Deep Theory

Can you explain 4th Level Justification?

I've heard some people use the term "4th level justification" and I can't find it in my documentation for Dramatica Story Expert. Could you provide a short explanation?

When a mind "sees" or is made aware of an inequity it MUST try to resolve it. There are two primary ways to accomplish this. The first is through Problem Solving -- a directed effort toward resolving the problem. The second is to "hide" the inequity so that the mind is no longer aware it. We call the process of hiding the inequity Justification. The process has several stages. We refer to the last stage, where the inequity has completely been removed from the mind's awareness, as "4th Level Justification."

Why does Dramatica focus so much on “problem-solving”?

Problem Solving, Problem Solving... and more problem solving. I know how if fits into Dramatica.......... but I also know of a very well intellegent, published author who teaches individuals and organizations how to create what they want and the first thing he teaches....."creating is not problem solving." I REALLY wish you could have this author look at the Dramatica theory and give a brief overview. He may provide a fresh look at scriptwriting like never before. He teaches his "Creating" seminars by watching movies and then discussing what is seen and or not seen.

Please let me know. I hate to always be in a problem solving mode, or worse, a teaching and preaching mode. But I do hunger for the correct perspective. Understanding opposites, which "He" calls establishing "structual tension". Sound interesting?

ps: The opposite of problem solving is?

Thanks for your note. You bring up some very important points, and I'd like to take a moment to, at least briefly, address them.

In your letter you quote an author who teaches creativity as saying,."creating is not problem solving." I couldn't agree more! The process of creating comes from the heart. Still, unless one is satisfied to be his or her own audience, often the fruit of the heart speaks clearly only to the author. This is because storytelling is not about creating a story, but communicating a story. And, it is the process of communication that requires problem solving.

An author often works from real experiences. Even if he or she is building a fictional scene between fictional people, the emotions that arise can only be expressed because at some point in his or her own life the author has felt those emotions, even if under different circumstances.

We do not feel our emotions as singular events. Rather, every emotion is "tied" to many others and connected in a whole network of both strong and weak forces. When an author conjures up a feeling for a scene, this feeling will bring with it all kinds of baggage.

As a result, an author is likely to carry those additional feelings right over into the scene under construction without actually writing them in. This creates a scene in which the primary emotions are well covered, but all the supporting emotions are either missing or so personal that, overall, the scene fails to communicate anything in depth at all.

This is where problem solving comes in. By focusing on the primary emotions (and information) to be communicated and determining the context in which the author wishes to present these topics and experiences, Dramatica can "calculate" the necessary supporting components to the story's "argument". The argument, by the way, is just a short hand way of saying the story's "overall consistent and fully explored message."

Now, for a story that is not designed to have either a message or point of view, Dramatica is really pretty useless. Still, such stories can be quite moving as an audience experience. They are an art form all their own. Free form stories follow a course that is unpredictable and creates its impact by the layering of experiences. A story that is an argument, however, is structured in such a way that all dramatic parts ultimately focus on the same central issue, and are seen as reflections of the "problem" at the heart of the story. It is here Dramatica can be of service.

This seems a good point to talk about the "opposite of a problem" question you also pose in your note. The opposite of a problem would be a solution. This fits in with tradition binary opposites. Dramatica, however, is not based on binaries, but on the relationships among four things. For example, in Dramatica we cannot consider only a problem or just a problem and solution, but must also consider "focus" and "direction" as well.

"Problem" and "solution" are well-understood terms dramatically, but "focus" (Symptom) and "direction" (Response) are not nearly as often considered. As an analogy, if we think of a problem as a disease, then the solution would be the cure. Focus would be the principal symptom of the discease, and Direction the threatment for that symptom.

Sometimes a body can heal only by curing the disease. Other times, there is no cure and the body can heal only by continuing to treat the symptom until the body heals itself. In story, it is the choice to go with the cure or the treatment of the symptom that determines if characters are on the right path, and it is their choice to stick with that path or jump to the other that determines if they will remain steadfast or change as human beings. The quad structure is a much more descriptive model of real dramatics than simple binary opposites.

