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Subtxt Without the E
Hidden clues located throughout the app--even the title
Subtxt lost some weight during the most recent rollouts. Beyond making it easier to direct everyone to the same short URL for the app (https://subtxt.app), the X plays a significant role in depicting just what Subtxt does to create your stories.
In its most primitive form, Subtxt models the psychological act of projection. Once a writer sets the various perspectives of a story into place (Main Character, Influence Character, Protagonist, etc.) and clicks “Build a Story”, the app starts swapping those points-of-view. The determination of alternate perspectives often finds one corner exchanging places with another. If you were to draw this exchange on the model, it would appear as an “X”.
Take, for instance, the exchange between the Main Character and Influence Character. Often illustrated as a conversation of “You and I are both alike,” this conflict of interests finds the Main Character projecting his or her issues onto the Influence Character. It’s not my problem, it’s your problem is what happens when we’re too uncomfortable (or blind) to reflect upon ourselves.
Which is why we reach for stories—to help us see what we are unable to see.
As a practical tool for writers to quickly and efficiently build out their stories, Subtxt’s new brand is yet another gentle reminder of why we work so hard to make them great.
Psychological Projection Operating as a Source of Conflict
Our personal vulnerabilities and probability
The Discuss Dramatica forums pose a question about a Motivation of Projection. With Illustrations of Projection covering everything from "figuring out how someone is likely to be exterminated" to "forecasting someone's future, " one wonders whether psychological projection fits into the mix.
The short answer is yes.
Psychological projection is defined as:
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others. For example, a bully may project his or her own feelings of vulnerability onto the target, or a person who is confused may project feelings of confusion and inadequacy onto other people.
If I project onto you some vulnerability or negative feeling of my own, I am literally projecting my experience onto yours. When issues arise where I assume or imagine some behavior you are most likely go into do, I’m doing that based on my experience with myself. The motivation to damn someone before they’ve done wrong is an attempt to punish oneself for behavior that they themselves see as negative within. Unable to course correct or heal that personal trauma, they externalize and “take it out” on the other person.
If you look to the Parents of Projection (Issues in Dramatica), you'll find Sense of Self, Falsehood, Conditioning, and Destiny:
Sense of Self calls to mind negative self-imagery, as described in the example above. Falsehood encompasses the lies we tell about others, and ourselves, when projecting. Conditioning describes those projections brought about by a lifetime of managing internal pain through external means like personal and interpersonal physical abuse. And lastly, Destiny shrouds those negative connotations of being trapped in a body–or a lifetime–that desires something perceived as negative or illusory. That feeling of being unable to escape and the overwhelm that arises from a path not taken, or even accessible, can lead some to even consider taking the short road out of this life.
In short, a Motivation of Projection finds one driven to do something or be some way because of what will most likely happen based on prior evidence–within and without.
Luke Skywalker and his Motivation of Test
Illustrations of how challenging yourself creates problems
At the bottom of every Main Character's justification for bad behavior rests a Motivation. This Motivation, while seemingly amorphous and given to interpretation, is definitive and recognizable within the context of a Dramatica Storyform.
Life is meaningless--save for the meaning we apply to the thoughts and events that appear before us. Accepting this, one understands that the events within a story posess little to no meaning save what we put into it. The Storyform splits apart meaning into its basic components so that we can better understand how all the parts relate to one another.
Defined as "a trial to determine something's validity, " Luke's drive to stand up to the challenges presented before him creates a lot of personal grief for himself.
Trust rests on the opposite side of the spectrum from Test. Whereas Test requires trial for validity's sake, Trust accepts without validity.
The balance between the two creates an inequity that motivates Luke's Throughline forward:
- when rescuing R2 Luke is warned of danger nearby. Instead of trusting that information, he grabs his rifle and says let’s go take a look…and then he gets knocked out
- later in the bar, he’s accosted and told to watch himself. Instead of trusting messed-up nose guy and leaving, Luke meets the challenge head-on with a snappy remark, and then turns his back—which ends up in a gruesome bar brawl
- instead of trusting that Han can get the job done for an unfair price, Luke opens himself up to scrutiny by saying he can fly the thing himself—which creates an inequity, or imbalance, with the one person he’ll want on his side when he tries his one-in-a-million shot.
- It’s easier to find these things when you think less in terms of “what is a problem for x?” and more in terms of “what is x driven to do that creates inequity?”
Searching for Meaning in Searching
An in-depth look at this clear and concise film
The Writers Room in Subtxt is a place where writers interested in better storytelling gather together to learn the ins and outs of developing a meaningful and purposeful story. Hosted by Chief Narrative Officer James Hull, the Room seeks to explain the psychology of story, while simultaneously providing practical advice towards applying those same abstract theoretical concepts.
Sometimes, we just analyze a film.
Last year, we looked at the online thriller searching—a fantastic film that manages to convey a complete story while keeping us riveted to a computer monitor.
While the complete analysis and accompanying one-hour video class is an exclusive for Subtxt subscribers, I thought of a clear and concise way to describe the narrative storyform and wanted to share it here on Narrative First.
(Note: Major spoilers ahead—if you haven't seen the film yet, please do so before reading the analysis below. It's really a great experience that you should go into not knowing anything!)
J. J. Abrams Advocates Writing With Subtxt
How an app could have saved the galaxy
In a recent interview, director J.J.Abrams laments the lack of a plan while filming the Star Wars sequel trilogy;
I’ve been involved in a number of projects that have been – in most cases, series – that have ideas that begin the thing where you feel like you know where it’s gonna go, and sometimes it’s an actor who comes in, other times it’s a relationship that as-written doesn’t quite work, and things that you think are gonna just be so well-received just crash and burn and other things that you think like, ‘Oh that’s a small moment’ or ‘That’s a one-episode character’ suddenly become a hugely important part of the story.
