Story structure is built on fours, not on twos. Though it may seem like conflict is created between two opposing forces, there are two other forces at play as well.
Consider a dramatic circuit consisting of four elements: Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power – just like an electrical circuit.
Every scene has all four elements and if one is missing, the circuit is incomplete and the story won’t flow.
But there’s more to it than that. These four elements have a relationship that we see in many areas of life.
Here are some other sets of four that create the same kind of internal mechanism:
Earth, Water, Wind, Fire
Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb
Red, Blue, Green, Brightness
Universe, Physics, Mind, Psychology
Mass, Energy, Space, Time
Characters, Plot, Theme, Genre
Motivation, Method, Evaluation, Purpose
As you can see, each group of four has a very similar feel. And the last item in each set seems a little out of place compared to the other three.
There’s an important psychological reason for that, but it would require going way too deep for this post. For now, just know that stories reflect how we think, and we think in four dimensions because we perceive four dimensions. So, it is no surprise that story structure is also based on fours, because that is the way we fully explore a topic in fiction or in life.
Perhaps the most fundamental error made by authors, whether novice or experienced, is that all their characters, male and female, tend to reflect the gender of the author. This is hardly surprising, since recent research indicates that men and women use their brains in different ways. So how can an author overcome this gap to write characters of the opposite sex that are both accurate and believable to their own gender?
In this article, we’ll explore the nature of male and female minds and provide techniques for crafting characters that are true to their gender.
At first, it might seem that being male or female is an easily definable thing, and therefore easy to convey in one’s writing. But as we all know, the differences between the sexes have historically been a mysterious quality, easily felt, but in fact quite hard to define. This is because what makes a mind male or female is not just one thing, but also several.
First, let’s consider that gender has four principal components:
Anatomical sex describes the physicality of a character – male or female. Now, we all know that people actually fall in a range – more or less hairy, wider or narrower hips, deeper or higher voice, and so on. So although there is a fairly clear dividing line between male and female anatomically, secondary sexual characteristics actually create a range of physicality between the two. Intentionally choosing these attributes for your characters can make them far less stereotypical as men and women.
Sexual Preferences may be for the same sex, the opposite sex, both, or neither (or self). Although people usually define themselves as being straight, gay, bi, or celibate, this is also not a fixed quality. Statistics shows, for example, that 1/3 of all men have a homosexual encounter at least once in their lives.
Although it often stirs up controversy to say so, in truth most people have passing attractions to the same sex, be it a very pretty boy or a “butch” woman.
Consider the sexual preference of your characters not as a fixed choice of one thing or another, but as a fluid quality that may shift over time or in a particular exceptional context.
Gender Identity describes where one falls on the scale between masculine and feminine. This, of course, is also context dependent. For example, when one is in the woods, at home with one’s family, or being chewed out by the boss.
Gender Identity is not just how one feels or things of oneself, but also how one act’s, how one uses one’s voice, and how one wishes to be treated. Often, a male character may have gentle feelings but cover them up by overly masculine mannerisms. Or, a female character may be “all-business” in the workplace out of necessity, but wishes someone would treat her with softness and kindness.
Actually, Gender Identity is made up of how one acts or wishes to act, and how one is treated or wishes to be treated. How many times have we seen a character who is forced by others to play a role that is in conflict with his or her internal gender self-image? Gender Identity is where one can explore the greatest nuance in creating non-stereotypical characters.
Finally, Mental Sex describes where one falls on the scale from practical, binary, linear, logistic, goal-oriented thinking to passionate, flexible, emotional, process-oriented thinking. In fact, every human being engages in ALL of these approaches to life, just at different times and in different ways.
Now, in creating characters, consider that each of the four categories we just explored is not a simple choice between one thing or another, but a sliding scale (like Anatomical Sex) or a conglomerate of individual traits (like Gender Identity). Then, visualize that wherever a character falls in any one of those four categories places absolutely no limits on where he or she may fall in the other categories.
For example, you might have a character extremely toward male anatomical sex, bi-sexual (but leaning toward a straight relationship at the moment), whose gender identity is rough and tumble (but yearns to be accepted for his secret sensitivity toward impressionistic paintings) who is practical all the time (except when it comes to sports cars).
Any combination goes. But when it comes to Mental Sex itself, there are four sub-categories within that area alone which tend to define the different personality types we encounter:Memory relies on our training to organize our considerations in a give situation toward components or processes. And every character always has a Conscious choice to focus on the components or processes at any given moment. In other words, in a given situation, at each level of Mental Sex does a character center on the way things are or the way things are going? At each level is the character more interested in getting his or her ducks in a row or in a pond?
In brief, each of these “levels” or “attributes” of the mind can lean toward seeing the world in definable or experiential terms. Pre-conscious is a tendency to perceive the world in components or as processes that is determined before birth. It is the foundation of leaning toward the tradition “male” or “female” personality traits. Subconscious determines the tendencies we have to be attracted or repelled from component or process rewards.
Finally, beyond all of these considerations is the cultural indoctrination we all receive that leads us to respond within social expectations appropriately to the role associated with our anatomical sex. These roles are fairly rigid and include what is proper to wear, who speaks first, who opens the door or order the wine, who has to pretend to be inept where and skilled where else (regardless of real ability or lack there of in that area), the form of grammar one uses in constructing sentences, the words one is expected to use (“I’ll take a hamburger,” vs. “I’d like a salad”), and the demeanor allowable in social interaction with the same and the opposite sex, among many other qualities.
In the end, writing characters of the opposite sex requires a commitment to understand the difference between those qualities, which are inherent and those, which are learned, and to accept that we are all made of the same clay, and merely sculpt it in different ways.
This article was originally written as part of an early draft of our book on the Dramatica theory of narrative which but was never included. It seeks to describe how characters come to misunderstand each other, and how this can lead to conflict.
I’m reprinting it here due to the really useful concepts it brings to light, but bear in mind that many of the terms have evolved since then and many of the notions have been significantly refined over the years.
Here’s the gist, and then the article:
All of our understandings of each other are based on the narratives we create to get a grip on what someone’s intent is, and what their future behavior is likely to be. Basically, we want to know what they mean by what they say, and what they are likely to do.
