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New Holistic Terminology for Dramatica

Expanding narrative structure to account for a world without problems

Earlier this month, I introduced an entirely new way of appreciating story structure. More development of the Dramatica theory of story than a departure, this new understanding of narrative seeks to address the under-served in story development: the Holistic.

Dramatica's current bias towards the Linear Mindset is evident in its appreciations: Problem, Solution, Goal, Consequence. These interpretations of conflict glide past those more comfortable with inequities and balance, rather than "fixing" any "problems." To the Holistic mind, there is no real solution—only an adjustment of balance, and altering of direction.

To address this unique—but vital take—on narrative structure, I rolled out a new Holistic Condition Quad in Subtext:

  • Condition
  • Adjustment
  • Resistance
  • Flow

The Condition defines the condition upon which the Throughline finds experience with inequity. Adjustment identifies the tipping point that realigns the course, or direction, of the Throughline. Resistance signals the impediments towards growth and Flow places how the Throughline allows further growth.

Compare and contrast Dramatica's original terminology of Problem, Solution, Focus, and Direction against Subtext's new Appreciations of Condition, Adjustment, Resistance, Flow.

Holistic Terminology in _The Matrix_

One accurately describes the experience of the film, the other falls short.

Put together into a single Quad, these Holistic Appreciations of Story Structure map the source of irritation felt in each Throughline Perspective.

Main Character Throughline

Main Character Condition

In every Main Character there exists some inequity driving her in a particular direction. In a Holistic Mindset story, this motivation appears as a Condition of her character. If the Main Character Resolve is Changed, then this central character comes into greater alignment by balancing out her Condition with the Main Character Adjustment Element. If instead she Remains Steadfast and deepens her justifications, then this Condition within her will grow and continue to motivate her throughout the story.

Main Character Adjustment

The Adjustment Element of the Main Character in a Holistic Mindset story indicates a significant change in course for that character. The degree to which the Main Character embraces this Adjustment Element aligns with the Main Character Resolve. A Changed Main Character Resolve finds the Main Character coming into alignment with herself by accepting the Adjustment; a Steadfast Resolve indicates a continued justification motivated by her Condition Element.

Main Character Resistance

The purpose of a Main Character in a Holistic-minded story is alignment and self-actualization. Resistance to that personal growth appears as the Main Character Resistance Element. This impediment to self-growth bears the brunt of her attention, often manifesting as what she believes to be her "problem."

Main Character Flow

In defiance of those forces appearing as Resistance, the Main Character sets upon a course indicated by the Main Character Flow Element. This Method allows her to "roll with the punches" offered up by the Resistance, in the hope that eventually that will be enough to break through those barriers holding her back from true self-actualization.

Influence Character Throughline

Influence Character Condition

In every Influence Character there exists some inequity that drives him in a particular direction. In a Holistic Mindset story, this motivation appears as a Condition of his character. If the Influence Character Resolve Changes in response to the Main Character's Steadfastness, then he alters the course of this Condition with the Adjustment Element of his Throughline. If the Influence Character Resolve Remains Steadfast, then he continues on that course—deepening his resolve to maintain that Condition throughout the entire story.

Influence Character Adjustment

The Adjustment Element of an Influence Character in a Holistic Mindset story indicates a significant change in course for that character. The degree to which the Influence Character embraces this Adjustment Element aligns with his Influence Character Resolve. A Changed Influence Character Resolve finds the Influence Character coming into alignment with himself by accepting the Adjustment; a Steadfast Resolve indicates a continued justification motivated by the Condition Element.

Influence Character Resistance

The purpose of the Influence Character Throughline is to challenge the Main Character's personal justifications. The manner in which the Influence Character puts up resistance is indicated by the Influence Character Resistance Element. This inflection point unnerves the Main Character as it "gets in the way" of the MC continuing on as if nothing personal needs to be addressed.

Influence Character Flow

It's not enough for the Influence Character to merely offer up resistance in terms of their Influence Character Resistance Element—they amplify their unsettling approach by engaging in the Influence Character Flow Element. In a Holistic Mindset story, this two-pronged motion of Resistance and Flow invites the Main Character to unravel her personal justifications.

Relationship Story Throughline

Relationship Story Condition

The Relationship Story Condition Element indicates the source of conflict within the relationship; the Condition upon which that relationship exists and develops. The Storymind's awareness of this bond distinct from the individuals rests in this Condition.

Relationship Story Adjustment

The Method by which the relationship adjusts and alters course lies in the Relationship Story Adjustment Element. This Element acts as a counter-balance to the Relationship Story Condition; a means by which the relationship may address feelings of inequity.

Relationship Story Resistance

The purpose of every relationship is to grow; the barriers to that growth—real, or imagined—manifest as Resistance. The Relationship Story Resistance Element indicates the Method by which the relationship encounters friction, often appearing as frustration and exasperation.

Relationship Story Flow

A relationship addresses Resistance with greater Flow; a rising of the waves, and "going with it" in service of the bond. That "it" finds an appearance in the Relationship Story Flow Element. Growth is the sole purpose of any relationship; the Resistance Story Flow Element makes manifest that development.

Overall Story Throughline

Overall Story Condition

The Overall Story Condition Element signals the essence of conflict for everyone in a Holistic Mindset Story. Irritation and frustration stem from this singular location, setting a path for all to follow.

Overall Story Adjustment

The path set by the Overall Story Condition would continue, if it weren't for the intervention of the Overall Story Adjustment. Less a resolution, and more a change in direction, the degree to which the Adjustment Element intervenes for all signals the level to which the Main Character aligns with her own self-actualization.

Overall Story Resistance

As a result of the Overall Story Condition, the characters encounter obstacles that hinder growth. These impediments appear as the Overall Story Resistance Element.

Overall Story Flow

To a Holistic, the way to address Resistance lies in greater allowance. Letting conflict and inequity roll through the Storymind looks objectively like the Overall Story Flow Element. Here, the characters caught up in the Overall Story Throughline, address impediments to growth by "flowing" with this Element.

Additional Notes

Remember that the mind of the story (the Storymind) is Holistic in these stories, which means that the story interprets conflict and inequity through these Appreciations. The above does not reflect the mindset of a particular character, or a group of characters. The men in Little Women may see Jo and the others as problematic from a Linear perspective, yet writer/director Greta Gerwig comments on their actions as if Conditions (not Problems) and their eventual growth into Adjustments (not Solutions).

The head fake with Holistic storyforms is that they define the Storymind coming into Calibration. Solutions and Outcomes are so far removed from that process that it will be more difficult to attribute, "Well because this happened, then..."