Here is a link to a PDF of the firs time Chris and I gathered our work on the theory book together in one place. Enjoy, if you dare…
DEEP THEORY – CERTIFICATION CLASS
1 – 7 – 1995
Today’s discussion is on Problem Solving and Justification. First of all, do you have any questions about problem solving or justification beyond what you’ve already heard. Any areas that you want to know more about, or anything that you’ve wondered about?
Q: Are you going to talk about blind spots?
I can. O.K., so blind spots is one of the things. Anybody else have anything else.
Q: For me personally, I am kind of new to the whole thing, so whatever we touch, I’m sure will be helpful.
So, let me start then with an overview, and then we will get down to blind spots. We’re going to cover a lot of different ways of looking at the same thing. And each one of the ways that we cover will be complete from that particular perspective. But, it doesn’t really describe how the whole mechanism works, because all of the perspectives we’ll talk about, and many of them we won’t, are part of the process, because they are all valid ways of looking at it. You can’t really see the process of justification for what it is, because it’s the way the mind works. And you can’t use the way the mind works to look at the way the mind works. It really can’t be done. All you can do is see after-images left by where the mind has worked. Or look at things that are effected by the mind as it’s working. And say, we can get an idea of what the mind is doing by it’s gravitational pull on the orbits of other things around it. So we’ll be looking at how the mind affects a number of different things, and from that try to get a feel for what’s actually going on in the mind, as it tries to solve problems or creates justifications.
First of all, the most important thing is the definition of what do we mean by problem-solving, or justification? Well, problem solving is when you get rid of an inequity. And justification is when you balance an inequity. I will show you the difference between the two. What do we mean by an inequity? An inequity is when anything is out of balance. Anything covers a lot of territory. But, that’s exactly what we mean. Whenever the mind can be aware of a lack of balance, between two items or two processes, or two places or two approaches, or coming to conclusions between two means of evaluations. Whenever they don’t line up, whenever things are not the same in a sense. Whenever things are different, between the two of them, the difference that exists makes them unequal. And that inequity between them can be seen as a positive or a negative thing.
If there was only one thing in the entire universe, and we saw no difference; it was homogeneous — well, there would be no inequity. But, it wouldn’t necessarily be positive then, because there would nothing really. It would just be one thing, and since there’s one thing, you couldn’t compare it to anything. And since you can’t compare it, you can’t measure it — and since you can’t measure it, you can’t evaluate it. You don’t know whether it’s good or bad, it has no meaning. It’s only when we sub-divide and have at least two things to measure between, that we can say, O.K. in measuring these two things, the fact that they are different is a good thing, or the fact that they are different is a bad thing.
When two things being different is a good thing, you don’t want to hang a picture to a wall with another picture, you want to hang a picture to a wall with a nail. When there is something that you would like to have, but you don’t have it yet, that can be a bad thing or a good thing. If it is something you are looking forward to and the joy of anticipating it, because you really expect to get it, and you don’t see anything that could step in your way — Like Christmas morning, you look forward to it, and it becomes a joyous experience in anticipating, or perhaps a movie that you know is opening on Friday and you want to go see it, and you’ve been anticipating it because you’ve been hearing about it. So, here’s something you want that you don’t yet have, and yet that’s positive, because it’s something that you expect to get, and it’s not causing you any negative ramifications now, because you don’t have it.
In other words, things now are good. Things with that would be better. You expect to get that thing, and therefore, there’s no way that it could be seen as negative, because you expect to get it within a reasonable amount of time, that you would feel not like you’ve been anticipating it for so long that it was negative, because you look forward to it and look forward to it, and you look forward to it, like a career in the movie business, and it never happens. Well, that begins to get negative after a while, because you keep waiting and it doesn’t come. So, waiting for something for a very long time can be a positive thing, like getting a degree in college. Yes, you’d like it, but it can be very positive, because part of the excitement is in earning it, and every time you are making progress, you can sense that you have gotten closer to it, because there are a certain number of requirements to achieve. It has an optionlock, and with an optionlock, you can say that when I’ve taken this course, and this course, then they give me the degree. So, you can chart it off, and see your progress.
The real key here is not just saying there is this arbitrary amount of time that makes it positive or negative, but again, it’s another way of measuring the difference. The difference between how big the reward is, and how long it’s going to take to get. So, already, we have shifted our perspective. Originally, we just said inequity is a balance between two things when they are out of balance, or when they are different. Inequity exists between them. It doesn’t make one better or worse than the other, it just means they are not in equilibrium. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.
But, now you have to go a step farther than those two steps and say how do we determine what’s good or bad. Well, now we have to go a step farther than those two steps, and say how do we determine it’s good or bad. And now we have to weigh things against each other and say here’s the benefit I will get from it, which makes me anticipate it. Here’s the length of time I have to wait for it, which delays it. And so, the positive aspects of anticipating it, because of the size of it’s rewards, and the costs I have to pay at how long it takes to get there – to wait for it, those two are played against each other, and we see it as a positive experience or a negative experience. So, if it’s a great big reward, and there’s little waiting time, it’s a very positive experience, than a great big reward, and a long waiting time, it can get neutral or even negative. If it’s a little reward, and a little waiting period, it can be very positive. If it’s a little reward and a long waiting time, it can be very negative. So, it’s just a matter of balancing the size of the reward with the time we wait.
But, if we don’t have any way of measuring when it’s going to happen, then we get nervous if we can’t see progress, because there’s nothing to measure progress by. So, when we have something we’re waiting for, we want there to be either a timelock or an optionlock which ever happens first, which makes it even better. Because, if you have timelock, then you are saying all I have to do is count the hours, minutes and seconds until the film is released, and then I will see it, because I know where the screening is going to be. A Star Trek picture comes out released November 18th or whatever, ….then you say, O.K. well, I’m going to count down until the movie is released and see it. What an optionlock is, all that has to happen is I have to meet these requirements, and these requirements could be getting pieces to something, or learning something, or whatever it is , but it doesn’t matter how long it takes, it’s when you get all the pieces together and every time you get a new piece, you can see that progress has been made towards the goal.
But, although a time moves inexorably forward, so that it is constantly moving at the same amount of time, the same increments, optionlocks don’t move that way. Optionlocks can have three of them happen real fast, and one of them takes forever, so it’s a different kind of guide — it seems a little more stretchy. But, wait, for a moment, lets stand back and look at time, and say how fast does time flow for us. Are there not times, when we are lost and daydreamy, and we go through incredible journeys, and seems like it’s been hours, and we come back and five minutes has passed. And other times, we take something that seems like it’s happened very quickly, and it’s really taken a lot of time, because we are thoroughly engrossed – how much we are involved.
And how much we are involved is a function of how many parts of the mind, how much of the mind percentage-wise or potential-wise becomes involved in the considerations. So, that when we are wholly involved in something, we lose track of time, and it goes faster, when it’s an external thing. When we are wholly involved in an internal thing, often time will go slower. And so the internal – external issue starts to come into play as to how we begin to appreciate the nature of these locks that show us progress towards resolving an inequity and determining whether it’s positive or negative. Whether it’s outside or inside, sometimes you see a mirror image of the effect. When you are wholly involved in something outside, time will be something that can go by very quickly. When you are wholly involved in something inside, time can go very, very slowly.
Time becomes stretchy, and you really can’t tell how long you have to wait for something because how long it seems when you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment versus when you are waiting in line in the supermarket or whatever. Time can seem to change – stretchy time.
There really is no wholly objective time. Objective time is made up of the change in mass in it’s relationship to energy. Subjective time is made up of the relationship between time and space, which seems like a contradiction — using time inside and space inside. So, you really have two kinds of time. We label them the same thing, but one of them is time per se, which is the movement of mass because of applied energy, which is completely consistent and external to ourselves, whereas, inside ourselves, it’s not time, but duration.
Time is measured in increments. Duration is measured in speed. And the two don’t always line up, as we’ve mentioned before. It may seem like a lot of external time has gone by, but seem like it’s been a very short duration or vice-versa.
Now when we are dealing with justifications, the male perspective on justifications, is to look at it in balance between things. And the female way of looking at justifications is to look at the imbalance between duration and time. Which will lead to really neat tricks that you can use by members of the opposite sex or of the same sex, in order to play their justifications, and get them to do exactly what you want, or be how you want them to be; with a minimum outlay of resources on your part.
Men don’t have a good sense of how long something takes duration-wise. So, all you have to do to make men justified and stay with something is tell them maybe. Maybe leaves it open, and as long as it’s maybe, there’s a chance it could happen. When there’s a chance it could happen, there’s no way of measuring how long they’ve been hung on the line with this chance of it happening, which is why whenever a woman want’s to lean a man in any respect, all she has to do is say maybe. If she says no, right from the beginning, no means no. If she says yes, yes means yes. Maybe means yes, but later, to a man. And so, that’s the way they are going to read it.
And as a result of it, you string on guys, by just saying maybe, until finally he’s waiting is so long, that begins to lose interest. And as he begins to lose interest for whatever it is, then all you have to do is show them a little progress by unbalancing the inequity between things just a little bit. And as soon as you do, just a little bit, then they see progress and even note it. Then you can keep on saying maybe until they lose interest again. But, you’ve reviewed all their interest because they’ve seen something budge.
Now for women, women have a very good sense of what the overall balance between things is. Meaning that it doesn’t take much leverage in the external, real world, to make them feel that progress has occurred. In other words, no real progress has to made and they can be fooled into thinking that progress has been made, because women think that how long it’s taking, before she sees progress, that’s how she measures it. How long does it seem before I’ve seen any progress. Now, a woman is not just looking at step progress like men are. She’s looking at acceleration progress. She’s looking at am I getting closer to the goal, because progress is being made faster? Like a train looming up into your face on a railroad track. That’s what she’s measuring. It can start off slow, but it’s got to accelerate.
Men are looking for linear progress, where you’ve covered a certain number of tries, and it’s more of an objective view of progress. The more subjective view of progress which women take, is that things seem to be looming closer and closer. So that, you get that feeling of acceleration, even though everybody hasn’t changed speed, but has changed speed in relationship to you. And so, it’s a doppler effect — it’s basically a female experience. When you want to string a woman along, all you have to do is to allow things first to accelerate a little bit. Now, that means that if you want a woman to do anything at all, you promise her that eventually she’s going to get something. When you say, when this is all over, you will get something. She will work for you without a timelock, she will work for you without an optionlock. Eventually, she will begin to feel that she is getting nowhere, and start to re-evaluate. As soon as you sense this happening, you give her a bite size candy bar, and put it on her desk, or a single carnation and put it on her desk. Now, she will say, “Oh, I’m getting closer to nice things, and therefore, the way things are going is accelerating, going better, because before I had nothing at all, and now I’ve got something, which is definitely an acceleration.
So, she will continue to work for you until she begins to sense, there’s been no acceleration. Now, because there’s been no acceleration. Now, because there’s been no acceleration, that means that the rose may have died, or the candy’s been eaten. The experience has gone a little bit behind. You cannot, and this is the mistake that men make in not being able to manipulate women, is give her another bite size candy bar, or another single carnation and have her feel that progress has been made, because she got another one. From men, as long as they are getting the treats doled out, they are going to figure O.K., I get one every so often so that’s how I am making progress, and they are continuing to pay me step by step as I do this job.
For a woman it doesn’t work that way. Next time she will will want a full-size candy bar or a single rose or two carnations, because you’ve got to show acceleration. Now that means that it’s very important for guys in order to save their resources, when trying to get women to do things and force them into justifications. I’ll hold out a little longer to do the job I don’t like, because things are going O.K., and I’m getting faster at where I want to go to. Start out small. Use the minimum investment you can at the beginning, and give her the smallest thing that will renew her interest, and then next time go to the minimum increment you can that will show to her that things are better than they were, because she got a bigger prize than she did last time. You’ll find that the frequency with which she needs these — Although she should never figure out that you’ve planned it out, so always go one day, one way, and one day another way. The frequency is roughly the same. They are like the railroad ties. She needs to have these railroad ties so often, but she’s not thinking that way, she’s just realizing that it’s beginning to wear off. And then she needs a bigger prize to be feeling like acceleration is being made.