But trying to grasp someone else’s meaning is an interpretive art. And in addition, we all have our own blinders on – our own expectations based on a history of interactions, both with the specific individual with whom we are communicating and with other people, both similar and no so much, gathered over the course of our lives.
In the article that follows, I use the word “justification” to describe how those past experiences add up to expectations, pre-judgments and even blind spots that keep us from seeing what’s really going on or even warp it to convince us things are quite different – even opposite – of what someone really intended or intended to do.
Here is the original text:
What is Justification? Justification is a state of mind wherein the Subjective view differs from the Objective view. Okay, fine. But how about in plain English!!!! Very well, when someone sees things differently than they are, they are Justifying. This can happen either because the mind draws a wrong conclusion or assumes, or because things actually change in a way that is no longer consistent with a held view.
All of this comes down to cause and effect. For example, suppose you have a family with a husband, wife and young son. Here is a sample backstory of how the little boy might develop a justification that could plague him in later life….
The husband works at a produce stand. Every Friday he gets paid. Also every Friday a new shipment of fresh beets comes in. So, every Friday night, he comes home with the beets and the paycheck. The paycheck is never quite enough to cover the bills and this is eating the wife alive. Still, she knows her husband works hard, so she tries to keep her feelings to herself and devotes her attention to cooking the beets.
Nevertheless, she cannot hold out for long, and every Friday evening at some point while they eat, she and her husband get in an argument. Of course, like most people who are trying to hold back the REAL cause of her feelings, she picks on other issues, so the arguments are all different
This short description lays out a series of cause and effect relationships that establish a justification. With this potential we have wound up the spring of our dramatic mechanism. And now we are ready to begin our story to see how that tension unwinds.
The Story Begins: The young boy, now a grown adult with a wife and child of his own, sits down to dinner with his family. He begins to get belligerent and antagonistic. His wife does not know what she has done wrong. In fact, later, he himself cannot say why he was so upset. WE know it is because his wife served beets.
It is easy to see that from the young boy’s knowledge of the situation when he was a child, the only visible common element between his parent’s arguments and his environment was the serving of beets. They never argued about the money directly, and that would probably have been beyond his ken anyway.
Obviously, it is not stupidity that leads to misconceptions, but lack of information. The problem is, we have no way of knowing if we have enough information or not, for we cannot determine how much we do not know. It is a human trait, and one of the Subjective Characters as well, to see repetitive proximities between two items or between an item and a process and assume a causal relationship.
But why is this so important to story? Because that is why stories exist in the first place! Stories exist to show us a greater Objective truth that is beyond our limited Subjective view. They exist to show us that if we feel something is a certain way, even based on extensive experience, it is possible that it really is not that way at all.
For the Pivotal Character, it will be shown that the way she believed things to be really IS the way they are in spite of evidence to the contrary. The message here is that our understanding is sometimes not limited by past misconceptions, but by lack of information in the present. “Keeping the faith” describes the feeling very well. Even in the face of major contradiction, holding on to one’s views and dismissing the apparent reality as an illusion or falsehood.
For the Primary Character, it will be shown that things are really different than believed and the only solution is to alter one’s beliefs. This message is that we must update our understanding in the light of new evidence or information. “Changing one’s faith” is the issue here.
In fact, that is what stories are all about: Faith. Not just having it, but also learning if it is valid or not. That is why either Character, Pivotal or Primary, must make a Leap of faith in order to succeed. At the climax of a story, the need to make a decision between remaining steadfast in one’s faith or altering it is presented to both Pivotal and Primary Characters. EACH must make the choice. And each will succeed or fail.
The reason it is a Leap of Faith is because we are always stuck with our limited Subjective view. We cannot know for sure if the fact that evidence is mounting that change would be a better course represents the pangs of Conscience or the tugging of Temptation. We must simply decide based on our own internal beliefs.
If we decide with the best available evidence and trust our feelings we will succeed, right? Not necessarily. Success or failure is just the author’s way of saying she agrees or disagrees with the choice made. Just like real life stories we hear every day of good an noble people undeservedly dying or losing it all, a Character can make the good and noble choice and fail. This is the nature of a true Dilemma: that no matter what you do, you lose. Of course, most of us read stories not to show us that there is no fairness in the impartial Universe (which we see all too much of in real life) but to convince ourselves that if we are true to the quest and hold the “proper” faith, we will be rewarded. It really all depends on what you want to do to your audience.
A story in which the Main Character is Pivotal will have dynamics that lead the audience to expect that remaining Steadfast will solve the problem and bring success. Conversely, a story in which the Main Character is Primary will have differently dynamics that lead the audience to expect that Changing will solve the problem and bring success. However, in order to make a statement about real life outside of the story, the Author may violate this expectation for propaganda or shock purposes.
For example, if, in Star Wars, Luke had made the same choice and turned off his targeting computer (trusting in the force), dropped his bombs, and missed the target, Darth blows him up and the Death Star obliterates the rebels… how would we feel? Sure you could write it that way, but would you want to? Perhaps! Suppose you made Star Wars as a government sponsored entertainment in a fascist regime. That might very WELL be the way you would want to end it!
The point being, that to create a feeling of “completion” in an audience, if the Main Character is Pivotal, she MUST succeed by remaining Steadfast, and a Primary Main Character MUST change.
Now, let’s take this sprawling embryonic understanding of Justification and apply it specifically to story structure.
The Dramatica Model is built on the process of noting that an inequity exists, then comparing all possible elements of Mind to Universe until the actual nature of the inequity is located, then making a Leap of Faith to change approach or remain steadfast.
At the most basic level, we have Mind and we have Universe, as indicated in the introduction to this book. An inequity is not caused solely by one or the other but by the difference between the two. So, an inequity is neither in Mind nor Universe, but between them.
However, based on their past experiences (assumed causal relationships in backstory) a given Subjective Character will choose either Mind or Universe as the place to attempt to resolve the inequity. In other words, she decides that she likes one area the way it is, and would rather change the other. As soon as this decision is made, the inequity becomes a problem because it is seen in one world or the other. i.e.: “There is a problem with my situation I have to work out.” or “I have to work out a personal problem”.
