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beyond conflict base story through minimal story

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hello! Did really all story conflict base? It seems to me that there is a more large sets for story that most westerner tradition let in the meme pool. Let's use minimal story to highlight this. Minimal story is story reduce to there bare component, the 3 acts structure (exposition, developement, conclusion) in nearly one sentence. for ex a commonly conflict base story: "Bowser kidnap the princess but Mario manage to save her". "Bowser kidnap the princess" is the exposition, the first state of the story,"Mario manage to save her" is the conclusion, the last state. Heck what about the developement? well it's implicit by the juxtaposition of the exposition and the conclusion, it's emergent. Reverse the order of the proposition and you have a complete diferent story. Developement is the process of going from state 1 to state 2, and in this case, this process is a conflict or a problem that need a resolution (the kidnaping). Let assume that a good story reside in the surprising but meaningful and relevent twist (process) that lead from the first state to the last. Here to say, is there other kind of process for going from state 1 to state 2 that make compelling story? This why we should use minimal stories as they give us a cheap framework to study this problem efficiently. Some sample "Harry marry a woman but discover it was a man." Here the story do not open with a conflict or a problem but finish with, it is a form which is widely use in comedy (of manner and attitude?) in my opinion, but it detract from the conflict approch, well at least in the auditory part since the writer would start with this as a problem. "Bowser kidnap the princess but mario pick up a ice cream" In this case, the story use context of meme pool to convey his meaning, the reader must know who is bowser and mario to make sens of that. The story rely on specific external data to get meaning. "Harry dedicates all his life to women, he dies happy" This a particular story that are not conflict base. Insteed he highlight a statement. A full fledge story will be full of case that demonstrate this, not necesserly with conflict. I think miyazaki's Totoro is from this kind. "He was a normal guy, but he killed seven psychopath all by himself" This, here too, is not necesserly conflict oriented. By instance it is the telling of an extraordinary event. I may have choose a better exemple for exemple a child that have make it to the top of everest... Can you think of anything else? Did this make sense to you? Side note: I tend to categorize story into two diferent category for myself, temporal, and spatial. While temporal tend to be very chronological (such as conflict type story), spatial are most base on case and variation of combinaison of element to show a theme, just like a demonstration that show many case to let you understand the whole picture. Spatial story tend to have a puzzle feel (collect information) than temporal one. PS: i'm french, sorry if the langage is sometimes confuse :)

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I think that it is dangerous to sum up a story in a single sentence because you may not do it the same way for every story. For example:

"Harry dedicates all his life to women, he dies happy"
This a particular story that are not conflict base.

How do you know that? Maybe it would be more accurate to say, "Harry fights to dedicate his life to women despite pressure to do otherwise, and his valiant struggle is rewarded with a happy death." It's the same story, but now it looks like it has lots of conflict.

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You are right to some extent :) But it assume that the story is that only present to you, any story could be rewrite with conflict, don't they? That's basically what you have done, you have rewrite the story to add conflict:p.

Minimal story stand up for their own and avoid lengthy text to go through for getting the idea. They are not sum up, they are minimal but yet complete story.

EDIT:
Quote:
Minimal story is story reduce to there bare component, the 3 acts structure (exposition, developement, conclusion) in nearly one sentence.
for ex a commonly conflict base story: "Bowser kidnap the princess but Mario manage to save her". "Bowser kidnap the princess" is the exposition, the first state of the story,"Mario manage to save her" is the conclusion, the last state. Heck what about the developement? well it's implicit by the juxtaposition of the exposition and the conclusion, it's emergent. Reverse the order of the proposition and you have a complete diferent story. Developement is the process of going from state 1 to state 2, and in this case, this process is a conflict or a problem that need a resolution (the kidnaping). Let assume that a good story reside in the surprising but meaningful and relevent twist (process) that lead from the first state to the last.


I can see where the confusion is, it is not that an existing story (content) is reduce to his bare component but rather that the type of story is to be minimal. They are complete but very short in order to highlight some mecanism that apply to all story. It helps understanding of more complex ones IMHO.

For exemple i find out (or it was made more clear) that the 2nd act in story were simply transition, and i could study them as like (how many type of transition we could have without chaging the nature of the story?).

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Oh I see, you were intending your examples to be complete mini stories, not summaries of larger stories. Well, in that case I would have to argue that none your examples are not complete minimal stories. I believe a minimal story must describe a situation, how that situation motivates a character to do something, and what the result of that is.

"Harry marry a woman but discover it was a man." This only has part one, the situation. We don't know how the man reacts, or what the ultimate outcome is.

"Harry dedicates all his life to women, he dies happy" is missing the first part - what is the situation which makes it significant that he dedicates his life to women?

"Bowser kidnap the princess but mario pick up a ice cream" is missing the third part - are we supposed to assume that the princess stays kidnapped permanently?

