- Gender and Narrative Theory
- The Mental Sex of a Story
One of the most Advanced Concepts behind the narrative framework within Subtxt is the idea of Mental Sex. This concept, originated within the Dramatica theory of story, posits the notion that there are two separate operating systems of the mind.
As these two systems reflect the "boot record" of the mind, they exhibit a significant force on the arrangement of narrative dynamics within a story.
Appreciating the differences between these two systems can help storytellers grow closer to their work, and a greater understanding of their own thought processes.
Gender and Narrative Theory
Physical Sex and Mental Sex are fixed and static (structural); Gender Identity and Gender Preference are fluid (dynamic). This is why you'll find some who switch identities day-to-day, find themselves attracted to one or both genders, and turn around and flow into something completely different the next day.
Please be aware that the application of Mental Sex in Subtxt derives from the original Dramatica theory of story's narrative concept.
Notably, one of Dramatica's co-creators has personal experience with gender transition. In some respects, it is this familiarity with "both sides" that is responsible for the theory's unique and enlightening insights.
Therefore, it's essential to understand that the use of these terms is handled with the utmost care and sensitivity. There is no requirement to "update" them or attempt to make them more politically correct. The distinctions between these terms, and their contrasts with physical sex and gender identity, are crucial to understanding their role within the structure of a narrative.
Physical Sex is fixed and set at birth. You can modify your physicality through surgery and switch it from one sex to another.
Mental Sex is fixed and set at birth. While we can't currently modify this boot record of our mind permanently the way we can with our physicality, we can alter it by numbing the filter through pharmacology.
Gender Identity and Gender Preference work on the fluid axis of the narrative quad, i.e. it can be difficult to determine where one stops and the other begins. The Sex axis is easy to differentiate: Physical is External, Mental Sex is Internal. The Gender axis is where many find themselves floating back and forth.
It's also where many confuse the way they think with their actual Mental Sex.
Subtxt and Dramatica theory tend to attract those who do not think in absolutes--this is a good thing. Unfortunately, a by-product of this ability to see everything is a blindness to that which is certain and fixed. Upon introduction to these concepts, many Male Mental Sex writers consider themselves Female Mental Sexed. They appreciate the difference between Linear and Holistic thought, and finding themselves attracted to the latter mislabel their mind.
That attraction, or preference, for Holistic thought is just that: a Gender Preference. The lower left component of a narrative quad in Dramatica theory is Desire. Whether that signifies a desire for someone else, or a longing for wanting that which is missing, it is still anchored in the area of Psychology.
Mental Sex is the Mind and what is thought. Gender Preference is Psychology and how one thinks.
Gender Identity is where you'll find pronouns (he/her, she/him, they/them). Gender Preference is where you'll find attraction, both external (partners) and internal (drives and thoughts).
The fallout from this confusion? Many Male Mental Sex writers with a preference for Holistic thought choose Female Mental Sex when developing the structure of their narrative. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this approach or this decision. Storytellers are free to tell whatever story or manner of thinking they find themselves attracted to.
But they will struggle on an intuitive level when it comes to writing these kinds of stories as they simply don't have the personal experience and appreciation to flow with a narrative immersed in justification.
The answer? Select Male Mental Sex when constructing your narrative and then adjust the Storytelling and the experience of writing that story to match the abilities and preferences of the artistic drive within yourself.
There's a reason Gender is fluid and Sex is not. Male Mental Sex blends both the upper right (ability) and the lower left (desire) when appreciating both Gender and Sex. That's why it appears as something fluid and why many who are wholly Male Mental Sex might not even be able to differentiate between Gender and Sex (male is male, and female is female, male is linear, female is holistic).
Mental Sex and Gender Preference also present themselves as Companion Pairs (horizontal) in the quad of Gender and Sex. Many will find an association between the way they think and Mental Sex, because they seem to fit so well together. Same with those who think Physical Sex and Gender Identity (also Companion Pairs) similar.
This is where artifical intelligence stumbles a bit when telling a story.
A History of Association
Initial incarnations of Subtxt AI relied on this association of Physical Sex and Gender Identity to provide illustrations. Without a place to record a Player's Gender Identity, the AI would simply rely on thousands and thousands of years of written text to interpolate and appreciate what set of pronouns to use.
You can't really blame these language models. After all, if you're calling upon the entire knowledgeable of human history that on average (and cultural bias) thinks male is male, and female is female--you're going to run into some issues.
In order to account for the entire gamut of storytelling, Subtxt provides an option to set the Gender Identity of Players in your story (male, female, or non-binary). Male is M, Female is F.
