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Understanding Aristotle's theory about plot. (1 Viewer)

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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Ok feel free to raise objections.

One of the reasons I am studying Aristotle poetics is that it gives a explanation for plot. It may be categorized as literary criticism but here is where I differ from some people who study it.

According to some research I did. Action implies moral responsibility. What happens in a story or an action becomes an event when there is moral responsibility attached to it. There are different kinds of moral responsibility and that makes it tricky to understand for ontology purposes.

Of course there is a branch of philosophy of action. It made me believe that maybe Aristotle's theory wasn't studied deeply enough. Imo and I am no philosophy mayor that part of action could be used to describe what Aristotle meant by plot.

That is all in have for the moment. Out of curiosity has someone tried to understand the material or philosophy more deeply and has that helped them write fiction? Philosophy that is that is accessible. Whole philosophies have studied values for the sake of ethics. Some very famous writers studied philosophy. Philp K. Dick was one of them. So was Henry James whose brother was a philosophy professor at Harvard. I am mostly doing this to understand it. 2 weeks from now I will be researching it. But I decided to say that maybe Aristotle poetics is not well understood at all. It could be understood by studying action in philosophy which is the point of this thread and topic.

As a side note: I ordered the first edition of penguin's aristotle poetics some time ago. It has extensive notes on the theory of Aristotle. It is out of print. The translation is by Malcolm so according to people who bought it that is the version to purchase since its best for understanding how it has influenced the world in movies and in books with regards to plotting or critcism.
 
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SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Ok feel free to raise objections.

One of the reasons I am studying Aristotle poetics is that it gives a explanation for plot. It may be categorized as literary criticism but here is where I differ from some people who study it.

According to some research I did. Action implies moral responsibility. What happens in a story or an action becomes an event when there is moral responsibility attached to it. There are different kinds of moral responsibility and that makes it tricky to understand for ontology purposes.

Of course there is a branch of philosophy of action. It made me believe that maybe Aristotle's theory wasn't studied deeply enough. Imo and I am no philosophy mayor that part of action could be used to describe what Aristotle meant by plot.

That is all in have for the moment. Out of curiosity has someone tried to understand the material or philosophy more deeply and has that helped them write fiction? Philosophy that is that is accessible. Whole philosophies have studied values for the sake of ethics. Some very famous writers studied philosophy. Philp K. Dick was one of them. So was Henry James whose brother was a philosophy professor at Harvard. I am mostly doing this to understand it. 2 weeks from now I will be researching it. But I decided to say that maybe Aristotle poetics is not well understood at all. It could be understood by studying action in philosophy which is the point of this thread and topic.

As a side note: I ordered the first edition of penguin's aristotle poetics some time ago. It has extensive notes on the theory of Aristotle. It is out of print. The translation is by Malcolm so according to people who bought it that is the version to purchase since its best for understanding how it has influenced the world in movies and in books with regards to plotting or critcism.

I think studying philosophy could give a writer greater insight into how their fictional characters might respond to given situations, especially when they are placed in situations that are not necessarily familiar to the writer. You can probably spend your whole life discovering the variety of ways a human being could possibly respond to an "event." Say, for example, you wrote a story about a woman who has lost a baby. If you, the writer, has never had that experience, looking at potential responses philosophically would be helpful. In that vein, I used to have a discussion with a friend (years ago), analyzing why some people volunteer. Right now, we are seeing stories on the news all of the time about people who are donating their time, their food, money, etc. Some of them are going to great lengths to make sure their neighbors and friends have all they need. They say they want to help others, but the good feelings they have when they help others might be strong enough to become the incentive, rather than simply helping others. So the question becomes do you volunteer because you want to help others or to feel good about yourself? Of course, it could be both. This is just an example. Good discussion. :)
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I agree that it helps writers imagine their character's reactions or our characters.

Good example because it deals with the reasons behind the actions but I won't go into much detail since I am trying to research this much further in detail ( ordered a book and 2 weeks from now I will order another book. Still I would like to discuss this). There is also punishment and responsibility that influences what actions we take or that people take. The philosophy of action deals with two key questions ( debated frequently). What are actions? How are actions to be explained? Are the reasons the causes of the action? Which has been debated. Which I think is what your two examples touch upon. If action creates conflict like in movies which is a visual medium that is seen on the movie screen. I believe it is worth reading if only to understand poetics. Which is one of the most influential works of all time. That was a good and smart reply. It is philosophical what you posted. That was a good first response or reply to this thread.

