What is the value of knowing where types and variations fall in their "natural" state (external, conflict-free state)?

What is the value of knowing where types and variations fall in their “natural” state (external, conflict-free state)?

A story exists under conflict. A story without conflict is one that nobody is going to read.

I’m going to be busy for the next hour. Signed America.

If a story is about solving problems, you need to know what a solved problem looks like to get there.


No one ever said the model at rest was something an Audience would want to see. But if you’re trying to make a delicious, unforgettable meal with all kinds of contrast, you’re going to want to know what kinds of ingredients are available to you.

That’s the problem with every other single paradigm of understanding of narrative. They look at conflict to try and understand how to make more conflict. Oh, this meal was amazing, I want to make amazing meals too—let’s focus on amazing and how to create more amazing-ness.

Unwinding a clock breaks the timepiece. And you can’t unmake a meal.


Time’s arrow. That’s right.

And keep in mind the “model at rest” is still pretty darn useful for understanding a story in conflict, as long as you’re looking at the story from the Author’s point of view (i.e. a full picture of what’s driving all the conflict).

For example, you can use the Dramatica Table of Elements to storyform down to the Issue level pretty easily without the software. (and you could go further too, but you’ll need the software to figure out signposts and maybe benchmarks too)


I’m too much of a newbie to really add, but this did spark a few thoughts:

You know those movies that open on a painting and holds there while the narrative introduces you to the story, and then painting dissolves into real people and scenery in the same exact position, and then it starts to move?

I’d also add, if you’re going to run a race, you’d like to know if it’s a stock car race or a formula one; who the drivers are; what the track looks like, shape and conditions; how long the race is, when you should go fast and slow down. You need to know these things to show up at the starting line.

Once you’re in the race, all that at rest info about Bill in car 541 becomes a lot less interesting than the fact that he’s drafting on your tail and trying to come up on your left and position for the win.

Weddings vs the daily realities of 20 year marriage; applying for a job then working at the job; picking a college and then going to college. Beginnings require knowledge of the structure in order to enter the world or field of the interactions; and after that, who cares how you got there, the interactions are all that matter. Imagine a marriage where you keep idolizing your wedding day and insisting on conforming to things said that day, while your wife knocks you over the head and says, hey! we have to pay the rent and get groceries! That’s what it means to be hypnotized by at rest structure when the needs of the moment are upon you. The backward glance, vs being in the moment. By the by, that’s also a measure of mental health.

But the ingredients which go into the conflict-containing story are different from those which go into the conflict-free story aren’t they? I mean, variations and elements change.

What is a conflict-free story?

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A story that no one reads, ever.

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The “model at rest” (i.e. the Table of Story Elements) is more like an organized list of ingredients, or like the Periodic Table from chemistry. It represents a story only to the degree that your kitchen pantry represents a cake or a pie.

From it you pick and choose ingredients for your story. You say, okay for OS Concern I’m going to use Obtaining, and for MC Issue I’m going to use Closure. And this automatically sets the IC Issue to Openness, just because you chose Closure for MC Issue.

Where the conflict comes in is that because of your particular recipe, some of the ingredients that would normally go along with others get twisted around so you’re using different ones. Like, Openness is usually made up of Consider, Reconsider, Disbelief, and Faith. But your story is somehow twisting things so, while the IC Issue is indeed Openness, at the lower level the IC is actually contributing Control, Uncontrolled, Hinder, and Help to the mix. (This is where the analogy breaks down – maybe you spit into the Openness and transmogrified it? :stuck_out_tongue: )

Similarly, when you look at things using the PSR, you’re not using the chef’s perspective at all, it’s more like you’re tasting things. So The Past, which on its own tastes as heavy and bitter as blackstrap molasses, in your cookies it has deliciously sweet notes of Hope, Dream, Denial, and Closure…

Another plotless movie starting with “K”. Hmm.

But all this really means is that a movie, a strip of film (figuratively these days) that displays various elements to an audience as it unreels, doesn’t always have a Story in it.

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What brought my original question up was reading this

It says

The “proper” arrangement of the Type/Variations is that Approach, Self-Interest, Morality, and Attitude fall under the umbrella of Obtaining in their “natural” state. The thematic items in the Dramatica structure are as close to an “at rest” (meaning no conflict) position as possible.

which raises my question, "what’s the point of a story (or story form) which has no conflict?

When we start talking about ingredients, we need to acknowledge that the conflict-less story form this article discusses has different ingredients than the story with conflict.

Its all very confusing, but I think the core question comes down to “why are we even spending time on conflict-less stories?”

Oh, I see your error. There’s no conflict because it’s the state of things before the story starts. The conflict starts the next instant. There’s nothing interacting in the initial state of things, only potential . As soon as the story starts moving, people start jostling each other, and those potentials are played out.

There’s no conflict on the Boardwalk in a roomful of bumper cars until someone throws the switch. Then there’s all conflict all the time.

We have board of 64 squares. There are 8 pawns on each side, black and white, one queen, one king, and two bishops, knights and rooks. they just stare at each other.

Then, p-k4. the pawn moves ahead and p-qb3, the Sicilian defense from black. The story of the game has begun.

There’s no conflict in that gun on the stage in the Chekov play before the play starts, but then, well, you know, kiss kiss bang bang.

with language: “there’s this guy, and he has a house, and he’s active, and he wants money. There’s this girl next door. A quiet street. she’s pretty, he’s pretty ugly.”

the story starts: “she’s doing her hair in her room when suddenly his ugly face is pressed against her window. She screams. He tries to get in the window. She shoots him.”

the story has begun.

I get the idea of “the instant before the Inciting Incident” and I get the idea of potential energy v. kinetic energy.

I guess one thing I don’t get is

In Dramatica’s Plot Sequence Report, Obtaining is said to explore plot in terms of the Variations: Instinct, Senses, Interpretation and Conditioning.

In the Table of Story Elements, Obtaining Shows the Variations to be Approach, Self-Interest, Morality and Attitude.

What is the non-arbitrary link (or, I prefer to use the term ‘function’ because, you know, math) which relates these specific two sets in this particular way? To my ignorant, uneducated, eyes, it looks like glittery wand waving.

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We’re not spending any time on conflict-less stories. That doesn’t even make sense.

The Plot Sequence Report, and the part you quote, is talking about the Dramatica Model of the Mind - the Table of Story Elements. It isn’t a storyform until you make choices and select potential.

Hume said the same thing about cause and effect.

And yet, cause and effect.

In Dramatica’s Plot Sequence Report, Obtaining is said to explore plot in terms of the Variations: Instinct, Senses, Interpretation and Conditioning.

That’s description and categorization of kinds of things in a state of affairs. The things are all of a kind: that’s the point of the description.

In the Table of Story Elements, Obtaining Shows the Variations to be Approach, Self-Interest, Morality and Attitude.

Those things of a kind? They just came into conflict with things of another kind, and that will unleash their potential. The things of a kind are being tested against things of another kind. It’s not description and categorization: it’s active gameplay.

Try it this way:

in a world at peace, obtaining is ordered according to instinct, sense, interpretation and conditioning, the kind of obtaining we do, how we do it.

then this wonderful understanding of an ordered world is disrupted! something with a wrong approach, a greedy self interest, a dark immorality and a snide attitude has come into town and suddenly our pleasant materialistic world of obtaining is tested and found to lack what it needs to confront this menace.

kinda like us and some politicians I won’t name.

A conflict-free story is one type of poorly written story. They do exist.

Thank you for the response. I’m not sure I grok it completely yet, but you’ve given me something to think about.

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