A recent discussion in the Discuss Dramatica forums illuminates the unfortunate consequence of a deductive mindset. Calling into question one of Narrative First's milestone articles, Writing Complete Stories, the conversation devolves into a whirlpool of reductive--and ultimately non-productive--proof of the meaning of meaning. Complete stories are equal parts logic and intuition; one must possess a command of both to see the totality of narrative structure.
The discussion, with its plea for certainty, is reminiscent of the attempt by an "engineer" to take down the Dramatica theory of story. Theory-heads disparage intuition and premise for the sure thing proven by absolute logic. They see this statement from the original Narrative First article:
All meaning is context.
and somehow find it deficient and "self-referential" when compared to this:
Meaning comes from context.
Those comfortable with inference and their gut read both as equal--and move on with their lives knowing a little something more about themselves.
Meaning and Context
The inequity present within these two diverging views lies in the gap between the narrative Elements of Deduction and Induction. Often difficult for writers to comprehend (after all, who wants to write a story about Induction?!), the difference between these two reveals the consequence of the above discussion.
- All meaning is context
- Meaning comes from context
Both statements communicate the relationship between meaning and context. To suggest that one approach is somehow more appropriate than the other is a perfect illustration of a Problem of Deduction.
If anyone struggles with Dramatica's definitions of Deduction and Induction, observe these two statements' intent. The first operates from a basis of Induction and potential to connect meaning and context. The second relies on Deduction and certainty to secure a connection.
When working with narrative, there is nothing inherently false or wrong about one mode of thinking. Bouncing back and forth between deduction and inference is a crucial competency for those engaging with Dramatica. Without that balance, bias takes over, and the conversation stops.
The initial article, Writing Complete Stories, was meant to trigger readers through inference. Wait, what? My belief system is tricking me into thinking life carries a specific meaning? And it's worked perfectly for over a decade. In fact, the conversation on Discuss Dramatica began due to a writer struggling to resolve his worldview with the Dramatica theory of story.
The Dramatica User Group meetings operate from a bias of Deduction to find Storyform. Subtext, and its Premise feature, finds bias with Induction as it intuits Storyform. The problem with the former approach is endless debates over evidence without a connection to a more significant meaning (refer to the recent group analysis of Little Women for an example of this in action). The problem with the latter is confirmation bias and possible projection of self onto the outcome.
The Deductive thinker accuses Mr. Induction of lazy thinking, the Inductive thinker looks back and observes someone who doesn't see the forest for the trees.
The great thing about the Dramatica theory of story is its ability to objectify problematic issues. Take, for instance, the issue of Analysis within a context of Learning:
The Quad of Analysis
There are Deduction and Induction pitted right across from each, with Reduction and Production making an appearance. The Deductive thinker reduces possibility in search of much-needed certainty (Reduction)—but needs pages and pages of explanation to get there (Production). The Inductive thinker sees unbridled debate ("overthinking") as a detriment to Learning and employs Reduction to get to the point and keep the conversation flowing quickly.
Regardless of what corner you currently find yourself in, you need to see the totality of the quad if you're going to find success applying Dramatica to stories.
The deductive mindset, so prevalent in these explorations of The Science Behind Dramatica, creates resistance because of its need for stable and sure ground. The potential for failure with an inductive mindset is there, to be sure--but in that unknowing lies the twin human aspects of surprise and discovery. Our greatness lies not in figuring out and defining what is there for sure, but understanding that sometimes we need to trust our instincts and take that first step into the great void.
How else are we to get to the other side?