Sounds like the natural process of recognizing meaning after the fact. Nothing really wrong with that—if you have something that can readily reflect back what it is you have written.
Something other than other people’s opinions.
I feel like what I’ve learned as a lesson a few times now, and it’s something that especially in this pandemic year working with writers [has become clear], the lesson is that you have to plan things as best you can, and you always need to be able to respond to the unexpected. And the unexpected can come in all sorts of forms, and I do think that there’s nothing more important than knowing where you’re going.”
Our writing app for creative geniuses, Subtxt, does just that—it generates a structure based on what you want to say with your work: an outline from a thematic premise.
You just never really know, but having a plan I have learned – in some cases the hard way – is the most critical thing, because otherwise you don’t know what you’re setting up. You don’t know what to emphasize. Because if you don’t know the inevitable of the story, you’re just as good as your last sequence or effect or joke or whatever, but you want to be leading to something inevitable.”
That inevitably we call intention here at Narrative First, Inc. In fact, that’s the reason for the name: get the narrative first, and then start writing.
Even if you set off in the wrong direction, at least you’re not aimlessly wandering the desert of your imagination. If you get lost, with Subtxt you know where you are and can quickly find your way back to a meaningful path.
Anything less, and your Audience will leave you to wither away in the hot and merciless sun.
(Maybe even a double sun).
The Development of a Comprehensive Narrative Framework
Leaving room for collective enhancement
Many writers new to Subtxt, yet familiar with the Dramatica theory of story, run into a disconcerting stumbling block: why are the Plot Progressions for the two applications sometimes different? While reading through The Relationship Between Dramatica and Subtxt helps, there remains a need for clarification. Why do things keep changing?
I thought I had a handle on where you’ve been going with your newfound HOLISTIC storytelling. I thought you detected a glaring bias toward LINEAR stories in the standard software engine we use in the commercial versions of Dramatica.
This is true. The bias, while recognized by Dramatica co-creators Chris and Melanie, lacks the documentation and exploration to effectively communicate this issue to new writers. Thus, my foray into these matters. 😬
I thought you were attempting to compensate for that by shuffling and rearranging the PLOT PROGRESSION POINTS in various Storyforms with HOLISTIC problem-solving styles. You seemed to be strategically swapping “C” patterns for “Z” patterns.
Also true. While developing the narrative engine for Subtxt, I realized that the temporal progression through a quad is a reverse C pattern (in contrast to the spatial relationships found in a Z pattern).
In the Dramatica model, horizontal aspects account for space, vertical aspects take care of time. Take any quad of items arranged horizontally and the default progression through that quad is upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. Knowledge Ability Desire Thought is one example of this Z-pattern relationship.
That pattern alters when you move vertically through the model. Top to bottom, the same quad of items reads Knowledge Ability Thought Desire.
Having discovered this in January 2021, I set out to incorporate this into Subtxt. While the default Z-patterns seemed to work great for Linear Mindset stories, they fell short of accurately capturing a Holistic progression of time. Based on my research of The Holistic View of Time and repeated experiences consulting with writers, I hard-coded the new pattern into the Subtxt app.
Exactly which ones you were changing, and HOW you were changing them … I could not figure out after reading a ton of articles.
It was all of them—for stories with a Holistic Mindset.
It made sense to me and seemed to explain WHY I COULD NOT simply transfer the Points of one of your Storyforms into my stone-age Dramatica software.
Subtxt uses a different set of relationships to build a story. You cannot mix Subtxt with the Dramatica application and expect the same results. You can, if you’d like, import a Dramatica Storyform into Subtxt but you cannot go the other direction (Subtxt to Dramatica).
Whenever I tried, it would barf all over the order, insisting that “Conceiving” come before “Being”, instead of the order you advocated.
The Plot Progressions found in the Dramatica application will sometimes match those found in Subtxt—but not all the time.
Coming Full Circle
In March of 2021 I made another important discovery regarding the progression of time through a narrative. You can see some inklings of this understanding in my re-writing.of the Story Limit into the Story Continuum. This new appreciation allowed me to complete my work on the Premise Builder while simultaneously removing the “hack” of traveling in a reverse C-pattern through a quad.
For years, I always felt as if some, if not many, of the Plot Progressions in the Dramatica application were off. Being based solely on intuition, I would often toss it aside and attribute it the effects of subjectivity on meaning.
My work in January re-writing the paths for Holistic stories brought the storyforms closer to what I sensed in my gut. Plot Progressions, both at the Signpost and Variation level, required less “shoe-horning” to illustrate, less falling victim to confirmation bias.
The work in March brought me even closer, removing the need for engineering a Holistic appreciation of the Storyform.
If a Dramatica Story Expert/Pro Storyform is 75% accurate, then the Storyforms generated in Subtxt in January were 80-85%, and the latest March versions squeeze by the 90% mark.
What you see now in Subtxt is a fully realized comprehensive view of what narrative looks like through the eyes of a Linear mind. These Storyforms, which illustrate the most accurate implementation of Dramatica theory, identify themselves with a plaque at the very bottom.
The March 2021 (c) narrative engine in Subtxt is, for now, the latest and greatest application of Dramatica narrative theory.
It won’t be the last. Subtxt allows for further development of the theory. It is my intention to eventually release and open-source the method by which Subtxt generates these narratives in an effort to leverage the power of the collective. As our understanding of the mind improves, so too will our application of those concepts.
Eventually, we plan on getting as close to 100% as possible. The model itself may prevent complete accuracy, but there’s no reason why we can’t leave open the opportunity to improve the way we communicate with one another.