Casual action theories rely on related events, desires, intentions, and beliefs. This last or former statement seems inspirational and interesting to me.

Example of what is not considered an action:
Raising a finger isn't necessarily an event unless we take into account some of the previous definitions. Example moral responsibility or even punishment.

If I wanted to be a mountain climber, for what reasons would I be one as an example? There are many that could serve as the reasons behind the action.

I find philosophy especially connected to Aristotle's theory as a novel and inspirational way of thinking for writers. I am trying to learn the most relevant points to understand what is meant by an action or event which is talked about in poetics but that lacks a philosophical explanation in poetics translations.

By understanding both definitions it can be easier to plot of maybe even to create conflict. The baby example is a good one on moral responsibility.


The link below analyzes Odepius in the context on Aristotle's philosophy. He has been quoted as saying Sophocles 's work is a good example of what he describes in the poetics. The below link talks about it in more detail. Aristotle also talks about it in his own words. I don't know where they quoted him though but gives more context as to what he meant when he referred to Odepius when Aristotle talked about him.

https://www.google.com/url?q=https:...FjAJegQICRAB&usg=AOvVaw1dq-0xtC721MI2mX8wxDbF
 
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Hector

Senior Member
I have read some Ancient Greek plays. What's so special about them? Essentially, they just remake ancient myths.
 

epimetheus

Friends of WF
Out of curiosity has someone tried to understand the material or philosophy more deeply and has that helped them write fiction?

I've never had the chance to study philosophy, but i could imagine there is utility in studying it so i'm very happy you are sharing your insights with us as you delve into this topic.

Example of what is not considered an action:
Raising a finger isn't necessarily an event unless we take into account some of the previous definitions.

What do you mean previous definitions? Like if we first show that finger surrounded by military paraphernalia next to a big red button?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I've never had the chance to study philosophy, but i could imagine there is utility in studying it so i'm very happy you are sharing your insights with us as you delve into this topic.



What do you mean previous definitions? Like if we first show that finger surrounded by military paraphernalia next to a big red button?
Well that would be an example of action if it had moral responsibility and punishment.

There are different kinds of responsibility such as legal responsibility. Responsibility used in the casual sense is a different sense of responsibility. If you are responsible for what you did as an action is done, or contributory to the outcome then I would say the above example is applicable. Maybe the button sends Morse codes and messages without you knowing. That would be an example that further creates a situation where if a button is pressed. Let's say in the example that something bad happens making you responsible for the action you did when you discover what happens. Say you discover what happens. Maybe you are communicating with spy agents you soon discover which is a farfetched example but works for stories. It could happen in real life. So it's a good example for our purposes. After all this is a philosophical discussion, and philosophy can study and examine such logic.

Casual action theories rely on related events, desires, intentions, and beliefs. This last or former statement seems inspirational and interesting to me.

In your example a bomb was the first thing that came to mind when they pressed the red button. Or the maybe the person isn't patriotic and points to the military paraphernalia. In my opinion it needs more embellishment to make it have a moral responsibility. Maybe he works for the military and they can't bear the mention of a general's name since he is a dictator that has killed people. Maybe he has a son that reveals that he doesn't like the general and he will never be promoted to a higher rank. Or maybe he is forced to pretend he is patriotic so that one day he can succeed in life. But the son spoils it.

The moral responsibility is the key aspect of it.

Sometimes responsibilities refers to obligations or duties one has. Or even legal responsibilities. Even causality is used to examine action theory. What will happen after that action of pressing the button. The problem is sometimes the person knows and is held morally responsible. While other times according to this theory they are not held responsible. Still for story purposes I think the Morse code example I just gave is a decent example as long as the person knows they are being held responsible for their actions. Maybe someone could make a story out of it.

Responsibility places a moral judgment on its subjects. It also holds its subjects punishable for their actions. These would be some of the previous definitions that I explained.

What qualifies as punishable is someone does it voluntarily, intentionally, and knowingly. I hope I answered that question. There are whole books devoted to this topic. I am glad it seems you will gain something out of it seems like I think I currently am.

Yea I am willing to share what I know on the topic. This is an early discussion. It will be more extensive once I have the books in my hands. I am trying to explain it from what little I gleaned. There must be more on the internet on this theory. It seems useful for me.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
One of the reasons I am studying Aristotle poetics is that it gives a explanation for plot. It may be categorized as literary criticism but here is where I differ from some people who study it.

