Category Archives: How-to

Plot break down of “Avatar”

220px-avatar-teaser-poster

I created a detailed break down of the plot to the movie, “Avatar,” which I chose for two reasons. First, it’s the highest grossing movie of all time after, and if you want to understand best-sellers, why start anywhere else?

Second, the script is admirably tight. James Cameron does such a good job of introducing and recalling variables that the script almost reads like a computer program if you look at it with the right eyes, which I’m going to give you. I made a list of every character, object, location and piece of background information that appears in the movie. Then I broke down every beat into four stages:

  1. A character (usually Jake) is introduced to a situation. I call this character, the “beat protagonist.”
  2. The beat protagonist encounters a character who presents a conflict or an opportunity that will hurt or hinder the beat agent’s attempt to achieve their immediate or long-term goals. I call this character, the “beat agent.”
  3. The beat protagonist and beat agent respond to each other using a specific set of signature character traits and skills that belong to their character.
  4. One of the characters will either win or lose the encounter, resulting in a closing situation that will affect the direction of the story. Usually, if Jake wins, something good happens to him, unless he wins by using one of his flaws. Anytime he uses a flaw, he loses in the end. If the beat agent wins for any reason, something bad happens to Jake.

When describing these events of each beat, I wrote the characters, objects, locations and background information in capital letters to highlight the variables and show how the whole movie is strung together by recycling the same variables that were strategically introduced earlier in the movie.

I’ve only posted the first twenty beats on this post page, but you can find the fully completed break down in Word document form by following the link below. In the Word document, you can use the “find and replace” function to change the variables to whatever you want to rewrite your own version of Avatar. Then you can go through, beat by beat, and tweak your story. I believe this exercise will teach you more about plot structure than you will learn in a semester of most writing classes. I’ve also included an external link to the original script so you can follow along.

Word document of the Avatar break down

PDF document of the Avatar break down

Original Avatar Script at IMSDB

I’ve also included a list describing every beat, what Act it’s in, and what beat chain it’s in. The list includes all 101 beats, but the detailed breakdown doesn’t include the last Act, because it’s just the denouement, and after working on this project for over 100 hours, I never want to hear the word Avatar again, much less break down another one of its beats.

In the beat list, some beats have an asterisk next to them. This is to indicate that the beat could be considered two beats. This happens when there’s a short exchange between two distinct characters that precedes or follows a different and more significant exchange between two other characters. For example, in beat 4, Jake wakes up on a spacecraft by a floating nurse, which takes a few seconds and nothing significant really happens. Then he lands and receives a briefing from a sergeant aboard their landing vessel. The first exchange just introduced the second. Technically, they’re two beats, but the movie could exist without the first one. Don’t take my asterisks as gospel though. I might just be wrong.

With or without the double beats, each Act is consistently between 10-12 beats long. They each end with Jake either accomplishing or failing a major goal that results in him receiving a positive or negative prize that significantly affects the direction of the plot. Using this formula, there are 10 Acts in the movie, though you could combine them into 5 major Acts that each contain 2 minor Acts if you want to look at it that way.

Each Act has 2-3 “beat chains,” which are distinct story lines that are spliced together. They typically last 3-5 beats before switching to the next concurrent storyline. The beat chains are separated with spaces.

ACT/BEAT/BEAT CHAIN LIST

Act 1: Introduce the hero, and give him an opportunity to accomplish his ultimate goal in life.

1: Introduce the hero and state his goal

2: Metaphor for the whole movie

3: Jake recieves an opportunity to make his dream come true

*4: Jake arrives on Pandora

5: Introduce Quaritch and learn about the dangers of Pandora

6: Jake meets the Avatar team

7: Jake meets Grace

8: Grace tries to get Jake kicked off the Avatar team

*9: Jake trains how to use his Avatar body

*10: Jake gets a military assigment from Quaritch

Act 2: The hero accomplishes the first major goal/assignment necessary to achieving his final goal.

*11: Avatar team travels to the derelict Na’vi school in the jungle

*12: Jake is split up from his team running from a giant Thanator

13: Jake prepares to battle the creatures of the night

14: Jake fights the creatures of the night and is saved by Neytiri

15: Neytiri tries to take Jake to safety, but Jake is arrested by Tsu’tey

16: Jake is put on trial at Hometree

17: Jake eats dinner with Neytiri

*18: Jake returns to his human body and debriefs with the Avatar team

19: Jake debriefs with the military team

20: Jake and Grace tell eachother things they didn’t know about the Na’vi

Act 3: The hero trains in a physical skill.

21: Jake trains how to use a direhorse

*22: Jake gives military intel on the Na’vi to Quaritch

23: Grace moves the Avatar program to Site 26

24: Avatar team travels to Site 26

25: Avatar team sets up their equipment at Site 26

26: Neytiri teaches Jake about Banshees

27: Jake records a vlog at Site 26

28: Neytiri trains Jake in Na’vi language and bow

29: Norm trains Jake in Na’vi language

30: Neytiri trains Jake in tree hopping

31: Moat lets Grace and Norm into Hometree

Act 4: The hero trains in a mental skill.