Why Building from a Signpost Doesn't Work
Pulling yourself out of the writer's rabbit hole
Some writers familiar with Dramatica and the application Dramatica Story Expert lament that they can’t develop a Storyform from a single in Signpost. With DSE (Dramatica Story Expert), if you know your second Act Signpost of the Main Character to be Subconscious, you can select it directly and build out from there. With Subtxt, you can’t.
And that’s a good thing.
The Trap of Confirmation Bias
After years of helping writers engage with the Dramatica theory of story to develop meaningful stories, there is one thing I strongly suggest: don’t build a Storyform from a single signpost (there are other suggestions, but this would be near the top).
By focusing on one Signpost to exclude others, the writer strips all meaning from their selection. A single Signpost only means something in the context of the other three Signposts in that Throughline—it means nothing on its own. You may think Subconscious is your Main Character’s second Signpost, but you can make any narrative Method fit that Storypoint when you choose it on your own. It’s when you try to balance it out with the other three Signposts that you start to run into trouble.
In short, basing a Storyform on a single Signpost to the exclusion of others is an act of confirmation bias—you see what you want to see. What you want to do is see what you want to say.
Building from Intent
Subtxt is meant to help writers connect with their intuition. By removing from oneself the ability to encourage subjectivity and bias, the writer avoids the inevitable onset of writer’s block—the realization that what you’re writing is not what you want to be writing.
This blinded approach is one of the stumbling blocks of Dramatica, and what Subtxt sets out to clear up. By setting intention first, you assure yourself that your eventual Storyform forms around what you want to say, not what you subjectively see in a Storyform (which, by definition, is wholly inaccurate).
If what you’re looking at is a moving target (a single Signpost without consideration of the other three), and where you’re looking from is also a moving target (your personal biases abs subjectivity), how can you possibly be sure that you’re making the right choice?
Choosing Signpost first is the equivalent of making an argument based on time, not space. The current interactive part of the Dramatica model is structural—spatial, not temporal. The model currently sweeps time under the rug and blanket understanding of Character Dynamics and Plot Dynamics.
Even more of a reason to build from intent—to build from a Premise.
The Relationship Between Dramatica and Subtxt
Understanding the connection between the two applications
Since I receive this question quite often...
Dramatica is a theory of story. Dramatica Pro/Story Expert are applications of the theory. Subtxt is another application of theory, but with several added features to support the progression and development of the theory over the years.
As you note, I'm a huge fan of the Dramatica theory and believe that understanding its core concepts is the key to writing really great stories (recently found out that one of my clients/users of Subtxt just got on the 2020 Blacklist!). After writing about the theory for over a decade, I began to develop my own understanding of narrative structure that pushes Dramatica beyond its original inception. This includes concepts like the Narrative Premise, The Holistic Premise, and most recently, the Holistic Progression of Time (which changes the sequencing of events within a story).
Dramatica Pro/Story Expert is in active development and I have great relationships with both Chris and Melanie (who I consider masters of narrative theory and story).
Subtxt is my greatest passion and will continue to be developed for years to come. It combines my love of story, design, programming, coaching, and narrative analysis all into one package. 😊 I am the sole developer and LOVE being able to instantly add a new feature or new understanding of theory to the package, and have it rolled out across the world with the touch of a button.
You can integrate Dramatica Pro/Story Expert with Subtxt. I provide an easy way to upload both the Story Engine Settings report and the Plot Sequence Report (both key to establishing narrative progression) so that you can write from the original basis while simultaneously taking advantage of everything Subtxt has to offer.
Subtxt works on all modern devices, from phones to tablets to desktops, and supports the latest operating systems. I am Subtxt's number one user so its important to me as well that everything is up-to-date and speedy quick!
And that's the relationship between the two applications. ✌️
Building Conflict from a Premise
The biggest win for any writer is to connect meaning with point-of-view
Continuing my weekly series on Building Subtxt, I go over what it takes to translate a Premise into four different sources of conflict, or Throughlines. If you do nothing else with Subtxt, figure out these four major Storypoints for your story. Knowing where the conflict in your story comes from, and how it connects to what it is you want to say with your story, creates a level of integrity in your writing that everyone will notice.
[00:00:00] Google Chrome: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Building Subtxt. This week, I'm going to go over the Premise and how you can quickly find the main sources of conflict in your story, just by choosing a Premise. So you'll see here in Subtxt, this is a list of the hundreds and hundreds of Storyforms that I have inside of Subtxt, and each of them comes with a Premise.
Now this Premise is based on the particular narrative dynamics that are in that story, so not every Premise is going to be the same. They're all gonna be different. Some of them are gonna sound the same because they're going to share a lot of the same narrative dynamics, but as we go through them and I'm going to go through a couple of examples here. You'll see that they don't have the same exact message. They're each trying to say something different.
And the main conceit here in Subtxt is that when you're trying to write a story, when you're trying to write a complete story, that every complete [00:01:00] story is an argument. It's some sort of approach. A way of solving problems or a way of dealing with the kind of things that come up in your life, that the story's actually an argument for a particular way of doing something over something else. And this comes from the Dramatica theory of story. That's the main conceit of the entire theory is that every complete story is actually an argument.
And so what we have here with the Premise is what that argument actually is. So for instance, this is The Vast of Night, which is a Slamdance film that was it's on Amazon Prime. "Everyone suffers the tragic consequences of forgetting what is at stake when you speculate about wild conspiracies."
And so the idea here is that it's a, it's a tragic story. And when people just get caught up speculating about what could go wrong or what kind of stuff is going on, it's about alien abductions and stuff, that's when they start to suffer the consequences of forgetting what's really going on because [00:02:00] they get all caught up in speculation. And that's the tragic essence of that film.