Doesn’t a Character simply see that the problem is really just an inequity between Mind and Universe? Sure, but what good does that do them? It is simply not efficient to try to change both at the same time and meet halfway. Harking back to our introductory example of Jane who wanted a $300 jacket: Suppose Jane decided to try and change her mind about wanting the jacket even while going out and getting a job to earn the money to buy it. Obviously, this would be a poor plan, almost as if she were working against herself, and in effect she would be. This is because it is a binary situation: either she has a jacket or she does not, and, either she wants a jacket or she does not. If she worked both ends at the same time, she might put in all kinds of effort and end up having the jacket not wanting it. THAT would hardly do! No, to be efficient, a Character will consciously or responsively pick one area or the other in which to attempt to solve the problem, using the other area as the measuring stick of progress.
So, if a Main Character picks the Universe in which to attempt a solution, she is a “Do-er” and it is an Action oriented story. If a Main Character picks the Mind in which to attempt a solution, she is a “Be-er” and it is a Decision oriented story. Each story has both Action and Decision, for they are how we compare Mind against Universe in looking for the inequity. But an Action story has a focus on exploring the physical side and measuring progress by the mental, where as a Decision story focuses on the mental side and measures progress by the physical.
Whether a story is Action or Decision has nothing to do with the Main Character being Pivotal or primary. As we have seen, James Bond has been both. And in the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Indy must change from his disbelief of the power of the ark and its supernatural aspects in order to succeed by avoiding the fate that befalls the Nazis – “Close your eyes, Marian; don’t look at it!”
Action or Decision simply describes the nature of the problem solving process, not whether a character should remained steadfast or change. And regardless of which focus the story has, a Pivotal Character story has dynamics indicating that remaining steadfast is the proper course. That mean that in an Action story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Universe and must maintain that approach in the face of all obstacles in order to succeed. In a Decision story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Mind, and must maintain that approach to succeed. On the other hand, a Primary Character, regardless of which world she selects to solve the problem, will discover she chose the wrong one, and must change to the other to find the solution.
A simple way of looking at this is to see that a Pivotal Character must work at finding the solution, and if diligent will find it where she is looking. She simply has to work at it. In Dramatica, when a Pivotal Character is the Main Character, we call it a Work Story (which can be either Action or Decision)
A Primary Character works just as hard as the Pivotal to find the solution, but in the end discovers that the problem simply cannot be solved in the world she chose. She must now change and give up her steadfast refusal to change her “fixed” world in order to overcome the log jam and solve the problem. Dramatica calls this a Dilemma story, since it is literally impossible to solve the problem in the manner originally decided upon.
From the Subjective view, both Pivotal and Primary work at solving the problem. Also, each is confronted with evidence suggesting that they must change. This evidence is manifested in increasingly growing obstacles they both must overcome. So what makes the audience want one character to remain steadfast and the other to change?
The Objective view.
Remember, we have two views of the Story Mind. The Subjective is the limited view in which the audience, in empathy with the Main Character, simply does not have enough information to decide whether or not to change. But then, unlike the Main Character, the audience is privy to the Objective view which clearly shows (by the climax) which would be the proper choice. To create a sense of equity in the audience, if the Main Character’s Subjective Choice is in line with the Objective View, they must succeed. But if a propaganda or shock value is intended, an author may choose to have either the proper choice fail or the improper choice succeed.
This then provides a short explanation of the driving force behind the unfolding of a story, and the function of the Subjective Characters. Taken with the earlier chapters on the Objective Characters, we now have a solid basic understanding of the essential structures and dynamics that create and govern Characters.
Characters reflect real people in a purified or idealized state. And so, we can see in them qualities and traits that are hard to see within ourselves. One of the most difficult challenges we face every day are exemplified by characters in virtually every story – the inability to confidently understand “what is truth?”
In this article, excerpted from the Dramatica Narrative Theory Book I wrote with Chris Huntley, the elusive and changing nature of truth is explored for the benefit of your characters and yourself.
What Is Truth?
We cannot move to resolve a problem until we recognize the problem. Even if we feel the inequity, until we can pinpoint it or understand what creates it, we can neither arrive at an appropriate response or act to nip it at its source.
If we had to evaluate each inequity that we encounter with an absolutely open mind, we could not learn from experience. Even if we had seen the same thing one hundred times before, we would not look to our memories to see what had turned out to be the source or what appropriate measures had been employed. We would be forced to consider every little friction that rubbed us the wrong way as if we have never encountered it. Certainly, this is another form of inefficiency, as “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
In such a scenario, we would not learn from our mistakes, much less our successes. But is that inefficiency? What if we encounter an exception to the rules we have come to live by? If we rely completely on our life experience, when we encounter a new context in life, our whole paradigm may be inappropriate.
We all know the truisms, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” “guilt by association,” “one bad apple spoils the bunch,” “the only good (fill in the blank) is a dead (fill in the blank).” In each of these cases we assume a different kind of causal relationship than is generally scrutinized in our culture. Each of these phrases asserts that when you see one thing, another thing will either be there also, or will certainly follow. Why do we make these assumptions? Because, in context, they are often true. But as soon as we apply them out of context they are just as likely false.
Associations in Space and Time
When we see something occur enough times without exception, our mind accepts it as an absolute. After all, we have never seen it fail! This is like saying that every time you put a piece of paper on hot metal it will burn. Fine, but not in a vacuum! You need oxygen as well to create the reaction you anticipate.
In fact, every time we believe THIS leads to THAT or whenever we see THIS, THAT will also be present, we are making assumptions with a flagrant disregard for context. And that is where characters get into trouble. A character makes associations in their backstory. Because of the context in which they gather their experiences, these associations always hold true. But then the situation (context) changes, or they move into new areas in their lives. Suddenly some of these assumptions are absolutely untrue!
Hold on to Your Givens!
Why doesn’t a character (or person) simply give up the old view for the new? There are two reasons why one will hold on to an outmoded, inappropriate understanding of the relationships between things. We’ll outline them one at a time.
First, there is the notion of how many times a character has seen things go one way, compared to the number of times they’ve gone another. If a character builds up years of experience with something being true and then encounters one time it is not true, they will tend to treat that single false time as an exception to the rule. It would take as many false responses as there had been true ones to counter the balance.
Context is a Sneaky Thing
Context is in a constant state of flux. If something has always proven true in all contexts up to this point then one is not conscious of entering a whole new context. Rather, as we move in and out of contexts, a truism that was ALWAYS true may become mostly true, sometimes true, or no longer true at all. It may have an increasing or decreasing frequency of proving true or may tend toward being false for a while, only to tend toward being true again later.