To go a step farther, Dramatica is not only concerned with the problem, but (as you indicated at the top of you note) with problem solving as well. It is important to note the difference between the structural "problem" and the dynamic of "problem solving".

A problem is something that is out of balance, which creates an inequity. Problem solving is the effort to eliminate that inequity. Pusuing your line of inquiry a bit farther we might ask, "What is the opposite of problem solving?" The answer to this question is "Justification".

If problem solving is the process to eliminate an inequity, justification can be seen as the process to try and balance the inequity. As examples, if you are hungry and you eat you have eliminated an inequity, hence: problem solving. In contrast, if you are on a diet and get hungry, but instead of eating you light up a cigarette, you have created a new inequity to balance the first one, hence: justification. Justifications are not necessarily bad. They are just our way of putting off immediate gratification for long-term goals, or sometimes becoming conditioned to a particular way of doing things to the point we become inflexible. Either way, problem solving and justification can be seen as opposites.

What about the Dramatica quad as it pertains to problem solving? One binary in the quad would be problem solving and justification. The other would be Male and Female Mental Sex (Problem-Solving Style).

At face value, this seems hardly likely. What, after all, do Male and Female Mental Sex have to do with problem solving or justification? Well, to solve a problem or to justify, one must determine if it is a problem now or could be a problem later. The NOW problem is a spatial appreciation - looking at the structure of the beast. The LATER problem is a temporal appreciation - looking at the dynamics that might come together to create a problem.

As it turns out, although we all have space and time sense, men and women emphasize them differently. As a result, what appears as problem solving to one Mental Sex, is likely to appear as a justification to the other. One cannot absolutely say that something is problem solving or justification unless one knows wheter the effort is being advanced by a Male or Female Mental Sex charater.

Well, I must close now, as to go any further would be to step beyond the scope of the questions you posed in your note.

I hope I have been able to clarify the difference between the structure necessary to clear communication and the dynamic of the personal creative process. Also, I hope I have adequately described the differences between binary opposites and Dramatica's rather more detailed approach of dealing in quads.

Your thought about having the creative writing teacher/author look at Dramatica is a good one. I hope it can be arranged. After all, we're just authors ourselves who worked out a paradigm of story which we have found useful. There's always room for improvement, although I know we often get so excited and wrapped up in our enthusiasm that we can come off sounding rather preachy. We're working to improve that too!

Response from Original Inquisitor:

Thanks for such a wonderful reply...have saved to review and contemplate.

Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.

Is it possible to write a script without a main character whose goal is to solve a problem?

Reason I suggested another author: Looking at "dramatics" from a different perspective for a more complete understanding.

Author, Robert Fritz (CREATING, PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE and soon to be released CORPORATE TIDES) writes that the basic STRUCTURE for Creating is: A person describes as clearly as possible what they want and then describes their current reality which results in "Structural Tension."

Seems most people in society today do exactly the opposite which results in self if we script write in the same "mind set" I get a sense that our scripts would also be self limiting.

I know, I know........ may not be sounding real clear in this area but I'm trying to understand the "bottom brick" of scriptwriting so that I don't develop bad scriptwriting habits as I believe most people have in life, looking at EVERYTHING as a problem to be solved.

Can you point my needle a bit more north.... recommend a movie to see or something?

Melanie Anne Phillips responds:

I'm glad you found it useful. I think we are all learning about the implications of the Dramatica theory every time we question it. The answers to those questions often open up new insight for ourselves and improve the theory at the same time.

Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.

Don't get me started on that! I believe there is a tremendous binary/linear bias to all societies world-wide. This belief grew out of the work Chris and I did on Mental Relativity, the psychology behind Dramatica. If you'd like to explore some of those non-story concepts, visit my Mental Relativity site,

Is it possible to write a script without a main character whose goal is to solve a problem?

Sure! The way the software and documentation currently reads, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters are out to solve a problem - the difference being in their "problem solving technique." That is another limited binary appreciation. In fact, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters might be driven by a completely different kind of concern: they might want to be at peace.

Male Mental Sex Characters would seek satisfaction, Female Mental Sex Characters would seek Fulfillment. Currently, Satisfaction and Fulfillment are lumped together in the Dynamic question of"Judgment: "Does your Main Character resolve his or her angst?"