According to some research I did. Action implies moral responsibility. What happens in a story or an action becomes an event when there is moral responsibility attached to it. There are different kinds of moral responsibility and that makes it tricky to understand for ontology purposes.

Of course there is a branch of philosophy of action. It made me believe that maybe Aristotle's theory wasn't studied deeply enough. Imo and I am no philosophy mayor that part of action could be used to describe what Aristotle meant by plot.

That is all in have for the moment. Out of curiosity has someone tried to understand the material or philosophy more deeply and has that helped them write fiction? Philosophy that is that is accessible. Whole philosophies have studied values for the sake of ethics. Some very famous writers studied philosophy. Philp K. Dick was one of them. So was Henry James whose brother was a philosophy professor at Harvard. I am mostly doing this to understand it. 2 weeks from now I will be researching it. But I decided to say that maybe Aristotle poetics is not well understood at all. It could be understood by studying action in philosophy which is the point of this thread and topic.

100% agree that action implies moral responsibility. Almost everything we do requires a responsibility of some sort and what drives us to be responsible, or not, is driven by our morality. It is something that I have been fascinated by for years. My fascination started when I was charged with developing ethics training for 30,000 government employees. I started off with the basic aspects of detecting fraud and realized that the likelihood of an employee deliberately committing fraud was very small. So we drilled down to the typical kind of ethical breaches most employees would encounter at some point in their tenure or even on a regular basis. From a professional point of view, I studied modern philosophy to understand how the human brain processes and deals with moral decision making daily.

There are many different streams of philosophical study. Although I did not study Aristotle's theories specifically, I focused my studies on ethics. Even for ethics, there are two streams of study. There are ethics with respect to rules and there are ethics with respect to morality. And yes, both of these studies are central to my fiction writing. In fact, it has been a big part of my motivation to share my learnings. I believe it's an area where most modern fiction misses the boat -- people's morality and decision model. As a teenager, I was very inspired by James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It traces the consciousness of a young man and how his decision model changes as he finds his identity. One of the best books I've ever read! I could never figure out why more authors didn’t try to imitate Joyce. I will most certainly be influenced by him when I write fiction.

I’m sorry I can’t speak to Aristotle’s theory on plots, but I thought I wouldn’t shy away from this discussion, since philosophy in fiction is an area of interest to me. So I hope this post is relevant to your question.
 

epimetheus

Friends of WF
Well that would be an example of action if it had moral responsibility and punishment....

So it would matter what happens after the event too? The action needs to be followed up by a reaction. Is the idea that for story telling the reaction should in some sense be moral?

This thread reminds me of Crime and Punishment, a perfect murder with no consequences... except for the moral consequences which cripple the protagonist. I've no idea who Dostoevsky's influences were but it might be worth a look.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
There are many different streams of philosophical study. Although I did not study Aristotle's theories specifically, I focused my studies on ethics. Even for ethics, there are two streams of study. There are ethics with respect to rules and there are ethics with respect to morality. And yes, both of these studies are central to my fiction writing. In fact, it has been a big part of my motivation to share my learnings. I believe it's an area where most modern fiction misses the boat -- people's morality and decision model. As a teenager, I was very inspired by James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It traces the consciousness of a young man and how his decision model changes as he finds his identity. One of the best books I've ever read! I could never figure out why more authors didn’t try to imitate Joyce. I will most certainly be influenced by him when I write fiction.
Hello Taylor. I am glad it made sense. That's why I researched it in the first place. I got all the information here from action theory. It makes sense and I do wonder if it makes sense for everyone. We all have our beliefs regarding fiction and whether poetics or action theory explains it I will try to give an answer. For example a lot of people say it involves a reaction. Theories on fiction are seldom proved in my opinion. I am trying to understand the theories. I don't think it is a boring way to spend time.

I think what I am going to do is simply share malcolm health's findings when the book arrives (and the current pandemic is not helping it arrive sooner). His translation of poetics supposedly is good and has comments on what it all means at the beginning foreword. That's even though it is on a book that has been debated for years. It's a lot more practical. I wish I knew enough philosophy to say without a doubt that I am correct. I did order a book on philosophy that has to do with action theory. What I am trying to do is simply find what constitutes an event. I think I will read from various sources what this is. I am reading on google scholar to interpret what he means. I have got a lot of research to do if I want to understand it but it will take a lot of free time I have. I am currently going to be reading poetics and people who think they know what he means. However, I will present my findings later. To answer your question Epimetheus . I will need time. It's a moral philosophy or theory. I am thinking this will take a lot longer. For the time being this is what I read so far which differs to what I said a bit.