The important thing for your characters is to recognize that they (like us) are just trying to discover what the truth is so they can make the best possible choices for themselves. It is the difference in personal experience that leads to all dramatic (and real world) conflict.
To make your characters more human and to provide them with valid reasons for their actions and perspectives, you need to tell your readers or audience not where each character is coming from, but how they got to that belief system to begin with.
Let me now add a short addendum to this excerpt from the Dramatica Book….
Truth is a process, not a conclusion. If you have ever dipped into Zen, you realize that you cannot fully understand what something is unless you become it, and yet if you do, you lose the awareness of what it is as seen from the outside.
Capital “T” truth is perpetually elusive, as described in the saying, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the Eternal Tao.” Or, in less cryptic terms, if you define something, you have missed the point because nothing stands alone from the rest of the universe and cannot be fully defined apart from it.
The key to open-mindedness and problem solving is to decalcify your mind, to make it limber enough to perceive and explore alternative points of view without immediately abandoning the point of view you currently hold.
That is the nature of stories – when a main character’s belief system is challenged by an influence character who represents an alternative truth. The entire passionate “heart line” of a story exists to examine the relative value of each perspective, and the message of a story is the author’s statement that, based on the author’s own experience or special knowledge, in this particular instance, one view is better than the other for solving this particular problem.
There is no right or wrong inherently. It all depends upon the context, which is never constant. The philosopher David Hume believed that truth was transient: as long as something worked, it was true, and when it failed to work it was no longer true.
And so, the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article, “What is truth?” can only be “truth is our best understanding of the moment.”
For a tangential topic, you may with to read my article, “The False Narrative,” in which I explore how to recognize, dismantle and/or create false narratives in fiction and in the real world.
Every once in a while I write an article about the Dramatica theory of narrative structure that zooms right down to the subatomic level.
Such articles have absolutely no practical value to writers but, being a narrative scientist, it is a means demonstrating the depth and complexity of the Dramatica theory to my fellow self-proclaimed wizards of space and time.
Case in point: here is a reprint of the very first post I made to my Dramatica blog so many years ago…
~ Caution – Deep Narrative Theory Ahead ~
What’s “Ability” have to do with story structure?
In this article I’m going to talk about how the Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure uses the term “ability” and how it applies not only to story structure and characters but to real people, real life and psychology as well.
Ability is one of the dramatic elements that the Dramatica software define your story’s message and thematic conflict. There are sixty-four thematic elements in Dramatica – a whole spectrum of human traits and qualities that might be good or bad ones to have, depending upon the story.
If you look in Dramatica’s “Periodic Table of Story Elements” chart (you can download a free PDF of the chart at http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf ) you’ll find “ability” in one of the little squares. To locate it, look in the family called the “Physics” class in the upper left-hand corner of the chart and examine the very smallest items listed there. You’ll find it in a group of four dramatic elements, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire”.
To begin with, a brief word about the Dramatica chart itself. The chart is sort of like a Rubik’s Cube. It holds all the elements which must appear in every complete story to avoid holes. Conceptually, you can twist it and turn it, just like a Rubik’s Cube, and when you do, it is like winding up a clock – you create dramatic potential.
How is this dramatic potential created? The chart represents all the categories of things we think about. Notice that the chart is nested, like wheels within wheels. That’s the way our minds work. And if we are to make a solid story structure with no holes, we have to make sure all ways of thinking about the story’s central problem or issues are covered.
So, the chart is really a model of the mind. When you twist it and turn it represents the kinds of stress (and experience) we encounter in everyday life. Sometimes things get wound up as tight as they can and get stuck there. And this is where a story always starts. Anything before that point is backstory, anything after it is story.
The story part is the process of unwinding that tension. So why does a story feel like tension is building, rather than lessening? This is because stories are about the forces that bring a person to change or, often, to a point of change.
As the story mind unwinds, it puts more and more pressure on the main character (who may be gradually changed by the process or may remain intransigent until he changes all at once). It’s kind of like the forces that create earthquakes. Tectonic plates push against each other driven by a background force (the mantle). That force is described by the wound up Dramatica chart of the story mind.
Sometimes, in geology, this force gradually raises or lowers land in the two adjacent plate. Other times it builds up pressure until things snap all at once in an earthquake. So too in psychology, people (characters) are sometimes slowly changed by the gradual application of pressure as the story mind clock is unwinding; other times that pressure applied by the clock mechanism just builds up until the character snaps in Leap Of Faith – that single “moment of truth” in which a character must decide either to change his ways or stick by his guns believing his current way is stronger than the pressure bought to bear – he believes he just has to outlast the forces against him.
Sometimes he’s right to change, sometimes he’s right to remain steadfast, and sometimes he’s wrong. But either way, in the end, the clock has unwound and the potential has been balanced.
Hey, what happened to “ability”? Okay, okay, I’m getting to that….
The chart (here we go again!) is filled with semantic terms – things like Hope and Physics and Learning and Ability. If you go down to the bottom of the chart in the PDF you’ll see a three-dimensional representation of how all these terms are stacked together. In the flat chart, they look like wheels within wheels. In the 3-D version, they look like levels.
These “levels” represent degrees of detail in the way the mind works. At the most broadstroke level (the top) there are just four items – Universe, Physics, Mind and Psychology. They are kind of like the Primary Colors of the mind – the Red, Blue, Green and Saturation (effectively the addition of something along the black/white gray scale).
Those for items in additive color theory are four categories describing what can create a continuous spectrum. In a spectrum is really kind of arbitrary where you draw the line between red and blue. Similarly, Universe, Mind, Physics and Psychology are specific primary considerations of the mind.
Universe is the external state of things – our situation or envirnoment. Mind is the internal state – an attitude, fixation or bias. Physics looks at external activities – processes and mechanisms. Psychology looks at internal activities – manners of thinking in logic and feeling.
Beneath that top level of the chart are three other levels. Each one provides a greater degree of detail on how the mind looks at the world and at itself. It is kind of like adding “Scarlet” and “Cardinal” as subcategories to the overall concept of “Red”.
Now the top level of the Dramatica chart describe the structural aspects of “Genre” Genre is the most broadstroke way of looking at a story’s structure. The next level down has a bit more dramatic detail and describes the Plot of a story. The third level down maps out Theme, and the bottom level (the one with the most detail) explores the nature of a story’s Characters.