32: Neytiri trains Jake in tracking and naturism

33: Grace teaches Jake about naturism

34: Jake demonstrates mastery of the skills Neytiri has been teaching him

35: Jake demonstrates mastery of naturism in human form

36: Tsu’tey leads Jake and other Na’vi trainees into the Floating Mountains

37: Jake tames his Banshee

38: Neytiri trains Jake how to ride his Banshee

39: Grace teaches Jake about the Leonopteryx and the Well of Souls

40: Neytiri teaches Jake about the Leonopteryx

41: Jake expertly kills a Sturmbeest with a bow while flying on his Banshee

42: Jake celebrates at a Sturmbeest feast at Hometree with the Na’vi

43: Jake and Tsu’tey start to bond, but Neytiri chooses to dance with Jake over Tsu’tey

44: Jake gives an eloquent speech about Naturism

Act 5: The hero accomplishes a major goal, which is undone by the antagonist.

45: Jake and Grace report to Selfridge, who says they’re out of time for diplomacy

46: Quaritch gives Jake one last chance for diplomacy

47: Jake enters his Avatar pod to go take the final test to become a Na’vi member

48: Jake prepares for his final test at Hometree

49: Jake takes Na’vi mescaline and trips out

50: Jake and Neytiri have sex

51: RDA attacks the Na’vi’s trees with Dozers to incite retalitation to justify war

52: Jake disables a Dozer

53: Tsu’tey challenges Jake to a duel for what the humans did to the Na’vi’s trees

54: Trudy flies Quaritch to Site 26

55: Jake and Tsu’tey duel

56: Quartich arrests the Avatar team causing Jake to lose his duel with Tsu’tey

Act 6: The hero regains lost ground.

57: Jake and Grace unsuccessfully beg Quaritch and Selfridge to call off the attack on Hometree

58: Quartich tells Selfridge that the Na’vi took the bait and wiped out their Dozer fleet

59: Quartich convinces Selfridge to attack Hometree

60: Trudy warns Jake and Grace that Quaritch is going to attack Hometree

61: Grace and Jake convince Selfridge to give them one more chance at diplomacy

62: Grace and Jake try to warn the Na’vi that Hometree is about to be attacked

63: Hometree is attacked

64: Trudy breaks the Avatar team out of jail

65: The Avatar team travels out of the RDA compound

66: The Avatar team gets to Trudy’s gunship

67: Quartich fires at Trudy’s gunship, hitting Grace.

Act 7: The hero gains ground.

68: The Avatar team attaches the link module at Site 26 to Trudy’s gunship to move it

69: The Avatar team travels to a new location with the link module

70: The Na’vi are regrouping at the Well of Souls

71: The Avatar team sets up the link module near the Well of Souls

72: Jake retrieves his Banshee

73: Jake tames the Leonopteryx

74: Jake uses the Leonopteryx to reunite with the Na’vi

75: The Na’vi prepare to try to save Grace

*76: The Na’vi fail to save Grace, and Jake urges the Na’vi to recurit more help

77: Jake enlists the help of the Na’vi Horse Clan

Act 8: The hero and antagonist prepare for their final showdown, and the antagonist wins the first round.

78: Quaritch urges all RDA Personell to fight the Na’vi

79: Selfridge tries and fails to stop Quaritch’s war path

80: Max warns the Avatar team Quartich is going to attack the Well of Souls

81: Jake trains the Na’vi how to fight the humans

82: Jake prays to Ewa for help

83: The Na’vi and the humans make final preparations for battle

84: Human mech warriors battle Na’vi Horse Clan (Humans win)

*85: Jake and Na’vi Banshee Clan attack Human Gunships. Norm and Tsu’tey get knocked out of the battle (Humans win)

Act 9: The hero and his allies rally and win the final showdown.

86: Ewa attacks the humans with Banshees and Bull Hammerheads

88: Max leads a revolt within the RDA compound

89: Jake attacks Valkryie Gunship

90: Quaritch goes Berzerker

91: Humans begin retreating despite orders to hold the line

92: Quartich closes in on the Well of Souls

93: Jake unsuccessfully attacks the Dragon Gunship

94: Trudy sacrifices herself to take out the Dragon Gunship

95: Max attacks the RDA control room

*96: Neytiri and Jake kill Quaritch

Act 10: Denouement

97: Neytiri saves Jake’s life and sees his human form for the first time

98: Tsu’tey passes leadership of the Na’vi to Jake, and Jake mercy-kills Tsu’tey

99: The Na’vi and Avatar team kick RDA off Pandora

100: Jake makes a denouement vlog

101: The Na’vi transfer Jake’s soul from his human body to his Avatar body

 

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER: JAKE

PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 1: FIND A CAUSE WORTH FIGHTING FOR/PROTECT THE WEAK FROM THE STRONG

PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 2: BE MORE THAN A MAN CAN BE

PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3: WALK

PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 4: FLY

PROTAGONIST PREVIOUS CAREER: MARINE

PROTAGONIST CURRRENT CAREER: DISABLED VETERAN

PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS: INOPERABLE LEGS

PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

PROTAGONIST FLAW: OBEDIENCE

PROTAGONIST RESOURCE: WHEEL CHAIR

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE: SARCASM AND HUMOR

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE: NEVER GIVE UP

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

PROTAGONIST CURSE: RECIEVES NO SYMPATHY FROM UNIVERSE

PROTAGONIST SKILL: ACT LIKE A MARINE

SKILL: NA’VI LANGUAGE

HUMAN RESPONSE: REFUSAL OF THE CALL

RESOURCE: WHEELCHAIR

RESOURCE: AVATAR BODY

CHARACTER: BAR BULLY

(Metaphor for RDA)