Because for a woman, stacked linear progress, is no progress at all. For guys, as long as they do the steps being accomplished, they know that they will get there eventually, because they are charting it on a straight line. But women need to feel that it’s looming closer and closer. Because women deal primarily with time sense, and men with space sense. The space sense will demand that progress is measured by taking one step after another after another of equal increments if possible, until you’ve eaten away at the distance you have to cover, and you know exactly how long it’s going to take you to get to your destination. For a woman, she just has to feel that she’s getting to her destination faster and faster, because on any chore she’s doing that she doesn’t like, her interests are weighing faster and faster and deeper and deeper, and the baggage she’s carrying will get heavier and heavier, so that she has to feel that the end is closer and closer.
So, that’s how you would use the justification between the two. Now, what determines if one is justification, and one is problem solving? Well, as we said balancing an inequity is justification. Resolving an inequity is problem solving. Sometimes resolving an inequity is bad. And sometimes balancing an inequity is good. Good and bad have nothing to do with whether it’s problem solving or justification. It has to do with how you approach the inequity. Look at them as extropy and entropy, when you have extropy you’ve got building up, getting more complex; creating an infrastructure that is more and more gossamer. It has more and more connections to it, and eventually if you build it big enough, it will grow too weak to support it’s own weight. And it will collapse on itself or it’s gravity in the area is not strong enough, and it will just float away and you won’t have it anymore because you made it so big, that it just gets picked up by the currents of wind and taken away.
Buckminster Ford did some research and found that you could build a geodesic dome of a certain size that was so big that because the triangles you are creating that increase as the area of the outside, the volume is increasing as the cube, while the area is increasing as the square, and you reach a point eventually where the thing can become so lightweight compared to it’s size, that the slightest breeze could make something a half a mile across just take off into the air, because of the breeze. And so, that’s the physics of it, and the same thing happens mentally as well.
But, there’s that second force, that force of entropy that is trying to bring it all down. Entropy is not just a destructive force, entropy is the force that seeks unification, as opposed to complexity; instead of variety, singularity. Entropy tries to make things more and more simple. Simplify is what it’s really about in terms of entropy. But, that’s not necessarily a good thing either. If you simplify enough, you get to singularity, and as we talked about earlier, when you get to singularity, then you have nothing to compare things to and it becomes completely neutral. When you have complete neutrality, there is nothing — no life, no thought, no movement, no inertia, no change, nothing. Look at the moment of the “big bang”. Big Bang is the ultimate singularity. Complete expansion of the universe to an infinite degree would be complete complexity. It is my opinion that neither of these has ever been achieved.
There’s never been a moment like they describe in terms of the “Big Bang”. Not where things reduced to a singularity. Because that’s a limit line that you approach. You approach and you never actually get that limit line. Eventually something throws you to the other side of the limit line and we’ll talk about that later too. But when it throws you too the other side of the limit line, you’ve never actually been at that moment of singularity, you’ve just gotten infinitely close to it on one side, and then you are infinitely close on the other and moving away from it, instead of close towards it. And this causes the universe to act like an oscillation, where it expands almost to infinity and then contracts almost to singularity, then expands on the other side into the anti-energy. Reverse energy, reverse time, anti-energy, negative space, non-mass …That’s what you have when you go into the other side of the other universe.
And in fact, because all of them go at once, you can never tell when you are in the positive or negative universe. Because all you have to compare things are things that are either all positive or all negative. As long as this happens, things are working properly — they oscillate between the positive and the negative, but it always seems neutral when you are in one or the other, because all you have are all positives or all negatives to compare it to. We are not talking about anti-matter here, we are talking about non-matter; things that not only do they not exist, but they strongly do not exist. In other words, their lack of existence is an existence of it’s own. In other words, it would take more than just transmitting energy to create mass. You’d have to overcome some inertia, against coming into existence first. Overcome the entropy when someone has a catalyst even to bring it to a neutrality where it could begin to exist.
So, existence is not just something that is there. It is a matter of how firmly it is there. And even if it’s not there at all, that’s just neutral, because some things have a definite tendency not to come into existence. A lot of things have a tendency not to happen. And some of these negative aspect, only if you’re negative can you compare them to the positive. And in fact, even in this universe, you can easily look at things and say — Here is something that has a tendency to happen. Here is something that has a tendency not to happen. On any given day there is a great tendency not to have a plane crash. Within in the days of the year, there is a great tendency to have at least one plane crash. Because on any given day, most likely one is not going to happen. A lot of things have to converge to make the plane crash happen. And because those things don’t happen very often, there is a tendency for a plane crash not to occur, within a period of one day. But, if you change the way you measure it, and say now I’m going to show it within a year, you can’t predict any given plane will crash, but you can say there will probably be some crash of some plane within a year of a reasonable size jet-liner. Certainly within 5 years. We’ve never had a five year period where we haven’t had a jet-liner crash. You can almost count on it.
Plane crashes have a strong tendency to come into existence in the generic sense in a five year period. But, in a generic sense, within a one day period, they have a great tendency not to occur. Well, how can it be that day by day, there is a great tendency not to, and yet at the end of the year or two years, there is a great tendency to. When does it switch over? That’s that limit line I was talking about, that you never actually hit, but get close to. When does it change from being a tendency not to come into existence to a tendency to come into existence. How does that happen? When does it switch from not being to being? It’s a magic moment. And that was the moment I was looking for in the unified field theory, because it’s the key to understanding how everything hangs together — it’s that magic moment. And it turned out that it’s not anything intrinsic to what you are looking at — it’s intrinsic to how you look at it. It’s all in the context, it’s all in the perspective. It’s all in what you measure.
There is no point at which you can stack up the number of days and say now there is a plane crash. But, there is a way when you can go through a five year period and say I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a plane crash. It depends on your measurement. Where you begin measuring is arbitrary. And how long you measure is arbitrary. It works kind of like this…there are tendencies and there are trends. And they work in opposition to each other. Trends are when you see something and say….like suppose you’ve got a coin, and you are flipping a coin. You flip this coin five times in a row and it comes up heads every single time. What’s the trend? The trend is it’s coming up heads. So, based on the trend, you would expect it would come up heads again. Now, what are the actual odds on any given toss that it will come up heads or tails? On any given toss? How can you say you expect it to come up heads if the odds are 50/50. Because there’s been a trend that has shown that it has done that. consistently, and one would expect maybe that there’s some outside force at work that is affecting things so that in and of itself, intrinsically the item under study has a 50-50 chance of coming up one way or another, in the environment in which it is being flipped, something is apparently affecting it to come up heads, and one could expect that that’s the inertia that it carries.
However, there’s another force at work. The force at work is tendency. When you have a trend that says it has come up this many times, what would you expect for the next five, in order to make the odds come out 50-50? It would come up tails, and that’s the tendency. Although the trends points to coming up heads, because of something perhaps environmental. Maybe though, there’s nothing environmental, and it’s just a matter of chance that it’s come up heads 5 times in a row. But, for the odds to hold true, which they eventually will have to, then you needs five times that it will come up tails, if all you were going to do is ten tosses. But see you would expect the tendency is pulling it towards coming up tails on the next throw.
Now there is the most interesting relationship between those things, because it has to do with like Las Vegas odds. Las Vegas odds in the long run and the longer that you measure, the more likely it will come down to the exact odds. If you put a slot machine in a Las Vegas establishment, and certain odds have been established on it, and it’s a brand new machine, and you put in one coin, and you hold down the handle, there’s no way anybody knows what it’s going to do, because the statistical nature of it, to make sure that the odds come out to a certain level, to a pay-off, can’t function with only one play. The odds don’t work out. The more you play it, it’s bound to pay anything off, assuming that it is functioning correctly. In order for that slot machine to be working at the proper odds, eventually it’s got to catch up. So, if it doesn’t pay off, and it doesn’t pay off, and it doesn’t pay off, and it’s done that for ten years, and it hasn’t payed off at this place, and it’s working properly, that has got a lot of built up tendency. And that would be a machine you’d want to play, because when you play that machine, then you figure eventually it’s going to have to pay off a lot, in order just to make up for all the ten years when it didn’t pay off. So, it doesn’t matter actually when you begin measuring or when you stop measuring — it’s a subjective thing. So, that would be a way to play it at Vegas.
What is it that prevents us from actually doing that? Because you would think everybody could get rich from just by looking at somebody playing and playing who ran out of money and left, and they hadn’t gotten any wins, then that’s when you want to sit down and you will end up in the long run even ahead of the game, because you’ve already built up a negative potential on it. The point is it’s not even the matter of a starting point, because that’s kind of arbitrary, because there are many different places you could start, and any one of them to have the odds be right from wherever you start, they’d have to be equal. But, that’s only because you are looking at things in terms of time. How many times it takes something to do it.
You don’t look in terms of space, because in terms of space, you look at the casino as whole, and if you look at the casino as a whole, there’s going to be one machine there that just happens to pay off twice as much as another machine there, that pays off half as much, and another machine that hardly ever pays off at all. And yet they are all built the same, they all have the same odds on each machine. But, in the spatial scenario, some of them, just as a matter of chance, will not pay out very much at all. And others will pay out quite regularly — but there’s no way to predict which ones will be which, because the minute you sit down at that machine and say “this one has traditionally paid off a lot”. But, it may be that it will stop paying off, and another machine will start paying off a lot somewhere else. So, if you look at all the machines, and you see how much they pay off, they are all like peaks and valleys. They are up and down like bar graphs, and some are down negative, and some are high. But, there’s no guarantee that this will continue.
So, when you look at it temporally on any given machine, you can expect that the tendency is for it to be pulled back to the odds, whatever direction the trends happen to be momentarily. And the longer a trend goes one direction, the greater the tendency to go to another. But, trends and tendencies won’t tell you what it will do, because there are other machines, and when you take them all together collectively, they do the odds. But, collectively in that casino, one casino is going to pay off, more than another casino, because of the fact that it just happens in terms of chance that the machines in one casino are paying off at a higher rate than another casino. And you can go out wider, and wider and wider, and eventually you get to the point where the scope of the limit of your measurement, you can see no real difference. When we see no real difference, for all practical purposes, the odds are holding true and right to form.
So, you can’t win it, because whenever you look at it in terms of time only, you can see it in terms of space, we can see space only in terms of time, and that’s why we are trying to make other people justified. What you want to do is give them one of those things where they seem like they’re seeing rewards, and if they are not, look at the other one. And because all of us have the capacity within ourselves to see both time and space, but only one at a time as it were, or one being foremost, and the other one being secondary, because of that, if you can focus somebody’s primary sense, or the one they use first, and make them see apparent progress, then you can have them lose like crazy at the one they are not looking at and they won’t be able to notice it because they are seeing progress where they are focusing. And that’s the nature of focus and blind spot in a very conceptual sense is that if you are focusing on time, your blind spot is space. If you are focusing on space, your blind spot is time.
The only way to protect yourself against ills, is to vacillate between the two as frequently as you can, so that you look at it timewise, and then you look at it space-wise, then you look at it timewise and look at it space-wise. As you go back and forth between those very quickly, it doesn’t allow time for a lot of things to go through. So, is that what we have to train ourselves to do, go back and forth between time and space? No. Because going back and forth quickly between time and space is talking about doing it quickly which is time. And as result that means that we are ignoring a spatial way of doing it. And the spatial way of doing it is not to go back and forth between the two quickly, but to go back and forth between the two on any given subject.
So that whenever anything comes up, you make sure that you look at it spatially and you look at it temporally. Because if you go back and forth too many times, you don’t stick with one perspective long enough to see anything change. So, if you are going quickly, you are losing your sense of things changing, and then you are caught unawares when something comes up and bites you, because it was changing very slowly. You lose your long wave perception, and you can’t see gradual change. On the other hand, if you look at things spatially, and you see it all in space, and then you stop and look at it all in time, and only do those measurements, you don’t see change either, because you don’t see two instances of it from the temporal view and two instances of it from the spatial view, you only see one of each. So again you don’t see change. So, either way you’re screwed.
You can widen your scope, but the minute you widen your scope, you also open yourself up to more instances of trouble, so you can limit within any given scope how many unexpected things are going to happen within it, and how susceptible you are to them, but you do that by widening your scope of consideration, while only being concerned with this part. But, as soon as you open your consideration wider, then you are letting more things into the system which can upset things out here, that can ultimately change this thing and impact it in ways that you hadn’t expected. So, it’s a no win situation. A losing situation is a neutral situation, it all comes out to zero. And that’s what it really comes down to, is the fact that there is no objective way to say that things are good or bad, or right or wrong. But there’s plenty of subjective ways, because each of us is one of the little machines that we have as a slot machine. Each of us finds that in our life, we lead a charmed life or a doomed life. And we can’t really tell between the sense of a charmed life or a cursed life — we can’t predict if it’s going to continue. Some people are so lucky, one thing after another happens to them; everything good, they die happy, never have any problems, worries or fears. Other people suffer from the moment they are born, and live a long suffering life and go to their graves feeling miserable. How can you predict, how can you determine, how can you protect yourself?