So there you have the chart from the top down, Genre, Plot, Theme and Characters. And as far as the mind goes, it represents the wheels within wheels and the sprectrum of how we go about considering things. In fact, we move all around that chart when we try to solve a problem. But the order is not arbitrary. The mind has to go through certain “in-betweens” to get from one kind of consideration to another or from one emotion to another. You see this kind of thing in the stages of grief and even in Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development.
All that being said now, we finally return to Ability – the actual topic of this article. You’ll find Ability, then, at the very bottom of the chart – in the Characters level – in the upper left hand corner of the Physics class. In this article I won’t go into why it is in Physics or why it is in the upper left, but rest assured I’ll get to that eventually in some article or other.
Let’s now consider “Ability” in its “quad” of four Character Elements. The others are Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire. I really don’t have space in this article to go into detail about them at this time, but suffice it to say that Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire are the internal equivalents of Universe, Mind, Physics and Pyschology. They are the conceptual equivalents of Mass, Energy, Space and Time. (Chew on that for awhile!)
So the smallest elements are directly connect (conceptually) to the largest in the chart. This represents what we call the “size of mind constant” which is what determines the scope of an argument necessary to fill the minds of readers or an audience. In short, there is a maximum depth of detail one can perceive while still holding the “big picture” in one’s mind at the very same time.
Ability – right….
Ability is not what you can do. It is what you are “able” to do. What’s the difference? What you “can” do is essentially your ability limited by your desire. Ability describes the maximum potential that might be accomplished. But people are limited by what they should do, what they feel obligated to do, and what they want to do. If you take all that into consideration, what’s left is what a person actually “can” do.
In fact, if we start adding on limitations you move from Ability to Can and up to even higher levels of “justification” in which the essential qualities of our minds, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire” are held in check by extended considerations about the impact or ramifications of acting to our full potential.
One quad greater in justification you find “Can, Need, Want, and Should” in Dramatica’s story mind chart. Then it gets even more limited by Responsibility, Obligation, Commitment and Rationalization. Finally we end up “justifying” so much that we are no longer thinking about Ability (or Knowledge or Thought or Desire) but about our “Situation, Circumstance, Sense of Self and State of Being”. That’s about as far away as you can get from the basic elements of the human mind and is the starting point of where stories begin when they are fully wound up. (You’ll find all of these at the Variation Level in the “Psychology” class in the Dramatica chart, for they are the kinds of issues that most directly affect each of our own unique brands of our common human psychology.
A story begins when the Main Character is stuck up in that highest level of justification. Nobody gets there because they are stupid or mean. They get there because their unique life experience has brought them repeated exposures to what appear to be real connections between things like, “One bad apple spoils the bunch” or “Where there’s smoke , there’s fire.”
These connections, such things as – that one needs to adopt a certain attitude to succeed or that a certain kind of person is always lazy or dishonest – these things are not always universally true, but may have been universally true in the Main Character’s experience. Really, its how we all build up our personalities. We all share the same basic psychology but how it gets “wound up” by experience determines how we see the world. When we get wound up all the way, we’ve had enough experience to reach a conclusion that things are always “that way” and to stop considering the issue. And that is how everything from “winning drive” to “prejudice” is formed – not by ill intents or a dull mind buy by the fact that no two life experiences are the same.
The conclusions we come to, based on our justifications, free out minds to not have to reconsider every connection we see. If we had to, we’d become bogged down in endlessly reconsidering everything, and that just isn’t a good survival trait if you have to make a quick decision for fight or flight.
So, we come to certain justification and build upon those with others until we have established a series of mental dependencies and assumptions that runs so deep we can’t see the bottom of it – the one bad brick that screwed up the foundation to begin with. And that’s why psychotherapy takes twenty years to reach the point a Main Character can reach in a two hour movie or a two hundred page book.
Now we see how Ability (and all the other Dramatica terms) fit into story and into psychology. Each is just another brick in the wall. And each can be at any level of the mind and at any level of justification. So, Ability might be the problem in one story (the character has too much or too little of it) or it might be the solution in another (by discovering an ability or coming to accept one lacks a certain ability the story’s problem – or at least the Main Character’s personal problem – can be solved). Ability might be the thematic topic of one story and the thematic counterpoint of another (more on this in other articles).
Ability might crop up in all kinds of ways, but the important thing to remember is that wherever you find it, however you use it, it represents the maximum potential, not necessarily the practical limit that can be actually applied.
Well, enough of this. To close things off, here’s the Dramatica Dictionary description of the world Ability that Chris and I worked out some twenty years ago, straight out of the Dramatica diction (available online at http://storymind.com/dramatica/dictionary/index.htm :
Ability • Most terms in Dramatica are used to mean only one thing. Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire, however, have two uses each, serving both as Variations and Elements. This is a result of their role as central considerations in both Theme and Character
[Variation] • dyn.pr. Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • Ability describes the actual capacity to accomplish something. However, even the greatest Ability may need experience to become practical. Also, Ability may be hindered by limitations placed on a character and/or limitations imposed by the character upon himself. • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherant proficiency
[Element] • dyn.pr. Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • An aspect of the Ability element is an innate capacity to do or to be. This means that some Abilities pertain to what what can affect physically and also what one can rearrange mentally. The positive side of Ability is that things can be done or experienced that would otherwise be impossible. The negative side is that just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. And, just because one can be a certain way does not mean it is beneficial to self or others. In other words, sometimes Ability is more a curse than a blessing because it can lead to the exercise of capacities that may be negative • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherent proficiency
Trump and Kim Jong Un. Let’s consider the narrative behind the summit. In a movie, it is easy to see when a character does not ring true – when he or she acts in a way contrary to human psychology – in a way that is in conflict with the known facts of the narrative.
Either the character is not properly created by the author or there is more to the narrative than we are currently been shown.
Short version – Trump’s (and Kim’s) behavior regarding the summit is in conflict with their characters. In the real world, characters are not poorly drawn – they are who they are. And discrepancies are indicators that there is more to the narrative that we are seeing.
When I was working as a consultant on narrative structure for the CIA and the NSA, we created a few “What if” scenarios regarding Kim Jong Un, the United States, China, South Korea, and other players in that theater.