"He was a normal guy, but he killed seven psychopath all by himself" This one is a different type of story, it is a How story rather than a Why story. So rather than caring why he killed the psychopaths (because it's obvious that psychopaths ought to be killed) we need to know how an ordinary guy killed seven psychopaths all by himself.

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Hello sun'n'shad!

I was waiting for some comment along those kind, i was delibaretly lefting those aspect in the shadow. I do not felt that a complete story should cover all the things you mention, however a good DRAMA story should. OK i use a broader sense of story as a simple telling of a collection of event (so at least it's my own definition of minimal story).

If i have left the 'why' it's on purpose, you can have a story with 'how' without the 'why' but not the contrary. It is not about good story, but a bout different basis, so i have skip a lot of requirement for good story. At least it's like those gossiping story between people, still useful to understand before going for more 'complete' storyform since we have a more basic form to learn without the complexity. I know i'm rather radical.

However coming back to your argument :) let me explain some thing:
As i say it is minimal story, so i was seeking for minimal requirement that define a story. I have explain what these minimal requirement work in my opinion, so let's see how it work against your argument.

Minimal story is satisfy when you have the three acts.

Quote:
"Harry marry a woman but discover it was a man." This only has part one, the situation. We don't know how the man reacts, or what the ultimate outcome is.


The first act: he marry
The last act: he discover he is a man
The process beetween the two (the second act): the process of discovering
The listener of the reader, even if there is no characterisation, react by the meaning that is hold by the intresec quality of the terms, how can you not feel sorry for harry. The story generates empathy and sympathy for Harry despite is lack of caracterisation, because we could indentify the nature of the situation: "I would be really bad if I was Harry."

If you we would have to develop the story, i would put emphasis on laying down clues that contradict the first statement "Harry marry a woman" but hold ambiguity to raise interest of the listener. Perhaps the woman is virgin? or she had been abuse before? We could have erratic comportement that raise question. The story interest would be to understand what going on, the mystery that detract the normality.

The story would be a puzzle for the listener. And that's why the ultimate reaction of Harry is not that important, that's not the point of the story. Even the final revelation could be left in ambiguity for the listener if the teller suceed in building a sense of closure to create an open end. This not a 'why' story or a 'how' story, it is a 'what' story. However this a kind of borderline case of conflict base story.


Quote:
"Bowser kidnap the princess but mario pick up a ice cream" is missing the third part - are we supposed to assume that the princess stays kidnapped permanently?


Simply replace the BUT by THEN
Here the first part and the last part have no corealation, this is absurb and unexpected. Parody and humor tend to be from this kind. The first part of a story always raise expectation that is use for the other part, it build context.

Here the story make sense in two case: there is an asumption that says that there always be a character to save a kidnap character in a story, and the other is more cultural, we know mario always had to save the princess. Then you don't expect that mario pick up an ice cream. The first asumption dig in our basic feeling of human being, the opposition of the mundane and the tragic create a sens uneasiness that can be resolve in laugh (for well craft humor)or discomfort for everything else. The second asumption use the already known information and lead us to extrapolate meaning about the character, we know their relation, so it's kind of unusual that the first action following is to pick up ice cream, it implicitly says that Mario must be fed up to save the princess. I don't know what is the english word for the cinematique term in french of "montage", but because two things are together they build the next most meaningful asumption to resolve the uneasiness of absurd or nonsensical association. Story use this to convey lots of things, if you exchange the place of the statement of that story, you have an uneventful story where there is no tension build and no uneasiness.

[quote"He was a normal guy, but he killed seven psychopath all by himself" This one is a different type of story, it is a How story rather than a Why story. So rather than caring why he killed the psychopaths (because it's obvious that psychopaths ought to be killed) we need to know how an ordinary guy killed seven psychopaths all by himself.
[/quote]

The process is quite similar to the first dispute story (puzzle oriented), the difference is that we already know 'what' but don't know 'how' has you state. I may have make a mistake then since there is no second part really here, i have assume that the first state was 'normal guy' and the last 'killed seven psychopath', since it's unusual that a normal one could beat them. However it's rather interesting, because when you put some thought about it, you find that the process is about telling another process!

The conclusion is interesting did all storyform start with one the five W question missing to build a narrative tension?
Another thing is that my minimal story are very similar of premise, since premise are fondation of bigger story it's interesting to analyze how much we master and create from these simple form.

Any comments? can you see other objection or thing i could have miss?

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Sure, you can tell a story without a conflict, but it won't be an interesting one.


Yesterday I went to the store and bought a hat. The hat looked good on my head, and it nicely complemented the color of my hair. I went home wearing my hat, and showed it to my Dad. He also liked the hat and asked me to buy him one also. I did, and we both loved our hats.