CHARACTER: BARTENDER

CHARACTER: TWO RDA CORP AGENTS

CHARACTER: SPACESHIP NURSE

CHARACTER: FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT

CHARACTER: DOZER

CHARACTER: MECH SUIT WARRIOR

CHARACTER: QUARITCH

CHARACTER GOAL 1: MAINTAIN AN EFFECTIVE FIGHTING FORCE AGAINST PANDORA

CHARACTER GOAL 2: HELP HUMANS SURVIVE PANDORA

SKILL: BUREAUCRATIC RANK

SKILL: MECH PILOT

CHARACTER: NORM

SKILL: LANGUAGE SKILLS

TRAIT: JEALOUSY

TRAIT: INSECURITY

CHARACTER: MAX

CHARACTER SKILL: TECH SAVY

CHARACTER: GRACE

TRAIT: SMOKING HABIT

TRAIT: HIGH EXPECTATIONS

TRAIT: DEDICATION TO SCIENCE

SKILL: KNOWLEDGE OF NA’VI

SKILL: NA’VI GREETING

GOAL 1: PACIFISM

CHARACTER: SELFRIDGE

FLAW: BUREAUCRATIC INEPTITUDE

FLAW: GREED

FLAW: DISRESPECT FOR NATURE

FLAW: PHYSICALLY WEAK

GOAL 1: MONEY

GOAL 2: MINE UNOBTANIUM

GOAL 3: HAVE A MILITARY ASSET ON THE AVATAR PROGRAM

SKILL: BUREAUCRATIC RANK

SKILL: GOLF

CHARACTER: TRUDY

RESPONSE: TOUGH GIRL

CHARACTER: MILITARY ESCORT

CHARACTER: FOREST BANSHEE

CHARACTER: BULL HAMMERHEAD

CHARACTER: GIANT THANATOR

CHARACTER: NEYTIRI

SKILL: KNOWLEDGE OF PANDORA

SKILL: BOW

SKILL: RIDE DIRE HORSE

SKILL: USE ANTENNA/SHAHAYLA

SKILL: RIDE MOUNTAIN BANSHEE

SKILL: NATURISM

SKILL: SUMMON BANSHEE CALL

SKILL: TREE HOPPING

SKILL: RIDE MOUNTAIN BANSHEE

NA’VI FLAW 1: RACISM

RESOURCE: BOW

CHARACTER: THE GREAT TREE

RESOURCE: WOODSPRITE

RESOURCE: ROOT TENDRILS

RESOURCE: WILLOW TENDRILS

CHARACTER: PACK OF VIPERWOLVES

CHARACTER: TSUTEY

FLAW: RACISM

FLAW: JEALOUSY

CHARACTER: EYTUKAN

CHARACTER: EWA

CHARACTER: MO’AT

CHARACTER: MOUNTAIN BANSHEE

CHARACTER: FAN LIZARD

CHARACTER: HEXAPEDE

CHARACTER: GROUP OF CHILDREN NA’VI

CHARACTER: GROUP OF TEENAGE NA’VI

CHARACTER: GROUP OF HUNTER NA’VI

CHARACTER: GROUP OF WOMEN NA’VI

CHARACTER: GROUP OF ELDER NA’VI

CHARACTER: GROUP OF RANDOM NA’VI

CHARACTER: JAKE’S BANSHEE

CHARACTER: LEONOPTERYX

CHARACTER: STURMBEEST

CHARACTER: DEAD NA’VI LADY

CHARACTER: TREE OF VOICES

SKILL: HEAR PRAYERS

SKILL: ANSWER PRAYERS

CHARACTER: DOZER PILOT

FLAW: OBEDIENCE

CHARACTER: GROUP OF FOOT SOLDIERS

CHARACTER: RANDOM FOOT SOLDIER

CHARACTER: WAINFLEET

CHARACTER: PRISON GUARD #1

CHARACTER: PRISON GUARD #2

CHARACTER: NA’VI ANCESTOR SPIRITS

CHARACTER: GROUP OF HORSE CLAN WARRIORS

CHARACTER: GROUP OF BANSHEE CLAN WARRIORS

CHARACTER: GROUP OF RDA PERSONELL

CHARACTER: GROUP OF MECH SUIT WARRIORS

CHARACTER: VALKYRIE PILOT

CHARACTER: GROUP OF SCIENTISTS

CHARACTER: VALKRYIE GUNSHIP 1

CHARACTER: VALKRYIE GUNSHIP 2

LOCATIONS

LOCATION: PROTAGONIST DREAM

LOCATION: STREETS OF PROTAGONIST HOME TOWN

LOCATION: INSIDE PROTAGONIST HOME

LOCATION: PROTAGONIST NIGHT LIFE SPOT (CONFLICT AGENT 1 & 2)