Suffice it to say that not only are the international politics among the nations extremely complicated, but the internal politics within the DPRK are far more complicated including powerful regional warlords who are courted directly by China, a class of merchants who support Kim as long as their coffers are filled, a central military structure whose allegiance is capricious, and the equivalent of the Russian oligarchs who control significant wealth and live in luxury while the people (who are successfully indoctrinated into a cult of personality toward Kim) live largely in poverty.
Against this background, and following Trump’s tweet war with Kim over the last year, i.e. “Little Rocket Man” vs. “We will destroy you,” these two leaders came together in a friendly, mutually supportive summit and, according to Trump, agreed to complete denuclearization of North Korea and an end of sanctions, full diplomatic recognition, an end to joint war games, and even a removal of troops by the United States.
By meeting with Kim, one on one as equals, Trump has already given equal status to Kim as the legitimate leader of the DPRK.
Add to this that Trump, positioning himself as peacemaker, has been antagonistic to our allies, and excessively supportive and effusive in his praise and/or unwilling to speak out against strong men and dictators such as Putin, Assad and Xi Jinping.
Now further consider that Trump always acts in his own best interest and has never been known to embrace service to others, altruism, or a keen desire for world peace. Further, while in office so far, he and his family have profited greatly from political decisions made, and allegations such as pay for play with Qatar abound.
If he were a fictional character, Trump might be described as narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, power-hungry, greedy, unbeholding to any code or ethos, crude, rude, bullying, opportunistic, mercurial, capricious, and sly. If one adds the trait, ruthless, these traits describe Kim Jong Un as well.
Those qualities do not support Trump’s nor Kim’s apparent actions in the narrative we are being presented. They do not ring true. So we must ask ourselves, what is the real narrative that we are not seeing – a narrative that is actually consistent with the nature of the characters, Kim and Trump.
While multiple narratives may explain his actions (and in fact, multiple narrative may actually be in play simultaneously, each with its own goals), the one certainty we have is that the presented narrative is not the actual narrative.
Here is an alternative narrative in which both the characters, Kim and Trump, do ring true – a narrative in which their actions make sense based on their actual natures.
In this proposed narrative, we do have several known facts:
1. Kim’s nuclear capability is the only saber he has to rattle.
2. Kim has used disarmament before as a bargaining chip, only to go back on his word when he received what he was after.
3. Kim is the head of a cult of personality not unlike that of the Egyptian Pharaohs, and will never give that up.
4. Kim is not concerned with the well-being of his people.
5. Kim will even kill relatives and hundreds more in political purges in order to maintain power.
6. Kim’s position is atop an unstable coalition of economic and military leaders, all of whom are playing at their own narratives of amassing additional wealth and power. He keeps them in check through fear and by showing is remains powerful against the United States. In our work for the intelligence community, we determined Kim increases his power when he rattles his saber, and he increases the wealth of his supporters when he makes temporary concessions. By alternating between making and then breaking agreements and between war talk and peace talk, Kim satisfies his base and secures his position.
On the Trump side:
1. Republicans are in danger of losing control of at least one house of congress in the upcoming November elections, which would inhibit Trump in his power and money gathering efforts. A diplomatic win might keep both houses in Republican hands.
2. If the Republicans lose complete control, the Russian investigation becomes far more dangerous to Trump.
3. Trump has made a concerted effort to undo everything Barack Obama achieved and/or to better him. Obama struck the Iran deal, Trump wants to end it. Obama did not reach an agreement with North Korea, Trump wants to accomplish that.
4. Trump began running for reelection with an official committee and campaign rallies almost immediately after taking the oath of office. An apparent diplomatic win might very well tip the balance in 2020 to ensure his reelection.
5. A summit with Kim garners the world’s spotlight and baths both leaders in praise and adoration of their followers. In his post-summit news conference, Trump clearly bathed in the glory of the moment. Further, Obama received a Nobel (before he had accomplished anything, used by the Nobel committee as a political tool to “obligate” Obama to follow through) so Trump wants one too.
6. If Trump’s goal is to create a cult of personality and eventually have presidential term limits rescinded, as Putin did, so he might be endlessly reelected, the summit, even if the deal later falls through, the aura of being a peacemaker will remain and add to the passion of Trump’s followers.
Taken collectively, the natures of the characters of Trump and Kim suggest another narrative that is actually consistent with their personalities.
Kim gets recognition as an equal and legitimate player on the world stage, but does not have to live up to the agreement. His benefits cannot be called back, even if he does not follow through. And so his stature and security increases with his dangerous base, and when he pulls out of the agreement, he will regain the favor of his own hard-liners as well.
Trump gets world acclaim, strengthens his base, maintains control of congress and adds to his bid for reelection, allowing him to keep making money for political favors and to pave the way, ultimately, to becoming president for life, regardless of whether the agreement falls through or not.
Further, ending joint war games with South Korea (without having previously discussed this with them) helps pull America back from a position of power in the world, serving both China and Putin with whom Trump already has some very suspicious economic obligatory relationships.
It this the actual narrative? Perhaps not. But unlike the publicly offered narrative of seeking peace through altruism, this narrative at least is not in conflict with the natures of the character involved.
Rather than getting caught up in whether or not Trump has the power to pardon even himself, step back and see the larger narrative.
In the past controversial pardons would sometimes inflame the public, and when newly minted President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon as his first official act, the tide of controversy rose quite high. Still and all, under normal circumstances no one cares much about the President’s pardon power other than those being pardoned.
So stepping back, look at how much information is pouring out the the Trump administration this week about pardoning power, both in his tweets and through his spokespeople and surrogates.
As a narrative scientist, I ask myself why would an administration go into a full-bore public service campaign to inform the public about a presidential power of such little historic significance?
Of course, the answer is that Trump is guilty and he is trying to send a message to all those who can prove his guilt by testifying against him in exchange for a plea deal.
Why would Trump and company spend all this time talking about pardons otherwise? Why not talk about dog shelters or the honey bees or new uniforms for the military, much less truly important issues that are of real and imperative concern?
In short – pardon power is an obscure, uninspiring, and generally unimportant presidential power in the grand scheme of things. And of all the obscure, uninspiring, and generally unimportant powers to pick to speak about, why THIS one, and more to the point, why NOW?