For Peter Pan, "Being in harmony with supposing dreams come true, keeps you present, allowing your wild imagination to deepen relationships." So you can see that it's a much more positive message and it has a different feel to it. Whereas this one's pretty basic and to the point, this one's all about staying in harmony with, you know, supposing that dreams can come true. And when you're in that state and you're in that harmonic state, you actually you're, you can allow your imagination to deepen the relationships with the people that are around you. So this one's about tragedy. This one's more about improving the relationships.
This is Kajillionaire. " You can be a part of something real when you abandoned being in a particular group with an overly destructive process." And that's, you know, again like this first one, but it's more of a positive message. You know, you can actually be a part of something that means something. If you just leave that group that [00:03:00] keeps doing the same sort of thing, and that's exactly what that film is about.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things, which is Charlie Kaufman. Really crazy movie. You know, the Premise actually matches your feeling of actually watching the film. So, "Address your resistance towards being authentic by balancing your overwhelming acknowledgement of what really happened with your appearing to be someone."
So again, that's, you know, I might have to read it again for you to actually understand what it means. "Address your resistance towards being authentic by balancing your overwhelming acknowledgement of what really happened with your appearing to be someone." So he's having trouble, you know, being his authentic self. And he's got to balance things with his acknowledgement of what really happened with his perceptions and that creates all kinds of trouble. Here we have Hamilton, very, very popular play. "Keep disrupting things by moving towards following a course of thought and everyone will suffer the tragic consequences of having someone else write their [00:04:00] story." And you'll notice this one sounds somewhat like The Vast of Night and that's because they're both tragedies.
Hamilton ends in a tragedy and The Vast of Night ends in tragedy. The specific Elements, the specific components of the Premise are different, but where it actually ends up, it's the same sort of feeling. And so then that's why the Premise would feel the same.
So what you would do here, you know, if you're just starting out with Subtxt and you want to kind of feel out, what does it actually like and not have to get into learning all this crazy theory that you can actually get caught up in doing what you want to do is just pick one that actually connects with you. So you just find a Premise that actually connects with what it is that you want to say.
You know, you can go through here. "You can be happily married when you get out of your way and abandon calling something off." That's that one episode of the Simpsons from the first season actually has a complete story, even though it's only 30 minutes long.
Let's [00:05:00] see. Oh, Barry. "However bleak, you can pretend to be someone else when you abandon stopping something you're great at." And you just kind of look through here and see if you can find one that fits. Something that connects with you.
So I think what I'm gonna do is I'm just going to take something really simple. The first one I'm going to do is very simple. So I'll take Top Gun cause that's basic. It's the 80s classic message, "Abandon being reckless, and you can compete against the best of the best." So you just click here, and then what happens is it brings you into the Storyform just for Top Gun. What I'm going to do is I'm just going to go ahead and click Build a Story and then it's gonna ask me, okay, well, confirm your choice, repeats the Premise, and you'll see here now.
These are the Subtxt Settings and these are the settings that are actually beneath this Premise. It's like the subtext of this Premise. So, what is the story primarily about? Well, it's about Abandoning a [00:06:00] Perspective. The other alternative that is Staying the Course. In this case, this is all about abandoning a particular point of view that's not actually serving you anymore. So that's what this one's about.
The second setting is "What drives the structure of the story?" And if you remember the list of Premises that we went through, some of them had more of a harmonic relationship oriented Premise to them. Whereas something like Top Gun has this really straightforward sort of, okay, this is what it's all about. So that straightforwardness, as opposed to the more relationship oriented thing, that's what gets you this Reason. So it's actually Reason is actually driving the structure of the story. Whereas if you did the other one that was more harmonic and oriented towards relationships, then those relationships would be driving the structure of the story. And it all has an effect on the final story. Like what you're actually working towards.
The third setting here, "Is it difficult to separate the main character's personal issues from the plot?" Depending on what it is, that kind of story that you want to write, [00:07:00] sometimes you can really isolate the Main Character, the kind of stuff that they're going through from the actual Plot in the story.
And then other times they're kind of blended, they're almost seem like they're one and the same. In the end, you're know you're going to want to blend them and kind of bring them together. But usually you can tell whether or not, you know, are there they're like really close to each other or are they kind of separated and here, you know, cause Top Gun it's about him being the greatest pilot in the world. And that's kind of where he's got this whole thing where he has to prove himself. So that's, it's hard to separate his personal issues from the plot there. And it's not something that's completely different.
And then the fourth one here, "Does the Main Character flow with the plot, or resist it?" This is not your typical Hero's Journey Call to Adventure sort of thing. But this is really just about, when it comes to the big major turns in the story, is he or she able to flow with it or do they resist it or they like not, they're just not in there. You know This would happen throughout the entire story, not just in [00:08:00] one place, not just at the end, just at the beginning, but throughout the entire thing. So here, the Tom Cruise character, he flows with the plot because he's just got everything with it.
And then, of course, the very last question that is an essential part of this Premise, "Is what kind of ending does the story have?" Is it end in Triumph, which this one clearly does. Is it a the story of Virtue, is it something a little more Severe or is it like, you know, The Vast of Night or Hamilton where it ends in Tragedy, and here it's Triumph. The point of having this screen here, where you confirm your choice is to make sure, you connected with the Premise, so now let's dive into the Premise and see what it is that makes up that Premise. So these things actually create this in conjunction with the Thematic Components.
So there are two major components in a great Premise, there's two and one is all about Character and the other one's all about Plot. The Premise is like the crossover point between character and plot. So that's how you [00:09:00] get what it is that the story's actually about. That's where you get the meaning of it.