An action is defined by a purpose (getting back to Ithaca, punishing the murderer of Laius) and there is no overriding purpose to a single life: “An indefinitely large number of things happens to one person, in some of which there is no unity. So too the actions of one person are many, but do not turn into a single action” (51a19). The unity is the logic of the events that follow from a single purpose undiverted by mere accidents such s a brick falling on a runner’s head. This view of what Aristotle values in poetry is common in the literature on Poetics: “Like all representation, drama selectively condenses and structures what it presents. It reveals the inner logic and causal organization of an apparently disconnected series of events.”

As you can gather from this. The interpretations of poetics mean different things that is constantly debated and is everywhere. But I need to do more reading. All I want to answer is what he means by action and event. If I can get is viewpoint on plot even better. It requires a lot of reading but might not be too difficult. I have been lazy after all all my life trying to read poetics and trying to understand it.

I think reaction is the same as purpose here. It's more direct since this is a discussion on Aristotle's work on poetics. This is more credible. The other philosophy I have been talking about I will leave out for much later to discuss if relevant. Just because I wanted to understand it in the first place and I dont have the books yet in my possession.

That's a partial reading in a google scholar article. I know I haven't completely answered the question. If I turn to action theory. The answer is that it is a moral philosophy. I am trying to look for more direct sources that quote Aristotle or at least give some good answers to the questions I have.
Here is the second source I will mention in that action is purpose. I have to keep looking at different sources to know if I can understand it. I know this is a complex topic.
Action, as Aristotle uses the word, refers only to what is deliberately chosen, and capable of finding completion in the achievement of some purpose. Animals and young children do not act in this sense, and action is not the whole of the life of any of us. The poet must have an eye for the emergence of action in human life, and a sense for the actions that are worth paying attention to. They are not present in the world in such a way that a video camera could detect them. An intelligent, feeling, shaping human soul must find them. By the same token, the action of the drama itself is not on the stage. It takes form and has its being in the imagination of the spectator. The actors speak and move and gesture, but it is the poet who speaks through them, from imagination to imagination, to present to us the thing that he has made. Because that thing he makes has the form of an action, it has to be seen and held together just as actively and attentively by us as by him. The imitation is the thing that is re-produced, in us and for us, by his art. This is a powerful kind of human communication, and the thing imitated is what defines the human realm. If no one had the power to imitate action, life might just wash over us without leaving any trace.

I will post much later what I can understand from reading all this. As good and interesting the action theory is. I need to understand what Aristotle says on that topic and in poetics which is meant for poetry and stories.

So it would matter what happens after the event too? The action needs to be followed up by a reaction. Is the idea that for story telling the reaction should in some sense be moral?

This thread reminds me of Crime and Punishment, a perfect murder with no consequences... except for the moral consequences which cripple the protagonist. I've no idea who Dostoevsky's influences were but it might be worth a look.

I don't know the answer yet and need to go do some reading. These are good questions. According to action theory yes it should be moral. As for what happens after the event, I don't honestly know but I will keep reading. Thanks for you and Taylor showing interest. I am willing to read the articles on the web for the time being since I want to know what he means since it has influenced a lot of writers.

The action theory book is what I want to read and analyze when I do receive the book. There are some web sources for that.

Anyways maybe I am not right. But hopefully I am answering or giving information that could help people imagine their stories. If not I will simply try to imagine a story with it if it gives good insight.
 
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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Ok micheal tierno's theory on aristotle:

Now let’s turn our attention to actual misfortunes and draw on an analogy from life once again. What makes an undeserved misfortune weighty enough to carry a plot? If you park your new Rolls Royce in a run-down neighborhood overnight and come back to find your window smashed and radio stolen, is this an action on which you can build a story? It’s a misfortune, it’s (somewhat) undeserved, and it’s caused by an error in judgment. However, an ACTION-IDEA that will arouse pity and fear in an audience must be based on undeserved misfortunes of great magnitude—on serious life-changing events that make you feel glad it isn’t you. (And because it’s caused by the hero’s error in judgment, it could very well be you!)

The beauty of an error in judgment is that you can use it to impact every single beat of the story, or just one time to set the plot up.