Look at the pardon last week of man who laundered campaign funds and was investigated, tried, and convicted by the same federal folks in New York who are currently after Michael Cohen.
This man never asked for a pardon – not once. He was surprised as anybody when he heard about it. He pleaded guilty. Trump made the pardon pro-actively because this fellow just happened to come to his attention and, ostensibly, in reviewing his case (with his copious free time), Trump determined that this man had been singled out for prosecution unfairly and based on a political agenda.
Does that ring true to you? If you saw that as the plot of a movie or a television show would you buy it? Of course not! It makes no sense as a narrative, and therefore it makes no sense in the real world either.
Clearly, the Trump team went out looking for someone to pardon – anyone who was prosecuted by the same branch who was also Republican and also pleaded guilty. If they found such a fellow, they could pardon him and send a big message to Michael Cohen to keep his mouth shut because Trump has him covered.
Now THAT narrative makes complete and total sense. It rings true. You’d buy that in a movie or on TV in a heartbeat.
Narratives are like Occam’s Razor – the simplest explanation is (most often) the correct one. Unlike physics, narratives are driven by the nature of human beings. So if a narrative comes across as false, it is because we know that the motivations suggested do not match how real people act and react – how they are driven and in what directions.
Suddenly taking a great interest in pardon power just because, while simultaneously pardoning someone arbitrarily who didn’t even request a pardon simply isn’t a believable narrative.
But hyping up pardon power to prevent folks from testifying and then making an example pardon of a hand-picked obscure felon who was convicted by the same mechanism in the same place as the key potential witness against Trump – well that is as believable a narrative as you can get.
As with people, your story’s mind has different aspects. These are represented in your Genre, Theme, Plot, and Characters. Genre is the overall personality of the Story Mind. Theme represents its troubled value standards. Plot describes the methods the Story Mind uses as it tries to work out its problems. Characters are the conflicting drives of the Story Mind.
To an audience, every story has a distinct personality, as if it were a person rather than a work of fiction. When we first encounter a person or a story, we tend to classify it in broad categories. For stories, we call the category into which we place its overall personality its Genre.
These categories reflect whatever attributes strike us as the most notable. With people this might be their profession, interests, attitudes, style, or manner of expression, for example. With stories this might be their setting, subject matter, point of view, atmosphere, or storytelling.
We might initially classify someone as a star-crossed lover, a cowboy, or a practical joker who likes to scare people. Similarly, we might categorize a story as a Romance, a Western, or a Horror story.
As with the people we meet, some stories are memorable and others we forget as soon as they are gone. Some are the life of the party, but get stale rather quickly. Some initially strike us as dull, but become familiar to the point we look forward to seeing them again. This is all due to what someone has to say and how they go about saying it.
The more time we spend with specific stories or people the less we see them as generalized types and the more we see the traits that define them as individuals. So, although we might initially label a story as a particular Genre, we ultimately come to find that every story has its own unique personality that sets it apart from all others in that Genre, in at least a few notable respects.
Everyone has value standards, and the Story Mind has them as well. Some people are pig-headed and see issues as cut and dried. Others are wishy-washy and flip-flop on the issues. The most sophisticated people and stories see the pros and cons of both sides of a moral argument and present their conclusions in shades of gray, rather than in simple black & white. All these outlooks can be reflected in the Story Mind.
No matter what approach or which specific value is explored, the key structural point about value standards is that they are all comprised of two parts: the issues and one’s attitude toward them. It is not enough to only have a subject (abortion, gay rights, or greed) for that says nothing about whether they are good, bad, or somewhere in between. Similarly, attitudes (I hate, I believe in, or I don’t approve of) are meaningless until they are applied to something.
An attitude is essentially a point of view. The issue is the object under observation. When an author determines what he wants to look at it and from where he wants it to be seen, he creates perspective. It is this perspective that comprises a large part of the story’s message.
Still, simply stating one’s attitudes toward the issues does little to convince someone else to see things the same way. Unless the author’s message is preaching to the audience’s choir, he’s going to need to convince them to share his attitude. To do this, he will need to make a thematic argument over the course of the story which will slowly dislodge the audience from their previously held beliefs and reposition them so that they adopt the author’s beliefs by the time the story is over.
Novice authors often assume the order in which events transpire in a story is the order in which they are revealed to the audience, but these are not necessarily the same. Through exposition, an author unfolds the story, dropping bits and pieces that the audience rearranges until the true meaning of the story becomes clear. This technique involves the audience as an active participant in the story rather than simply being a passive observer. It also reflects the way people go about solving their own problems.
When people try to work out ways of dealing with their problems they tend to identify and organize the pieces before they assemble them into a plan of action. So, they often jump around the timeline, filling in the different steps in their plan out of sequence as they gather additional information and draw new conclusions.
In the Story Mind, both of these attributes are represented as well. We refer to the internal logic of the story – the order in which the events in the problem solving approach actually occurred – as the Plot. The order in which the Story Mind deals with the events as it develops its problem solving plan is called Storyweaving.
If an author blends these two aspects together, it is very easy miss holes in the internal logic because they are glossed over by smooth exposition. By separating them, an author gains complete control of the progression of the story as well as the audience’s progressive experience
If Characters represent the conflicting drives in our own minds yet they each have a personal point of view, where is out sense of self represented in the Story Mind? After all, every real person has a unique point of view that defines his or her own self-awareness.
In fact, there is one special character in a story that represents the Story Mind’s identity. This character, the Main Character, functions as the audience position in the story. He, she or it is the eye of the story – the story’s ego.
In an earlier tip I described how we might look at characters by their dramatic function, as seen from the perspective of a General on a hill. But what if we zoomed down and stood in the shoes of just one of those characters, we would have a much more personal view of the story from the inside looking out.
But which character should be our Main Character? Most often authors select the Protagonist to represent the audience position in the story. This creates the stereotypical Hero who both drives the plot forward and also provides the personal view of the audience. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement but it limits the audience to always experiencing what the quarterback feels, never the linemen or the water boy.
In real life we are more often one of the supporting characters in an endeavor than we are the leader of the effort. If you have always made your Protagonist the Main Character, you have been limiting your possibilities.
The Story Mind concept is a way of visualizing story structure that sees every story as having a mind of its own and the characters within it as facets of that overall mind. So, one character represents the Intellect of the Story Mind and another functions as its Skepticism, for example.