You can think of it like an internal version of what the problem is like to an external version of what the central problem with the story is like. Internally it's all about competing against, you know, other people. Whereas internally it's all about being reckless. And actually, I just realized these should be flipped. The Plot should be competing against the best of the best and the Character should be being reckless. So I'm sure I will redo this, but for right now, I can see that that's actually something that needs to be fixed. That's why when I was going through and I was like, wait, no, the plot should be competing against the best. And then the character element, the part that's not working is the fact that he's being reckless.
When you combine these two and you combine these things here, then you get this Premise, "Abandon being reckless, and you can compete against the best of the best." So if I just go ahead and Build that Story here, Subtxt [00:10:00] goes and grabs all that stuff and then puts it into this story.
Here you can see, this is where you can develop and build out your story. There's a ton of different information here, but right now I'm just going to focus on the main Throughlines, which are the four different ways of looking at conflict in the story.
You can see the premise here, again, "Abandon being reckless, and you can compete against the best of the best." And what's really cool about Subtxt is maybe this is the Premise that you want, but you don't want to write Top Gun again. You want to write something a little different, so maybe you come in here and this has a bunch of different illustrations of something that's close to that feeling of being reckless. Being vague. Being careless.
Maybe we'll do this, "Abandon being careless." You can see, it has the same sort of essence of being reckless, but it's a little bit different. And then that's how you can start to make the story your own. So the structure's gonna stay the same, but the stuff that you put on top, the storytelling part, that's the part that's gonna change.
And then here you can compete against the [00:11:00] best of the best. Here is a whole list of different ways you can "vote against something." You can "rebel against someone." You can "do what fathers and sons do together". "Do whatever it takes to survive." "Shoot people." "Search for something." "Abandon being careless and you can do whatever it takes to survive." Alright, maybe we'll go with that.
As you can see, this is where you can start to use Subtxt to kind of brainstorm the kind of stories you want to tell. All right. So then if I come over here and I come into Throughlines, then you'll see four main summaries of the different sources of conflict that appear in your story. One centered around the plot. One centered around the Main Character. One is centered around the Influence Character, which is somebody I'll get to in a bit. And then the other one is centered around the main Relationships in the story.
What Subtxt has done is it's grabbed this [00:12:00] Premise and it's figured out that, if this is the kind of thing that you want to argue, then this is where you should focus your attention.
If you want to have a huge leap forward in your story, you can just do the Plot summary and the Main Character summary and you'll be great. You'll still feel like something's missing. If you can get all four of these, then you'll be golden. The Influence Character then is somebody who creates conflict through immediate responses. So if you've seen Top Gun that's Iceman.
And then the main Relationships in the story are about temporarily adopting a lifestyle. This is usually more difficult for people to get ahold of, the relationships, and when I work with people, this is always the thing that we have to keep going on and keep going on. So I'll get back to this, but for the summary here. So let's just start out with the Plot.
The story we're trying to tell is "Abandon being careless, and you can do whatever it takes to survive." Maybe it's somebody who's just kind of stuck on climbing a mountain and his whole life he's just been like, well, everything is taken care of [00:13:00] for me. Maybe he stepped away from life from society because he just wanted to get away. And then the only way that he can actually get off the mountain is abandoning being careless and you can do whatever it takes to survive.
If I come back here into the plot summary here, and I just decided to illustrate it, you'll see it has an Illustration singing karaoke, which is not the story I just pitched. And then Storytelling where you get to write in what it's about. And then this is the actual structural Element that's underneath everything. So this gives you a little hint of what is underneath it all. This is the subtext right here. This is what's underneath all the storytelling that you have going on in here.
So "singing karaoke" isn't what I really wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about climbing something. Okay, so there, so now all of a sudden I've taken it away from flying airplanes and learning how to shoot, you know, other bad guy airplanes. And now it's about climbing.
[00:14:00] Maybe his name is Robert. And his party gets stuck on a mountain top because of Robert's carelessness. They start dying off as they try to reach the bottom of the mountain. It's like a typical climbing sort of thing. The idea is that all the problems in the story from a Plot point of view are going to be all about this focus on physical activity.
So then we'll look at the main character here. And let's go ahead and give him something. Now this went out and found "improving a group's declining health," which kind of actually fits with what it is that I was trying to write here. So if his main focus is about trying to improve their declining health or maybe he feels overly responsible. And this gets to the point where I said, where it's hard to differentiate between what's [00:15:00] actually going on in the story and what's going on with the Main Character and his personal issues.
Robert is the president of the company and is someone who cherishes being respected by the people that he works with. The fact that they're stuck on this mountain really gets to him. And he does whatever he can to improve their ever declining health.
Right. Okay. So then. What that means is while everybody is dealing with, you know, they're on the mountain, they're falling off and it's like, Oh, how can we get, you know, how can we get to safety? Maybe a helicopter tries to rescue them. And then the helicopter crashes.
Robert himself, he doesn't like that everybody is getting sicker and sicker and, you know, maybe like, cause the weather's really cold and their, their health is actually declining and he's losing their respect and maybe he's up for promotion and he doesn't [00:16:00] like the fact that this is going to look really bad for him if everybody dies off. Maybe he pitched everybody on this big trip and then now they're all starting to get sick and it's on him. And he's always wanted to show that he could do something. But he's always been careless. Right? If I go back to this thing here, "Abandon being careless he's just like taking shortcuts, right. And that's causing all kinds of problems here. All right. So I'm just basing this on the Premise of Top Gun, but already you can see that it's got, it's got some good stuff to it, right? It's like, okay, he's got to get over this. And then maybe they will be able to get off the mountain. To get the other two, you have the Influence Character and then the Relationships. The Influence Character is somebody who challenges the way the Main Character does something. They influence this person to eventually get to a place where he can abandon that being reckless.
