Reductionism in Story

I have another theory that you all can shoot down, about why movies suck so much anymore.

Way back in Aristotle’s Poetics, we were taught about the three basic story contexts that still remain true today.
1. Man vs. Man
2. Man vs. Nature
3. Man vs. Himself
(“Man” of course, meaning “human” or even as general as “protagonist”)

Now, what’s interesting is that every single story that really gets us, is about what?


Either with the Roman Empire, or within our own heads. Between what I believe and what my parents wish I believed. Every single story in the world is told and presented in a way that it lays bare a character who must decide how to deal with that conflict.

He must chose either bravery, and overcome the conflict, or he chooses cowardice, and the conflict defeats him.

I believe this is at the heart of our lack of good storytellers today. We have become a world of little personal accountability, and even less honor. A world where pleasing as many people as possible breeds the will to overcome conflict right out of us.

We have so few left who understand courage and bravery that as a result, that our accounting of it as a virtue suffers.

How can a storyteller reach within his (or her) characters and give them things which he himself has never understood?

Conflict in storytelling does not exist as simply a means to create a character arc or provide action sequences or make a development executive happy. Conflict exists only so that it may reveal the true hearts of our characters through their actions and either inspire us with their bravery, or grieve us for their lack of it. Along the way, informing of us, the audience, of the kinds of human beings we may or may not want to be.

This is the core of storytelling, and sometimes I feel it to be fading from our memories.