LOCATION: ALLEY BEHIND PROTAGONIST NIGHT LIFE SPOT

LOCATION: PANDORA FLIGHT LINE

LOCATION: BRIEFING ROOM

LOCATION: AVATAR LAB

LOCATION: AVATAR CONTROL ROOM

LOCATION: RDA CONTROL ROOM

LOCATION: AVATAR TRAINING COMPOUND

LOCATION: MILITARY HANGAR

LOCATION: THE SKIES OF PANDORA

LOCATION: GUNSHIP

LOCATION: JUNGLE LANDING ZONE

LOCATION: NA’VI SCHOOL

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 2

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 3

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 4

LOCATION: HOMETREE

LOCATION: RDA CAFETERIA

LOCATION: HOMETREE/THIRD LEVEL

LOCATION: HOMETREE/COMMONS

LOCATION: HOMETREE/RIVERBANK

LOCATION: RDA OPS CENTER

LOCATION: RAIN FOREST

LOCATION: TRUDY’S GUNSHIP

LOCATION: SITE 26/LINK MODULE

LOCATION: SITE 26/SLEEPING MODULE

LOCATION: HOMETREE/BANSHEE EYRIE

LOCATION: RANDOM FOREST

LOCATION: MOUNTAIN TRAL

LOCATION: BANSHEE ROOKERY

LOCATION: THE WELL OF SOULS

LOCATION: HOMETREE/LOWEST LEVEL

LOCATION: WILLOW GROVE

LOCATION: SELFRIDGE’S OFFICE

LOCATION: DRAGON GUNSHIP/COCKPIT

LOCATION: DRAGON GUNSHIP/ROOF

LOCATION: RDA COMPOUND CORRIDOR

LOCATION: RDA COMPOUND PRISON

LOCATION: RDA COMPOUND AIRFIELD

LOCATION: FOREST CLEARING

LOCATION: WELL OF SOULS

LOCATION: RUINS OF HOMETREE

LOCATION: CLAN GATHERING

LOCATION: NA’VI BATTLE CAMP

BACKGROUND INFO

BACKGROUND INFO: STORY UNIVERSE’S PRIMARY FLAW: THE RICH CONTROL THE WORLD AND EXPLOIT THE POOR MERCILESSLY IN THEIR INSATIABLE PURSUIT OF PROFITS

BACKGROUND INFO: PANDORA EXISTS (a place where PROTAGONIST can achieve his ultimate goals)

BACKGROUND INFO: THE UNIVERSE CAN FULFILL PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3 for enough money, which PROTAGONIST doesn’t have

BACKGROUND INFO: JAKE IS A TWIN, AND HIS TWIN IS DEAD

BACKGROUND INFO: RDA CORP HAS AN AVATAR PROGRAM ON PANDORA

BACKGROUND INFO: AVATARS REQUIRE MATCHING DNA TO FUNCTION

BACKGROUND INFO: THERE ARE NO HEROES ON PANDORA, ONLY MERCENARIES

BACKGROUND INFO: THERE IS NO SPECIAL TREATMENT ON PANDORA

BACKGROUND INFO: THE AIR ON PANDORA WILL KNOCK YOU OUT AND THEN KILL YOU

BACKGROUND INFO: EVERYTHING ON PANDORA WANTS TO KILL YOU

BACKGROUND INFO: NOT EVERYONE WILL SURVIVE 6 YEARS ON PANDORA

BACKGROUND INFO: AVATARS ARE EXPENSIVE

BACKGROUND INFO: THE AVATAR PROGRAM BUILT A SCHOOL TO TEACH NA’VI ENGLISH

BACKGROUND INFO: THE AVATAR PROGRAM’S SCHOOL ENDED IN DISASTER

BACKGROUND INFO: HUMANS ARE ON PANDORA TO MINE UNOBTANIUM

BACKGROUND INFO: EWA is TEAM NA’VI’s deity.

BACKGROUND INFO: NEYTIRI’S SISTER was killed by RDA.

BACKGROUND INFO: MIND-MELT BOND IS CALLED “SHAHAYLU”

BACKGROUND INFO: UNOBTAINIUM IS A SUPERCONDUCTOR THAT CAN MAKE THINGS FLOAT

BACKGROUND INFO: MOUNTAIN BANSHEE’S ATTACK IF YOU LOOK IN THEIR EYES. p.60

BACKGROUND INFO: DIRE HORSES DON’T ESTABLISH PERMANENT/MONOGOMOUS SHAHAYLU with NA’VI.

BACKGROUND INFO: MOUNTAIN BANSHEES ESTABLISH PERMANENT, MONOGOMOUS SHAHAYLU WITH NA’VI.

BACKGROUND INFO: TO BECOME TARONU/HUNTER YOU MUST CHOOSE YOUR OWN BANSHEE AND IT MUST CHOOSE YOU.

BACKGROUND INFO: TARONU/HUNTERS GET THEIR BANSHEE WHEN THEY ARE READY.

BACKGROUND INFO: SYLWANIN was killed at TEAM NA’VI school for burning a DOZER.

BACKGROUND INFO: LEONOPTERYX CAN DESTROY GUNSHIPS p.75

BACKGROUND INFO: THE WELL OF SOULS IS TEAM NA’VI’S MOST SACRED PLACE p.76

BACKGROUND INFO: NEYTIRI’S ANCESTOR TAMED A LEONOPTERYX.

BACKGROUND INFO: ONLY 5 LEONOPTERYX HAVE EVER CHOSEN A NA’VI.