Let's see what is this about, "having knee-jerk reactions to something" Either [00:17:00] it's somebody who's like on edge all the time and because they're on edge all the time, Robert can see himself in, you know, like that whole thing where it's like, "You and I are both alike," that's because the Main Character can see themselves in the Influence Character.
These are all different versions of either having nervous reactions or having knee jerk reactions to something or being somebody that's like completely numb, like a cool level headed. That's why in Top Gun it works, cause his name is actually Ice Man.
You can take it any way. Anything that actually connects with you. So let's just say being steady. While the rest of the group panics, Sarah is the kind of person who is never upset about anything, even when she's dangling off the edge of a cliff. Which impresses Robert, especially when everyone else starts to gravitate towards her for leadership, right? So do you see how this is working? Even if you don't do anything else, like you can see here, Act One, Act Two, Act Three. You can get into [00:18:00] major detail in Subtxt. But even if you just stick to the plot, the Main Character you had something really interesting going on because there was like a reason for why there was this story. It's not just this thing that happened. It's not just climbing a mountain, but it's like, okay, this guy who wants to be seen as a leader.
But now you make it even bigger. You increase the scope of the argument when you throw in this other person who is now showing, your main character a different way of approaching problems. Their success is what eventually leads this person to grow. And you can see the subtext here, what's driving Robert throughout the entire story is Progress. The fact that he's not progressing enough.
And then finally, the one that a lot of people have trouble with are the Relationships. Usually it's just one relationship in a story. And most of the time it's the relationship between the Main and Influence Character, but it can also be a relationship between the Main Character and somebody else. [00:19:00] It's not about the Main Character or about that other person, but it's about the relationship between them. In the same way that this Main Character and Influence Character balance each other out, the Relationship balances out the Plot and that's how you get a complete story.
So if we go in here, "temporarily adopting a lifestyle." You can see the random one that came up with was "being a member of Victorian society," which I don't know if that, I mean, maybe it, maybe this is set in the late 1800s and actually, what if we did go with it? So that was a total random one, right? So these are all different kinds of relationships about faking something, pretending to be in love. But I think I actually like being a member of Victorian society.
And what you want to write about here is illustrate how relationships grow through temporarily adopting a lifestyle. How does their relationship grow? In the beginning, do I want to make it between Robert and Sarah? I don't know. Let's [00:20:00] see. Maybe the, the heart of the story is between Robert and his father. Maybe his father is on the trip as well. Maybe he actually owns the company.
And so there's like this father son thing going on where you know, the father's like old school being a member of Victorian society. And this is, you know, it's very important that we get up the mountain and we show everybody what it's all about, you know, just very Conservative and Victorian values. And maybe the son is like new world, and they're not connecting to each other.
So Robert and his father George have a dysfunctional relationship that keeps them from getting close to one another. Yeah. So it's like a dysfunctional relationship in regards to Victorian ideals that keeps them from getting close to one another.
This would be great. So what it [00:21:00] is the important part is the pretending part is they can pretend to be father and son for only so long. Right? They can only pretend to be father and son for so long before the fact that they're really just aren't cut from the same cloth pulls them apart. Right? So it's like, you can only do it for so long. He's not living up to the ideals. They're not living up to the ideal of what a father and son sort of thing. There should be respect and that's just not happening. So by the end of it, they split up. Maybe the dad dies. I don't know.
So do you see what I'm saying? Like 10 minutes ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I was more bothered by the fact that the Character and the Plot things weren't in the right spot. But all of a sudden I have the foundation for a really great story. I have something like that could be really, really good. Where it's about, your typical climbing the summit sort of thing and all of a sudden now it's in the late [00:22:00] 1800s, just because of this random thing about Victorian society. And then I have this really touching father son thing. You can see, like, that's the heart of the story. That's like, Oh, okay, wait. Are they going to get closer? Is there going to be time where they finally reach an understanding, but that understanding is heartbreaking because it's going to be the end of everything.
Meanwhile, you know, Sarah, she's got her own thing and she's also not into Victorian ideals, but the difference, the, "You and I are both alike." Yeah. We, we both, aren't really into this old world. We're all, both part of the new world, but the difference is, I'm not panicking like you are. People aren't dying because I'm careless.
Do you see you have a foundation, you didn't have to go through and do all Act One, Act Two, Act Three Act Four. Just knowing where you're gonna focus your attention when it comes to the relationships in the story, when it comes to the interpersonal conflicts. And then of course, the main plot, which is basically just about climbing.
When you can wrap all those together and get a good idea of what it is that those are about then you can just write your [00:23:00] story.
And this isn't just geared towards the Main Character. This is also geared towards everybody in this story. So it's the Premise of the entire story. So, maybe Robert and his father were careless in the relationship. Maybe Robert survives and maybe his dad doesn't, but that's, you know, that's what he should've done. And therefore he did whatever it takes to survive because they abandoned being careless about their own relationship.
So I hope that gives you a good idea. I was going to do a bunch of different examples, but it takes a lot longer than I thought it would. So maybe I'll just do one at a time and in the next video I'll make sure I fix the little bug there between the Character and the Plot.
I'm really excited about being able to offer this up so that anybody can just jump in to Subtxt and not have to learn a ton of theory and actually have fun writing a story because the important part is writing the story that you're really excited about.
You might come to it with a bunch of ideas of what you want to do, or you could just be, if you just like to write, but you're not really [00:24:00] sure where to start. You can just do what I did, which is just grab a random Premise, build out a story and then just figure out where the main sources of conflict are. And then you've got yourself, the foundation for a really great story.
I look forward to showing you more in the coming weeks. Thanks for watching and I'll see you next time.
