Headline:Chickens, Eggs, and Chaos Theory
Date:Monday, January 20, 2020
Posted By:Plaid Hatter Games

First off, I want to apologize for Emotion is messy, and I have the figures to prove it.. I meant well. But looking back on it, the fundamental issue is that the human mind does a lot of things that only make sense later. And only with a lot of retroactive continuity. Emotion is just one of those things.

The reason why my efforts to pair colors with emotions failed is because emotions are an after-effect. A bit like clouds and weather. Clouds don't cause rain. Water vapor condensing from the atmosphere causes both clouds and rain. And what causes water vapor to condense? It's complicated.

So, where did I go wrong with my efforts so far? Well I was trying to either divine how emotion generates reactions, or reactions generate emotions. It's neither. Emotion is something that is produced to tell the brain what it itself is doing. Rather like how the fire alarm bell tells everyone in the building to get out. The bell doesn't cause a fire. Not every fire causes the fire alarm to go off. There are plenty of times the fire alarm bell goes off that there is not a fire (i.e. a fire drill.)

Now with my agents/characters/actors I do need a forumula for them to generate plausible reactions based on words and deeds of the player and other actors. What my research shows is that science can't help me. I'm going to have to be creative.

On the other hand, writers have gotten very good at the creating characters. And in that link there is a very sage nugget of advice:

...bear in mind that creating believable characters doesn’t, funnily enough, necessarily mean creating realistic characters.

Reality is noisy. Art is act of pulling the signal from the noise. Art has to distort reality a little bit to make creations that are more real than real. In movies this is known as the Coconut Effect. Foley artists use Coconuts for horse hooves because that is what people imagine horses hooves to sound like. When artists use a more realistic sound, people don't believe it.

I suspect that I am going to have to create something between a soap opera and a romantic comedy. In both of those genres, the focus is on the people, and the setting is mainly a backdrop. Yes, I have an incredible amount of detail for my backdrop, but I suspect walking through a giant ship will get old after a while.

Case in point, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. I loved that book as a kid. Now... imagine the story. The first thing that comes to your mind is probably Captain Nemo, followed immediately by his exquisite salon.

The Nautilus itself is cool. But as much of a fan as I am about the story, I actually had to look up the name of the ship! And I'm a complete nut about visiting ships. And even when I do tour a ship, I tend to gravitate to the crew quarters, and the galley, and the damage control facilties, and the bridge. Where the humans interface with the ship. Where I can imagine myself getting a meal, or controlling the vessel, or unleashing destruction with the press of a button.

Soap Operas seem to be a strangely specific focus for story telling. But as far as character driven writing goes, it's an art form that ONLY builds on character interaction. Plus, the biggest criticism of Soap Opera is exactly how formulaic is seems to be. If I'm trying to develop an algorithm based story telling mechanic... had to top that.

Todd Strasser has a lot of great lessons on the craft of writing soap operas:

The first is, whenever writing a character, always keep one question foremost in mind: what is this character’s motivation? What does this character want? Characters drive stories, and motivation drives character. So that basic motivation should never be too far from the character’s thoughts. What does this character want and what is he or she doing in this scene to get it? It’s almost a litmus test for the viability of a scene. If your character isn’t doing something to get closer to what he or she wants, then you should be asking yourself if the scene is really necessary.
The second lesson was equally simple, but also valuable. If character A encounters character B after an interval of time apart, always be sure to go back to the last time they were together and see what their feelings were about each other. If they haven’t interacted on your pages in a while, you may have forgotten that the last time they were together they’d nearly killed each other, or fallen passionately in love, or perhaps merely told a lie. In which case you would be remiss in not recalling that fact in the current scene.

But along the way I also learned a couple of other random things:

What is interesting to me in all of this research is that my drama's backdrop is very much like several English and Irish Soap Operas. I have a bunch of people who live in the same place, and probably interact in a central location. Perhaps a Pub?

The other key thing I'm realizing is that Soap Operas are very keen on keeping the plot busy, but not TOO busy. One of my complaints about sandbox games like Fallout is that if you aren't careful you can have 40 plots going at the same time. Soap Operas don't do that because they would lose their audience. Soaps have figured out that three is the magic number.

So, as we can see, an action requires three things: A character, an object or a foil, and a motivation. As an exercise, I've started writing down actions, motivations, and the sorts of reactions I would expect my "actors" to have.

Betrayal

Betrayal is a regular feature of all drama. But it is also a complex chain of events. If one person is betraying another it could be because they are seeking vengeance. And if so, we expect one range of reactions. On the other hand, perhaps the betrayal is motivated by blackmail. We expect a different range of reactions. We also have psychopathic betrayal, where the person doing the betrayal has an exterior motive, but this isn't personal.... And then there is betrayal that is done as a character flaw/feature. Think Loki from the Marvel Universe. It really doesn't matter why, he just has to betray someone out of sheer compulsion.

Motive/Object Description Actor Emotion Foil Emotion Third Party Emotion Possible Reactions
blackmail On character backstabbing another character because that are blackmailed by a third.

valence: Low

motivation: Negative

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

valence: Negative

motivation: Negative

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

  • vendetta
  • forgivenesss
compulsive One character backstabbing another character because they age a genuinely evil person.

valence: High

motivation: High

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

valence: Negative

motivation: Negative

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

  • vendetta
  • forgivenesss
  • avoidance
psychopath On character backstabbing another character because their greed has overcome the goodwill built up in the relationship.

valence: Neutral

motivation: High

arousal: Neutral

bonding: Negative

valence: Negative

motivation: Negative

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

  • vendetta
  • forgivenesss
revenge On character backstabbing another character out of a sense of revenge.

valence: High

motivation: High

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

valence: Negative

motivation: Negative

arousal: High

bonding: Negative

  • vendetta
  • forgivenesss