Non-binary is marked Z to reflect the blend that occurs between both Gender Identity and Gender Preference.
Video: Gender and Narrative Theory
The Mental Sex of a Story
The Mental Sex of a story determines the relationship between the structural and dynamic appreciations of the narrative.
With Subtxt, you set the Mental Sex of your story in the Premise Builder Subtxt Settings:
Male Mental Sex stories focus on Achieving a Goal while Female Mental Sex stories focus on Setting an Intention. The reason for this is that the Male Mental Sexed mind processes conflict through cause and effect, while the Female Mental Sex mind processes through the balancing of inequities.
Once set, Female Mental Sex stories and Male Mental Sex stories perform exactly the same way. This setting only informs Subtxt what to do at the build process.
It's important to note that a Female Mental Sex story is not just about "relationships" or "seeing all sides of the conflict." A Female Mental Sex story is one whose narrative is constructed through relationships between structural and dynamic appreciations of a Storyform, rather than the cause and effect found in Male Mental Sex stories.Other than that, once a Storyform is found, a Female Mental Sex story works exactly like a Male Mental Sex story.
A Matter of Emphasis and Intent
To help writers better understand the composition of their narratives, Subtxt alters the interface to match the Mental Sex of the story. In general, this approach focuses Male Mental Sex stories on linear/cause-and-effect components and Female Mental Sex stories more in the direction of holism and balancing inequities.
You will find these alterations in several key areas:
- the order of Throughlines
- the presence of Story Drivers
- Storyform considerations
- the order of Thematic Cycles in a Storybeat
The first place you will find a difference is in the order of Throughlines within a story.
The Order of Throughlines
Under Throughlines, a Male Mental Sex story will list the Four Throughlines in this order:
- Objective Story
- Main Character
- Obstacle Character
- Relationship Story
As with all things narrative, the order of these Throughlines carries meaning. A Male Mental Sex story gives preference to the Objective Story plot and the Main Character Throughline. The secondary subjective Throughlines of Obstacle Character and Relationship Story exist in relation to these first two more important considerations of the Storymind.
A Female Mental Sex story, with its emphasis on balancing inequities and self-actualization, orders the Throughlines with more of an inside-out approach:
- Main Character
- Relationship Story
- Obstacle Character
- Objective Story
Observe any of the Female Mental Sex stories (Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves, Moulin Rouge!, etc.) and you will find that those stories grant preferential treatment to the Main Character and Relationship Story Throughlines first, before then moving on to the more externalized Obstacle Character and Objective Story Throughlines. In these stories, the individual is more important than the objective plot.
Adjusting the Presence of Story Drivers
Story Drivers constitute the underlying cause-and-effect connections between Storybeats, predominantly associated with the Objective Story Throughline. However, in a Female Mental Sex story, where emphasis lies less on cause-and-effect and more on direction and intention, the first Story Driver from the Objective Story Throughline is typically diminished. Subtxt accommodates this characteristic by reducing the prominence of the initial Story Driver in such narratives.
This is not an oversight—it's an intentional narrative device.
Reflect upon previous films based on a Female Mental Sex perspective, and you may struggle to pinpoint the initial major plot points. This is a consequence of the Female Mental Sex mind's tendency to prioritize direction and intention over straightforward cause-and-effect dynamics.
Although these drivers continue to shape the narrative subtly from behind the scenes, they may not command as much attention as they would in a Male Mental Sex story. This relative de-emphasis is particularly noticeable at the story's beginning, with subsequent adjustments typically occurring mid-narrative and towards the conclusion.
In addition to altering the Static Plot Points to better serve a purpose of Intention rather than Achieving a Goal, Subtxt alters the motivating Elements of each Throughline. Problem and Solution are presented as Condition and Revision, and Focus and Direction are served up as Resistance and Flow.
They still perform and relate to each other the same way they would in a Male Mental Sex story, you'll just find this set of terminology brings you closer to what a Female Mental Sex story is really all about.
The Order of Thematic Cycles
Lastly, you'll find that the order of Thematic Cycles switches depending on whether the story is a Male Mental Sex narrative or a Female Mental Sex narrative. This switch is meant to reinforce the justification process each mind goes through as it works to resolve and manage an inequity.
A Male Mental Sex story will sound off Thematic Cycles in this order:
Whereas a Female Mental Sex story will ring truth through:
You can liken this recognition to the blindspots inherent within each mind. The Male Mental Sex mind sees time as distinct and something to be blended with the concept of space (spacetime). The Female Mental Sex mind considers the known to be unknowable, and therefore falls blind to more structural and/or material concerns.
All Cycles are present in both minds, it's just a matter of preference and deference.