The end


Have you ever had somebody sit you down and tell you something like that? About halfway through, you realize that the story is going nowhere (usually the teller does also, and kind of trails off...)

It's a story, but it's not terribly intriguing.

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That's why i'm chalenging the idea by simple example, i'm saying that it is not conflict which is important but the tension raise beetween statement.

There is no tension in your story, each state does not challenge each other, there is no puzzle to uncover, that's why he lead nowhere.

let's add some twists.

> I bought a red hat for my dad, it happen that he hate it

> I give my hat to my father, it was cursed

> I thrown away my hat, it was talking to me

> someone steal my red hat, wait it's you!



It's a difficult exercise, i not meant that i have the talent for. Just trying to think outside the box. Ok these story are not that exciting, there is no epic battle or complex political plot. But it is simply an attempt to find new way to go beyond.

How it come to be useful? well a complex story is made up of multiple minimal story. For exemple we can draw better understanding about expositary scene of character or any story object with one of the other form.

The multiple little tension built sentence after sentence help to convey the sense of good writing, like multiple reward repeted for the reader, the kind of moment to moment mecanism that are hard to track down. That's what i'm seeking.

Gossiping story draw interest with similar repeted tension, but are based on interpersonnal context, they can only be sucessful on local context. Sucessful gossiper raise question from listener to punctuate their telling and engage the auditory. You can challenge the overall form of the sucessive minimal story that occur from, but locally (in the social net of the gossiper) they are some what like well craft (well asuming the teller is charismatic enough).

I was studying 'Tess of d'Uberville' in my english litterature class, a rather boring story for modern standard but well written. The first chapiter is an exposition that tell metaphorically through description all the story. It happen that i have better understanding how the auteur build that scene by analysing variation on minimal form. The interest is build with careful sequence of clue that isn't base on conflict and build slowly the tension.

The end of this is to sucessfully translate narrative techniques in interactive media. That's why i'm trying to strip off as much as i can to find the dna.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Conflict is drama. Your last three examples all contain conflict, which is why they are more inetersting than previous examples.

> I bought a red hat for my dad, it happen that he hate it

> I give my hat to my father, it was cursed

> I thrown away my hat, it was talking to me

> someone steal my red hat, wait it's you!


Every one of those scenarios contains potential conflict. Without it, your story is flat.

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Well, I guess it all depends on how you define 'story'. Personally, I would say that a minimal story must have a problematic situation, a character who cares that there is a problem and attempts to do something about it, and some kind of resolution of the problem which expresses a moral. If it doesn't have all that it's not a story, only a statement. But, it's easy to get confused about what is a story and what isn't because our brains will naturally make guesses to turn non-stories into stories.

For example, you say "how can you not feel sorry for harry" because you guess that Harry would be upset that his wife turns out to be a man. But how upset? Does he calmly have the marriage annulled, kill himself, kill the crossdresser (and then regret it or not), kill both? What if he's not upset, what if he was secretly gay, or he decides he loves his wife no matter what 'she' is, or he decides he's going to become a crossdresser too? Psychologically, the beginning of a story is when readers start caring and the end of a story is when readers stop caring. The reader's attention is captured by presenting a problem with emptional significance, and the reader is satisfied and stops paying attention when they are presented with a resolution to the problem. If either of these are lacking the reader is either disinterested or dissatisfied, and disinteresting and dissatisfying things fail at being stories because the writer has not successfully communicated with the reader and the reader.

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Well it's more a matter of trying to find hidden parameter that to lay down a definition of story. It's more a thought challenge than anythings else.

I'm trying to think outside the box here.

As for the exemple i toss away, yes, they are mostly conflict base... because it's harder to drop habit!

This idea strikes on me while watching Miyazaki's Totoro, I had simply love it, but a part of me was crying loud: what was the point (as a narrative aware person)? There were no conflict per see. It was not the first time nor the last but can't remember other situation or story that create the same feeling.

Totoro was a story about two little girl moving into rural japan and meeting with the kami Totoro. No conflict, only the telling of the discovery of nature and the meeting, still a very compelling and interesting story.
It did had a conflict in Totoro, near the end the little sister wanted to see her ill mother and lost herself in the road, so there was a run to find her and bring her to see his mother. BUT the purpose was to have a great final, it was independent from the other events, it was a story within the story, it simply give a better sens of closure since the story could go endlessly. I find also the characterisation rather weak but it does not matter as it was more about passing general sensation, like if the character were a mask for ourselve to drag us into the situation. It was not about them but about us. However the moment to moment structure is full of 'minimal story' that keep us watching.

I find that purely conflict base story are so much dry and lost in sophistication that it's harder to be drag on.

So that's lead to that question, is there thing that is interesting beyond problem in story, like my experience led me to think?
I have the intuition that good story and good writing mix the two, the conflict and that undefine parameter.

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