Note the difference here. In problem solving, we have all kinds of problems represented by the sixty-four elements. The "nature" of the problem can be defined in an extremely detailed manner. That is a structural approach, based in logic. But Judgment (a dynamic) is only available in two flavors: "Good" and "Bad". It almost makes you laugh when you compare the degree of sophistication of the logic based problem to the simple binary appreciation of the emotion based Judgment.

Why this imbalance in the software? It is necessary! Just as one cannot see light being a particle and a wave AT THE SAME TIME, so too in Dramatica, one cannot explore the logistic AND the emotional at the same time. Development costs of a product as revolutionary and complex as Dramatica made it impractical in a business sense (and also from the strain on the developers!) to try to create two completely different implementations of the theory. Since Western culture (as is true with most cultures world-wide) emphasizes logic over emotion, we opted to first create a logic-based system that focused on problem solving. In fact, in Western storytelling, problem based stories account for at least 90% of what is written, so our practical decision made Dramatica available to the most writers in the most expedient manner. It is my hope that additional software development will some day implement the emotional side of the theory, thereby opening a whole new door to the organic writer.

Getting back to the question that started all this.... Currently you need to do some mental gymnastics with the software to "convert" the concept of problem-solving to one of Satisfaction or Fulfillment. Here are a few tips and suggestions about how to approach this...

When using logic, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek to solve a problem. When using emotion, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek satisfaction. Problem solving is seen here as a binary notion of things being "correct", satisfaction is a holistic sense of things being "right".

When using logic, Female Mental Sex Characters will ALSO seek to solve a problem. But when using emotion, Female Mental Sex Characters will seek fulfillment. Problem solving is seen here as a comparison of things being "balanced", fulfillment is a holistic sense of feeling "good".

So, both Male and Female Mental Sex Characters can use either reason or emotion as their principle standard of evaluation from which they derive their drive. But, one will seek satisfaction emotionally and the other fulfillment, and even though both will engage in problem solving (which makes them appear the same) they interpret problem solving differently (which makes them un-alike.)

To develop a satisfaction or fulfillment based story, one must currently emphasize the Subjective Story Throughline, which means that one is thrown back into the logistic nature of the appreciations in order to construct something of a framework around the emotional "argument".

But there is an easier way. Well, perhaps not easier but much more nuanced. Get in touch with your own feelings. Use the structured aspects of the Dramatica software to handle the logistics of the plot and the topics of the theme and the objective characters. But when it comes to the Main Character, put yourself right in his or her shoes.

The software examines the Main Character as being where the audience is positioned in the story - the "I" perspective; first person singular. But rather than putting the author in that perspective, it takes an outside view of this character so that the author can construct the appropriate concerns that will connect the journey of the Main Character to the development of the story as a whole.

What is not yet provided is support for actually jumping into your Main Character's skin and seeing what the story looks like from there. Early on in the development of the theory, Chris and I did some preliminary work on "skewing the model" so that a subjective view of what the story looked liked from ANY character position might be provided. With all the other areas we needed to address, however, we never had the time to fully develop that aspect of the theory.

Until we are able to incorporate that approach in the software, it is really a simple matter to do it yourself. Pay attention to two things: the "static appreciations" of your Main Character that remain the same for the whole story (such as his or her Concern and Unique Ability) and also the "progressive appreciations" which change over time, such as the act progression through the four "Types" that describe the Main Character's signposts and journeys.

Imagine what it would be like to be in this particular story, having these overall concerns, and also being focused on other immediate concerns of the moment. How would you feel? How might your feelings change the longer you explored these issues? What might be your "gut reaction" to the impact of the Influence Character.

By using the logistic output of the software as a guide, you can then follow your heart within that context and be confident that your character will start to take on an honest humanity yet function appropriately in the Grand Scheme as well.

If you don't wish to focus on problem solving at all, make your story an exploration of the Main Character's feelings only. The logistic sense will come by itself between the lines as the Main Character illustrated the both the static and progressive appreciations by the way he or she feels, responds, reacts, and by the shadings that temper his or her observations of the story at large.

