Methods and Illustrations

Methods in Subtxt are the processes and techniques by which the model of the Storymind works through a narrative argument. While sometimes labeled as something static or inert (the Past, the Present, Memory, etc.), every Method is a functional narrative engine, i.e. instead of the Past being something fixed, we think of that Method as Past -ing whereby the model functionally moves through a focus of the Past.

Illustrations are a means by which Authors may translate these Methods into Storytelling. Inspired by “gists” from Dramatica theory and improved through practical experience, Subtxt’s Illustrations bridge the gap between the artist (You) and complex narrative terminology (Methods). With an added community aspect, bolstered by expert curation, the ever-expansive collection of Illustrations in Subtxt guarantees a productive writing experience.

One of the biggest mistakes any writer can make while developing a story with the Dramatica theory of story is to use these Methods as direct objects of storytelling. Narrative Methods are VERBS, not direct objects, and certainly not nouns. If you find yourself twisting the meaning of a Method such that the Illustration treats it as an object, rather than a process, know that you're diluting its effectiveness within your narrative.

General Illustrations and Story Specific Illustrations

Throughout Subtxt, you will find two areas where you can interact with Illustrations: a General understanding of an Illustration, and a more Story Specific representation of a particular Method.

Illustrations in Subtxt

In the example above, you can see how William is tasked with Doing in a Transit from the Objective Story Throughline plot. Doing as a Method can take on many different forms as it simply refers to "engaging in a physical activity."

A General Illustration of Doing from the Subtxt library is "doing remarkable things." You can imagine a story where William doing remarkable creates both positive and negative instances of conflict. This is the purpose of the General Illustration: to give you an idea of where to take your story in regards to the present point of the narrative.

Subtxt intelligently looks to the subject of the Storybeat or Storypoint and adjusts the Illustration accordingly. A group of Players within the same Beat above might see a General Illustration of "do remarkable things", rather than "does remarkable things." Keeping the Player and the Illustration aligned makes sure you stay present within the illustrating of the current Storypoint or Storybeat.

If we wanted to build on this general idea of "doing remarkable things", we could click on the Story Specific Illustration, and add "does remarkable things while horseback riding".

Story Specific Illustrations in Subtxt

Not only does this draw us closer to imaginative and unique Storytelling, but it also clues Subtxt AI into a better understanding of your story when compared to every other story out there in the world. Feel free to use this area as much as you want to customize your story-building experience with Subtxt.

Story Specific Illustrations, and Illustrations in general, must be kept short in order to be effective when building a story. If you go beyond the limit, Subtxt will inform you with a red counter in the bottom right hand corner. Story Specific Illustrations that go beyond the limit will not be used when making Subtxt AI requests.

Note that General Illustrations are public, and accessible to everyone who subscribes to Subtxt. Story-specific Illustrations are private and remain hidden in your account.

If you don't feel confident enough that what you're coming up with in Story-specific adheres to the original intent of the Storypoint or Storybeat, then just stick with the General Illustration. The combination of that, along with whatever may come up in the Subtext section, should give you more than enough rich material to draw upon in your story.

The Subtxt Illustration Library

Whether accessed through the Random Illustration button located to the right of the General Illustration, or in the General Illustration Dropdown, Subtxt maintains an extensive professionally-curated library of Illustrations.

If you can't find a General Illustration that connects with your story, you can Submit an Illustration for approval.

The key component of Subtxt’s Illustrations is community. By submitting candidates for possible introduction into the global library, Subtxt’s writers improve the collective understanding and effectiveness of this approach to storytelling.

Once submitted, Subtxt notifies our staff of your suggestion. Until we review your submission, your temporary General Illustration will appear as gold within your application.

Once approved, your Illustration will be added to the general Subtxt library and be available to anyone who uses Subtxt. If denied, Subtxt will replace your Illustration with an approved instance of that particular Method.

When inventing a new Illustration for a Method, make sure it takes into account its Parent method. Everything in Dramatica theory is relativistic. While "killing someone" might seem like a legitimate Illustration for Ending, looking at its Parent Methods proves otherwise. It would be difficult to justify "killing someone" in the context of either Enlightenment (in Physics), or Fantasy (in Universe). This works the opposite way too: Parent Methods should somehow relate to the Children Methods beneath them.

An Opportunity to Learn

While you can easily skip over the Submission process by entering your Illustration directly into the Story Specific box, you should think of the General Illustration Submission as an opportunity learn more about how these Methods work in narrative.

Whether approved or denied, you will receive an email notifying you of our decision. If denied, we will often cite the reason why and explain what would have worked better and even suggest alternative Illustrations.

Rejection Email for Illustration Submission

Learning by Example

As mentioned before, community is a key aspect of Subtxt’s mission. Beneath the master list of Illustrations and the suggestion box for new entries you will find a list of recent approvals and rejections for that Method. By opening the results of the approval process to everyone, the entire community can take advantage and learn from the most recent developments.