Well, the only thing you can do for a subjective viewpoint, is unlike a slot machine, you can change your odds. You can change your odds by shifting context. When you shift context, that’s when you justify, because then you are balancing inequities. If you steal yourself against inequities, and try to snuff the inequity at their source, then you are problem solving. And here we have the beginnings of do-ers and be-ers and change and steadfast. Where people balance and where people snuff, differs between do-ers and be-ers. Everybody snuffs and everybody balances. If you are a be-er, you are going to have a tendency to snuff internally, and balance externally. For example, you have two kids and you’ve got one piece of cake. Both of them want the piece of cake, and they are arguing and screaming when you walk into the room. Now, a be-er will try and balance things by saying, “O.K. who got the cake out?” or you could say, “You get the cake this time, you’ll get the cake next time” and balance it out that way. That would be a balance.
And when they snuff things it would be that there’s only one thing, and they know that only one kid can have it and not the other one; maybe there’s an award, or something that can’t be divided or something, and you give it to one kid or the other, because you have to make a choice. And you realize the inequity, that you have to snuff it inside. So, you do the work inside of trying to snuff it inside, so you do the work inside of trying to snuff your feelings, or you do the work outside and try to balance things off. “Oh, well here’s this jacket that was sent to us, there’s only one jacket, and you have a jacket and instead you get the beach ball.” So, you try and balance things off, so that you make up for it. We are making things up on the outside, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and that’s something a be-er does.
Whereas a do-er is somebody who is going to try and snuff the problem outside. They would be the ones to divide the cake up. They would say, either you each share it or nobody gets anything. They put the balance in a different direction and they were trying to balance things inside, and they were balanced inside by saying, “Yes, I know that it’s not fair to this one not to get the cake or jacket, but this person needs the jacket more because they are out in the cold more, so that’s why they are going to get the jacket and the other one is not going to get a jacket.” So, they would balance inside. And you will see that the approach between do-ers and be-ers is that often in terms of items that have to be divvied up, of which there aren’t enough, do-ers will seem to rely on an analytical external view, and inside they seem to be heartless, in situations where there isn’t enough to go around. Whereas, be-ers seem to miss the point, because be-ers are trying to give oranges to satisfy a taste for apples, in external situations.
So, anyway the one who tries to balance inside is the do-er, and snuff it outside, just take action, precipitous action to make it work itself out — to resolve it. Whereas, the be-er is going to try to resolve it inside, and then take action to balance it outside. And that doesn’t mean change or steadfast. Change or steadfast means do you try that and if it doesn’t work, do you keep trying it another way or do you drop the other’s approach; shift your internal and external places where you want to do it. That’s another way of looking at change and steadfast.
Q: Does Change or Steadfast always affect your approach?”
Not necessarily — It doesn’t have to because sometimes problems aren’t between the inside and the outside, sometimes problems are between the inside and itself, and problems are between the outside and itself. In other words, when you look from a “they” perspective, you’re not personally involved. You don’t have any feelings about it one way or another. You are a judge sitting on a bench and you have to make things work out between the parties, and you don’t have any favorites, ostensibly. And then in that case, it’s a completely external inequity you are dealing with, and so you are going to be putting all your work out there. The whole notion of being a do-er or be-er will be applied to the situation as to how you deal with it. But, change and steadfast will not have anything to do with it. Change and steadfast will be “do I try to resolve it, or do I stop trying to resolve it externally”.
Whereas for an internal situation, in which you feel a certain way, or a lack of motivation for something, and you want to create a motivation for something, or you have tendencies or drives that you want to get rid of, you are working with yourself, and there really is no external manifestation of it, it’s yourself you are trying to work with.
“I don’t like being this kind of person, why do I say this or do that?” . “Maybe I can change myself inside.” Well, that’s not really change in change and steadfast, that’s be-er’s work, and be-er’s working to alter themselves inside, because they are trying to snuff it, internally. And if they are trying to work with themselves inside, if they eventually give up on it, then that’s change.
And if they stick with it, then that’s steadfast. How long do they have to keep working with themselves before themselves change. Did they give up too soon, because whatever was holding them back was just ready to give because of their persistence in trying to think a certain way, in terms of Zen or in terms of controlling our emotion. Could they have broken the back of it, if they had lasted just a little bit longer. Or is it a useless endeavor because they really can’t change that no matter how they try. That’s the leap of faith for a be-er, internal working person.
Do-ers and be-ers both have external only problems and internal only problems and problems between the outside and the inside. And when they are between the outside and the inside, both do-ers and be-ers can perceive it as being this is where it ought to be resolved; externally or internally. And then once they determine where it has to be resolved, what makes them a be-er or do-er is when they determine whether it’s inside or outside and has to be resolved, where they are trying to strike a balance. So, a lot of stuff is going on in that. But, change and steadfast is do you switch from looking from outside to inside, or inside to outside and the other one is at the crossfire, do you stop trying or give up on it. Or do you keep going — inside do you keep going or give up on it. Those are the four change and steadfast issues in the change/steadfast quad.
Now, why would there be such a thing as justification? Why would that even exist in the species? Well, in fact, you can’t get away from it. The reason you can’t get away from it is because of the fact that we have either a spatial brain operating system or a temporal brain operating system. We either favor space or favor time intrinsically. Men favor space and women favor time, in terms of male and female mental sex. And why would this be? Well, in reality, outside of our minds, there is only mass and energy. There is no time, there is no space. They just don’t exist. They only exist in our minds. The fact that we have bodies, the fact that we sit in a room, the fact that we can see things and perceive them – all that mass exists, but the space it takes up is all in our minds, because it really takes up no space at all.
As a matter of fact, it doesn’t take up zero space, there’s no such thing as space. Space is when we have a relationship between space and time that favors space. What that means is that when we have a sense of looking at how things are arranged versus how that arrangement changes, the fact that things had any kind of arrangement is all in our heads, because we are putting a pattern on something and saying here are things that are related. And all those relationships is an order that we impose on the essential key of nature of energy and mass. So, whenever we perceive something as being arranged in a pattern, we’ve supplied the pattern. We projected it, we organize it that way.
Q: We can’t argue that, because there wasn’t something to perceive the space then there would be no way to say that there was anything. It seems that mass a shape to it, and because mass has a mass that can be great or small, then it inherently has something, that’s at least related to space.
Mass has nothing to do with size. As an example a black hole or a neutron star. Matter can be compressed, infinitely small by the forces of gravity. So that, it still has the same mass, but it’s being compressed, because it’s warped space. And what do we get when it’s warped space, it’s warped our perception of it. Which is the relationship between mass/energy and space/time. Space and time are subliminal, and mass and energy are awareness.
Q: But then what is the objective of a shared space, what is the great mind that space that we all seem to be able to share, the earth, etc..?
The best way to describe it is that mass and energy continue to move towards entropy. So, the external universe is the force of entropy and the force of extropy which is the increasing complexities that force us to self-awareness. The two of them are in conjunction and at the moment there is a trend toward self-awareness becoming more complex. The chance of dependency that eventually it will become less complex, or cease to exist at all. Perhaps it is so large it will collapse under it’s own weight or just float off somewhere, and no longer be in this universe. If it collapses under it’s own weight, it’s like what happened during the dark ages. Knowledge was lost, awareness was lost. The levels of thinking were lost. Societally, but individually as well, because there isn’t much difference between a cave person and a person of today. You have the same essential innate capacities of mind, but our thoughts are much more grand today because of the combined knowledge that we have; the complexity that has happened in society.
When different self-aware awarenesses come into being, the first one that thinks of a concept makes that concept manifest, tuned here to reality, just by perceiving it. In other words, instead of saying I’ll believe when I see it, it’s I will see it when I believe it. But, all existence comes from perception, from this perspective. Of course because were made of material that generates our minds, all perception comes out of existence. Remember we can never get to the heart of the matter because we can’t see everything, because we are part of the picture. So, we can’t step out of it, no matter where we place ourselves, that’s a part of the picture we can’t see. So, we’ll never get the whole deal. However, when you have a new concept, it could very well be that for millions of years the earth was flat. It could have very well been.
Now, why did it not stay flat? Well, it didn’t stay flat because someone created a larger paradigm that explained more, bordered more things. Created patterns of understanding that were larger, that required having a round earth. And describing those things that required a round earth, then allowed a round earth which accomplishes much of the notion of a flat earth, but also came with it the larger paradigm for understanding even more stuff, that before was completely non-understandable. And as a result of it being a larger paradigm, it shifted the perspectives of all those who were aware of it, and changed the nature of the way the world worked. Meaning that there’s still plenty of opportunity in terms of thinking about nuclear science and astrophysics — in terms of looking at social movements. There’s plenty of opportunity for changing the way things really are, because we come up with another explanation for how we perceive them.
So, did this seem any less liked a chair, because we know there are atoms in it? But, once atoms were conceived and agreed upon, there where atoms in the chair. Until that was agreed upon, there was no need for there to be atoms in chair, because they’d never been thought of before, and so the chair could exist without atoms and truly be a solid material.
Q: And the effect of that versus making the world round,….it’s like if the world hadn’t changed in nature, they got all this false evidence created….
No. See that is the thing — any paradigm that explains things, that has to replace one learning curve, has to explain everything the earlier paradigm explained and more. And that’s the key. Now, guess how that works? That’s why it becomes more and more difficult to come up with new paradigms that shift everything around. Now that’s what we’ve done with story. Until we came up with the notion that some of this was psychology, it wasn’t. Our own thoughts during the psychology of finding a way to make that explain using the psychological paradigm, yet stories were actually a psychology of the single human mind. As soon as we came up with it, that’s what they were. And the more people believe it, the more firm it becomes, because then you have a lot of people from a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different self-awarenesses, converging on a particular conception, so that they all agree with it. And they bring to it baggage from their own personal existences, that isn’t shared by the general community.
Although the concept is shared by the general societal community, the individuals don’t share it, they have their own experience, and it’s got to prove true to each one of those. As long as it proves true to each one of those, it is true, and that’s what it is, but if one of them says it doesn’t work for me because of something in my personal experience, then what they need to do is to come up with a paradigm that explains that everybody else’s point of view and their’s as well in a new light, and as soon as they do that, then that’s what it was supposedly all along, but in fact from this perspective, it only comes into being when it is proposed.
Q: Hmmm. That’s wild because it seems like almost contradictory — it’s weird.
It’s a very big thought. And it’s the same place you get when you go to your passionate argument, and you begin to see that all is nothing and nothing is all. It’s as narrow as infinity. When you begin to see that and it makes sense, then you have become a model of Zen. When you get this particular thought, you become more aware of mental relativity, because it really is one of the central places that you have to lose the paradox, in order to know that you are becoming one with that perspective.
So, all this is tied in then to our space sense and our time sense, and whether things are right or wrong, or good or bad, or whether we should stick with our guns or change. Or whether we should change from seeing the problem outside, to seeing the problem inside. Or whether we should see the problem as outside, still, but just give up on it, because it can’t be solved. Now, that by itself is an interesting philosophy, but it doesn’t come into existence until you actually creating a model in our society, whereby you can explain the mechanism through which it happens. This is really intriguing.
We are going to start with the neurology, and work our way through understanding justification in terms of the brains neurology about chemistry, and then we are going to work our way through mental relativity understanding, and then we are going to work our way through a psychological understanding, and then we are going to work our way into the final perspective which is external or physical justification. So, we are going to start with the physical part of the mind, and then go to the mental relativity part of self-awareness, and then go to the psychological part of the mind, and then we are going to carry it outside, and then bring it back to the body. So, we’ve gone full circle.
Q: So, justification is a style of problem solving?
Well, problem solving and justification are two means for dealing with an inequity. When you try to get rid of the inequity, it’s problem solving, when you try balance the inequity, that’s justification.
