Story Work: Action or Decision?

Action or Decision describes how the story is driven forward. The question is: Do Actions precipitate Decisions or vice versa?

At the end of a story there will be an essential need for an Action to be taken and a Decision to be made. However, one of them will be the roadblock that must be removed first in order to enable the other. This causal relationship is felt throughout the story where either Actions would never happen on their own, except that Decisions keep forcing them, or Decisions would never be made except that Actions leave no other choice than to decide. In fact, the “inciting event” that causes the story’s Problem in the first place will also match the kind of Work that will be required to resolve it. This “bookends” a story so that its Problem and solution are both precipitated by the same kind of Work: Action or Decision.

Stories contain both Action and Decision. Choosing one does not exclude the other. It merely gives preference to one over the other. Do Actions precipitate Decisions, or do Decisions precipitate Actions?

This preference can be enhanced or nearly balanced out by other dynamic questions you answer about your story. It’s really a matter of the background against which you want your Main Character to operate.

The choice of background does not have to reflect the nature of the Main Character. In fact, some very interesting dramatic potentials can be created when they do not match.

For example, a Main Character of action (called a Do-er) forced by circumstance to handle a deliberation-type problem would find himself at a loss for the experience and tools he needs to do the job.

Similarly, a deliberating Main Character (called a Be-er) would find himself whipped into a turmoil if forced to resolve a problem requiring action.

These mixed stories appear everywhere from tragedy to comedy and can add an extra dimension to an otherwise one-sided argument.

Since a story has both Actions and Decisions, it is really a question of which an author wants to come first: chicken or egg? By selecting one over the other, you instruct Dramatica to establish a causal order between dynamic movements in the Action line and the Decision line.

From the Dramatica Theory Book