List of Illustrations Below each Method

The rejection list includes the reasoning behind the denial, in the hope that this will act as a prime learning opportunity.

(They, of course, remain anonymous)

Illustrating Narrative Methods

You’ll find the complete library of Illustrations listed below every Method:

The Master List of Illustrations for a Specific Method

Each Illustration represents a close approximation of narrative structure. While definitions exist for each Method (found at the very bottom of every Method), these different versions allow for an improved understanding of the intent behind each narrative function. By offering a wide range of possibilities, the Author scans the collection and infers the meaning of the Method, rather than focusing on the Method itself.

Tap the All button to open up the entire collection, and the Shuffle button to juggle the current set.

When considering a specific Method for writing, allow yourself to take in a set of Illustrations. Feel the intent behind the group. Then shuffle the set, and repeat. Continue this until you recognize the essence of what is being asked by this Method.

General Illustrations of Methods range from Too Little to Too Much, and everything in-between. A Narrative Method of Conscious can be:

  • Too much: Dwelling on Something
  • Too little: Being Thoughtless
  • Just right: Wondering about Something

To help writers understand the breadth of possibility when writing with purpose, Subtxt categorizes Illustrations into these three categories. You can find them sectioned off in the master list of Illustrations for each Method. Tap All to see their positive (Too Much) and negative aspects (Too Little).

A Wide Range of Illustrations

Note that none of these Illustrations use the phrases "trying to" or "struggling to" when elaborating on a Method. Know that whenever you speak of conflict in these terms, your subconscious is keeping you from truly writing about what is problematic or inequitable.

Submitting by Method

Beneath the list of Illustrations on every Method’s page lies an entry form for suggesting new entries. Simply type in your idea and hit Submit. Subtxt’s team of experts will be notified and will start the approval process.

Submitting an Illustration on a Method Page

Note that Subtxt’s intelligence system automatically updates Illustrations for use in every context. You don’t need to submit an entry for “climbing a mountain” and “climbs a mountain.” Subtxt will take care of all that for you.

When submitting ideas for Illustrations, try to keep them as general as possible. You may be writing a story about “climbing Mt. Shasta,” but the rest of the community benefits without the specificity. If you do suggest an Illustration with too much detail, we may approve it—but will generalize the result to best suit everyone.

Once approved, your Illustration will appear in the master list for that Method. If denied, an email will be sent to your account explaining the reason for the rejection.

The Latest and Greatest

If you would like to keep up-to-date on the latest additions and rejections to the Subtxt library, visit the central Methods page (tap Methods in the sidebar), and tap the gold Latest Illustrations button in the upper right hand corner.

Latest Illustrations of Methods

Subtxt finds the latest group of Approved Illustrations and Rejected Submissions. Tap on View to see the most recent updates. The Rejections include the reasoning behind the denial.

The Latest Additions and Rejections

Key Guideline for Illustrations

If you find yourself confused as to why an Illustration was denied or why others were accepted, know that to be a part of the Subtxt Library an Illustration must be both transitive and present. "Abandoning preconceptions" is a culmination event involving Preconceptions, not an active process. "Not having preconceptions", on the other hand, is both present and transitory.

Methods are micro-engines of story: they must describe a process.

"Ending of an Attachment to Fantasy" is yet another culminative moment, while "Not Having an Attachment to Fantasy" is present and transitory, and for the purpose of the Subtxt library: acceptable.

Illustrations as Objects

Another key concept of an Illustration is that it look to the Method as a verb, rather than the object of a sentence. The "MadLibs" approach of working with a Storyform in Subtxt finds many casting the Method as the direct object of a sentence (e.g. "Adopting Other's Memories" as a a possible Illustration of Memory).

While this rule of Illustrations as verbs works for almost all cases, there are some Illustrations that use the Method as an object, yet still maintain the transitory nature of a Method in process.

Illustrations as Objects that Work

The following is a short list of Illustrations as objects that have been accepted into the library:

  • suspending disbelief (Disbelief)
  • accepting one's future (Future)
  • putting the past behind them (Past)
  • formulating a conspiracy theory (Theory is in the formulation!)
  • having no reference point for what is real (Actuality)
  • finding someone unacceptable (Acceptance)
  • exceeding expectations (Expectation)
  • revealing the past (is an act of Past-ing)
  • being a catalyst (is an act of Cause-ing)
  • seeking an endorsement (Support)

In all of these, the Method--while presented as an object--still functions as a process. Adding "-ing" to the end of a Method can help in the visualization of a proper Illustration.

Illustrations as Objects that Don't Work

The following is a short list of Illustrations as objects that don't work. In addition to failing to meet the "-ing" test, these failures often end up referring to a different, more appropriate Method.