Well, I'd better draw this to a close before I write a whole new theory book in one setting!

Keep those questions coming, and best of luck in your writing endeavors.

By using the logistic output of the software as a guide, you can then follow your heart within that context and be confident that your character will start to take on an honest humanity yet function appropriately in the Grand Scheme as well.

If you don't wish to focus on problem solving at all, make your story an exploration of the Main Character's feelings only. The logistic sense will come by itself between the lines as the Main Character illustrated the both the static and progressive appreciations by the way he or she feels, responds, reacts, and by the shadings that temper his or her observations of the story at large.

Well, I'd better draw this to a close before I write a whole new theory book in one setting!

Keep those questions coming, and best of luck in your writing endeavors.

Can you give me more information on the psychology of writing?

I highly enjoyed learning as much as I did, pertaining to your book, Dramatica: a New Theory of Story, and I look forward in reading your online book, Mental Relativity. I did ask you for some information that you did not respond to and I am sure it was an accident. I wanted information on the psychology of writing, the visual aspect of the reader, and the "Whole Brain" theory of placing subject, space and so forth within the sentences, paragraphs, pages etc. This interests me, as I am sure you can understand why, greatly. Do you know anything about this?

The topic you are addressing has enormous ramifications which amount to an entire approach to communication theory. The best I can do in a limited reply is refer you to our Dramatica concept of the "Story Mind", as being that the underlying deep structure of any complete story is an analogy or model of a single human mind as it tries to deal with an inequity. In Dramatica theory, we see four stages of communication (creating the conceptual Story Mind in "Storyforming", encoding the concept into tangible symbols in "Storyencoding", transmitting those symbols over or through a medium in "Storyweaving", and finally the attempt by an audience to discern the symbols and pull them from the medium, decode them to their basic structural meaning, and reconstruct the Story Mind in "reception". Clearly, the Story Mind is present at all four stages, but in a different form. Similarly, we might look at the job the audience does in interpreting the story experience as having it's own four stages.

When you talk about placing subject and space in the sentences and paragraphs, this can occur in any single stage or any combination of stages. Each stage represents a different kind of topic being looked at, or a different point of view from which a topic is seen. Therefore, although we can say with confidence that subject and space are present in the work, pinpointing exactly where it occurs is actually impossible for much the same reason one cannot determine the location of an electron at the same time one is measuring it's mass. It is the old particle and wave problem, and that stems from our own brains' alternative organizations into spatial and temporal perspectives.

In fact, the issues you are bringing up are almost more pertinent to the psychology of the author, as opposed to the psychology of the story. Rather than go into more detail here, I suspect that you will find the information you are looking for by reading the material regarding the psychology behind Dramatica which is available on the Mental Relativity site, Taking this in conjunction with the book, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story, should provide you with a good parallax on the relationship between the structure and dynamics of our minds and that of the stories we create.

How do I make sense of the Plot Sequence Report?

In Dramatica's Plot Sequence Report, Obtaining is said to explore plot in terms of the Variations: Instinct, Senses, Interpretation and Conditioning. In the Table of Story Elements, Obtaining Shows the Variations to be Approach, Self-Interest, Morality and Attitude. Which is correct?

Also, in Reading Mr. Armando Mora's book Dramatica for Screenwriters (Chapter 21,), Obtaining is shown to be achieving or possessing something to be explored in terms of (Variations) Value, Confidence, Worry and Worth. I can find nothing in Dramatica similar to these.

The "proper" arrangement of the Type/Variations is that Approach, Self-Interest, Morality, and Attitude fall under the umbrella of Obtaining in their "natural" state. The thematic items in the Dramatica structure are as close to an "at rest" (meaning no conflict) position as possible.

A storyform shows a somewhat mixed-up version of the thematic elements, but is still fairly much together. The tension is explored/exposed by the relationships of the four throughlines to one another. This is still an "outside" view of the thematic items.

An "inside" view of the storyform—what the world would look like from INSIDE the story—would look much more like the Plot Sequence Report describes, where there's a whole lot of mixing up going on. That is a completely valid point of view, but seems to hold little bearing to the "outside" point of view represented by the Dramatica story engine settings and story points. The Plot Sequence report is the one report in the Dramatica Pro software that gives you an idea of what that world looks like from inside the story.