O.K., so first of all, in terms of the neurology, there are a couple of models. (ON BOARD):
We have narrow networks in the brain, and these narrow networks are little things that look like little brains. They are called ganglia. There’s a left-headed ganglia, and a right-headed ganglia, and within it, maybe four thousand neurons are all interconnecting. Then they connect one to another and then you have all these little neural networks. That’s why it’s not just in neurology, because they are little tiny networks, within a larger network, with subgroups. And there’s a biochemistry that exists outside here, that all of these ganglia are in that effects them as a group. And there’s also a membrane of the ganglia, a little micro-climate zone, and one side of the ganglia produces primarily the dopamine, and the other side produces the seratonin. There is sort of a balance between the dopamine and the seratonin in the network. This is where our real space and time sense come from in the ganglia.
Our sense of mass and energy are kind of dealing with the external here. There’s this larger biochemistry and the big network. The big network has 4,000 neurons and if we look at it as a single entity, that’s like one switching point, and this is another switching point between themselves, so it has less resolution, than when start looking at what’s actually going on here. This matter of resolution here is that they would each appear to be containing our sense of mass. In other words, it’s there, it’s not a very binary sense, all these things work together and say yes or no. So, you sort of get that sense. Whereas, the biochemistry that works outside of it, is our sense of energy. That there is either pressure upon it or not, in a very unsophisticated way or less resolved way. When you get down to the level of the ganglia themselves, inside, it becomes more sophisticated, because now you are dealing with relationships between things, instead of just binary states between things.
And you have the enclosed micro-climate in our biochemistry is such that you have a neuron, and there’s something over here called the threshold. The threshold here is an electrical difference between the outside of the neuron, and the inside of the neuron, when you are looking at the axon. The axon is this body of the neuron, and it has its receptors, and it’s dendrites. And they all come up here and go to various neurons. So, all of these connections to various different neurons.
One of the first places we notice space and time is in the synapse, where the two come together. There’s some neuron over here that’s firing and when it fires, the way it works is down at the bottom, there are little spherical containers holding the neurotransmitters, that are created inside one of these little areas and shooting it out. And these things migrate and are attracted to the edge of the membrane, depending upon the degree of calcium that’s contained in this liquid inside. And the amount of calcium has to do with how frequently this is fired. So, the more familiar you become, the more calcium builds up. And the more calcium that builds up, the more of these things are ionized, and attracted to the bottom . And when enough of them are attracted to the bottom, what they do is they sit there long enough, which is where you get time – spatially you get a bunch of them down there. Temporally, they have to be there long enough. And when they are there long enough, then if you made one of these larger, with just the edge of this, with one of these things sitting down there, you go through a series of steps, where it begins to open up to the outside, until you end up with something like that.
Eventually, it just goes straight, but in the meantime what’s happened is that it has dumped it’s neurotransmitter in here outside into the open environment. And then your neurotransmitter is totally out, and the membrane is closed, so there’s a real interesting way that it opens up like that. And, if it’s there long enough, it will do this. As they are created, it’s are they getting close to the edge, and they are sort of like, do you have one here, and they are all lined up on the edge, or are they pointing out in the center like this. So, that’s going to determine how many are close to the edge, and we have how many are close to the edge. And we have how many are close to the edge, tendency because they are pulled there to stay there longer, and in greater quantities. And so it adjusts how much of this stuff flows out. It’s not just that you are going to end up with having it all flow a certain level. We can modulate it’s affect. So, even though it fires or doesn’t fire, if it fires, it could just be a little tiny fire, and there could be a lot of neurotransmitter dumped out.
So, that controls the amount of biochemical that’s going into the synapse. Remember, the synapse is the one that comes down here, and then it’s captured by the one that comes in. The neurotransmitters don’t just go directly from here to here, like flaming torpedoes or something, some of them go directly there, but they also spread out, and get into the general mix. Various atoms of the neurotransmitters. And as they do, they get over here, they get to work throughout the ganglia, inside it. So that whenever anything fires, that has thought that occurs. But, maybe they could be firing seratonin, or they could be firing dopamine. Or a lot of other neurotransmitters, but they all have the same kind of effect, to cause excitement or slow them down. Well, the dopamine has a tendency to reduce the calcium inside, while the seratonin has a tendency to increase it. So, it doesn’t just affect the receiver, it also reflects what’s happening here. So, that while you have something that is firing, and gives it a tendency to fire more and more frequently, at the same time, what’s out here, could be causing it to fire less and less frequently.
So, that means that there could be inhibitors from the outside that inhibit a specific signal coming from the outside. In other words, even if something is very familiar, coming from this particular neuron, from a sensory neuron, of which there are millions throughout your body, — well, if one of these pathways says “fire” and the rest of the ones have something going on that say “don’t fire” its not going to fire, because this threshold is the difference between an inner and outer electrical energy, in terms of the ionization , and as such, that can be controlled by putting more ions of one kind or another inside or outside. And because of that you can adjust the action potential. All of a sudden the potential gets to this point, and if it hits that threshold, it will fire. When it fires, it overloads, spikes, and it goes down back like this and then comes just under it, and it forms real interesting wave patterns, a typical wave pattern. So, it’s going along underneath it., and it’s always ready to fire. Something drives it over the edge, then it takes up it’s own inertia, goes through the whole thing, and then after it fires it dips down, so that it will prevent it from firing, which is what gives us our binary sense. If it just came back down, being ready to fire, we would think analog, instead of thinking binary.
But, the very fact that it dips down, prevents it from doing that. Below the line it
(Originally written in 2012 and re-posted here)
As I approach my sixtieth birthday, I imagine the time is ripe to resolve some of the questions I’ve been getting in regard to the origin and development of the Dramatica Theory of Story and its principal concepts and implementations. So, here is how it happened (to the best of my recollection).
Chris and I met at the University of Southern California. I was a cinema major, and his room mate, Mark, was my partner in one of the required film production classes. Chris was not a cinema major, but was taking some courses as part of wider “Thematic Option” program in which he was allowed to design something of custom degree and to choose his own classes.
The three of us became rather like the Three Musketeers – the two of them on campus, and as I was recently married just before going to USC, I lived off campus. Partway through my degree, even though my dad was paying for the school and even offered to pay for our apartment, my sense of pride and ethics wouldn’t allow me to accept his generosity, so I quit school to work in the film biz.
I spent about a year at one job, as a production assistant and eventually editor, and then obtained another at a much larger production company. I started as a camera assistant and had just worked my way up to full editor on segments for a television show called “Real People” when another of their shows was cancelled and I was demoted to manager of the shipping department – quite a let down, as I had been making movies since I was 12. But, we needed the money.
I was pretty depressed, but I came up with a plan to raise money and direct my own feature film rather than just moan about the situation. The company (Dave Bell Associates), now defunct, took pity on me and let me use their equipment and van at no charge on the weekends.
Chris and Mark became co-producers with me, and I directed. Two of the other filmmakers at work became my sound man and cinematographer. Eventually, the director of photography quit, and to fill the positions we enlisted the aid of another of Chris’ USC film friends, Stephen, with whom he was now rooming along with Mark in a Burbank rented home. (They had come to like Burbank from visiting me there.)
Stephen, in fact, is the same fellow with whom Chris later formed Screenplay Systems, the company that eventually created the Dramatica software with Steve as company president and chief programmer of Dramatica. (He had wandered onto a government facility at the age of 13 and they had put this self-taught budding genius to work helping to program Arpanet, which laid the foundation for the internet.)
Our movie, The Strangeness, (you can buy it on Amazon.com or look it up on imdb.com) was a pretty interesting atmospheric monster movie, especially considering the budget was only $25,000. We built the set in my grandparent’s backyard in Burbank, and lit it with lanterns and road flares. Stop motion monster. Had a chapter devoted to it in the book Nightmare USA about 1980s monster movies. (We finished the film in 1980). We never got our money back, but we all formed a bond that holds to this day.
After completing our first feature, Chris and I decided to write another one. We called it The Terminator before that title was picked up by someone else. But, we realized that our first story had a lot of flaws and we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
One night at about 2 a.m. in the editing studio behind my home, we decided to put our heads together and see if we could find any truisms of story structure we could count on, at least for action films, that could form a better foundation for the screenplay to come.
This was the moment that the Dramatica Theory of Story was born.
We put in several weeks of solid effort in the project, beginning by asking ourselves, “Is there such a thing as story structure?” Fact is, we really didn’t know. Our instructors at USC had provided us with a few concepts that we could count on such as, “There must be a Protagonist and an Antagonist,” and “Three act structure,” and “The Main Character must have a leap of faith.”
But were these always true, or just in some contexts or some genres? And were they the tip of a structural iceberg – the corners of a hidden network of interconnections that represented the holy grail of storytelling?
To find out, we reasoned we should start from scratch – put aside anything we had ever heard about structure, avoid reading or learning any more about other people’s ideas, and figure it out for ourselves from the ground up.
Now while this might seem pretentious, you have to put it in context of a time in which very little was actually known about story structure in a definitive sense. So, there wasn’t that much previous knowledge to ignore if we went back to basics. In fact, we thought, even if we re-invent the wheel, at least we’ll have the process by which we came to the same conclusion others had and that should help validate it.
But where to begin? The decision was actually pretty simple. We discussed how there seemed to be four major areas that impacted structure – characters, plot, theme and genre. We knew nothing about genre or theme, we knew precious little about plot, but we did know a tad about characters.
To learn about characters we used Star Wars as our model. Why? It was made by a USC film graduate from whom we (in the cinema department) had been treated to a pre-release screening at Fox studios as a gift from Lucas to his old school. (The producer of the first Star Wars, Gary Kurtz, hosted the event and answered questions afterward. I asked, “What inspired you to make all the spaceships move so fast?” (as all previous movies had slows ships like 2001 or Buck Rogers clunky things). His response, “Because it’s better that way.”)
Regardless, the movie was new, clearly worked well, and seemed to deal in archetypes. By listing the principal characters in the movie, we figured we had a good list of characters from which to start.
So the first order of business was to list the characters that kept cropping up in Star Wars and then in other kinds of movies we wanted to write.
In each of these stories there was always a Protagonist and an Antagonist. (We chose those terms simply because we just assumed that “heroes” and “villains” were kind of melodramatic, and our sense of reason was drawn to the more logically based Protagonist and Antagonist representing the character who was trying to achieve a goal and the character who was trying to stop him. Pro and Ant – for and against.)
In Star Wars, Luke was clearly the Protagonist and (at first) we pegged Darth Vader as the Antagonist. We then noted that Princess Leia was Intellectual character (cold and driven by logic) and she had an opposite counterpart, Chewbacca, an Emotional character who openly expressed his passions, never making a plan. We jotted down the droids as the faithful Sidekicks and identified a Skeptic character, Han Solo, who seemed to be diametrically opposed to the nature or outlook of the Sidekicks. And then we found a Guardian character who protected the Protagonist: Obi Wan Kenobi.
This gave us a total of seven character types. Kind of a magic number. But we noted that the first six characters seemed to fall into pairs of opposite natures or approaches – Luke and Vader, Leia and Chewy, Droids and Han. And then there was the Guardian, all by itself.
We got into a long debate about whether or not story structure (if it existed at all) was symmetrical or not. Could it have some things that had counterparts and other things in the same set of things that just hung out there alone?
We wanted there to be symmetry. It just felt better. Nature abhors a vacuum, and a hanging character created a conceptual hole where its opposite “should” be. So, what’s the opposite of a Guardian? Well, it would be a character who “un-protected the Protagonist – screwed things up for him, rather than protecting him. Kind of like an Antagonist, but not directly opposed to the Protagonist – more like the monkey wrench in the works.
Was that character in Star Wars? In fact it was: Darth Vader! We had thought he was the Antagonist (like everyone else did – all black with flowing robes and the first evil figure to show up in the story). But when you thought about it, Darth wasn’t the head bad guy – that was the Empire itself, as made manifest in the Gran Mof Tarkin. Vader, in fact, was just a henchman for Tarkin, and a rather loose-canon type as well!
So we called this character the Henchman, since he was the sidekick to the bad guy just as the common “sidekick” was the faithful supporter of the Good Guy or Protagonist. But wouldn’t that then made Vader the equivalent of the side kick droids, C3PO and R2D2?
Well, that’s true in the way they are used in that particular story, but in fact, Vader represented the Dark Side of the Force and was really the opposite to Obi Wan who represented the Bright Side – Obi Wan, the Guardian, vs. Vader, the… well…, what should we call it?