Take a quick hypothetical example: Jane tries to be an actress, risks her whole life on this dream, and at fifty-seven hasn’t made it and has nothing. She has caused her misfortune; she made a choice, an error in judgment, and kept pursuing acting. But she doesn’t really deserve such misfortune either, because at the time she made her decision to be an actress, she didn’t know that she didn’t have a chance to make it. Although she persists in pursuing her dream against all odds, we still feel that she doesn’t deserve her misfortune and misery.

In Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary’s husband (Guy), after slipping her sleeping pills, delivers her to the devil worshippers and offers her body to Satan, who impregnates her. No two ways about it, the devil having sex with Rosemary is the tragic deed. Aristotle emphasizes an important aspect of what makes it so horrific.

Tierno, Michael. Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets from the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization (p. 60). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition

Imo how one goes about creating a plot using Aristotle's method. Your character makes an error in judgment that is committed by themselves that creates pity and misfortune. They then have to try to resolve it or extricate themselves from trouble.

BTW, I liked micheal tierno's book more than the physical book I purchased so I am sharing my findings here. As for a philosophical discussion on morality and Aristotle I will leave that for much later. I left that book at my house. This is a highlight from my digital book.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Ok micheal tierno's theory on aristotle:
Imo how one goes about creating a plot using Aristotle's method. Your character makes an error in judgment that is committed by themselves that creates pity and misfortune. They then have to try to resolve it or extricate themselves from trouble.

BTW, I liked micheal tierno's book more than the physical book I purchased so I am sharing my findings here. As for a philosophical discussion on morality and Aristotle I will leave that for much later. I left that book at my house. This is a highlight from my digital book.

Admittedly I haven't studied Aristotle at all, and little formally on the structure of plotting. The majority of my education in that area of writing comes by osmosis ... a lifetime of reading. However, it is easy to recognize that the innocent mistake resulting in grave consequences is an often-used trope. I don't use it often, but as it happens, it opens my recently completed novel, and occurs for the MC a few more times throughout the story. In fact, overlooking imminent danger is a recurring theme for him. LOL

I don't see the morality of actions explored as often as we probably should. I see it in the murder mysteries I read, but the immorality of the murderer is a given. Where does it come into play for the good guys? I've mentioned elsewhere I'm working my way through the 80+ Perry Mason novels, a few each year. In each one, there are a host of people doing things they shouldn't in addition to the murderer. Gardner has Perry Mason question whether some of his own actions cross the line, but he is committed to the theory that whatever he needs to do in proving innocence is worth risking. He understands he may have to pay a price. (Of course, by the end of the book, he never does. :) )

I write adventure, and also read a lot of adventure in sci-fi and heroic fantasy. A bad guy tries to kill people, the heroes kill the bad guy. Satisfying result, right? You typically don't see a lot of hand-wringing over killing the bad guys, and that includes my writing. However, in the sci-fi book I wrote last year, the MC kills three people in cold blood who were in the process of doing very bad things, and declined the opportunity to break off their plan. He feels guilty about it for the rest of the book even though he felt he had no choice. Another character later explains he was legally justified, but if he ever got to the point where taking a life didn't concern him, that would be a bad sign. If I ever write more stories with that character, I very much doubt he'll kill another bad guy. He's not an action hero, rather he's the "competent man", if not a confident man.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
100% agree that action implies moral responsibility. Almost everything we do requires a responsibility of some sort and what drives us to be responsible, or not, is driven by our morality. It is something that I have been fascinated by for years. My fascination started when I was charged with developing ethics training for 30,000 government employees. I started off with the basic aspects of detecting fraud and realized that the likelihood of an employee deliberately committing fraud was very small. So we drilled down to the typical kind of ethical breaches most employees would encounter at some point in their tenure or even on a regular basis. From a professional point of view, I studied modern philosophy to understand how the human brain processes and deals with moral decision making daily.

There are many different streams of philosophical study. Although I did not study Aristotle's theories specifically, I focused my studies on ethics. Even for ethics, there are two streams of study. There are ethics with respect to rules and there are ethics with respect to morality. And yes, both of these studies are central to my fiction writing. In fact, it has been a big part of my motivation to share my learnings. I believe it's an area where most modern fiction misses the boat -- people's morality and decision model. As a teenager, I was very inspired by James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It traces the consciousness of a young man and how his decision model changes as he finds his identity. One of the best books I've ever read! I could never figure out why more authors didn’t try to imitate Joyce. I will most certainly be influenced by him when I write fiction.