The reason we did not include more views/insights into the screwed up view of things from inside the story is because it is very difficult to analyze your story from that perspective, largely due to the completely subjective nature of the perspective. Also, most writers have more difficulty getting some objectivity on their material than they do getting inside their material—particularly during the analytical phase of writing. Armando, however, gives some very practical tips on using the "messed up view" provided by the Plot Sequence Report to create scenes.

The reason the variations listed under Obtaining in your story are different than Armando's example is because they are based on different storyforms. Every storyform has all the same parts. It's their arrangement (and therefore their relationships) that differ.

Why the emphasis on Dynamic Pairs?

I believe I've read before that during the development of the current Structural Chart greater emphasis/importance was placed on those items found diagonally across from each other (Pursuit and Avoid, Faith and Disbelief, etc.). Why is this? Is it because they represent the best opportunity for conflict in a story or was there some deeper reason?ff

I note that in the Theory Book the definition of Dynamic Pair brings this to light:

"they create a paired unit where the presence or absence of one affects the presence or absence of the other."

How does this tie into the need for the Main Character and Influence Character Throughlines to be in a Dynamic Pair relationship? For that matter, why must the Overall Story and Relationship Story Throughlines have this quality as well?

Yes, dynamic pairs offer the most opportunity for direct conflict. While not strictly binary, they come the closest to representing binary choices. We chose dynamic pairs as the basis for the Dramatica structure because they are a key component to linear thinking, which mirrors the bias of most American culture. In Dramatica terms, the Dramatica structural model is based on the Male Mental Sex style of problem solving (linear). Since all audiences for Dramatica can understand linear thinking, we chose the binary bias for Dramatica.

The basis of Dramatica is that stories are analogies to a single human mind trying to resolve an inequity. In fact, stories are more than analogies, they are maps to the layout and functioning of human problem-solving. Part of the design of the structure includes both binary and analog elements. Not only does binary fit the Western bias, but it also works well with computers for creating software.

The Overall Story and the Relationship throughlines represent objective and subjective views of groups. The Influence Character and Main Character represent (somewhat) objective and subjective views of individuals. That is why they are balanced that way as dynamic pairs.

Is Story Judgment really an Overall Story Plot Dynamic?

When looking at the Story Engine it has Judgment in as an OS Plot Dynamic though its definition seems to be more concerned about the MC journey.  I was wondering why it is in the OS Plot Dynamics window when, for me, it feels like it belongs more to the Main Character window?

Short answer: No and Yes.

The Story Judgment sits half in the Main Character Throughline and half as part of the story's plot dynamics.


The Story Judgment is about the resolution of the Main Character's angst. If it is resolved, that is 'good.' If it is not resolved, that is 'bad.' This is what makes it seem like Story Judgment should be part of the Main Character dynamics.


Most people do not make a distinction between Outcome and Judgment when thinking about story endings. They generally think of the ending as either a happy ending, a tragedy, or a bittersweet ending. AND, they tend to associate the story ending with the part that Dramatica identifies as the Overall Story throughline.

When we separated out the Outcome and Judgment components, we kept them together and put them in the Plot Dynamics since both were associated with how the story ended. Each throughline has character, theme, plot, and genre elements, so putting the Judgment with the plot dynamics is a valid way to understand that dynamic.

Why do all four Domains have to be explored?

According to Dramatica there are four different ways of defining a problem - a Situation, an Activity, a Fixed Attitude or a Way of Thinking. These correspond to the theory's four Domains, respectively Universe, Physics, Mind and Psychology.

In order to create a complete story Dramatica calls for each one of these Domains to be assigned to one of the Four Throughlines: the Overall Story Throughline, the Main Character Throughline, the Impact or Influence Character Throughline and the Relationship Story Throughline. These Four Throughlines correspond to the four different contexts one can take in order to assess meaning: They (Overall), I (Main Character), You (Impact Character), and We (Relationship).