Now I honestly don’t remember if it was at that time Chris coined the word “Contagonist” for that character type, or if it he came up with it about ten years later when we began a major effort to push our theory forward. Either way, while we both discovered the function of the character, Chris named it. In fact, a most of the names for things are his creations, though not exclusively so.
We then switched our attention to plot and found something we called the Rule of Threes. Basically, it meant that everything in the plot had to happen three times. First, to introduce something, then to interact it, and then to show the outcome. Chris named that too: “Rule of Threes”.
We got a little way into that process of delineated steps in plot using index cards with typewritten titles like “Guardian Introduced,” “Skeptic States Motivation,” and “Contagonist vs. P.C. #2,” (P.C. stood for Primary Character – a term we came up with to describe the character the story revolved around from an audience perspective. This, because we had noticed that some stories were about the Antagonist as the main character – the one trying to stop something, rather than being about the Protagonist who was trying to make something happen. – I have the original cards next to me for reference as I write this.)
Alas, the Rule of Threes didn’t always hold up. We ran into more and more exceptions – even in the narrow genres in which we wanted to work. It often held true, but not always, which didn’t really help us define story structure in concrete terms at all.
After a few of weeks of growing frustration, Chris wisely put forth that we just didn’t yet know enough about life, the world, or stories to get beyond this point. He suggested that we put our work on hold and come back to it some years later when we had more experience, and I agreed.
Chris graduated and went off to work as an IMAX cameraman doing special effects. I went on into the business as an editor and later as a writer and director of industrials, educational films, television commercials, documentaries, a music video and one more low budget family feature in which Mark had a major role.
Fast forward ten years to 1990. Chris and Steve have gone on to form Screenplay Systems and Steve programmed Scriptor – the world’s first screenplay formatting software (for which he and Chris later received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy).
I was editor on a PanaVision feature at the time, Prima Donnas, and Chris was buried neck deep in being V.P. of Screenplay systems as their company grew. One day he called me on the phone and said, “You know that old theory of story structure we were working on a decade ago? How about we have breakfast at the Coral Cafe and talk about starting it up again. I think we’re ready.”
If not for that call, Dramatica would have died before it was barely born. But, I was having a miserable time on that feature and really wanted to do something else for a while, so the idea was appealing to me to.
Over breakfast, we discussed where we had left off ten years ago, that we could already see some new directions to take, and that we’d like to get together at his place (or more often mine) for an hour of chat and coffee every morning before Chris went off to V.P. and I went off to edit.
Over the next six months we made all kinds of progress I’ll talk about in a moment, started a couple of books, one called “Wordsmith” – an adventure story about a fellow who learns about story structure from Dr. Wordsmith (a scientist), and another called “Story” (before THAT title was taken by someone else!)
We began to talk about our findings with other friends, and Chris told his partner, Steve, about them. Screenplay Systems was considering creating story development software in conjunction with a known story “guru,” but the more he heard about our embryonic developing theory, the more Steve became convinced that it made a lot more sense and might be a better way to go.
Over many lunches we all discussed the ideas that were being created until Steve asked for a formal presentation of our work. As sketchy as it was, we put it together as best we could and Steve then completely embraced it and he and Chris cancelled their other plans, and I came on board as an independent consultant to join Chris in developing it.
Chris, of course, still had to be the business operations manager for Screenplay System, but I put full time effort into advancing the theory. In fact, every weekday for three years, I was basically shut in a room with stacks of post-it-notes of various colors, and a wall-size dry marker board to crack the story structure code.
Chris’ office was right down the hall so we compared notes all day long. (I had an office too, but spent most of my time with the white board and post-it notes in the conference room.) They hired two programmers to build the model we were developing, but one didn’t believe such a theory could be true, so he kept altering what we wanted him to do to match his own notions of what would make more sense. We had to let him go. Then, the next programmer was so much the opposite and bought into it so thoroughly that he used the model to analyze his own life, realized he really didn’t want to be a programmer and quit! That left Steve, who took over and became the primary programmer on the project.
Once we had the computer model built, we went through several revisions of the software, but the theory and story engine never changed, not though all these two decades. It is symmetrical, elegant, beautiful and accurate.
Now, we’re going to back track a bit – back to the time when Chris and I first started the project up again, ten years after putting it hold, because that is where the breakthroughs began. And now you will learn who came up with what.
After we bopped around our old ideas for a while, Chris asked the question: “If a character, like Scrooge, is the cause of a story’s problems, why doesn’t he see that?” It was a really good question! What could be the mechanism by which a character wasn’t just consciously denying that he is the source of the troubles, but actually can’t even see it? And to carry that forward, what brings him to the point where he does see it? And then what determines if he accepts it and changes or rejects it and keeps on going as he was?
Chris coined the phrase, Blind Spot, to describe a point in one’s mind where we cannot consciously see. In fact, a place that is so dark it is invisible – we don’t even know it is there. Next, Chris reasoned that if something was going on in the mind of the Main Character (as we were now describing the Protagonist) that blocked the truth from it, then it must be psychological in nature. So, rather than plodding on ahead focusing solely on structure, we ought to take a side trip into the psychology of the Main Character. Again, Chris’ ideas entirely. In fact, he drove most of the innovation in the initial days and I was his sounding board. As we progressed those roles became even and then reversed to a degree because he put his efforts into discovering ways to apply the theory to structuring stories, whereas I became fully focused on continuing to advance the theory itself.
From our investigation of the Main Character’s Psychology, Chris came up with the the notion that blind spots were caused by rationalization (which we later renamed justification because it involved more than just rationalizing).
The notion of rationalization led to a big ongoing debate about the difference between objective reality and subjective reality and especially as to whether there was an objective reality we all saw subjectively, or whether “objective” reality did not truly exist and was no more than the common areas of agreement among all of our subjective realities.
In essence, it was the old Socrates/Plato argument about whether our concepts such as “bed” exist innately in our minds and all real beds are imperfect attempts to manifest the ideal, or that there is no perfect ideal and all of our functional attempts to construct beds create the concept of bed which continually refines itself. Form follows function or function follows form.
In the end, we concluded that men and women see the answer to this differently. Men, due to the way their minds are wired, tend to believe in an objective reality, while women tend to believe in a subjective reality. Problem is, while women’s subjective relativity can admit that men can have a completely different but equally valid view of reality, men’s objective reality cannot accept that women can have a different view unless one of the sexes is wrong. And it isn’t them because an objective reality is more logical and logic trumps intuition.
So, as a part of our little side trip, we discovered that men and women actually experience the universe (existence) in a different way, and Chris was forced by the logic of the argument to accept that the woman’s view is equally valid as his, but it is just as true that is is not as valid to him.
This was huge. There were two different kinds of minds on the planet – almost as if we were living with aliens who accounted for half the population. Of course, it often feels like that, doesn’t it, but now that conclusion was supported by a logical argument based on the process of justification of the Main Character that led to a blind spot. Man, were we way off course if we wanted to understand story structure! (Or so we thought at the time.)
Now this is the point beyond which we both started making equal contributions to the advancement of the theory. We reasoned that if there were two primary views of reality, the male truth and the female truth, that both would be needed to triangulate a big “T” Truth.
Armed with that expectation, we felt that if we could follow male and females Main Characters through a story and see what kinds of things they did and thought about, perhaps we could see some of the elements of structure and the order in which they occurred. Then, by comparing this information from many stories, we might see repeating patterns and even, if we were lucky, absolutes that would be the most solid and unchanging building blocks and “rules” of story structure – essentially, the elements of dramatics.
So, we set about watching a number of movies. We still weren’t investigating to see if any of our ideas also applied to books or plays. We wanted to make movies, and the whole reason for investigating story structure was to help us do that better.
We began to compile lists of words that described things like the subjects the main character was talking about, that described how they felt, what they thought, and what they did.
Aware of the differences between our two perspectives, we found that while sometimes we discovered the same concepts, other times we could see elements at work that the other hadn’t noticed.
In time, we had compiled quite a list between the two of us. As we were looking specifically for the psychological processes at work within the mind of the Main Character and particularly for the processes of rationalization (still using that word at the time) we felt that those terms might indicate the nature of the how a blind spot functioned over the course of the story.
One of the first things we discovered was that the subject matter of most concern to the Main Character (the things that created the greatest internal conflict) was the difference between what he “could” do vs. what he “needed” to do and also between what he “wanted” to do and what he “should” do.
These words were refined to Can, Need, Want, and Should. We realized that while conflict might exist between Can and Need and also between Want and Should, there was another equally valid way to pair them up that illustrated a different kind of potential conflict.
Can might be paired with Want and Need with Should. In this arrangement, the conflicts would be between what you Can do vs. what you Want to do and also between what you Need to do and what you Should do.
So, as we understood it, Can/Need conflict is about ability measured up against what is required, Want/Should is about desire that come up against ethical considerations, Can/Want is about whether ability is sufficient to satisfy one’s desires and Need/Should is about logistic necessities vs. ramifications (emotional, ethical, or practical).
We decided that these four items were interconnected, something like a family of primary concerns. And we found that if we organized them by putting into the four corners of a square, both kinds of pair relationships could easily be seen. We put Can in the upper left, Want in the lower Right, Need in the upper right and should in the lower left.
So, the top horizontal pair represented Can and Need (both external or perhaps logistic) and the bottom horizontal pair represented Want and Should (both internal or perhaps emotional). The Can/Want diagonal represented the most basic drives, while the Need/Should diagonal represented the situational or contextual consideration. We named this arrangement a quad.
So, we had one quad of psychological items that were driving the Main Character. Were there others? Surely there must be, for Can, Need, Want and Should are not a blind spot; we can all see those quite clearly within ourselves. If they were part of the creation or psychological maintenance of a blind plot, there must be other components to the process that helped hide parts of ourselves from ourselves. To discover them, we went back to stories and observed more of what the main character did and thought.
In time, we catalogued four more psychological attributes of a Main Character – Commitment, Responsibility, Rationalization and Obligation. These seemed like they described the next step from Can, Need, Want, and Should in creating a blind spot. It was as if they described aspects of ourselves we locked in place as a result of having determined Can, Need Want and Should.
Can motivated our Commitments while Need, determined our Responsibilities. Want was the driver of our Rationalizations while Should generated our Obligations. Since there was a direction path from our original quad to these four items, it was quite natural to arrange the new ones in the same pattern.
In fact, this new family of four items had the same arrangement among them as did the original family of Can and Want, Need and Should. Well, we were pretty happy with ourselves. To our knowledge, no one had ever described the way the items in these two quads related to one another before, much less how one family related to the other.
But, where there any more families? We began to think about the relationships of one family to the other. It seemed like the whole family of Can, Need, Want and Should was a little more basic and close to the immediate concerns of the Main Character than his Commitments, Responsibilities, Rationalizations and Obligations. In fact, they seemed like they operated at two different levels of complexity. In other words, the new quad of four seemed a bit father along the path to the creation of a blind spot.
So, we went back to analyzing films and simultaneously gave the question some good old fashioned head bashing such as, if Need leads to Responsibility, what does Responsibility lead to? How about Commitments, Rationalizations and Obligations?
What’s more, if there is something farther along the path toward a blind spot, is there something at the other end of the path that is even more basic than Can, Need, Want and Should?
Eventually, we catalogued two other families – one more complex or of a higher order consisting of Situation, Circumstances, State of Being and Sense of Self. Yep, that was pretty complex. But it described the external logistic condition (Situation), the external emotional condition (Circumstances), the internal logistic condition, State of Being, and the internal emotional condition, Sense of Self.
Honest to gosh, this is what we really did, though talking about it now, it sure seems like we were making a lot of unsupported leaps. Glad it worked out!
On the more basic side, we realized that what a character Can do was based on Ability, but limited by all the restrictions imposed by all elements in the more complex families. Similarly, at the heart of Want (a lack) is Desire (an attraction). At the center of Should, essentially the driver that builds a sense of Should, is Thought (not just acting without thinking but considering the ramifications). And the kernel of Need is Knowledge – information, we can’t need what we don’t know about. (Sure, you can argue that philosophically, but in terms of the Main Character’s drives, if all these things are descriptors of his personal considerations, then Knowledge of some problem or inequity leads to an assessment of Need – what is required to accomplish it; to get it done.
Now this almost seems counter-intuitive at times, and believe me it took a LONG time to get to the core. But when we added that final family in consisting of Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire, we knew we had discovered a deeper insight into the psychology of story structure than anyone had before. Or at least a different one, assuming we were actually deluded and barking up an interesting but ultimately useless tree.
