The Holistic View of Time

Taking into account specific mindsets when organizing story structure

The Dramatica theory of story accounts for both Male and Holistic Mindsets. Recognizing the impact the observer plays on the observed, the original concept of Mental Sex (Mindset in Subtxt) sought to replicate the alternate "operating systems" present within humanity. Some trend more towards reason, others manage relationships and balance. And while both are available to all, one dictates the kind of stories we tell ourselves.

This duality of mind splits one of two ways: TBOS and SBOS. The TBOS or Time-based Operating System sees with time to then break things apart into space. The SBOS or Space-Based Operating System sees with space to then approximate time. This difference is why the TBOS Holistic mind finds the relative proximity of a relationship concerning, while the SBOS finds the duration of import. Seeing time clearly, the TBOS-mind wants to spend more of it together and considers distance a problem. Seeing space more clearly, the SBOS-mind wants to make sure the time "spent" doesn't impinge on other activities.

Subtxt considers this understanding while presenting a narrative and provides tools to help you use these concepts while developing a story.

The Z-Based View of Time

Take any quad of four Methods in Dramatica and project a line from the upper left to the upper right to the lower left to the lower right. This "Z-pattern" is the SBOS, or Male mindset, concept of time within the quad.


When considering time (processes within the mind, not a progression of history), the Male mind begins with the Past. The Progression of events (or lack) appears next, followed closely by the Future. Only after the first three roll through the mind does the Male finally consider the Present. The Present moment is always last to the Male mind.

The Holistic mind takes a different path. Start again in the upper left, move right, and now move down into the lower right and finish in the lower left. This "Circle-pattern" is the TBOS concept of time within the quad.

While the first two appreciations appear in the same order (Past and Progress), the Present now arrives as a source of power generating the eventual flow of the Future. What lies down the road for the Holistic? That can never be truly "known" or seen but rather felt into as a natural flow from the Present moment. When you hear a Holistic mind speak of "manifesting" a Future state, this is the result of thinking Present first, Future second.

These Z-patterns and Circular patterns are a function of the quad's structure, not the specific elements within them. For example, jumble the above quad to read Progress Future Past Present, and the Holistic mind would still read that quad in a circle (Progress to Future to Present to Past). The Male Z-pattern persists as well, seeing Progress, Future to Past, and Present.


This new arrangement and understanding of time is not a contradiction to the previous statements. Instead, this new path is evidence of a justified mind—one in the process of considering a story.

Reason and Relationships

The key difference here is Reason vs. Relationships. In the first Male/SBOS examples the short story structures itself around reason. Straight cause-and-effect; if I do this, then this will happen.

In the second examples Relationships take center stage. The stories balance the space between things while allowing growth to dictate the progressions.

This difference between Reason and Relationships is so important that it is one of the questions found in Subtxt's Premise Builder. When building a story from scratch so you want structured around cause and effect and reason? Or so you want to approximate what it’s like to structure s narrative around the balance between things, and relationships?

Getting to Know Flow

The arrangement of temporal progression through a quad in Subtxt defaults to the Male mindset, or Z-pattern, regardless of the Storyform's mindset. It is as if each Storyform defines what the justified mind looks like from a Male perspective. This is the approach used when defining Storyforms since the inception of the Dramatica theory of story. Where Subtxt alters course is through the availability of a Holistic Switch to approximate, or simulate, what the temporal progressio of a Holistic storyform might look like to a Holistic observer.

The Male progression marks a clear beginning and end. In a Male problem-solving story, this is the way: checking off one dramatic circuit after the other on the way to a solution. To a Holistic engaged in managing inequities, this is a dead-end--and an impediment towards an honest and truthful account of narrative.

Flip the last two to account for the Holistic's ease with time, and an unstoppable flow appears for consideration. With a focus on Flow over Outcome, the TBOS-sequence honors the thought processes of the very mind it intends to model.

Power over Conflict

In a Male-mind, the spatial appreciations of sequencing appear as four distinct components. Similar to an electric circuit, these items combine to solve a problem:

  • Potential
  • Resistance
  • Current
  • Power

The Power of the dramatic circuit solves the initial problem locked in the potential.


With the Holistic mind, Power becomes a stepping stone on the way to something else:

  • Potential
  • Resistance
  • Power
  • Flow

The first two stay the same (as both TBOS and SBOS are equal parts consideration and observation), yet now Power resolves into the Flow of the dramatic circuit. Flow justifies or manages the inequity.


The Male-mind problem-solves, the Holistic justifies.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Story structure is not one thing. It's not a set of 16 trendy Beats, nor is it an allegory for spiritual ascension. Story structure is simply that: organized chaos. How we manage a random set of events owes much to the mind in observation.

If we are to portray a single human mind with a story, we must account for hard-wired processes inherent to that mindset. If Male, then organize into Acts that begin and end. If Holistic, then organize into Sequences that flow from beginning to end.

Originally published 01-21-2021

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