The Holistic Approach to Understanding a Story
A new take on understanding narratives focused on relationships
In this video, I cover a new understanding of The Holistic Premise. Referencing the dual aspects of the Main Character Growth and the Story Judgment, Subtxt now takes into consideration the amount of Distortion or Harmony between the objective and subjective views of a story. Combine this with whether or not the mind of the story is present or not growing, and we have the foundation for a stronger understanding of the meaning of these kinds of stories.
[00:00:00] Safari: Hey everyone. Welcome to the holistic approach to working through conflict. And what I wanted to do this time is share with you what I've been working on this past week. Which came about as a result of building up the holistic premise in Subtxt, finding a way to justify the story and figure out a way to get a really good premise from a Storyform.
So you don't have to read through all the Storypoints, but you can get an idea of what the Storyform is actually about by just reading the Premise. So in this video, I'm going to go over Steadfast Holistic stories. So if you're familiar with Dramatica, those are the ones with the Main Character Resolve of Steadfast and the Main Character Mindset of Holistic and Holistic mindset is all about relationships, all about balance.
So a lot of what you'll see here is something that's taking that into consideration. It's not so much solving a problem or fixing something or achieving a goal, but it's really about [00:01:00] managing relationships and balancing, you know, what's happening between things.
So, what I have here is an article that I wrote a couple of years back and what I always do with Narrative First is anytime I come up with a new understanding of Dramatica theory or a new appreciation of it, I go ahead and go back into the original articles and rewrite them so that it's always like a canon version of what it is that is in Subtxt.
This whole article here is part of a whole series about the Holistic Premise, but this one in particular is just about the Steadfast ones here. And I go through and explain they're really just two dynamics that I'm playing with right here. One is the Main Character Growth, which is either Start or Stop.
And the other one is the Story Judgment, which is Good and Bad. Previously. I had also tried to include the Story Driver. But as it turns out that really doesn't have a [00:02:00] huge impact on the actual justification of a Holistic storyform, it doesn't really play a huge part. So you can actually drop it out of the Premise and you're not really going to affect the story all that much.
And there's a new way in the Premise Builder that I have of actually figuring out what that is, that it really isn't a part of the actual premise. So here you have Juno, and this is a linear interpretation of it. So a Linear Steadfast story would be, "Keep having faith and you can ensure a bright future for a newborn," which really doesn't sound like Juno. But it's got that Faith character element.
And here I go over this new concept of Distortion and Harmony, which is something that my fiancÃ© Summer had explained to me in the beginning of this year, about six weeks ago and it just really clicked with me. Like I just really understood what it was that she was talking about. And it's a different way [00:03:00] of looking at Start and Stop from a more holistic point of view, obviously she's more holistic in the way that she deals with things. I'm a bit more linear.
When you have a Stop story, when you have a Main Character Growth of Stop, the Objective story, and the Subjective story are in a horizontal relationship, right? So either they're both external or they're going to both be internal. In a Start stor,y a Start dynamic, one's going to be internal and one's going to be external. So start is vertical.
What happens is because with subjective and objective, one is looking outside and one is looking inside and then you have the two views of either external or internal. When both objective and subjective are looking at the same thing there's distortion, because the objective view is not the same thing as the subjective view. And so if you're both looking at the same thing, [00:04:00] there's going to be some distortion between the two of them.
When you have one focused on the external and the other focused on the internal that's when it feels, that's why it's, it feels like it's in harmony because both sides are looking at the same thing, but from different points of view and seeing different things.
With this concept, it's a more enlightened view of what it means to have a holistic story, you know, there's that distortion, I'm sure if you're more of a holistic writer than that idea of distortion and harmony actually probably clicks with you and probably something that's like, "Oh yeah, I totally get it right off the bat."
But that's why you have that distortion and why you have that harmony. I try and make it a little easier when you actually building a story to be able to have that, but I've incorporated that into the different premises that you'll now find in Subtxt.
The other aspect of it, so that was the Main Character Growth, the other aspect of it [00:05:00] is the Story Judgment, which is either in Dramatica theory is either Good or Bad.
Holistics aren't really, really keen on judgment. It's not really what it's all about, you know, whether or not, well, that was a good thing to do, or that was a bad thing to do. It's really about, is it uplifting emotionally or is it kind of dragging you down? And emotionally is probably just that's my linear viewpoint of what it is, but it's really more about are you moving in a positive direction or are you moving in a negative direction, whether or not it's distorted or whether or not you're in harmony. So that it comes up with four different things. Stop/Good, Stop/Bad and Start/Good, and Start/Bad.
So what is really great, and this ties in with some recent work I've been doing with the way that the holistic narrative actually goes around the quad instead of going in a typical Z pattern, is that what happens is the way that you can [00:06:00] account for whether or not it's a, a good or a bad thing is to look at whether or not the actual Premise the entirety of the story, so the premise is like the whole thing. The Storyform is the entire story.
If you are in a place where you are present, you know, you talk to a holistic or anybody, that's more concerned with relationships and inequities, they're all about staying present, staying in the present moment. And the reason for that is here you can see this is the quad for Universe: Past, Progress, Future and Present. And you can see here with the Present, that's where all the Power comes from.
So in a typical, linear narrative time in the dramatic model is this Z pattern, which is. Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome goes in a Z pattern. So you got a problem. There's some potential, resistance, you fight, and then there's some outcome here, right? And this, this is where all the [00:07:00] energy is.
The energy in a holistic narrative. It's actually, it's one, that's not really a step before, but it's the Power that allows the Flow and it creates this never-ending spiral that goes through the actual story.
So the way that you can account for whether or not it's Good or Bad in a premise is whether or not that message is incorporating some aspect of staying present, or is it keeping you from growing? Are you kind of stuck here in the progress part--kind of inert? To a holistic, staying inert, staying stuck, not growing is a bad thing. That's what you're gonna see in all these premises.