Now we had a pathway to the creation of a blind spot: The Main Character first considers Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire. When one of those indicates that a problem exists, the hunt is on to find a solution. So, we (the Main Character) look outward toward the lack or limitation that is constricting these four basic concerns. Knowledge tells us what we Need, Thought tells us what we Should, Ability tells us what we Can and Desire tells us what we Want.
If the problem is solved on the spot right there, great! But if not, we realize it is going to take some time so we put some long-term motivations into play: We make Commitments based on what we Know, we lock out Thoughts in a pattern that will keep us moving forward – Rationalization. We take on Responsibilities in response to what is Needed, and we Obligate ourselves because we Should.
If the problem is still not solved, we begin to question why. We investigate who we really are, our State of Being which is defined by our Commitments. We examine that in comparison to who we think we are, our Sense of Self, which is defined by our Rationalizations. We question our Situation, which is defined by our Responsibilities, and we examine our Circumstances as defined by our Obligations.
By the time we get to this level which is most externally focused, we have shifted our view from ourselves to our environment, and in so doing we have created a blind spot of any initial inequity in our most element family of personal concerns, Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire. We have come to look outward instead of inward and thereby no longer see ourselves as the cause of a problem but as if the problem exists externally to ourselves, just like Scrooge.
We had done it! But was there more to learn about the process and how it related to the structure of stories? And for that matter, what other element beyond the Justification process might be contained as part of story structure?
To find out, we decided to focus on that primary quad that we came to call TKAD – the essential quad of all – the one that most clearly illustrated the internal relationships of a quad family. We called it TKAD instead of KTAD because we favored thought over knowledge.
I became convinced that the relationships in this family of elements could be reduced to an equation or equations. In fact, I became obsessed with it. Chris was much more practically minded and wanted to move on, arguing that we already had so much useful material and that the elusive equation, while conceptually intriguing, was not immediately applicable and we could go back and work on it later.
We compromised. I woud have one week to solve the equation or we would put it aside. The week was to end on Friday. I struggled all week – trying to boil down these relationships into a single mathematical formula – the horizontal and diagonal pairs, the path of Justification. I explored all kinds of approaches, trying to conceptualize and refine – to get down to the essence. Nothing worked. Every idea fell short.
It was Friday afternoon. The deadline was approaching. It was the height of summer and our bedroom was in an add-on patio in the back of the house with an aluminum awning roof and no air conditioning. Worse, I was in the middle of hormone therapy and had just been given an increased prescription by my doctor that I had started just a couple days earlier.
In frustration, I lay down on the bed in that back room and fell asleep. Now – this sounds like some made up cockamamie story that one might use as the basis of a new religion. But, honest to gosh, this is what really happened, as it happened, so put away all the mumbo jumbo shit and just accept the fact that sometimes things converge at just the right time and just the right way to make something happen. Okay, here it is:
In my sleep, I dreamed. I felt like I was on some spiritual plane (yeah, I know how it sounds) and I was shown all the secrets of the universe and I actually felt I understood them! All the great secrets – is there a God? What is the meaning of life? Is there an after life? Does the universe go on forever, or does it end? How could we ever get to this point if time is infinite, including stretching infinitely into the past?
And a voice told me (yeah, I know how it sounds, but it was just a dream, so give me a break) – a voice told me I could take the answer to one question – but only one – back with me when I awoke. I thought about it, but already knew what my answer would be. I wanted that damned equation!
And in my dream, I saw the answer, as if it were a tangible thing. i reached out, put my hands around it, pulled it to my chest and literally threw myself awake. Just like the movies, I bolted upright from a dead sleep, my arms clutching air tightly to me.
But the answer was really there. And it was fading fast. So I leapt from the bed, grabbed a pen and paper I kept nearby and quickly scrawled, “One side divides; the other multiplies.” Wonderful! Brilliant! What did it mean???
It took only a moment to realize that the four items in a family are made up of two pairs, no matter now you slice it. And the function of the process of problem solving / creating a blind spot is described by the relationship of what is going on between the pairs, rather than among all four elements.
The equation, written down as a/b = c*d. One side divides and the other multiples. One pair is seen as separate items, the other as the blending of both items of the pair.
In talking it over with Chris, we determined this meant that when the mind is operating in any given quad family and it is seeking to find the source of (or solution to) an inequity or problem, it examines the elements of the family individually to see which might be the source (or solution). “a” divided by “b” ,as in the equation above, means that “a” is being parsed or analyzed by “b.” And the multiplying side, “c*d” means that “c” and “d” function like ends of a spectrum or a ruler – a base line against which the results of “a/b” can be measured.
This equation – this relationship among the pairs and elements of a quad – became the quintessential equation of story structure that not only described what we had already learned but opened the door to all future discoveries to come.
Applying it to the basic KTAD quad gave us T/K = AD – not a math equation but a logic equation – the essential relationship among the core elements, the four bases of the DNA of the mind. Do a little algebra to solve for T by multiplying each side by K and you get the form T = KAD. The form begins to look familiar.
Consider (as a loose analogy) that Knowledge is the Mass of the mind, Thought is its Energy. Ability is the Space of the mind – bits of what you know (Mass) separated from each other by what is unknown (“not knowledge”, or Space in the outside world). Desire is the Time of the mind – describing the comparison of what is to what was and what may be. The relationships among TKA & D are dynamically identical to those of Energy, Mass, Space and Time. And so, the equation is actually a comparative to E=MC2. (C squared, of course, is the combining of Space and Time, just as “c” and “d” are blended in the Dramatica equation. After all, E=MC2 is algebraically identical to E/M = C2, which again looks suspiciously like our story structure equation.)
Now, there’s all kinds of reasons for that that we figured out later, but if you wanted to know how the equation came to be, there it is.
Sounds kind of miraculous – like a message from the Divine. But it wasn’t, really. Or at least, even if it was, there was also a perfectly reasonable alternative explanation for it, as now described:
When I stood up from the paper, I realized the metal roof had raised the temperature in the room to well over one hundred degrees. My mouth was dry and tasted awful, so I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and reached for the “red.” And I stopped, and asked myself, why am I reaching for “red.” And then I realized that I was going for the toothpaste, which had a red label on it.
But I had never done that before. Previously, all of my life in fact, I’d always reached for the shape of the tube, not the color. So I went outside in the front yard and the dry straw-like grass of summer seemed like a neon yellow, and the colors of the houses on the street and the sky glowed with fluorescent colors not unlike street lights at twilight.
And then it struck me – the amazing set of circumstances that had converged upon me at just the right moment – the deadline putting my mind under pressure – being halfway between sleeping and waking and therefore halfway between the conscious and subconscious – and being at just the right point where my increased dose of hormones shifted the operation of my mind from linear to a momentary perfect balance with holistic thinking, from linear logic-based to non-linear passionate logic. And all of this in the stifling heat of that oven of a back room.
From that moment forward, I began to take more of a proactive lead on major theory breakthroughs, while Chris became more and more interested in pursuing practical applications of what we had discovered. That is not to say that Chris didn’t continue to make his own breakthroughs in our joint journey of discovery, but simply that his interests were more in getting our concepts into a form folks could use.
As I recall, this was just a few weeks before I started working full time on the theory over at Screenplay Systems, which would make it sometime in June or july of 1991. I may have jotted down the experience with a specific date in my writings somewhere, but I’ve generated so much text over the years that I wouldn’t know where to look.
In any event, things really started moving forward once I was putting my mind on this for eight hours a day. The first thing I did was create post-it notes – one for each of the psychological terms we had discovered in story structure by watching films. I put these on the wall of my office and started arranging them into families as best I could.
Sometimes, families were complete and other times they only had one, two or three items that we had actually observed. After a while, enabled by knowing the basic TKAD quad and having completed quads as examples, I was able to start completing partial quads not by observation of stories from film, but by finishing the quad pattern in terms of the relationships among the items.
For example, if one quad had K type item, a T type item and an A type item than the fourth and final item must be a D type. Since each quad must have a family “feel,” that suggested the realm in which each semantic (name) item should be put. And then by seeing how (in the example above) K, T and A related to the missing quadrant in the quad, one could calculate the semantic name value that needed to be in that empty space.
It was really just a process of triangulation or, rather, quadrangulation, in which one simply cross referenced what was known to determine what was not known. In fact, that is how one uses Dramatica’s Story Engine even today – answer questions about the story you want to tell or the real world scenario you wish to analyze based on what you do know, and the Story Engine will cross reference all that material to determine the rest of the underlying narrative psychology that must, therefore, be present.
While I did most of this work, it wasn’t really invention, just work. And the only reason I did more was that Chris and Steve were fronting the money for my full-time effort while they both had a big company to run.
Still, Chris and I would confab several times daily, me filling him in on what I’d done since our last talk and he contributing to the process of filling in quads when he saw a connection I hadn’t. Steve, Chris and I had lunch every day and discussed the broader implications as well.
Now one of the big goals of this project was to to see if there was a bigger pattern – an overall organizing factor that might show relationships among the quads themselves, rather than just among the element within each quad.
To look for this pattern, we started organizing the elements and the quads in categories on the wall, as you would in a spreadsheet. Each category had a heading and under it fell the elements, like a periodic table of story structure elements. Some of the elements were in quads, others were solo, but no real pattern had yet suggested itself.
We started to consider that perhaps four quads might also come together in a quad of quads – four quads that shared among themselves the same TKAD relationship. And so, we added that additional layer of complexity which began to organize the items on the wall even further, except for the partial quads and the single items which still just hung out there on their own.
Now one problem we had was in many cases we weren’t sure we had the right words in a given quad. On the one hand, they had the required TKAD relationship, but on the other hand, they each carried different weights.
For example, suppose you had a hypothetical quad that had Thought, Knowledge, Ability and Want. At first this would make sense, but it would require realizing that Want was actually a conditionally limited version of Desire to determine that it was not really in the same quad family, but in a related family of Should, Need, Can and Want.
This may have been just work and not inspiration but it was hard work, exacting work, and extensive work as the list grew into scores and scores of items. In many cases we weren’t even sure some items belonged on the wall at all! For example, the word “psychology” itself was there at one point, until we realized that wasn’t an element but a description of what the elements meant, in terms of the main character, so we removed the word.
Similarly, we realized that the word “justification” didn’t belong in the quad of Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation. The proper word at that level was Rationalization while Justification described the process of moving away from core values to contextual ones.
So, we came to understand that the main character’s mind, at the purest understanding of its seminal motivations, was driven by TKAD, but then outside limiting concerns “justified” not acting on those basic drives and instead forming a plan of action based on Should, Need, Can and Want. But, even those had limitations imposed by environment, and they evolved into Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation. (See how Thought becomes Rationalization and Ability becomes Responsibility, for example). And finally, even that quad is further justified as it moves into considerations of Sense of Self, State of Being, Situation and Circumstances.
By the time the main character’s mind has made this journey of justification from the primary quad to the forth quad, it has shifted from a completely internal perspective driven directly by the elements of oneself to a completely external perspective driven by elements outside of oneself.
Psychologists call this projection, and we had (for the first time on the planet, as far as I know) actually created a flow-chart that described all the key steps in the process. And all of this from looking for elements of the psychology of the main character in order to understand his blind spot and how it operated and then organizing those results in quad form guided by the TKAD equation. Quite a distance from our starting point already, yet so much further to go!
Speaking of characters, we had not given up on our initial work with archetypes either. While we were working with our quads and post-it-notes, we were also seeing if our set of eight archetypal characters could be found in every story that rang true, not just in Star Wars.
Almost immediately we ran into trouble. Our next favorite film in the loose genre we liked was Wizard of Oz. We matched our archetypes from Star Wars against those characters. At first things looked great: Protagonist – Luke and Dorothy, Antagonist – Empire (Tarkin) and Witch, Guardian – Obi Wan and Glinda, Contagonist – Darth and Wizard, Sidekick – Droids and Toto, Skeptic – Han Solo and the Lion, Resaon – Leia and the Scarecrow (who came up with the plans), and finally Emotion – Chebacca and the Tin Man (who cries and rusts himself).
Looked good. In fact, we were pleased to now understand that while the Tin Man had no heart, he was the one who expressed the most emotion. And while the Scarecrow had no brain, he was the one who did the most thinking. (Even one of his first lines, “some people without brains do an awful lot of talking” proves that he is a thinking, even philosophical creature, belying his lack of a brain.)
