Questions About Act Order in Different Cultures

A writer asked the following question regarding my earlier article, “Changing Dramatica’s Suggested Act Order.”

How does one go about sussing this out? What approach would you recommend if I were trying to figure out which argument is primary in Mexico or Argentina or Norway?

Here’s my thoughts:

Alas, there’s no specific methodology developed at this time to help make such a judgment.  The best approach I’ve found is to look to existing stories that are popular and long-lived within the culture in question. 

All stories seek to provide both order and sequence.  Order is spatial and is the equivalent of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” – in other words, what conditions co-exist – a focus on relationships.  Sequence is temporal and is the equivalent of “one bad apple spoils the bunch” – in other word, what conditions lead to another condition. 

All cultures will explore both, and stories for (or about) men will largely look at deadlines and linear progressions while stories for (or about) women will largely look at restrictions and conflicting forces.  This, of course, further clouds the issue. 

And, naturally, some cultures are more balanced between the two while others are at the extremes of the bias.  Further, the intensity of how strongly a culture is attached to accuracy is a variable as well.  In such a case, even a strong bias might not be so crucial. 

Remember also that all cultures most appreciate stories that are fully accurate in both aspects, for that is what our human minds most seek.  Therefore, the only importance in knowing the cultural bias is if you want to intentionally break structure for personal reasons, which is always the equivalent of saying, “I know it is better THAT way, but I just want it THIS way.” 

So, in the end, it is a judgment call, but the good news is, if you can’t decide the relative importance of time or space or the overall importance of either to a given culture, then the culture probably doesn’t care all that much either, making it pretty safe for whatever you do.