More evidence this week that a storyform refuses to dictate any particular storytelling to an Author. This past Tuesday we analyzed the Austrailian indie horror flick, The Babadook, as we do every month at the Dramatica Users Group meeting. The process involves identifying the four major Throughlines of the story and continues on with figuring out the Character and Plot Dynamics and ends with zeroing in on the deep thematic Issues at the core of each Throughline. The end result is a storyform—a collection of seventy-five story points holistically connected to support and communicate the Author’s argument.
Not every story tries to argue meaning. Furious 7 and The Martian exemplify popular narratives that function only as Tales. The Babadook took the more meaningful path. While terrifying and shocking, the story provided the Audience with an allegory regarding deep personal loss and argued a particular approach to resolve it.
Interestingly enough, the storyform we found was remarkably similar to James Cameron’s sci-fi action flick Aliens. While the Overall Story was less concerned with the psychological aspects of conflict than The Babadook, the Main Characer suffered the same sort of deep personal Problem. Both Ripley in Aliens and Amelia in The Babadook struggle with a Problem of Desire.
Dramatica defines Desire as:
the motivation to change one’s situation or circumstances: On the plus side, Desire primes the character to seek to better its environment or itself. On the minus side, Desire is not always coupled with an ability to achieve that which is Desired. In this case, Desire may no longer be felt as a positive motivator but as a negative lack and may become a measurement of one’s limitations and constraints.
Fear and longing—these are motivations to change one’s situation or circumstances. Fear belongs to Ripley; her experiences on the Nostromo in the first film prime her to be paralyzed with fear and doubt in the second. Longing belongs to Amelia—the loss of her husband and the seven years of loneliness start her down the path of self-destruction.
Problems of Desire resolve with Solutions of Ability, and both Ripley and Amelia find themselves more able to overcome their own personal demons. Ripley is able to use her motherly instincts to conquer the Alien queen (“Get away from her, you bitch!”) and Amelia is finally able to enter her “basement” with confidence and conquer the demon of her lost love.
Two Main Characters with the same exact Problem and the same exact Solution in two completely different films. Who would ever consider comparing Aliens to The Babadook? Yet, their Main Characters deal with the same inequity. At their core, they are the same.
The Dramatica storyform is not a story-by-numbers writing cheat; it is a measured tool for Authors to better understand their story. How writers go about telling their particular storyform is completely up to the individual.
Note too the difference in how each Main Character above actually resolves their problems with Ability. Ripley kills the Alien queen, Amelia finds a way to manage her nemesis. The latter is exemplary of a holistic approach to resolving problems. In fact, holistic thinkers don’t truly solve problems as much as they balance them out with a different approach. The Babadook was written and directed by a female artist (Jennifer Kent). Aliens was written and directed by a male artist (James Cameron). Generally speaking, females prefer holistic problem-solving whereas males prefer linear problem-solving. This makes sense then that Amelia would find a way to manage her problem rather than destroy it—the Linear approach almost always ends in one killing the other. Taking the holistic approach offers us a rare opportunity to see conflict resolution in a different light and gives an explanation as to the sophistication of The Babadook’s ending.