, and some much needed YouTube explainers, Nolan’s argument is pretty clear.

I agree that the execution added a lot of static to the transmission, but not enough to override meaningful intent (Storyform).

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Nothing can beat Momento, just like nothing ever beat Sixth Sense. Sometimes, lightening strikes and a volcano coughs up a diamond. (as an aside: Tenet is on HBO starting today, just in time for the story analysis exercise.)

I felt that the RS was the only thing that gave Tenet a heart. It’s understated, but it is there. And in the end that is what’s memorable. But I am assuming that the RS is Neil (Faith) and Protagonist (Support?), not Kat (Despair) and the Protagonist (Hope).

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Yes I think that was the general consensus. I’m sure the discussion with Chris Huntley next week will be very enlightening.

I can say that watching one of those YouTube timeline explainer videos can really help.

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Oh yes, gorged on many of them. Tenet as a movie grew on me. I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but turns out it’s the only movie I have repeatedly watched over a week.

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Last night’s discussion of Tenet was really informative.

It seemed really clear that Protagonist was a Do-er and convincing arguments were made (including some from me)—

—only to find out I had originally marked him down as a Be-er.

In retrospect I think it makes more sense to consider him more in the physical realm. In that way he moves from simply just doing without thought to being the one pulling the strings.

The only significant changes between the two Storyforms would be focus and direction elements and the Influence Character’s Problem element.

The Be-er model sees a Focus of Perception and a Direction of Actuality. The Do-er model sees a Focus of Actuality and a Direction of Perception.

This holds up as the film seems to be more of an exploration of what’s really going on is just a matter of perception (the whole hallway fight scene)—not that what you see is not what is really going on.

Subtle difference, but important nevertheless.

Secondly, the Be-er form sees Aware as the IC Problem vs Order in the Do-er model.

While it is true that both Kat and Neil are more aware of what is going on—it is perhaps their refusal to be bound by structures (Kat in particular with her “enforced” marriage) that is the real influence on Protagonist.

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Wow! I did not know elements were specifically associated with be-er or do-er. Is that true in every story form?

If you lock Inertia into place as the Objective Story Problem, then when you switch from Be-er to Do-er the flow of energy from Focus to Direction switches directions.

A Be-er in a Universe OS signals a Start story.
A Do-er in the same is a Stop story

Start stories find the Focus Element in a Dependent, or vertical, relationship with the Problem Element.

Stop stories find Focus in a Companion, or horizontal, relationship.

So when you switch the subjective view, but keep the OS in place, the Focus and Direction Elements switch places.

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Ah thank you for explaining. It’s all depending on the dynamics of the story (as explained by you) not just an element being associated across the board with be-ers or do-ers. That makes sense.

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I listened to the group discussion. Is it fair to say that Protagonist’s personal problem apart from the plot is that he has no personal problem apart from plot? :thinking:

Is there a scene or line that shows that this absence of a personal life is problem / source of angst for him? I ask because I didn’t get this from the movie, and I wonder if this is a stretch that is read into the story.

Also, is there another bona fide complete story about a MC with no backstory?

I think Ex Machina was like this. There might have been something about his job as it related to him being selected to participate in the Turing test but that hardly counts as backstory.

I still have a problem seeing an MC throughline in this film…though I haven’t watched it since it was decided that there is a storyform for it to see if I can see the one chosen by Jim or the users group.

I’ve had this idea for a while that I think comes into play here, and it goes like this.

Theory tells us that there are two ways to view something and both are valid views. There are many ways to describe those two views, but here let’s think of them as a binary and a spectrum.

Using these two views, we can say that every story either has a storyform or it does not (binary), or we can say that every story-including tales, maybe even simple statements-has a complete storyform that it illustrates to some greater or lesser degree (spectrum).

To give an example outside of Tenet, I have a hard time seeing a strong, complete MC throughline for Star Wars. I feel like Luke has clear enough Universe problems in that his father is dead, but most discussions around his Universe deal with being stuck on a farm (that’s only the first Sign Post) or something about being a Jedi (which seems more like the solution to his problem than actually being a problem) which tells me that maybe others have had a similarly hard time describing the MC throughline in Star Wars. But I don’t feel like his personal problem of Test shows up very strong at all. The examples usually given for this are his declarations that he can shoot womp rats and whatnot. But I have no idea how Luke making these statements shows Test to be a source of conflict.

