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

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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the language and similarity of structure can be confusing. confused the hell out of me for a long time. just remember: a and b, as you’ve shown them, are two different kinds of things, with two different purposes.

But, there is some function which relates them isn’t there?

I don’t know what kind of function you feel must exist there, and feel like the desire for that function comes from not really understanding the purpose of each tool. The function that unifies them is you, the writer, using each tool as you step through the writing process. A helps you do one kind of thing, that you need to do; B helps you do another kind of thing, that you also need to do, and that you need to do after A.

What does that mean? Well, how would you start playing a chess game before the board and pieces were in front of you? Answer: you wouldn’t. Even if it were a mental game, first you’d have to have a mental board.

Some of this ties back to the real world. You want to guys in a ring swinging at each other, trying to knock each other out.

Okay. First, where’s the ring? In Harlem or in Vegas. Are these black guys, or white, or one of each? is one tall and one fat? Is one a great fighter, expected to win, the other short and a former murderer. See all the potential I just set up? But no conflict yet, and no action, just description. I’m charging the story. I’m doing it for the audience, because I’m a storyteller. So think of the setup as a gesture of consideration for the audience. You can just throw two automatons swinging at each other, but isn’t it nicer if we pretend they’re real people in a real place? That’s what that painting at the beginning is all about.

If you set up the pieces on a board, it’s a chess game, otherwise it’s just pushing uncarved wood across a table, and who cares.

So, the function? Necessity. First this. Then, and only then, that.

How I do go on.

At some point, I promise you, a light will go on. It is natural that it doesn’t at first because you are learning something hard, and that deserves respect. Good for you.

I’m very well aware of poorly written stories. I worked at Dreamworks for 14 years.

Poorly-written stories are not a part of Dramatica, therefore there is no “function” or connection between the model at rest and poorly written stories. In other words, this entire thread is about nothing.

Like a painful Seinfeld episode. Only in real life.



“No conflict? Really?”


Sips his coffee. “Yeah, everyone will want to see that.”

Elaine comes in. “Did you submit that no conflict story?!” She starts hitting George. “That. Is. the WORST STORY EVER!”

George flails and escapes the booth.

Kramer comes in. “Oh yeah, that doesn’t work. Bob Saccamano tried that last year.”

“He did. What happened?”

“Oh man. They took everything. It turned out he was trying to sell them instructions for building a cabinet.”

“They caught on?”

“Oh yeah, giddyap. Now Bob sits over at the library and tells people he was Tolstoy’s dog. Oh, he’s gone.”

Elaine buries her head on the diner table. “I can’t believe I even KNOW YOU PEOPLE.”

Jerry sips his coffee. “So, you want to see Bag Lunch tonight?”

Elaine straightens up. “Yeah, I’m in. I hear there’s con-flict” she emphasizes to George as she gets up.

They leave the diner.

George and Kramer stare at each other.