The reason for the Four Throughlines, or Perspectives, seems clear -- an Author would have to explore a problem from all the different perspectives in order to understand what is really going on. But why do the four different Domains have to be explored? Wouldn't it be just as good to look at the same Problematic Activity from the They perspective, the I perspective, the You and We perspectives so that one could understand what is truly wrong with that particular Activity?

An inequity is an imbalance between things, not the things themselves. It does not matter if the "things" are perspectives or domains in which the associated problems manifest because the inequity can be anywhere. The purpose of the problem-solving process is to identify, isolate, and address the inequity as best as possible. The largest areas in which the inequity can be identified are the perspectives and the domains. One way to identify the effects of an inequity is to look for conflict.

Conflict is the product of effort to resolve an inequity as it meets resistance. We look for conflict as we attempt to identify an inequity's source(s). If we neglect to look in all the possible places conflict can exist, we open ourselves (and the story) to missing the entirety of the conflict and a true understanding of the inequity, leaving the real likelihood of failing to resolve the inequity thoroughly. So, all four perspectives and all four domains must be explored in order to understand the nature of an inequity and the nature and source(s) of conflict generated by trying to resolve the inequity.

Wouldn't it be just as good to look at the same Problematic Activity from the They perspective, the I perspective, the You and We perspectives so that one could understand what is truly wrong with that particular Activity?

The storyform expresses the effects of an inequity differently in each domain because the context for each domain is different. The Situation domain shows the inequity in the context of an external state. The Activity domain shows the inequity in the context of an external process. The Fixed Attitude domain shows the inequity in the context of and internal state. The Manipulation/Psychology domain show the inequity in the context of an internal process.

Using different perspectives on the same domain shows the effects of the inequity within the different contexts of the perspective. This may give us a greater understanding of the difference in the perspectives, but it would not give us any greater understanding of the inequity as it is expressed in that single domain. Conflict does not exist BETWEEN a domain and a perspective, so shifting perspectives on a domain will not provide more insight into the nature of the inequity.

Why does the core inequity of a story fall into different Domains?

Why does it seem to shift according to the Perspective (Throughline) chosen?

Context creates meaning. It is the combination of the four perspectives with the four domains that collectively describe and allow us to identify the nature of an inequity. You need look no further than the Dramatica table of Genres to see how combining perspectives with domains creates meaning. For example, combine the situation domain with the "they" OS perspective and you get a situation comedy OS throughline. If you combine the same perspective with the activity domain, you get a physical comedy OS throughline. Yet you need all four perspectives bound to the four domains to have a complete exploration of an inequity, which is one of the foundations of a Grand Argument Story.

Follow-up question:

So the true inequity of a story doesn't necessarily lie in one Domain or the other, but rather between all of them? In that case, an inequity can never truly be defined, correct? You can't say Well, the inequity of this story is injustice...You would need all four Domains to actually surround and approximate that inequity.

You are correct.

How do I apply the concept of Justification Levels to my story?

I am thrilled with Melanie and Chris having come up with a way to define steadfast and change character growth instead of just making them be one-note. In a tape cassette lecture series, they explained the four levels of justification... which are different between steadfast and change. However, I'm foggy on how to sync what they said about shifting paradigms with my IC and MC

I'm not sure which part of which cassette you have referred to, but here are some general thoughts.


Steadfast justification is the process of building up internal walls (barriers) in an attempt to resolve a resistant inequity. The effort to try new ways to resolve the "problems" require greater and greater effort to stay the course. Ultimately, a steadfast character remains steadfast and their inequity (drive) is left unaltered -- even though the apparent internal/external inequity may appear to be in balance.


A change character begins with a back story where it was a steadfast character who built up justifications in order to hide the inequity to create the appearance of balance. The change character comes preloaded with these justifications and the character growth comes in the form of having those justifications (internal barriers) torn down, act by act. Ultimately, the change character has all justifications removed and addresses the original inequity (established in the back story) by choosing the alternate approach to resolving the inequity.


One area I think you are getting into trouble is treating the Change and Steadfast characters independently in your story. That is not the way it works. The Main Character is the center of the personal thread (whether change or steadfast) and the Influence Character is only important in its capacity to impact the main character.