However, the rest of the story is clear enough to see that the intent was to show Trust to be what resolves both his problems and the problems within the OS. So even though I can’t really point to anything in the story that offers what I see to be a good example of Test as a personal problem, I can still see that the intent of the story is to show Test as a personal problem. When taking a spectrum view of storyform, we can say the Story still takes the MC perspective of Test even if the events in the story don’t seem to illustrate that particularly well, or particularly strongly.

Tenet is similar in that I can see Protagonist is going about trying to Understand what’s going on, and he gets into all sorts of fights and trouble by doing that. But I can see little else that feels like a strong illustration of a personal problem and even his going about trying to understand things seems more like it’s in context of the Universe. And yet, it is clearly a personal look at that Universe that shows how Understanding leads to fighting.

But weak, or even non existent, illustrations do not necessarily mean there is no intent toward a particular message or storyform. So while I would be hard pressed to describe what Protagonist’s personal problems are, I can accept that there is a perspective there that looks at things like Conditioning and Inertia as personal sources of conflict.

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Really great points and that is what is going on. A film or novel or whatever won’t necessarily touch on all the points. That’s why filling out every box in a Storyform is not a really great strategy for working with Dramatica.

If you think of real life having no meaning except what we apply to it, then the stories we write don’t have any meaning except what we put into it. The Storyform splits apart meaning into its basic components. So there’s a chance we won’t account for everything.

That said, there are great examples of Test creating problems for Luke:

  • when rescuing R2 he’s warned of danger nearby. Instead of trusting that information, he grabs his rifle and says let’s go take a look…and then he gets knocked out
  • later in the bar, he’s accosted and told to watch himself. Instead of trusting messed-up nose guy and leaving, Luke meets the challenge head-on with a snappy remark, and then turns his back—which ends up in a gruesome bar brawl
  • instead of trusting that Han can get the job done for an unfair price, Luke opens himself up to scrutiny by saying he can fly the thing himself—which creates an inequity, or imbalance, with the one person he’ll want on his side when he tries his one-in-a-million shot.

It’s easier to find these things when you think less in terms of “what is a problem for x?” and more in terms of “what is x driven to do that creates inequity?”


Great examples I probably wouldn’t have pulled out on my own. But assuming I did, without that clear statement of “I’m testing myself to see if I can be a great pilot/become a jedi/live up to my fathers legacy/whatever” it can still be easy to only attribute those, rightly or wrongly, to the issues of Test we have a clearer vision of in the OS even though they may be obviously personal to Luke.

But that’s the point I was trying to make. Just because the story doesn’t spell out for clueless people such as myself that Luke is testing himself in some specific way, or that Protagonist has a specific instance of Inertia to deal with, doesn’t mean the storyform is absent or broken or that there isn’t a message. Just because I’m too blind to see what the specific message is doesn’t mean that I can’t still pull intent from the vague ideas I am able to gather because its about perspective, not storytelling.

And thanks for those examples of test. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for them during the next viewing.

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he wants to work in a different universe (work environment), and the story is about him learning a new job and finally passing the test to qualify. And I always saw Tenet guy like a baby bird just jumping [in] from the nest, learning if it could fly, which just might be a test/challenge … etc. I always watched the films in complete storyform contentment.

Jim, just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to blog this. Really great examples that could be super helpful for Dramatica newbies. It’s pretty easy to see Trust in the Star Wars narrative, but if you tell someone the story is all about Test they might start scratching their heads, until you give them examples like these.

After reading your article, I almost feel like the Test element could be named Challenge! :slight_smile: It’s definitely a nice synonym, anyway.

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Oh man….don’t get me started on another change! (LOL - but I solve that…). Have to be careful I don’t change too much…although after looking at the short list:

Will Hunting, is his Motivation/Problem Test … or Challenge??!

And then Batman from the LEGO Batman movie…he seems more to be driven to Challenge than Test…

Nina in Black Swan is all about being Challenged…

Oh, and then Logan Roy in that family therapy episode from Succession…

Maybe I will!


And for novelists like me, well, this feeds nicely into the tools for creating inequity e.g. The Try-Fail cycle etc.

Awesome stuff.

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