The Holistic View of Time

Taking into account specific mindsets when organizing story structure

Meaningful story structure accounts for the storyteller. If our understanding of psychology is correct and we see who we are, then a productive model of organized thought (structure) must consider the observer. Subtext's latest approach to organizing narrative adheres to this line of thinking.

Open a Holistic narrative like The Matrix or Rear Window and scroll down to the section marked Thematic Conversations. Here, you will find a string of various thematic issues grouped around specific points-of-view. The Matrix's Main Character Throughline (portrayed by Neo) begins with "Fate to Prediction to Destiny to Interdiction." Rear Window's Plot sequence starts with "Investigation to Doubt to Re-appraisal to Appraisal."

Note the free-flowing "conversational" approach towards appreciating the narrative thread of a particular Throughline. Note, too, the major headings of "First," "Second," "Third," and "Fourth" instead of Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. The Holistic mindset prefers time over space. Narrative concepts appear as a flow of ever-changing waves and frequencies, rather than the Act-based Linear rational mind's component approach.

Time Over Space

In Dramatica theory, this reality of the mind splits between TBOS and SBOS. The TBOS or Time-based Operating System sees with time, to then break things apart into space. The SBOS or Space-Based Operating System sees with space to then approximate time. This difference is why the TBOS Holistic mind finds the relative proximity of a relationship concerning, while the SBOS finds the duration of import. Seeing time clearly, the TBOS-mind wants to spend more of it together and considers distance a problem. Seeing space more clearly, the SBOS-mind wants to make sure the time "spent" doesn't impinge on other activities.

Subtext considers this understanding while presenting a narrative and provides tools to help you use these concepts while developing a story.

The Z-Based View of Time

Take any quad of four Methods in Dramatica and project a line from the upper left to the upper right to the lower left to the lower right. This "Z-pattern" is the SBOS, or Linear mindset, concept of time within the quad.





The Method of Universe within the Storymind

When considering time (processes within the mind, not a progression of history), the Linear mind begins with the Past. The Progression of events (or lack) appears next, followed closely by the Future. Only after the first three roll through the mind does the Linear finally consider the Present. The Present moment is always last to the Linear mind.

The Holistic mind takes a different path. Start again in the upper left, move right, and now move down into the lower right and finish in the lower left. This "Circle-pattern" is the TBOS concept of time within the quad.

While the first two appreciations appear in the same order (Past and Progress), the Present now arrives as a source of power generating the eventual flow of the Future. What lies down the road for the Holistic? That can never be truly "known" or seen but rather felt into as a natural flow from the Present moment. When you hear a Holistic mind speak of "manifesting" a Future state, this is the result of thinking Present first, Future second.

These Z-patterns and Circular patterns are a function of the quad's structure, not the specific elements within them. For example, jumble the above quad to read Progress Future Past Present, and the Holistic mind would still read that quad in a circle (Progress to Future to Present to Past). The Linear Z-pattern persists as well, seeing Progress, Future to Past, and Present.





A Storymind Justifying a Method of Universe

This new arrangement and understanding of time is not a contradiction to the previous statements. Instead, this new path is evidence of a justified mind—one in the process of considering a story.

Getting to Know Flow

While the arrangement of quads remains the same in Subtext, the presentation now alters to account for time in a Holistic mindset.

Consider the first example of Neo. In the original storyform, his first thematic conversation appears as "Fate to Prediction to Interdiction to Destiny." A Linear mind might look at that and think it correct. Neo is fated to be the One; his boss makes a dire prediction about his future, he fails to intercede on his behalf (the scene on the ledge), only to accept his destiny and follow Morpheus upstairs.

Do you see how the consideration of that progression comes to a complete stop?

That's how the Linear mind works through a problem.

In a Linear problem-solving story, this is the way: checking off one dramatic circuit after the other on the way to a solution. To a Holistic engaged in managing inequities, this is a dead-end--and an impediment towards an honest and truthful account of narrative.

Flip the last two to account for the Holistic's ease with time, and an unstoppable flow appears for consideration. Neo is fated to be the one that then flows to Trinity and Neo's boss, both making predictions. Note the inclusion of Trinity here. In a Linear mind, Trinity's conversation at the club holds little sway over the ensuing Interdiction beat. Shift direction into Destiny, and suddenly both sides offer glimpses of Neo's power when it comes to Destiny. This progression then naturally flows into Agent Smith's gentle interdiction on Neo's behalf leading straight to the acceptance of the Red Pill: an Interdiction all its own that continues the narrative conservation, rather than tie it up in a nice little box labeled "Act."

With a focus on Flow over Outcome, this narrative sequence honors the thought processes of the very mind it intends to model.

Power over Conflict

In a Linear-mind, the spatial appreciations of sequencing appear as four distinct components. Similar to an electric circuit, these items combine to solve a problem:

  • Potential
  • Resistance
  • Current
  • Outcome

In story, we exchange Current for Conflict and observe Outcome as the power of the dramatic circuit. The outcome solves the problem.





The Components of a Linear Sequence

With the Holistic mind, Power becomes a stepping stone on the way to something else:

  • Potential
  • Resistance
  • Power
  • Flow

The first two stay the same (as both TBOS and SBOS are equal parts consideration and observation), yet now Power resolves into the Flow of the dramatic circuit. Flow justifies or manages the inequity.





The Waves of a Holistic Sequence

The Linear-mind problem-solves, the Holistic justifies.

Consider the first Plot sequence of Rear Window. Both Linear and Holistic recognize the inequities (or problems) with spying on neighbors and discounting what you see (Investigation to Doubt). But only the Holistic appreciates the power of one's judgment to flow into a wave, re-thinking those judgments (Appraisal to Re-appraisal). The Linear-mind argues through Re-appraisal to come to a stable and definable final Appraisal. Case closed. Story over.

That's not Rear Window.1

One Size Does Not Fit All

Story structure is not one thing. It's not a set of 16 trendy Beats, nor is it an allegory for spiritual ascension. Story structure is simply that: organized chaos. How we manage a random set of events owes much to the mind in observation.

If we are to portray a single human mind with a story, we must account for hard-wired processes inherent to that mindset. If Linear, then organize into Acts that begin and end. If Holistic, then organize into Sequences that flow from beginning to end.

  1. For a comprehensive understanding of the structure behind this classic, watch A Re-Analysis of Hitchcock's Rear Window in the Writer's Room.