BACKGROUND INFO: EVERY NAVI KNOWS THAT NEYTIRI’S ANCESTOR BROUGHT THE CLANS TOGETHER IN A TIME OF GREAT SORROW.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: NEYTIRI IS BETROTHED TO TSU’TEY

BACKGROUND INFO: RDA WILL ATTACK THE WELL OF SOULS

BACKGROUND INFO: THE FINAL TEST OF BECOMING A NA’VI MAN IS “THE DREAM HUNT”

BACKGROUND INFO: THE TREE OF VOICES CAN HEAR AND ANSWER PRAYERS

BACKGROUND INFO: THE TREES ON PANDORA SHARE A NEURAL NETWORK

BACKGROUND INFO: NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT WORKS WORST AT THE WELL OF SOULS

BACKGROUND INFO: TSU’TEY IS SECOND IN LINE TO BE LEADER OF TEAM NA’VI

BACKGROUND INFO: EWA CAN USE THE GREAT TREE TO MOVE SOULS INTO NEW BODIES

BACKGROUND INFO: JAKE IS THE NEW LEONOPTYRX RIDER/CLAN UNIFIER

BACKGROUND INFO: TEAM NA’VI IS MASSING FOR AN ATTACK

BACKGROUND INFO: QUARITCH HAS THE POWER TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW

BACKGROUND INFO: EWA DOESN’T TAKE SIDES, ONLY PROTECTS THE BALANCE OF LIFE

RESOURCES

TEAM AVATAR RESOURCES

AVATAR POD

JAKE’S AVATAR

NORM’S AVATAR

GRACE’S AVATAR

COFFEE

BURRITOS

VLOGGING STATION

VLOG

RANDOM SCIENCE EQUIPMENT

AIRLOCK

TEAM MILITARY RESOURCES

RDA COMPOUND

AIRLOCK

RDA COMPOUND/CONTROL ROOM

RDA COMPOUND/SELFRIDGE’S OFFICE

RDA COMPOUND/RDA AVATAR LAB

RDA COMPOUND/AVATAR TRAINING GROUND

RDA COMPOUND/CAFETERIA

RDA COMPOUND/PRISON

RDA COMPOUND/CORRIDOR

RDA COMPOUND/AIRFIELD

RDA COMPOUND/BRIEFING ROOM

MILITARY RESOURCE: DOZER

WEAPON: BLADES

CAMERA

VIDEO PHONE

MILITARY RESOURCE: MECH SUIT

MILITARY RESOURCE: GUNSHIP

FLYING

RADIO

MISSLES

NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT

MILITARY RESOURCE: HEAVY MACHINE GUN

MILITARY RESOURCE: WOODEN SPEAR

VIDEO OF JAKE BASHING THE DOZER

DRAGON GUNSHIP

VALKYRIE GUNSHIP

MISSLES

GAS

HAND GUN

BULLETS

PRISON

KEY CARD

BIOSUITS

GAS MASK

COMPUTER

VIDEO

RADIO

SURVEILANCE CAMERA

ALARM BUTTON

EMERGENCY DOOR

TRAUMA BAG

MORPHINE

PALLETS OF EXPLOSIVES

TEAM NAVI RESOURCES

NA’VI FLAW: RACISM

NA’VI IDEOLOGY: NATURISM

NA’VI PRIME PEROGATIVE: HARMONY WITH NATURE

NA’VI RESOURSE: KNIFE

NA’VI RESOURCE: BOW

NA’VI RESOURCE: FIGHTING STAFF

NA’VI RESOURCE: DIREHORSE

NA’VI RESOURCE: BOLO

NA’VI RESOURCE: BEETLE FOOD

NA’VI RESOURCE: HAMMOCK

NA’VI RESOURCE: ANTENNA

NA’VI RESOURCE: NA’VI LANGUAGE

NA’VI RESOURCE: KAVA

NA’VI CUSTOM: THE DREAM WALK

NA’VI CUSTOM: NA’VI CAN PICK A MATE AFTER SURVIVING THE DREAM WALK

NA’VI CUSTOM: TEAM NA’VI’S SPIRITUAL LEADER IS CALLED A TSAHIK

NA’VI CUSTOM: DUEL CHALLENGE

NA’VI RESOURCE: SPIRIT ANIMAL

NA’VI SKILL: INVOKE CUSTOM

NA’VI SKILL: SHAHAYLU

NA’VI SKILL: TREE HOPPING

NA’VI SKILL: TRACKING

NA’VI SKILL: NA’VI GREETING

NA’VI SKILL: RIDE BANSHEE

NA’VI SKILL: DEATH RITES

NA’VI SKILL: DREAM WALK RITES

NA’VI SKILL: GROUP PRAYER CHANT

NA’VI SKILL: SOUL TRANSFER

NA’VI SKILL: SOUL TRANSFER RITE

NA’VI SKILL: WAR CRY

GROUP OF HORSE CLAN WARRIORS

GROUP OF BANSHEE CLAN WARRIORS

TEAM PANDORA RESOURCES

POISON AIR

GRAVITY

WIND

UNOBTAINIUM

BANSHEE

DIRE HORSE

NA’VI

FLOATING MOUNTAINS

GIANT TREES

FORESTS

RIVERS

NEURAL NETWORK

MAGNETIC ROCK

LEONOPTEREYX

BEAT 1 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 1-2

SUMMARY:

PROLOGUE

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

Relate key information to the audience

 BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Introduce most important variables about the protagonist and background information.

 BEAT 1 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: FLYOVER OF FOREST CANOPY IN JAKE’S DREAM. (Jake wants to fly.)

Also shown is LOCATION: JAKE’S HOUSE (JAKE lives in poverty.)

ALSO shown is LOCATION: CITY STREET (The masses on Earth live in poverty.)

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKES is having a dream.

JAKE states BACKGROUND INFORMATION 1

JAKE states BACKGROUND INFORMATION 2

JAKE states BACKGROUND INFORMATION 3

JAKE states PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 1

JAKE states PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 2

JAKE states PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3

JAKE states PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 4

PROTAGONIST TAKES ACTION TO ACHIEVE THE CURRENT BEAT GOAL:

JAKE dreams he can be and do more since society won’t give him the chance.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

The economy is oppressive and merciless. JAKE can’t afford a cup of coffee on his disability checks.

RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE wakes up. His eyes open in the same way as the final image of the movie when JAKE wakes up as a Na’vi.

BEAT 2 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 3-4

SUMMARY:

JAKE attempts to achieve PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 1

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to find a cause worth fighting for.

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

BAR BULLY wants to oppress the weak.

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Introduce PROTAGONIST’S GOALS and conflict resolution abilities by using the beat conflict as microcosm of the story conflict

BEAT 2 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: POOL HALL

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is drinking trying to impress BEAT 1 EXTRAS

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION:

JAKE is doing something that resembles PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE QUEST GOAL 2 despite PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 1. But JAKE knows his he’s only achieving PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 2 superficially. So he looks around LOCATION: POOL HALL for a more meaningful opportunity to accomplish his goal.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

JAKE sees BAR BULLY standing at the bar.

BEAT AGENT’S ACTION:

BAR BULLY accomplishes GOAL 1 by hitting a woman. This provides JAKE an opportunity to be a hero and fight above his weight class.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO BEAT AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE on BAR BULLY. JAKE attacks BAR BULLY.

THE UNIVERSE’S COUNTERACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

BAR BULLY fights back.

THE PROTAGONIST’S COUNTERACTION TO THE UNIVERSE’S ACTION:

JAKE uses CHARACTER TRAIT: NEVER GIVE UP.

THE VICTOR/OUTCOME OF THE CONFLICT:

JAKE wins the fight, but BARTENDER throws JAKE out POOL HALL into BACK ALLEY and then throws JAKE’S WHEELCHAIR on him.

FINAL IMAGE:

JAKE is laying on the ground, defeated for winning.

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 1: SARCASM AND HUMOR

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

He laughs to himself to show he is never daunted in the face of overwhelming odds or seeming defeat.

HOW THE OUTCOME OF THE ENCOUNTER AFFECTS THE PROTAGONIST’S ABILITY TO COMPLETE ANY QUEST GOAL:

JAKE is found in the BACK ALLEY by RDA AGENTS who were looking for him.

RDA gives JAKE an opportunity to achieve his goals

 BEAT 3 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 4-5

SUMMARY:

JAKE receives and accepts a job offer on PANDORA.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to defy the world

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

TWO RDA AGENTS want to recruit JAKE for the Avatar program.

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

A tragic and unexpected opportunity provides the CATALYST moves JAKE out of stasis and into unknown territory

BEAT 3 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

ALLEY BEHIND POOL HALL

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is lying on the ground

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE THE CURRENT BEAT GOAL:

JAKE continues laying on the ground as he has nowhere else to go really. This is his life.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

TWO RDA CORP. AGENTS fulfill their 3 goals:

GOAL 1: FIND JAKE SULLY

GOAL 2: DELIVER INFORMATION TO JAKE

GOAL 3: CONVINCE JAKE TO JOIN RDA CORP ON PANDORA

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: JAKE IS A TWIN, AND HIS TWIN IS DEAD

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: RDA CORP HAS AN AVATAR PROGRAM ON PANDORA

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: AVATARS REQUIRE MATCHING DNA TO FUNCTION

 PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 1: FIND A CAUSE WORTH FIGHTING FOR

ALLIGNS WITH

RDA AGENTS’ GOAL 3: CONVINCE JAKE TO JOIN RDA CORP ON PANDORA

RDA AGENTS gives JAKE a sales pitch he can’t refuse

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE accepts the offer

RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE leaves Earth

BEAT 4 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 5-9

SUMMARY: REACH PANDORA

JAKE arrives on PANDORA and receives a quick safety briefing.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to get to Pandora

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT wants to get the new arrivals off the plane safely

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Moves JAKE towards predestined opportunities and conflicts

Introduce necessary variables related to new environment

BEAT 4 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: SPACESHIP

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE wakes up from deep sleep.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE 3: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

Via narration, JAKE gives the audience BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THERE ARE NO HEROES ON PANDORA, ONLY MERCENARIES

Via a transport ship, JAKE arrives at PANDORA FLIGHT LINE where he’s briefed by FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT GOAL 1: GIVE ROOKIES INFO ON PANDORA

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE 3: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT provides BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THERE IS NO SPECIAL TREATMENT ON PANDORA

FLIGHT LINE SERGEANT provides BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THE AIR ON PANDORA WILL KNOCK YOU OUT AND THEN KILL YOU

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

Nobody gives JAKE any special treatment

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE is last off the transport ship

JAKE sees a DOZER with arrows in its tires, foreshadowing TEAM NA’VI

JAKE sees a MECH SUIT foreshadowing he’ll have to fight one

 BEAT 5 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 10

SUMMARY:

JAKE introduced to the dangers of PANDORA by QUARITCH’S safety briefing.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to attend a safety briefing with QUARITCH

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

QUARITCH wants to warn the new recruits how dangerous Pandora is.

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Introduce new sources of conflict and new background information

 BEAT 5 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: BRIEFING ROOM late.

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE enters the room.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE 3: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

QUARITCH gives a safety briefing to newcomers.