In Star Wars, Obi Wan goes from having Luke think about the Force, to getting Luke to let the Force run through him, to being remembered by Luke, to instructing Luke to follow his feelings and use the Force. The IC throughline is not so much about the IC but how the IC influences the MC so that the MC GROWS.

How can I make sure the audience knows who the Influence Character is?

In the Impact Character Throughline, the Symptom is where this character hopes to have the greatest impact, and Response is how he wants things to change because of that impact. Could you explain this for me in the context of preparing the story, because this is essentially the root of understanding the IC Symptom and Response regardless if they are Steadfast or Change, correct?

The idea of "how [the IC] wants things to change because of his impact" presupposes several things:  a(that the IC is aware of the MC, which it needn't be, b) that the IC is aware of its influence on the MC, which it needn't be, and c) that the IC is trying to influence the MC to change, which it needn't be trying to do.

The answer to your question is "no, it is not the root of understanding the IC Symptom and response..."  It is ONE understanding, and looking at it that way does not take into account the temporal nature of a story where the ebb and flow of influence waxes and wanes and builds (or decreases) as the story moves forward. You're looking for a spatial relationship between the story points to answer a temporal process. They are interconnected, temporally, spatially, and in the context of the other throughlines -- all of which describe the evolving/devolving effects of the inequity at the center of the story. Generalizations, like the one quoted above serve to clarify complex relationships, inadequately represent the entirety of those relationships and therefore fall short of providing "root understanding" for anything.

My recommendation about this whole IC business and your writing is to let it go. You're aware that there is an IC and you know the nature of the context within which the audience will view the IC. That is sufficient to write your story well enough that your audience should put the pieces (and connections) together for themselves.

Think of the four throughlines like composing a sentence. One throughline is a noun, another a verb, another an adjective, and the last like an adverb. Whichever noun, verb, adjective, and adverb you put in the sentence, readers glean meaning through both their understanding of the meanings of the vocabulary you choose, but also by your vocabulary's inherent relationship to one another because of the type of grammatical family into which each falls. You don't need to tell your audience that an adjective acts upon or moderates a noun because that is part of what makes an adjective an adjective.

You do not need to tell the audience that an IC influences or impacts the MC because that is built into the nature of the IC as defined by a storyform. The storyform holds the grammar and nature of the narrative (sentence) structure. You, as author, choose WHICH "noun", "verb", "adjective", and "adverb" fit within the storyform you've chosen, conform to the nature of the narrative elements, and illustrate your creative style and intent through your storyencoding and storyweaving. It is up to
the audience, through Story Reception, to unweave and decode your work to find the underlying storyform that indicates your story's underlying meaning.

Once you've written your first draft, you can test to see if an audience understands if the IC is seen as the IC in the story. If it isn't, you may choose to be more explicit in illustrating the IC story points and how they influence the MC, but I recommend letting your muse guide you through your first go at writing the story. There are plenty of opportunities to
make adjusts during rewriting.

Why Do These Domains Impact Each Other?

From a broader perspective I've always wondered, "Why does a fixed attitude domain impact a situation domain and vice versa?", and "Why does a psychology/manipulation domain impact an activity domain?"   As in why are they so dynamically opposed that a situation could never impact an activity or an attitude upon a psychology?

The key to the dynamic pairs in the current incarnation of the model is that represent the opportunity for greatest direct conflict.  The companion, dependent, and component views are relevant, but do not provide the same type of relationship as the dynamic pairs.  We chose the dynamic pairs because they represent the relationships most aligned with Western (American) sensibilities and problem solving.

At the heart of a story is an inequity -- an imbalance.  The question is, "How does one best resolve the inequity."  To make sense of something, one must have (or create or decide on) a context with which to find meaning.  That means there must be some common base against which one measures everything else.

The domains (structural classes) are created by combining internal and external with state and process.  The four combinations create the four classes:


So, when evaluating an imbalance between a situation and a fixed attitude, the common basis is that they are both states -- that becomes the baseline or context within which to evaluate their differences.  The imbalance between the two classes then appears to be reduced to a question of where the 'problem' and 'solution' exist:  External (Situation) or Internal (Fixed Attitude)?