So at first, elation, but then a growing sense that something was wrong. Why? The Scarecrow and Tin Man didn’t quite match up with Leia and Chewy. While Leia was certainly the thinker, she was also very staid and controlled in her manner. But the Scarecrow, while the thinker, was all over the place physically. Similarly, Chewy was emotional internally and uncontrolled externally (matching the two) while the Tin Man was just as emotional internally, but very controlled, like Leia, externally. Cleverly, or so we thought, we commented that the Tin Man was Leia on the outside and Chewy on the inside. (Rimshot, please.)
Clearly, we were missing something. We discussed it endlessly and the only to options seemed to be that either there were more archetypes than the eight we had originally catalogued, or there was a deeper level – smaller components of character than the archetypes.
Since the differences between Star Wars and Oz characters seemed to be along an internal/external line (with the Start Wars characters being consistent in and out, while some of the Oz characters were one way inside and the opposite way outside, we decided to try and describe the internal and external characteristics of the eight archetypes we already had.
We asked questions such as, if the Protagonist is the one driving the effort to achieve the goal, what is his external nature. Eventually, we settled on “Pursue” as the word to describe what he did externally. No matter what happens to him, the Protagonist will Pursue the goal – he can’t help it; it is his nature. And when it comes to the moral issue of the story, he pursues the answer to that too. Internally, this manifests itself as Consider.
So, the Protagonist is the driver toward the external and internal solutions to the story’s external and internal problems, giving him the external and internal characteristics of Pursue and Consider. That’s why he’s the Protagonist as opposed to say the Reason archetype who will always remain Controlled, his external characteristic, while relying on Logic, internally or the Emotion archetype who is Uncontrolled on the outside and is driven by Feeling on the inside.
We could begin to see why these character were archetypes – their external and internal characteristics were in alignment. Protagonist pursued externally and pursued or considered internally. Reason was controlled externally and controlled or logical on the inside. Emotion was uncontrolled on the outside and uncontrolled or driven by feeling on the inside.
But what about the Oz characters? Using the external and internal characteristics as a guide, we could see the Tin Man and the Scarecrow had swapped characteristics! Tin Man was Controlled externally, but driven by Feeling internally, while the Scarecrow was Uncontrolled externally, but driven by Logic internally.
Buoyed by this insight, we divided all eight archetypes into two characteristics each, creating a set of sixteen. Using these, other Oz characters and eventually characters from many other stories were analyzed, and followed the same kind of mix and match patterns as well. In fact, we couldn’t find a character who couldn’t be described as being comprised of these basic characteristic building blocks we had discovered. So, we named them “elements” as they were the smallest structural components into which characters could be broken down.
And then two things happened. One, we found the sixteen characteristics could be grouped into four quads. Each quad had four characters in it – one archetype and its opposite in each of the two pairs. So, the elements of Protagonist and Antagonist shared a pair relationship in one quad, while Reason and Emotion shared the other pair relationship in the same quad.
From this we learned more about the relationships among the elements in every quad, which eventually led to our concepts about the Dynamic, Companion and Dependent pairs. That particular concept is pretty complex, and since this article is not about explaining Dramatica but rather to document how we came up with it, just check out the Dramatica theory book and you can read all about it.
The second thing that happened was that we found some of the words in our four quads of characteristics were already in our wall of post-it notes. So, it didn’t take long to start reorganizing the post-it notes to include the new characteristics and also to rearrange the notes along the lines of the way the archetype quads worked.
At this time, we were already realizing that while the Main Character was driven by psychology, these other characters, these archetypes, were driven like automatons – to act as their characteristics demanded. We also realized that the Main Character was not separate from the archetypes, but was one of them. In essence, the Main Character, while most usually built from the Protagonist, could and was frequently some other archetype. So, the archetypes represented the kinds of approaches we might made and those were like personality types. But, we (authors) effectively choose one of those types to explore more deeply in terms of their psychology, and that becomes the character the story seems to revolve around. Whoa. This was pretty good stuff.
Now who came up with all this? Both of us. It was the constant playing of these questions and concepts back and forth between us that led to tiny little advancements in understanding by one of us and then the other, often alternating for a long time before we arrived at the enlightenment at the end of the tunnel.
When there was a big breakthrough, it was often arrived at simultaneously, and even spoken out loud simultaneously as we both took the last step of inspiration at exactly the same moment in synthesis.
But this wasn’t always the case. For example, I was looking over our constantly revised wall of post-it-notes in the conference room one day, trying to rearrange some of the psychological elements of the Main Character and I just couldn’t make some of them fit. It seemed as if they didn’t really describe the main character but actually described the psychological nature of the whole story.
I wondered, was this the psychology of the author? Perhaps the psychology of the audience? Maybe it was the psychology the author wanted to create in the audience? And then I had my Eureka moment: It was the psychology of the story itself. The story actually had its own psychology, as if it were a character, independent of the Main Character!
I ran down the hall to Chris’ office and blurted as much out to him. He stared off into space for a moment (as he often did when considering a new concept) and after perhaps twenty seconds replied, “I believe you are right.”
Immediately, I returned to the wall to show him what I was seeing, and then we began the long process of yet again rearranging the notes, but this time by separating all the psychological elements into two areas – those that described the Main Character’s mind and those that described the story’s mind, which we called, obviously, the Story Mind.
Now, while it is true I’m the one who first thought of this, it is also true that rather than being a great insight, it was really the next step in the long line of thinking we had done together, precipitated by our recent work and the long hours I had to just stare at the wall looking for patterns. So, it could have been either of us, and is based on the work of both of us, but I’m still kinda proud of it because I remember to this day what if felt like to think of it, and it was shattering, startling, like reality broke apart and revealed a bigger truth behind it.
Here’s another inspiration I had about this time (and I can’t recall if it was just before or just after discovering the Story Mind). We already had the four quads that represented justification – the linear process of moving from essential internal issues to contextual external issues. We also knew that some elements had greater “weight” than others and therefore that certain quads had greater weight then others.
And in this atmosphere I began using some of the post-it-notes as category names into which other elements or quads belonged, rather than using all the notes as equally weighted elements.
Along the way, i discovered that sometimes a single post-it-note was sometimes best understood as the name of a specific single quad. For example, we had five words, Morality, Faith, Disbelief, Conscience and Temptation. Which ones were equal weight and had the right relationship to be a valid quad?
After messing around with various combinations, we determined that the four that best went together as pairs were Faith, Disbelief, Conscience and Temptation, and that Morality was better used as the name for that quad. In other words, Morality is the umbrella concept in which Faith, Disbelief, Conscience and Temptation operate, but it also worked equally well in reverse: Morality was created, in fact, by the existence and interactions of Faith, Disbelief, Conscience and Temptation. It was commutative, and also described orders of magnitude.
And it was working with several of these newly named quads that I had my next inspiration: perhaps these quads were actually not on the same plane, as it were, but were nested so that elements made up quads, and the names of the four quads actually formed a higher magnitude of quad, and so on.
What a jolt! What we had thought was a flat periodic table of story elements was actually multi-dimentional. We needed a vertical axis to the thing – hard to do on a flat wall. Still, by grouping elements into quads and then grouping them into quads of quads and so on, we were able to not only better organize the items and see the levels of magnitude, but also to see even better where semantic terms were missing – spaces in quads of all magnitudes that had not yet been observed directly in stories nor could be calculated by TKAD until unseen gaps became obvious by arranging all the quads on different levels.
Not as big an insight as the Story Mind concept, but just as useful in the ongoing construction of the chart and, as before, the result of our combined efforts, though I made that final mental step. Not being overly humble or self effacing here. I’m very proud of being the one to be the first to think of the model as being multi-level, but also ready to admit I stood on top of a mound of our joint body of work and just reached up one more step from where we both were. And, Chris was still spending most of his time running the company while I could devote all day, every day to the project.
You see my thrill is not in competing with Chris, and we’ve never really done that. My thrill is in being first on the planet to think of something. Trodding new mental ground no one in the history of humankind had ever walked before. That’s what excites me. Then I lose interest and move on, while Chris has the capacity to make it all practical, both his insights and mine.
And along those lines, there may be a lot of the things I note as being “we discovered” or “we realized” when Chris actually had the first insight. I don’t really recall a lot of it, and Chris would be the better source of his own recollections as to what he personally came up with. Point is, that the only time I mention that I was the one to think of something is when I have a clear detailed memory of the actual moment when it occurred to me. Otherwise, it was both of us or Chris.
So, here’s one of those things that was either Chris or us – in putting together the revised arrangement based on the Story Mind, the levels of magnitude and the elements from the characters, we came to see that there wasn’t just one collection of story elements, but two. It was like the story’s psychology was of two minds – half of it about internal issues and half about external ones, just like our archetypes only at a much larger scale.
Then, we hypothesized that perhaps there were two things here, mixed together – a Story Mind we called “Mind” and a parallel structure pertaining to the external environment which we called “Universe.” We felt that one represented how we saw the world and the other how we saw ourselves. So, in a sense, they were both parts of the Story Mind, but one looked inward and the other looked outward. Essentially, each set was a different perspective.
So, our next step was to separate all the post-it-notes into two independent sets, one with the internal perspective and the other with the external perspective. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds because each perspective is built of many different elements which, because of the progression of TKAD, are more of a spectrum ranging in the Mind set from purely internal all the way to just this side of external. And, naturally, the Universe perspective operates the same way.
In fact, by the time we worked our way from the highest magnitude perspective (pure Mind or pure Universe) to the elements of the “smallest” quads, like those containing the character elements, the two perspectives are almost looking at the same thing.
Consider – real Truth cannot be seen, but we approach it by looking within ourselves and also looking out toward our world. What we see in each direction reflects what we see in the other. And in the emerging Dramatica model, it seemed to us that the elements of each perspective were really the same items – just seen from two sides, an interface between the two.
So, we came up with a graphic representation of each set – two pyramids, one for Universe and one for Mind, with the same elements at the bottom of each because when you got that far down, it turned out the items in the quad one level up resolved themselves, were made up of the very same basic building blocks.
Problem was, that when you start at the top point, then go down to the quad beneath it (four items) and the four quads beneath that (sixteen items) and them to the bottom sixteen quads (64 elements), it turns out the elements aren’t in the same position as those in the Mind pyramid.
Then perhaps the element level was a shared level – a true interface between Universe and Mind. That didn’t work either. Our best explanation was that since these were two perspectives, perhaps it was like looking at the world through two different filters, and each distorted the view of the same central Truth.
As we continued, we began to feel that two pyramids were not sufficient. This was due to a number of simultaneous influences. First, if everything seemed to be based on the TKAD quad, shouldn’t there be four pyramids instead of two? Second, we were still analyzing films and were discovering dramatic elements that did not easily fall into our two pyramids of quads. One thing we would never allow ourselves was the luxury and false comfort of pretending something worked by forcing it to fit or by bending the logic by which we had developed our structure. And finally, we began to see there were two kinds of elements in each pyramid – those that dealt with states of things and those that dealt with processes.
So, we kept Universe and split out all the external processes it contained into a new pyramid called Physics. And we kept Mind and split out all the internal processes it contained into a new pyramid called Psychology. We spent even more time filling in the gaps and spaces, sometimes having to re-define existing words and sometimes inventing new ones where no existing ones existed for the meanings we were discovering in our refined model.
Now we had four complete Domains, an external state and process and an internal state and process. And from that point forward any dramatic element we observed in stories was properly described by an element in one of the four Domain pyramids. In all, it took us nearly two years of full time effort to progress from that wall initial wall of post-it notes to the four Domains we now had.
Still, the pyramids were cumbersome and difficult to use. So, Chris came up with an inspired re-design. Rather than representing each element as a point in a pyramid, he re-drew each Domain as a tower with the top item, such as Universe the whole top level, and then beneath it an equal-sized level which was divided into four equal quadrants to make that second level a quad. Below it was a quad of quads, and at the bottom level of each Domain tower were the sixty four elements. Brilliant design, and the one we still use today, twenty years later.
We came to realize that one of the four Domains would describe the issues explored by the Main Character, one by the Obstacle Character who had a diametrically opposed philosophy to that of the Main Character, one Domain would be the Subjective Story in which the Main and Obstacle duke it out philosophically – essentially the course of their philosophic or message argument, and the final Domain would be the Objective Story in which all the other characters like Protagonist and Reason would go about their functions.