So here with Juno, you know, that kind of weird one that we were talking about here before now, her whole thing was not so much as she's skeptical, but [00:08:00] that her faith is a little tempered, right? It's like, I'm not sure if I totally believe that. And that's kind of where the comedy is. So having limiting beliefs keeps you present, but distorts your openness with others. And previously I had states of emotional vibration, which nobody really connected with. That was my understanding of holism at the time.
But this one I feel like is a lot closer to what it is and can really get across the point of, of the film, what it's about, you know, having those limiting beliefs keeps you present. It's it's a good thing, but it distorts your openness with others, right? So that is a stop. Good narrative. With Harvey, it's the same sort of dynamic, same distortion, but also staying present, which you can feel in the film. If you haven't seen it, it's a great film. You should check out. So here, the premise is ignoring the reality around you keeps you present, but distorts your commitments [00:09:00] with others, right? So he's able to stay present and kind of glide through everything by ignoring the reality and there's an element of Disbelief, which is kind of the opposite of the Faith that Juno had, but it distorts your commitments with others, whether or not somebody is, feels like they're committed to you, whether or not you should be committed and has that kind of vibe to it.
The next one are the Start/Good stories and those are ones where there is harmony while present. So the Stop/Good was present yet, distorted. This is harmony while present. And the best example of this is A Bronx Tale, which is something I just watched recently. So here, "Being in harmony with curiosity keeps you in the present moment, allowing your respectful nature to deepen relationships."
That feels very good and feels harmonious. C, in the film, is very curious. Keeps him in the present moment. And then his, that respectful nature actually strengthens and encourages relationships
Another [00:10:00] example of that would be from Roma, "Being in harmony with your own perceptions keeps you in the present moment, allowing your juggling of predicaments to deepen relationships." So the main character in that film, and the Premise isn't really always just applying to the main character, but you can find that a lot of it, especially in the holistic narrative, it is because that's, you know, the subjective is the most important thing, When she's so aligned and just effortless with her own perceptions of how things are that keeps her present, which then allows her natural ability to juggle predicaments and be able to, you know, there's lots of different situations that she gets into. She's able to manage those, which then deepens the relationships and that's a good thing.
So that's the Start/Good and the Stop/Good. And then we move on to the not so good, which would be Stop/Bad. And here you have again, [00:11:00] distortion because it has that Stop dynamic. But now the bad aspect is going to show up with an element of not growing.
Here in Moulin Rouge! and I think I actually changed this in the final analysis, but instead of being free, it's being wild about someone, you know, like letting your emotions just go crazy. "Being wild about someone keeps you from growing distorting, your relationships with being overly possessive". So, you know, being wild about someone being crazy about somebody crazy in love actually keeps you from growing and while it is love it's, it's a good thing that freedom actually keeps you from growing, keeps you kind of locked in that place which then distorts your relationships with being overly possessive, which everybody in that film is about, which then makes it so that everything just comes crashing down.
Another one is with 45 years, same sort of [00:12:00] setup as Moulin Rouge!, and here, "Wanting to be wanted,". It's a couple, they're celebrating their 45 year wedding anniversary, but it's not as rosy as you would probably think, "Wanting to be wanted, keeps you from growin g." When you want to be wanted by someone, you know, it's like, Oh, I'm married to him there should be some element of desire there, but that want actually keeps you from growing and distorts your relationships with finding evidence to support an idea. So the idea of that recursive sort of thing, like, "I really want to be wanted by this person". And because of that, now it's distorting my relationship with them so I'm going to find even more evidence to support the fact that I should be wanted more. And then that's just, you see how that feels like a really bad thing. That is a Stop/Bad, Holistic Steadfast story.
And then finally one, that's actually not that common really. It's only about four or five films out of the 450 [00:13:00] that I have in Subtxt right now is the Start/Bad, which is strange to think about you're in harmony, but yet you're not growing. So I think that's why it's not as popular a story to explore.
So for instance Ford versus Ferrari. Here you can see it's the same sort of thing where it's that Start dynamic, that Harmony dynamic, but with a bad or a not growing Bad judgment.
Staying in harmony with answering others, keeps you from growing, allowing reinventing yourself to challenge relationships. So again, that's a little awkward, but I'll try to explain it. When you stay in harmony with answering others. So you're really okay with reacting to people and answering their questions and doing whatever it is they need you to do and trying to manage that, it actually keeps you from growing it keeps you in this like recursive state again, and it allows that effort to kind of redefine yourself or [00:14:00] reinvent yourself to actually challenge the relationships with everybody you have. It's just creates this really bad sort of set of relationships and it really comes through in the film. And that's a really a good example of a Start/Bad story
All these will be in available to writers in their own stories in the coming months. Right now, what I'm doing is I'm going through and rebuilding all the narrative Premises here for each Storyform , and just making sure that the verbiage, the way that the algorithm goes through and takes the dynamics of the story to create the Premise , so that when it comes to actually putting that into your stories, it just becomes second nature and it's not something that I'm constantly changing. Because this idea of distortion and harmony, and then, the present moment or not growing is very simple. It's a really easy way to understand the holism in the context of a narrative. So I just want to go through [00:15:00] and make sure that it is as simple as it is to understand, I want to make sure it's effortless to actually integrate into Subtxt.
So that's what I'm going to go do right now is go through all of these hundreds of narratives and make sure all the Holistic Steadfast stories feel great and sound great. And if you have any questions about any of this, of course, you can send me an email and I love having feedback because that way I can mold and shape subtext to be the kind of thing that benefits the most amount of people. So have a great night and I will talk to you later.