Blog Post

The Coincidence of Opposites and Story Structure

Jan 19th, 2022

While teaching the latest cohort of The 2nd Act Solution, I stumbled upon this lecture from Alan Watts that perfectly described the center of every meaningful story. Entitled Coincidence of Opposites, this brief segment is all you really need to know when laying down the foundation of your latest work:

The vibration Watts speaks of is the mind's recognition of context: of that which surrounds an observable inequity--the same kind of inequity that fuels a story.

So if I may start by insulting your intelligence with what is called the most elementary lesson – the thing that we should have learned before we learned “1 – 2 – 3” and “A – B – C,” but somehow was overlooked. Now, this lesson is quite simply this, that any experience that we have through our senses, whether of sound, or of light, or of touch, is a vibration. And a vibration has two aspects: one called “on,” and the other called “off.” Vibration seems to be propagated in waves, and every wave system has crests and it has troughs.

The two Elements of the Dramatic Argument, the Crucial Elements found in a Dramatica Storyform, are an inseparable pair of Elements that act both as two--and, as one. These two Elements form the foundation of all narrative conflict in a complete story.

And so life is a system of now you see it, now you don’t, and these two aspects always go together. For example, sound is not pure sound; it is a rapid alternation of sound and silence, and that is simply the way things are. Only, you must remember that the crest and the trough of a wave are inseparable. Nobody ever saw crests without troughs or troughs without crests. Just as you do not encounter in life people with fronts but no backs, just as you do not encounter a coin that has heads but no tails. And although the heads and the tails, the fronts and the backs, the positives and the negatives are different, they are at the same time one. And one has to get used, fundamentally, to the notion that different things can be inseparable, and that what is explicitly two can at the same time be implicitly one. If you forget that, very funny things happen. If therefore we forget, you see, that black and white are inseparable, and that existence is constituted equivalently by being and non-being, then we get scared, and we have to play a game called “Uh-oh, Black Might Win.” And once we get into the fear that black – the negative side – might win, we are compelled to play the game, “But White Must Win,” and from that start all our troubles.

Direct link to Coincidence of Opposites