There were many other revelations from our work, such as that some Main Characters change to adopt the Obstacle’s philosophy and some would remain steadfast in their beliefs, be that good or bad. We could chart the course of the Main Character’s Justification and the growth of its philosophic argument with the Obstacle character. We could even chart story points such as Goals and Requirements.
But there was one thing the Dramatica structure could not do. I could not tell us the order in which the elements in the quads would appear in a story. We could observe that each primary quad around which a story centered would be explored over the course of a story until all four items in each central quad had been examined. But the sequence eluded us.
We spent weeks and weeks trying to figure out the pattern. We watched endless numbers of movies and found that if we plotted each item as it happened within a quad, it would generate different patterns in different quads. We catalogued the patterns, compared them from film to film, but couldn’t crack the code.
This problem lingered on and on. Chris created charts and graphs. I rearranged more post-it-notes. Chris built a series of blocks on a shoe string (not meaning a cheap price but threaded along an actual shoe string!) I tried wrapping foil tape around a toroid (a one-foot in diameter styrofoam donut) in a quad helix, labeled with the elements of each Domain on a different color tape. Still, no progress.
And then came another of those Eureka moments which, as often happens, is when the mind is primed for a solution and just needs some similar dynamic system to appear in every day life to suggest the solution to a problem in a completely different area of subject matter.
In my case, I was taking my daughter to the California Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park in L.A., near USC. And we stopped at a hands-on display of twenty-one bar magnets mounted on metal rods so each could rotate independently like the needle on a compass. You could rotate the magnets by turning the top of the pin that held them.
If you turned the first magnet in the row at just the right speed, it would make the second one turn, and if you got the speed just right, you could get all twenty-one magnets to rotate by just turning the one.
And that’s when it hit me. The structure we had created, first on a flat wall, then as pyramids and finally as towers wasn’t really static at all. In fact, it wasn’t the patterns of the sequence in the story that were moving, it was the structure itself!
Right at that moment I knew I had the answer. But, being a weekend, I couldn’t get into the office until Monday. As soon as I did, I tried out a few combinations and realized that simply rotating the quads like magnets solved some of the patterns but not all of them. And then I had another inspiration – that perhaps the quads also flipped along their axes, swapping the positions of the elements in the quad along the diagonal.
I soon discovered that by a combination of a single flip along one axis or the other in combination with a rotate one item to the left or one to the right, all of the patterns we had seen in stories could be replicated! Problem was, what determined whether a given quad flipped one way or the other and whether it rotated to the right or the left?
I filled in Chris and Steve and started working on the issue. But, damn it was hard! I was still having my hormone doses adjusted and sometimes the frustration just drove me to tears. What’s worse, costs were mounting on this multi-year development process and Screenplay Systems needed to release something soon or they couldn’t afford to continue development.
It was almost Christmas and that is when Chris had to tell me that if I couldn’t figure it out in two weeks, they were going to pull the plug. I was now under even more pressure than I had been when I came up with the equation.
So I went “all in” and took all of my mind, all of my self out of my mental “ram” and compressed it onto my mental hard drive. i freed up all my mental processing space so there was nothing of me left for the duration of this effort.
And then, the answer began to emerge. The flips and rotates represented the kind of tension that was being wound up in the model – the dramatic tension in a narrative. Each kind of tension caused a flip or rotate of one sort or another in specific quads along the primary line of tension.
For example, a story that was driven by actions would have one effect and a story driven by decisions would have another. A character who would eventually change was driven by one kind of tension (and therefore one kind of flip and/or rotate) and a steadfast character would be driven by another.
Determining what these kinds of tensions were was difficult, and Chris and I worked on that together. But connecting particular kinds of flips and rotates to particular types of tension (which we named story dynamics) was my job.
Now, I don’t think I finished in the two weeks, but I did make enough progress to buy some more time. And, as I recall, I completed it in about a month. Keeping all those mechanisms, all of which interrelated and affected one another, in my head at the same time was the single biggest thought I had ever had. It blocked out all the rest of me and took up all the space in my head. It hurt. But I did it.
In fact, I devised a system whereby the end product of all the flips and rotates was a “wind-up” of the Main Character’s domain and another of the Objective Domain so that it was, as Chris has described it, like winding up a Rubik’s cube in which all the pieces are connected by rubber bands.
When it was finished, all the patterns that had made no sense became simple and predictable, and we were actually able to determine the order of events in a story just by answering questions about the kind of tension in the story and where it was applied to the structural model.
Now I’m not sure if it was before or after I worked out the “Justification Wind-up” as we came to call it, but one other problem was locking down the pattern of the elements at the bottom of each Domain.
We knew they were the same elements, but in what pattern did they alter from one domain to the next. The day I figured that one out I had all the elements cut apart in little squares spread out all over the carpet in Chris office while he worked at his desk.
I kept moving them around and rearranging them in different patterns until one pattern made me stop and stare. It was an elegant pattern of symmetry and simplicity, just like the quad itself! And, it was the touchpoint between a quad view of the world and a binary view of opposites.
The secret was that the individual elements didn’t shift around, but the binary pairs of elements did so that, for example, Faith and Disbelief would never be split or separated, but that pair might be separated from Conscience and Temptation as a pair. The pairs moved, not the elements, but in what manner, in what pattern?
Again, I employed my understanding of the manner in which TKAD related to one another and translated that so that one Domain had the T pattern of pairs, another had the K pattern of pairs, and so on. Finally, that problem was solved as well.
We were now getting good predictive results from the computer model of these relationships that Steve had built for the software. But there were still some things that didn’t quite fit without forcing it or changing context to make them fit.
We figured that was as accurate as the model could be. Now I think it was me that saw this, but it might have been Chris or the both of us, but just before we were going to master the software, we went to Steve and told him that we felt the elements were in the wrong places at the bottom level. In fact, the entire element sets at the bottom of two Domains had to be shifted and exchanged with those from the other two Domains.
He asked why, and the answer was that while the TKAD rearrangement of the pairs of elements was correct, which Domain was the T or K arrangement, for example, was not as simple as just putting the T pairings in the T Domain and the K pairings in the K Domain.
What we had failed to consider was that from the top of Domain through all four levels to the bottom – this was also a quad. And by the time you went from the top of the vertical quad of any Domain to the bottom, the effect of moving “around” that quad caused it to rotate ninety degrees like a helix.
This put the pairing arrangements ninety degrees out of phase with the TKAD nature of the top level of the Domain. Stupid vertical quad! Thank goodness we caught it before it was released, because after Steve made the change, accuracy was increased tremendously. And that arrangement has never been altered as it is completely predictive of what actually happens in narrative.
Now there were a lot of other insights coming to us all in those heady days. For example, I haven’t mentioned anything of the story points like Story Goal, Main Character’s Problem and Subjective Story Benchmark. There are several score of them, and they were discovered when we were watching all those films.
At first, they were all lumped into the overall collection of Post-it notes, but eventually we realized they weren’t elements, they were contexts – they were descriptive of how the elements were employed.
For example, one item on the notes on the wall was Obtaining and another was Becoming. A story might have a Goal of Obtaining or a Goal of Becoming or any of a number of other types of goals, but each one was a different kind of Goal and therefore drove the story in a different direction.
Goal, and all the other story points, contextualize the elements, showing how (as a result of the Justification process that build potentials and tensions in the narrative structure as it winds up) the meaning of an element changes, depending on whether the Story Mind employing it as a Goal or some other story point.
Now in the middle of all this, Chris came up with a couple of really big insights. First, we had already tied the four Throughlines (I, You, We, and They as represented by the Main Character, Influence Character, Subjective Story and Objective Story) to one of the four Classes (Universe, Mind, Physics and Psychology) to create four Domains. Which of those four points of view went to which Class was part of what determined the Justification Wind-up.
Chris went beyond that to consider the impact storytelling style on the way in which the four Classes came across to the audience. He devised an understanding that there were four “flavors” of storytelling / audience impact – Drama, Comedy, Entertainment, and Information. He built a table in which these four means of expression along one side and the four Classes along another created a grid where they overlapped.
For example, he could see that the Physics Class could be presented as a Drama (Action Drama), as Comedy (Physical Comedy), as Entertainment (Thrills) or as Information (How it Works). Going along the Comedy line, Comedy and Universe created (Situation Comedy), Comedy and Physics created (Physical Comedy), Comedy and Mind created (Comedy of Manners) and Comedy and Psychology created (Comedy of Errors).
This grid of sixteen flavors of Genre revolutionized the understanding of what Genre really is and how to use it. I added a couple flourishes, just as Chris often did with my work, which is how we both contributed to everything, no matter who thought of the kernel of it first.
Another of Chris singular contribution was a complete theory of Propaganda – how it works, and how to do it. In fact, he wrote a whole chapter about it in the Dramatica Theory Book.
Speaking of which, here’s some information about how the book was written. Basically, I wrote it, Chris edited it, created all the graphics and illustrations, and formatted it for printing.
Of course, it was really a collaboration in terms of the ideas, and Chris was a taskmaster when it came to anything I’d penned that was unclear, not in the best order, or missing a critical bit of reasoning. And it was a good collaboration, as I’m pretty handy with a word (as you can tell from this article) and Chris is great at assessing linear impact of the development of a thought.
So, I wrote it, Chris contributed his chapter on Propaganda and did the illustrations and editing, and we both organized and arranged it to ensure that everything was in there, all necessary gaps and in-betweens were developed and filled. And, as it turned out, just the process of trying to document our theory led to a better understanding of the theory and even the creation of new theory as needed to fill holes in our logic.
All that was left to do was print the book, duplicate the software and release the puppy.
Well, that pretty much brings us to the end of Part One of “How We Did It.” Naturally, with a process this long and a theory this big, I’ve left out a lot of specifics and details. But, I do believe I’ve documented the key breakthroughs and the logic behind them to satisfy (or at least mollify) a good chunk of the curiosity that’s been lingering around the edges of this thing.
Coming in Part Two is the description of how we were able to advance the theory from its use in fictional narrative to being an accurate tool of analysis and prediction in the real world and the ongoing development of the Dynamic Model – a complete system for understanding narrative in terms of the pressures and tensions at work within it.
Melanie Anne Phillips
Some artists are driven by angst, others by desire.
Angst is the emotion of lack – that things are unfulfilled, unsatisfied, not as they should be. And the work of art driven by such feelings is designed to fill the hole, to satisfy the need, to put things right.
Desire is the emotion of eagerness – that opportunity exists, untapped, and holds promise. And the work of art driven by such feelings is designed to seize the moment, actualize the potential, and fulfill the promise.
Some say stories must be driven by a problem, and though this is one way to inject drive in a narrative, the alternative motivation of desire serves equally well to propel the story forward.
Either source of propulsion for a character creates a goal – that expected conclusion in which things are better than before. But regardless of whether the character tarries from angst or desire, the experience along the path to that goal may be a positive or negative one.
Overcoming obstacles and meeting requirements might be felt as progress toward that better future, or as a drain that threatens to outweigh the benefits that would be gained from achieving the goal.
These four factors – positive/negative drive and positive/negative experience create a quad – a group of four elements comprised of two bonded pairs with one pair pertaining to the sate of things and the other to the process.
This particular quad is represented in the Dramatica theory of narrative structure by Goal/Consequence and Dividends/Costs.
Goal is the desired end state, consequence is the angstful state that either currently exists or will come to exist if the goal is not met. Dividends are the positive byproducts or collateral benefits either obtained or enjoyed during the effort to achieve the goal (and avoid the consequence), whereas Costs are the negative byproducts or collateral detriments that become attached or must be experienced during that effort.
Narratives and real life. Each operates with the same dynamic system. The structures of fictional narratives provide guidelines to help us cope and prosper when faced with similar dynamics in our own worlds.
The image below is the cover of a 32 page graphic novel style comic book explaining the key concepts in the Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure I co-developed with my partner, Chris Huntley. So, although I didn’t create the comic book, I am responsible for a lot of the ideas in it and half-responsible for others, so here it is for your considereation. You can download the entire comic in PDF for free at http://storymind.com/free-downloads/dramaticomic.pdf.
More notes from Dramatica development. This time, working on a larger model in which the current narrative structure is just a component. These notes are regarding a dynamic component, rather than the current structural component. As you can see by the date, ongoing development of the Dramatica theory continues, even unto the present day.