QUARITCH GOAL 1: MAINTAIN AN EFFECTIVE FIGHTING FORCE AGAINST PANDORA

QUARITCH GOAL 2: HELP HUMANS SURVIVE PANDORA ALLIGNS WITH PROTAGONIST GOAL 4: COMPLETE 6 YEAR CONTRACT ON PANDORA

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

QUARITCH uses BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THERE IS NO SPECIAL TREATMENT ON PANDORA

QUARITCH gives Jake BACKGROUND INFORMATION: EVERYTHING ON PANDORA WANTS TO KILL YOU

QUARITCH gives Jake BACKGROUND INFORMATION: NOT EVERYONE WILL SURVIVE 6 YEARS ON PANDORA

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE. He’s bored with routine safety briefings

RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE is one step closer to completing QUEST CHAIN 2

BEGIN QUEST CHAIN 3

QUARITCH eyes JAKE sternly

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

QUARITCH knows JAKE exists, setting up the beat when QUARITCH assigns JAKE QUEST CHAIN 3.

 

BEAT 6 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 11-14

SUMMARY: INPROCESS INTO AVATAR PROGRAM WITH TEAM MEMBERS

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to inprocess into the Avatar program

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

NORM wants to help JAKE inprocess

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Introduce Jake’s primary allies and set up to introduce QUEST CHAIN 3: INFILTRATE TH NA’VI

 BEAT 6 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: AVATAR LAB,

Jake meets MAX

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE enters AVATAR LAB led by NORM, who is explaining how the Avatar program works

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE 3: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

Jake uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 1: SARCASM AND HUMOR

Jake uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:  

Jake asks NORM and MAX for help understanding science, but they are distracted.

NORM gives JAKE BACKGROUND INFORMATION: AVATARS ARE EXPENSIVE

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE is pretty much on his own and is unprepared to win Grace’s favor in the next beat:

 

BEAT 7 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 13-14

SUMMARY:

JAKE inprocesses into TEAM AVATAR and meets GRACE.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to be accepted onto the Avatar team despite being unqualified

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

GRACE wants JAKE off the Avatar team because he’s unqualified

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

INTRODUCE JAKE’S CONFLICT WITH GRACE

SET UP GRACE’S CONFLICT WITH SELFRIDGE

BEAT 7 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: AVATAR CONTROL ROOM

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE enters AVATAR CONTROL ROOM with NORM and MAX

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE 3: FOLLOW AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

JAKE meets GRACE emerging from AVATAR POD

GRACE demonstrates TRAIT 1: SMOKING HABIT

GRACE demonstrates TRAIT 2: HIGH EXPECTATIONS

 GRACE’S GOAL 1: PACIFISM VS PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

GRACE tests NORM and JAKE’S expertise. NORM passes. JAKE fails.

NORM uses SKILL 1: LANGUAGE SKILLS

MAX uses SKILL 1: TECH SAVY

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 1: SARCASM AND HUMOR

PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

GRACE leaves to tell SELFRIDGE to take JAKE off the Avatar team

 RESULTING SITUATION:

Grace storming out of AVATAR CONTROL ROOM

 

BEAT 8 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 15-17

SUMMARY:

GRACE tries to get SELFIRDGE to take JAKE off TEAM AVATAR.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

GRACE wants SELFRIDGE to take JAKE off the Avatar team

 BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

SELFRIDGE wants GRACE to keep JAKE on the Avatar team

 BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

INTRODUCE ANTAGONIST

INTRODUCE MAJOR SOURCE OF CONFLICTS

INTRODUCE BACKGROUND INFO

 BEAT 8 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: RDA CONTROL ROOM

OPENING SITUATION:

SELFRIDGE is playing mini golf and makes it known he doesn’t care about what’s going on around him, demonstrating CHARACTER 11 TRAIT 1: BEUROCRATIC INEPTITUDE

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

GRACE storms into RDA CONTROL ROOM

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

SELFRIDGE lectures GRACE revealing important variables:

SELFRIDGE GOAL 1: MONEY

SELFRIDGE GOAL 2: MINE UNOBTANIUM

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THE AVATAR PROGRAM BUILT A SCHOOL TO TEACH NA’VI ENGLISH

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THE AVATAR PROGRAM’S SCHOOL ENDED IN DISASTER

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: HUMANS ARE ON PANDORA TO MINE UNOBTANIUM

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

GRACE protests

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

SELFRIDGE reveals SELFRIDGE GOAL 3: HAVE A MILITARY ASSET ON THE AVATAR PROGRAM

SELFRIDGE uses SKILL 1: BEAUROCRATIC RANK and rejects GRACE’S demand.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

GRACE leaves defeated

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE’S membership on the Avatar team is permanently secured

SELFRIDGE announces a new quest chain for JAKE: FIND DIPOLOMATIC SOLUTION TO CONFLICT WITH NA’VI

 

BEAT 9 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 17-20

SUMMARY: JAKE TRAINS HOW TO USE HIS AVATAR

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to train how to use his AVATAR BODY

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

GRACE wants JAKE to take it slow

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE trains how to use PROTAGONIST RESOURCE: AVATAR BODY

JAKE achieves PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3: WALK

JAKE completes QUEST CHAIN 2: INPROCESS INTO PANDORA

BEAT 9 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

AVATAR CONTROL ROOM

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE enters his AVATAR POD with GRACE’S assistance

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE THE CURRENT BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:  

GRACE uses TRAIT 2: HIGH EXPECTATIONS

GRACE uses BACKGROUND INFORMATION: THERE IS NO SPECIAL TREATMENT ON PANDORA

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S OPENING ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 1: SARCASM AND HUMOR

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

GRACE connects JAKE to his Avatar even though she doesn’t want to.