I’m sorry I can’t speak to Aristotle’s theory on plots, but I thought I wouldn’t shy away from this discussion, since philosophy in fiction is an area of interest to me. So I hope this post is relevant to your question.

Wow - impressive... but isn't 'ethical government employees' a non sequitur or an oxymoron? (That was a joke.)

My impression of humanity rather dismal; I see us all as a band of violent monkeys, preying on each other seeking advantage. (Sort of like the monkey zoo scene from Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (if you've read it).) My experience has been that people commit actions to benefit themselves, then spend a ton of energy running from the consequences.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Aha!
I am going to be a pain and bring in the art of the confidence trick.

Why do normal people with a good set of ethics, who know they are doing the right thing, insist on defending a real bastard? I'm thinking of the Romancing Scammers who take some lonely soul to the cleaners. Their victims still defend them. Even in the teeth of irrefutable evidence.

How does an evil villain get his henchmen? Why do they fight to the death?

I have tried asking the last few phone scammers why they think it is morally defensible to steal off vulnerable people. Haven't had an answer yet.

Why do people stick to their political party, religious denomination, football team and so on despite overwhelming evidence that they are siding with the ethically bankrupt?

I am certain part of it is self identity. I am a member of this gang... therefore I am. You are not, so I must be better than you. Even though I am siding with bad people.

The extreme version is slavery. Declaring humans not to be human, and still raping them. Having children. Knowing this and still accepting the wealth that flows from such evil.

There is a certain plasticity to how we think.

Philosophy is a useful tool for examining your own motives. How much of a blind eye do you have?

Good subject Glass.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Thanks for those appreciating the quotes on Aristotle's theory and agreeing with some of it if it made sense. He can write some profound things. I agree plotting can be a discovery process. Not everyone who is a writer reads Aristotle. These are the most important points that are the notes of my summary that I have quoted besides what I posted. I don't plan on posting more since I think this explains by itself the principles that were most important. There are more points to be made, such as the necessity, probability, of an action or event or chance. He says that chance can be akin to destiny. Because destiny is action in a way. Yes, chance does not mean coincidence necessarily but can constitute an action. It just means things happen, but are connected. Evoking destiny happens by chance, necessity, probability, to form one complete action. It is not random. Rather the writer makes one incident have a single effect at the beginning of the story, which then makes the next ones follow almost like a domino effect. The fact that the first action implies destiny is because of those elements (chance, necessity, and probability). Think of what action the character takes using these 3 criteria, in order to write a better work or to judge a work for its merit according to him. Destiny means it will lead imo from a beginning to an end.

Complex Plot (containing a “Reversal of Fortune/Discovery”). Examples of complex plots are Angel Heart and Rosemary’s Baby. These movies are the kind where a plot builds to a moment when the hero’s fortune goes from extremely good to extremely bad instantly (or the opposite), based on a discovery or recognition.

This sequence proceeds like any gratuitous battle scene should—blood splashing, limbs flying, swords clanging. Then the action on the screen turns into slow motion, the battle sounds dim, and the doleful musical score cranks up. The music is sad rather than thrilling because the movie is commenting on the fact that slaughtering these men raises what I call a moral contradiction: It is both right for Maximus to kill the barbarians, and wrong at the same time because it’s just that—killing. That is how a moral contradiction works in a dramatic story; the hero is right to take an action, and at the same time there is something morally wrong with that action. This is a secret ingredient to dramatic story that the Poetics teaches us to use, enabling the audience to see life imitated through the life of a hero, who is morally compromised in some way.

By being right and wrong about an action and having a character suffer through pity and fear we create a dramatic situation or the best dramas. By exploring something morally wrong in an action I think that's how we can write some drama. When it is morally ambiguous.

The audience wants to see right and wrong addressed, because it gets to the heart of being human. I think Victor Hugo's Misérables reminds me of this principle. When a hungry man steals one piece of bread because he is hungry and and an overzealous policeman goes in pursuit of the criminals that it is morally right and wrong. Watching for these subjects can help us write fiction on these sets of principles of drama he created. He argued it is not about the character but about the subject. The writer mentioned that subject and not character and the plot is what determines the material is good ( not character).