Activity and Psychology share 'process' as their baseline and then look to the balance between external and internal between them.

For the above reasons these classes are compared to create the domains and not the other possible combinations.

So for a Main Character, the domain that is most challenging to his personal perspective is the one that has a shared baseline ("We're alike, you and I"), yet ALSO offers an alternative approach ("No, we're nothing alike!").

Where does the “You and I are alike” concept come from?

I'm looking for articles that help explain the two sides of the same coin concept, but can't find anything.

I don't know where there are specific articles on the "You and I are alike" dichotomy, but the concept is simple:


In the back story (for a Change Main Character**) or at the beginning of the story (for a Steadfast Man Character**), there comes a point where the Main Character must choose a path to take because of some PERSONAL inequity or imbalance introduced by an event of some sort. The Main Character then goes down that path attempting to resolve the personal problem. The Influence Character represents the path not chosen -- the path that is intimately tied to that original choice consciously or unconsciously made by the Main Character at the point when and where the original inequity was addressed.


The part of the argument that ties the two perspectives together, those of the Main Character and Influence Character, is the point of origin -- the event that introduced the original inequity. They both have some relationship to the core inequity that is both the source of personal conflict for the Main Character, but also is the source of the Main Character's drive. This is what gives them a basis in similarity.


The part of the argument where the Main Character and Influence Character diverge is the path taken/chosen to address the original inequity. The Main Character represents the path taken. The Influence Character represents the path NOT taken by the Main Character and is the alternative to the Main Character's path. That is WHY the Influence Character cannot be ignored by the Main Character. The Influence Character represents a legitimate means to addressing the original inequity. However, legitimate does not mean it is the "right" (effective) means to address the "problem."

This divergence in paths/approaches to resolving the Main Character's inequity creates a tug-of-war between the two characters. There is no way for the Main Character to know if it is on the right path toward resolving it's personal problems, or if the Influence Character's path is the better of the two.


So, with the Main Character representing one path and the Influence Character representing the alternative path, a storytelling convention has emerged where the Main Character and Influence Character have a conversation that establishes this relationship. It often goes something like this:

IC: We're the same.
MC: No, we're not the same. You [insert an example of the different path]...
IC: True, but you [insert an example of the shared attention to the inequity], just like me.

... or an interchange that effectively communicates the same information.

In short order, the author has informed the audience about:

  • The Main Character's position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • The Influence Character's alternative position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are similar in their approaches
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are dissimilar in their approaches


In the storyform, the most visible expression of the Main Character/Influence Character approach divergence is seen at the Class level of the structure. One character searches for the solution externally (Situation or Activities), while the other uses an internal approach to resolving the inequity (Fixed Attitude or Manipulation/Psychology). That explains the "not alike" part of the argument.

The part that explains the similarity of their approaches relates to the axis of their dynamic (diagonal) pair relationship in the structure. Both characters will have throughlines in EITHER domains that explore processes (i.e. Activity and Manipulation) OR domains that explore the state of things (i.e. Situation and Fixed Attitude).

In this way the two have a basis in common ground (state or process) as well as a divergence in approach (internal or external).


A grand argument story does not begin until all four throughlines are present. [NOTE: This is not the same as how the story is presented to the audience through storyweaving. The AUDIENCE may not be aware of the presence of all four throughlines at the beginning of the work, but each of the four throughlines must be evident BEFORE the first act turn, and preferably much earlier than that point in the story.] A key part of the Main Character's purpose in the story is to explore the path it has taken in its attempt to resolve its personal issues. That exploration is unlikely to occur without the irritating effects on the Main Character's complacency (if any) by the Influence Character exploration (or embodiment) of the path NOT taken by the Main Character.

The inciting event sets into motion the collision (and cohesion) of the four throughlines that form the underlying basis of the story and the drive towards its resolution (or non-resolution).

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** As a general rule, the Main Character's personal inequity is established in the back story for Change Main Characters and at the beginning of the story for Steadfast Main Characters, but there are many exceptions to this rule, especially in stories that don't end well for the Main Character (Judgment: Bad).