While a Dramatica storyform identifies seventy-five touch-points between Author and Audience, Subtext’s Premise sees five. Moreover, these items reference the relationship between the Author and the work—not the Author and Audience. Think of these Appreciations as a means by which we understand a Dramatica storyform, and therefore better appreciate our stories.
In short, Premise Appreciations are shortcuts to your Artistic Intent.
The structure of a Premise operates under one of two guiding principles: Reason or Relationships. With Reason, the message of a story revolves around problem-solving (Star Wars, Marriage Story, the first season of Barry, and Of Mice and Men). Stories that focus around Relationships emphasize some aspect of self-actualization (like Elf, Mean Girls, The Social Network, and Platoon).
The primary function of a story is to challenge, or influence, one’s preconceptions and biases. A Premise invites someone to consider their justifications against an alternative perspective. The Intent, or point, of the Premise takes one of two different paths.
If you chose Reason for the Structure of your Premise, your choices for Intent are to Realign or to Maintain. With an intent to Realign, the Premise of your story will advocate someone abandon, or give up, an inequitable way of approaching problems. With an intent to Maintain, the Premise will argue the importance of holding onto an inequitable way of approaching problems.
If you choose Relationships for the Structure of your Premise, the choices for the point of your story shifts to reflect that intent.
Stories that structure themselves around Relationships are less concerned with abandoning or maintaining a particular approach to solving problems, and instead focus on a direction of Balance or Growth. With an intent to Balance, the Premise of your story will advocate managing alternative approaches to inequity. With an intent of Growth, the focus is on allowing--or moving through--inequity as direction to point one's purpose.
The combination of both Structure and Intent opens up several different kinds of Premises. You can see your changes as you make your selections by looking to the Premise window in the upper right hand corner of the Premise Builder. Note how stories structured around Reason look to cause and effect for answers:
Stories structured around Relationships look to balancing and managing as means of manifesting intent:
When contrasting the subjective experience of character with the objective experience of plot, a Premise can reflect what it feels like for someone to engage with its intent, or meaning. The mixture of external pressure and internal personal bias generates an overall sense of the relative ease at which one flows through a narrative.
This contrast tends to Flow or Resist the intent of a Premise. Stories that Flow find a Main Character perfectly situated to address the most relevant Plot Points (like Star Wars, Home Alone, Field of Dreams, and A Room with a View). Stories that express what it's like for a mind to Resist find a Main Character in contrast with those same important Plot Points (like Good Will Hunting, the first season of Wanderlust, and Black Swan).
The selection of Flow or Resist will result in subtle changes to the Premise--sometimes even inperceptible. This is expected and normal. One choice might alter the order of Character and Plot signficantly, while another choice--in combination with selections made in Structure and Intent--might not show any difference. Rest assured, Subtext is taking care of the meaning of your plot behind the scenes.
Ending or Direction
The last, and probably most significant, impact to the Premise of a story is the Ending or Direction Appreciation.
A Premise seeks to educate the Audience on a particular path towards solving problems or managing inequities. This thematic message wraps up the Premise into a singular meaningful argument.
If you choose Reason for the Structure of your Premise, you will find four alternate Endings:
Stories of Triumph argue what happens when the "good guys" win and the Main Character returns home happy (like Star Wars, Top Gun, Casablanca, and Back to the Future). Virtuous stories feature Main Character who return home happy, but fall short of an objective "win." (like Rocky, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Roman Holiday). Bleak stories find Main Characters who win--but at a great personal cost (like Unforgiven, Memento, and the first season of Cobra Kai). Stories of Tragedy argue what happens when both failure and emotional angst combine (like Hamlet, Amadeus, and Hamilton).
Stories of Relationships are less about their Endings, and more about the Direction they advocate. Subtext accomodates this reality by adjusting this final Setting to reflect four alternate Directions:
Stories with a Balance Direction strike a chord between two inequitable motivations (like The Matrix, The Farewell, or Call Me By Your Name). Stories with a Direction of staying Present manage external challenges with a personal knowing (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, her, and A Doll's House). Stories where the Direction is Stuck, or stagnant, find personal uncertainty clashing with external growth (like Election, The Social Network, and Witness). And lastly, those stories of Disconnection find the Premise separating the personal from the impersonal (like Snowpiercer, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Platoon).
By setting the Ending or Direction of your Premise, you focus the minds of your Audience on familiar aspects of what it means to face both internal and external challenges, granting them a strong vantage point from which to understand what it is you are trying to say with your story.
If you would like to mess around with the space-time continuum of your story (yes, Subtext can do that), feel free to press CMD + E on your keyboard to reveal the Continuum Setting.
Hidden from view on purpose, selecting one or the other will determine whether the structure of your story reads space first on its way towards interpreting time OR reads time first on its way towards interpreting space.
Yes, pretty heady stuff.
We hide this selection from view for most users because 9 times out of 10, the Continuum of a typical story is focused around Spacetime (Space first, and then Time). There are some stories, however, that call for the alternate point of view (Time and then Space). Stories like Sideways, Nebraska, Ex Machina, and 12 Angry Men entertain temporal progressions on their way towards appreciating spatial concerns.
If this is too much, feel free to press CMD + E and return back to your normal life. 🙂
For Advanced Users
If you are familiar with the Dramatica theory of story and learning the relationship between the Premise and the Dramatica storyform, be sure to take The Red Pill on your Settings page.
When you make this selection, Subtext adds the relevant information to help you make an informed choice when it comes to crafting the unique message of your story.