Of course, this is just at a structural level – the mechanics of the story. Naturally, characters also have to be real people in their own right so the readers or audience can identify with them.
But, structurally, the archetypes we see in stories are very like the basic mental attributes we all possess, made tangible as avatars of the Story Mind’s thought processes.
Well, that’s a pretty radical concept. So before asking any writer to invest his or her time in a concept as different as the Story Mind, it is only fair to provide an explanation of why such a thing should exist. To do this, let us look briefly into the nature of communication between an author and an audience and see if there is supporting evidence to suggest that character archetypes are facets of a greater Story Mind.
When an author tells a tale, he simply describes a series of events that both makes sense and feels right. As long as there are no breaks in the logic and no mis-steps in the emotional progression, the structure of the tale is sound.
Now, from a structural standpoint, it really doesn’t matter what the tale is about, who the characters are, or how it turns out. The tale is just a truthful or fictional journey that starts in one situation, travels a straight or twisting path, and ends in another situation.
The meaning of a tale amounts to a statement that if you start from “here,” and take “this” path, you’ll end up “here.” The message of a tale is that a particular path is a good or bad one, depending on whether the ending point is better or worse than the point of departure.
This structure is easily seen in the vast majority of familiar fairy “tales.” Tales have been used since the first storytellers practiced their craft. In fact, many of the best selling novels and most popular motion pictures of our own time are simple tales, expertly told.
In a structural sense, tales have power in that they can encourage or discourage audience members from taking particular actions in real life. The drawback of a tale is that it speaks only in regard to that specific path.
But in fact, there are many paths that might be taken from a given point of departure. Suppose an author wants to address those as well, to cover all the alternatives. What if the author wants to say that rather than being just a good or bad path, a particular course of action the best or worst path of all that might have been taken?
Now the author is no longer making a simple statement, but a “blanket” statement. Such a blanket statement provides no “proof” that the path in question is the best or worst, it simply says so. Of course, an audience is not likely to be moved to accept such a bold claim, regardless of how well the tale is told.
In the early days of storytelling, an author related the tale to his audience in person. Should he aspire to wield more power over his audience and elevate his tale to become a blanket statement, the audience would no doubt cry, “Foul!” and demand that he prove it. Someone in the audience might bring up an alternative path that hadn’t been included in the tale.
The author might then counter that rebuttal to his blanket statement by describing how the path proposed by the audience was either not as good or better (depending on his desired message) than the path he did include.
One by one, he could disperse any challenges to his tale until he either exhausted the opposition or was overcome by an alternative he couldn’t dismiss.
But as soon as stories began to be recorded in media such as song ballads, epic poems, novels, stage plays, screenplays, teleplays, and so on, the author was no longer present to defend his blanket statements.
As a result, some authors opted to stick with simple tales of good and bad, but others pushed the blanket statement tale forward until the art form evolved into the “story.”
A story is a much more sophisticated form of communication than a tale, and is in fact a revolutionary leap forward in the ability of an author to make a point. Simply put, when creating a story, and author starts with a tale of good or bad, expands it to a blanket statement of best or worst, and then includes all the reasonable alternatives to the path he is promoting to preclude any counters to his message. In other words, while a tale is a statement, a story becomes an argument.
Now this puts a huge burden of proof on an author. Not only does he have to make his own point, but he has to prove (within reason) that all opposing points are less valid. Of course, this requires than an author anticipate any objections an audience might raise to his blanket statement. To do this, he must look at the situation described in his story and examine it from every angle anyone might happen to take in regard to that issue.
By incorporating all reasonable (and valid emotional) points of view regarding the story’s message in the structure of the story itself, the author has not only defended his argument, but has also included all the points of view the human mind would normally take in examining that central issue. In effect, the structure of the story now represents the whole range of considerations a person would make if fully exploring that issue.
In essence, the structure of the story as a whole now represents a map of the mind’s problem solving processes, and (without any intent on the part of the author) has become a Story Mind.
And so, the Story Mind concept is not really all that radical. It is simply a short hand way of describing that all sides of a story must be explored to satisfy an audience. And, and if this is done, the structure of the story takes on the nature of a single character.
The Story Mind concept is drawn from the Dramatica Theory of Story Structure. Learn more about Dramatica at Storymind.com
From Melanie Anne Phillips, Owner of Storymind.com
Here’s the beginning of an article I wrote back a few years ago when I was a consultant for the CIA and the NSA on narrative psychology. I eventually finished the article, but am cleaning out my hard drive and this is the first thing I found and figured it was still worth publishing as an early draft:
Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources
By Melanie Anne Phillips, Co-creator, Dramatica Theory
The ability to assess a current situation and accurately predict its course is perhaps the paramount requirement for the security of an individual or a nation. To that end, we have developed ever more sophisticated systems for gathering and analyzing information to both understand the dangers of the present and to be prepared for emerging dangers in the future.
Current systems are largely based on a marriage of statistical databases and a variety of algorithms ranging from influence networks to hub theory to fluid dynamics and even models of the progression of infectious diseases. Increasingly, advancements in artificial intelligence have provided additional capability through the application of machine learning, group mind theory, and hierarchies of intelligent agents.
Despite these enhancements, our technology is rapidly approaching a limit as to how much more accurate and predictive it can become, regardless of further developments based on the same fundamental approaches. As a result, though our capacity to gather data has increased explosively, our ability to understand predictive patterns and employ them in a feedback loop to redirect our data gathering resources has lagged behind.
The problem behind this limitation is that there remains a missing piece in our analytic capacity: the ability to definitively model and predict the human element in terms of motivations and responses. While we can create algorithms to describe patterns of human movement and can assess individuals and organizations through psychological profiling, these approaches are largely built upon probability based on historic observation.
What is lacking is a unifying paradigm of human behavior based not on statistics, but on the underlying dynamics and interaction of mental processes, both cognitive and affective – essentially, a model of the mind itself.
Historically, attempts to model the mind have proven insufficient, but recently a much more functional system, which has been employed successfully in the field of narrative science for nearly twenty years, has emerged as a viable solution to the problem.
What follows is a description of this system and how it might be incorporated into to the existing framework of our data gathering resources.
I’ll publish the complete article, if and when I find it as I plow through the archives…