One of the standout features of Subtext is the Premise. Based on a previous article entitled How to Build a Narrative Argument, the breakdown on a premise allows an Author to determine the critical structural Storybeats of their narrative. Reducing the complexity of a Dramatica storyform down to a single sentence opens up greater understanding and draws the writer closer to their intuition.
If, in fact, that intuition is appropriately honored.
Unfortunately, early versions of Subtext skewed the Premise towards a specific segment of the population, i.e., the Linear thinker. Enraptured in goals and problem-solving, these cause-and-effect thinkers speak of Premise in a way that is simple to understand—and even easier to code.
Do this, and you get that. You might fail if you let go of this, but you’ll feel better for it.
Clear-cut and concise.
A Premise for All
The latest version of Premise within Subtext addresses a somewhat under-served portion of the world, the kind who prefers balancing issues, rather than solving goals. While much of the conflict we experience can be zeroed out by the Linear thinker, there is another that recognizes an inequity is never indeed solved: the Holistic thinker.
The Holistic operates from a position of receptiveness—understanding that while we may know the answer, an even better one may show itself if we are willing to receive it.
Sometimes to resolve inequities, we need to align ourselves first before the solution presents itself. We literally can’t see the answer because we’re too unbalanced and confused in our own minds. And even when we achieve that balance, the inequity is never entirely eliminated—the leveraging between various inequities continues from now until the end of days. The Holistic aligns the self to hear with better eyes.
Linear problem-solvers deal with on or off, Problem and Solution. Solve the problem and conflict disappears—like turning off a light switch.
Holistic problem-solvers—if there were such a thing—deal in waves of tendency and the balance of concerns holistically. Balance the inequity and the potential for conflict wanes—like singing a nostalgic and patriotic song to brighten a room full of national adversaries.
The holistic mind solves problems by justifying—by balancing self with the environment with the justification that emphasis over here will somehow help address conflict over there.
Changed Resolve Story
A Changed Resolve narrative deals with a Dilemma—with the imbalance between Problem and Solution. Linear thinkers attack these kinds of stories by problem-solving. They find the Element creating conflict, label it a Problem, and then fix it with a Solution.
Holistic thinkers resolve conflict by justifying—by coming into alignment with themselves and balancing the relationship between self and environment. They recognize the inequity for what it is and seek equity elsewhere.
One problem-solves, the other justifies.
Problem-solving is easy. It’s even easier to program as most of coding is a linear approach to solving a problem (if x = 5 then goto 20).
Justifying requires a different skill set of mental gymnastics. Applying that to a premise requires capturing the essence of the self being in alignment, or balance, with forces external. Finding the right balance of narrative concerns then leads one to seek leverage points that open the path to the desired outcome.
See—even explaining it involves a more sophisticated appreciation than only if this, then that.
Success/Good — Alignment
To a Linear mind, a Successful Outcome and a Good Judgment is a Triumph. To the Holistic mind, the same set of narrative dynamics feels less like achieving a Goal and more like bringing oneself into Alignment.
The Matrix is structured holistically—that’s why it feels so much different than Star Wars or Star Trek. As Main Character, Neo (Mr. Anderson) seeks balance in all things, trying to find the balance between his self-doubts and what everyone else thinks he can do.
If he were Linear, and the film structured appropriately, the Premise would be:
Give up doubting yourself and you can defeat a corrupt system.
To a Linear mind, that statement reads true. And for the first year and a half of Subtext, that’s how the Premise read.
But it isn’t The Matrix.
To a Holistic that inequity of self-doubt never goes away completely—it’s always there, needing to be addressed and dealt with day after day.
A Holistic Premise, and one that captures the essence and feel of the message of The Matrix, would be:
Address doing right by others by balancing your self-doubts with your personal truth.
To a Holistic, that statement makes far higher sense than the previous one. To a Linear, it might appear as if one is not facing their problems or making excuses for not merely doing what needs to be done, but the Holistic knows otherwise.
Sometimes, what needs to be done is to find balance—and then the solution, or outcome, presents itself naturally.
This is why a Holistic might sometimes refer to the “universe” as providing them answers. Explaining this behavior to Linear-minded folk requires using a primarily linear language to justify a process that sits outside of linearity. The only way to kind-of-sort-of discuss the kind of knowledge that doesn’t emanate from consciousness is to equate it with the universe working in tandem with the self.
To the Linear, this line of thinking sounds like kooky-nonsense, to the Holistic it perfectly describes how answers come to them.
The Elements of a Holistic Premise
Breaking down the Linear Premise into its principal components reveals two key Elements:
Give up DISBELIEF and you can OBTAINING.
Disbelief is the tie to the subjective point-of-view from within and defines the Main Character Problem of The Matrix.
Obtaining defines the Story Goal of The Matrix and solidifies the objective point-of-view of conflict in that film.
Problem and Solution. Goal and Consequence. If you do this, then that will happen. Strict linearity in narrative form.
Breaking down the Holistic Premise reveals a slightly skewed version of similar thematics:
Address ALTRUISM by finding balance with your DISBELIEF and your FAITH.
Instead of the Goal, we now focus on the Objective Story Issue for objective footing—in this case, Altruism, or thinking of others first.
Disbelief finds its way in their again, but instead of seeing it as a Problem, we view it subjectively as a point of imbalance—with Faith on the other side of the scale.
The Holistic Premise acknowledges this alternate way of thinking by shifting the emphasis of the Objective Premise Element away from the Story Goal, as it is found in a Linear approach, and down to the Objective Story Issue. In this way, the Premise continues to focus on the differential between self and external—but does so by referring to the more ephemeral and balance-laden appreciation of an Issue familiar to Holistics.
With this approach, we capture the essence of both the Linear and Holistic approach and provide Authors from all across the spectrum a means to better appreciate the narrative dynamics within their stories.
As indicated, this latest development calls for the addition of two new Appreciations of narrative: the Subjective Premise Element and the Objective Premise Element. The combination of the two within a single context determines a wide range of narrative dynamics responsible for the structure of a story.
True to form, the Holistic requires more explanation and a third Appreciation: the Subjective Premise Balance. Appearing as Faith in the example of The Matrix above, this Balance identifies the leverage point needed to counteract and bring into alignment the Subjective Element.
While the specifics of the Overall Premise Element shift dependent on Holism or Linearity, Success or Failure, the Subjective Premise Element is always the Main Character’s Crucial Element as found in the Dramatica theory of story.
This Element was always deemed crucial as it signified the connection between the objective and subjective views. This concept of the Subjective Premise Element defines specifically why it is so essential to the understanding of a story.
Receiving a Premise
All this to describe one possible narrative—the one where the self is brought into alignment and balance achieved. But what about those moments when we find ourselves in a low state of emotion or disconnected entirely?
If this new appreciation of Premise—a Holistic appreciation—recognizes the understanding that no problem is ever indeed solved, then this first step will act as a temporary balance of concerns. By bringing ourselves into alignment with the Holistic experience, we open ourselves up to receiving the answers we seek and the outcome we desire for ourselves.
For now, the potential for greater understanding is balanced—until the next one comes along.