IMO this quote addressing what is morally right and wrong of the conflict in the example of the movie gladiator which is what the word "blood" and "swords" is referring to that movie inside the quotes. He goes on to give the example of the movie the dead poet's society. Where a student wants to follow the passion rather than his father's ambition that he planned for him. The teacher is restless and wants to teach poetry. He presents pictures of dead students in a poetry club. The action of not following the passion of his teacher could lead to his sanctioning from the school since the student mortally hurts himself.


When misfortune that befalls a hero is both undeserved and caused by the hero, it arouses “pity” and “fear” in the audience. The hero must use reasoning (wrong reasoning), because drama works by illuminating the plight of conscious humankind. Despite the gift of creation that is our higher mind, we humans still screw up our lives.

I think is the is the same thing about the trope reference you referred to Vranger. But pity and fear is a big emotion in movies that are of a certain magnitude. That is of huge significance. Real life supposedly makes terrible fiction according to the author who quotes Aristotle. Instead I like the consequences of a main character doing something bad. His work was studied and its importance remains since its concepts are continuously discussed. One thing he says that the best stories shows characters with a mixture of good and bad qualities. He only studied the best Greek dramatists of his time. His favorite play was Oedipus Rex and his favorite writer Oedipus fit the description of the qualities fiction he liked should have. Maybe storytelling has evolved to a great extent but there were some good points he made.

IMO after reading someone's interpretation this is all I think I know is meaningful about his theory.

I'd rather think the characters have to have a more morally good than bad. But both sides are compromised morally in conflicts that have those two sides. The author makes sense of this when we think of an action having consequences that are both good or bad and this is my take on this. He says the movie gladiator ends on a "negative note" or that the gladiator joins his family after he passes away. In the beginning of the movie the main character became a slave and then he became a gladiator. Then he helped overthrow the government. I didn't think that deeply about Gladiator when I first saw the movie. I thought it was going to have a happy ending. But how it was written suggests supposedly a moral contradiction or that the movie is a great example of complex bad and moral things being not the way to solve the problem. Basically the character takes the wrong route and makes some mistakes by killing the barbarians.

Homer chose for the “subject” of The Odyssey an action in which each incident follows the previous one in a necessary or probable way and at the same time causes the story to go forward.

He even talks about backstory. These are the causes of the action that must be mostly shown and not told. Because they shape the character. Thought is what the character reasoned and led to the events.

The inner thoughts of a story’s characters serve to reveal the motives for their actions and do so in such a way as to give a movie its characteristic flavor. In the teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait, we quickly come to understand that the character of Mike is on the bad side of the “dividing line of goodness,” because he dumps Amanda for the wrong reason: wanting to have sex with as many women as possible before leaving for college.

Yes, and what is 'good'?

Good for one is not good for all, therefore it equates to 'benefit' rather than 'justice'.

To quote myself (from my next novel): Governments have ideologies, people just want to be left alone.

Good point. I kind of tried to talk about this when I refer to moral contradiction.

Philosophy is a useful tool for examining your own motives. How much of a blind eye do you have?

Good point Bazz Cargo. This is a good reason as any to read philosophy as a fiction writer. That is a sharp point. I may give it a try in my spare time. Good point since motive varies greatly from person to person. It is what drives the character.

Today I read in the newspaper about a man that spent all his money on alcohol, and then his sons stole food since their father never gave them money.
This by itself is a moral contradiction. It's very interesting and I was tempted to write about it honestly. But here I am sharing it since it speaks volumes about human motives. They can definitely be philosophized. A short story could be created with this newspaper headline.
 
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bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
I am the voice of God. What I say goes. To be good, do as I say. Those over there, they are evil. However bad to them you want to be, it is in my name and therefore cannot be wrong.

Once a government is hijacked by an ideology, you no longer have a government. You have oppression.

Yes, and what is 'good'?

Good for one is not good for all, therefore it equates to 'benefit' rather than 'justice'.

To quote myself (from my next novel): Governments have ideologies, people just want to be left alone.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Here's one more quote on moral contradiction which I thought was thought provoking

Connect all your action through probable and necessary cause-and-effect action in a way that builds a story that feels like reality and could be possible. Find a unique way to build to a reversal of fortune and discovery moment, including connecting it to a tragic deed in the back story. Find a spicy moral contradiction at the heart of your conflict that will color your hero’s actions, and connect your audiences’ psyches to the center of the hero’s soul. To create your screenplay’s moral universe, find the perfect intermediate character between good and evil in a way that will make the balance between those forces riveting. Have your hero represent the ground zero of goodness, and then orchestrate characters above and below the line.
 
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