  • forgetting one's criminal past (Memory - too much crosstalk with Past)
  • circumventing an established process (Process - no indication of Process-ing)
  • wanting to protect someone (more wanting (Deisre) rather than Protection)
  • determining that something is possible (more Determination than Possibility)
  • giving up preconceptions about someone (more "giving up" than Preconception, should be "not having Preconceptions")
  • lets go of her obligations (more about letting go, than a Method of Obligation. Instead "no longer having obligations", or "not obligating oneself" would be even better)
  • placing too much of an emphasis on a theory (Theory as only an object, or noun)

Starters for Illustrations

Our years of running Subtxt as a service helped us identify key "starters" for Illustrations. You can usually never go wrong with:

  • Being/Not Being
  • Having/Not Having
  • Lacking/Not Lacking
  • Maintaining/Not Maintaining

while the following:

  • demanding
  • needing
  • wanting
  • abandoning
  • accepting
  • rejecting

Often position the Method as an object by default. "Accepting" almost always refers to Acceptance, while "Rejecting" almost always refers to Rejection. "Abandoning" almost always refers to Obtaining, while "needing" and "wanting" often shifts the Method out of position in the justification process of the narrative. In other words, it's akin to writing "struggles to" or "tries to" when describing conflict and should be avoided whenever possible.

Switching Illustrations in the Middle of a Story

Subtext (the Storyform) drives narrative; Storytelling sits on top and communicates this structure to the Audience. As the difference between these two is often elusive to Authors in the midst of writing a story, many storytellers find themselves confused over how the two relate to one another.

For example, the following is a question in regards to illustrating the Story Goal:

Could a Story Goal of Conceiving, wherein the desired outcome is for the characters to "conceive of a new way to live" end up being an objective Success, even though what is actually achieved is, say, "getting the wrong idea"?

The Story Goal--as with all things Storyform--is not known to the Players, but rather, the Author. If you have set up the Players to be motivated towards a Goal of Conceiving with an Illustration of "conceiving of a new way to live", yet somehow it ends with "getting the wrong idea" then the question you need to ask yourself is: is this the Goal you wanted to write all along?

An objective point-of-view is just that: an objective point-of-view FROM the perspective of the Author. The Players aren't in control of whether or not the story ends in Success, and more importantly: what that Success means.

If you find yourself shifting Storytelling like this, it's often a sign that you have yet to define that Storybeat, Storypoint, or Story Dynamic in a way that is consistent and integral to the argument you are making with your story.

The Sliding Scale of Illustrations

One of the most important things a writer can understand when it comes to Subtxt and the Dramatica theory of story is the idea of a sliding scale when it comes to narrative elements.

Faith is not merely believing in something; it can be too much Faith in something, just as much as it could be not enough Faith.

And a lack of Faith IS NOT Disbelief...nor is it too much Disbelief.

Both Faith and Disbelief sit at polar opposites of the dynamic narrative spectrum.

To help with this understanding, Subtxt offers up insight into what too much, just enough, and too little looks like for every element:

Illustrations of Conscious

Open up any Method in Subtxt to find a list of Illustrations beneath the InstantScene box. These Illustrations give you a good idea of what this Method would look like within the context of a story.

Thanks to the many years of submissions from writers like you, Subtxt now sports thousands and thousands of illustrations. If the particular set in front of you doesn't strike your fancy (or doesn't inspire your next great scene), tap the Shuffle button, and Subtxt responds with another set for that Method.

Want to see all of the Illustrations for this particular piece of narrative?

Tap All:

Illustrations of Conscious Expanded

Subtxt responds with the entire list, but breaks them down in terms of intensity. 😃

Now you can see just how flexible you can be with each Method AND maintain narrative integrity. The only thing the Audience cares about in terms of a method of Conscious is that it somehow hits that chord of consideration--whether it's too much, too little, or just enough is entirely up to you and your artistic sensibilities.

Repeated Methods and Elements within a Storyform

Throughout a Storyform you will find some Elements and/or Methods repeated in different Throughlines. This is no accident, and is indicative of a "hotspot" or key thematic area within your narrative.

The Four Throughlines, while separate in context, do not act wholly independent. At every level you will find crossover Elements that tie and bind the four perspectives together. 

At the Character level you will see these bonds in the shared Elements. Point of fact, there should be 256 distinct and differently-named Elements. Fortunately, those differences are so minuscule that they don’t require further clarification. And in doing so, we would miss out on the observation of similar driving forces of conflict. 

Practically speaking, take care to illustrate each Element and Method of a Storyform independently and without reference to each other. In this way, you allow the audience to make the connection themselves thereby creating a more meaningful experience. 

Doing so also manifests a more expansive final product (more ideas and breadth).

© 2023 Narrative First, Inc.