 THE PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO THE UNIVERSE’S ACTION:

JAKE wakes up in his Avatar body at LOCATION: AVATAR TRAINING COMPOUND

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

JAKE achieves PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3: WALK

JAKE partially achieves PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 2: BE MORE THAN A MAN CAN BE

NORM and MAX try to stop JAKE but are unable

JAKE runs through the training course and demonstrates proficiency using his Avatar body

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE wins a little favor in GRACE’S eyes

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE is ready to journey into Pandora’s jungle

 

BEAT 10 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 23-25

SUMMARY:

JAKE completes his military inprocessing.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to follow orders to meet QUARITCH

 BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

QUARITCH wants JAKE to give him intel on TEAM NA’VI

 BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE completes QUEST CHAIN 2: INPROCESSING INTO PANDORA

JAKE accepts QUEST CHAIN 3: INFILTRATE TEAM NA’VI

 BEAT 10 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: MILITARY HANGAR

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is walking and talking to TRUDY

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

TRUDY gives JAKE QUEST GOAL 3.2.1: DOOR GUNNER AND MILITARY ESCORT FOR AVATAR TEAM. JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE and accepts the quest.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

QUARITCH offers JAKE QUEST GOAL 3.2: GATHER MILITARY INTEL ON NA’VI.

In return, he will fulfill PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 3: WALK at the end of his 6 year tour on Pandora.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE and says, “Hell yeah.”

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE accepts a military mission that conflicts with his Avatar mission and PROTAGONIST ULTIMATE GOAL 1: FIND A CAUSE WORTH FIGHTING FOR (PROTECT THE WEAK FROM THE STRONG)

 

BEAT 11 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 26-30

SUMMARY: JAKE ESCORTS AVATAR TEAM TO NA’VI SCHOOL IN THE JUNGLE

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to escort GRACE and NORM to TEAM NA’VI SCHOOL

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

GRACE doesn’t want MILITARY ESCORT to come with them.

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE moves into the unknown where he can find what he doesn’t know he’s missing

BEAT 11 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: THE SKIES OF PANDORA

OPENING SITUATION:

TRUDY is piloting JAKE, GRACE NORM and MILITARY ESCORT in MILITARY RESOURCE: GUN SHIP

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE sees a FOREST BANSHEE flying around

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

JAKE tracks the FOREST BANSHEE with MILITARY RESOURCE: HEAVY MACHINE GUN

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

TRUDY lands her GUN SHIP at LOCATION: JUNGLE LANDING ZONE. GRACE refuses to allow MILITARY ESCORT to accompany them into the dangerous jungle.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE doesn’t protest despite PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

JAKE, GRACE and NORM walk into the jungle without incident.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

They are setting themselves up for trouble.

 

BEAT 12 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 31-34

SUMMARY:

JAKE, GRACE AND NORM retrieve SCIENCE EQUIPMENT from NA’VI SCHOOL.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to escort NORM and GRACE in and out of Pandora’s jungle safely

ANTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

GIANT THANATOR wants to eat JAKE

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Provide information on TEAM NA’VI

Move JAKE closer to TEAM NA’VI

 BEAT 12 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: NA’VI SCHOOL

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE, GRACE and NORM enter the school.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

He pays attention to his surroundings and asks questions

JAKE asks GRACE questions about the school, but she is not forthcoming with answers.

GRACE relays BACKGROUND INFORMATION: HUMANS HAVE NOTHING TEAM NA’VI WANT

They leave LOCATION: NA’VI SCHOOL and enter LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE, where JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA and goofs around.

JAKE is attacked by BULL HAMMERHEAD and then GIANT THANATOR.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

GIANT THANATOR attacks JAKE

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE runs.

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

GIANT THANATOR chases JAKE.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE escapes but gets lost in the jungle

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE fails to complete the beat goal, but this is a false failure, as it will bring him into contact with TEAM NA’VI.

 

BEAT 13 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 35-36

SUMMARY: JAKE tries to survive alone in Pandora’s jungle.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to survive the night

ANTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

NEYTIRI wants to kill JAKE

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE makes contact with CHARACTER 16: NEYTIRI

 BEAT 13 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 2

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is walking cautiously through the jungle.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE.

He makes MILITARY RESOURCE: WOODEN SPEAR

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA and makes a bunch of noise and doesn’t pay attention to what’s around him.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

JAKE doesn’t see NEYTIRI because she is using SKILL 1: KNOWLEDGE OF PANDORA

NEYTIRI is about to kill JAKE, but THE GREAT TREE uses RESOURCE 1: WOODSPRITE to pacify NEYTIRI

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE is blessed by THE GREAT TREE. So NEYTIRI follows and watches over him.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE is one step closer to making contact with TEAM NA’VI.

 

BEAT 14 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 37-43

SUMMARY:

NEYTIRI saves JAKE

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to survive the night.

 BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

PACK OF VIPERWOLVES want to eat JAKE

 BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE makes contact with TEAM NA’VI.

 BEAT 14 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 3

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE being hunted by PACK OF VIPERWOLVES

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST SKILL 1: ACT LIKE A MARINE

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

He turns MILITARY RESOURCE: WOODEN SPEAR into a torch

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

PACK OF VIPERWOLVES attacks JAKE.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE fights back but loses.

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

NEYTIRI saves JAKE using SKILL 1: KNOWLEDGE OF PANDORA and NA’VI RESOURCE: BOW

 THE PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO THE UNIVERSE’S ACTION:

JAKE tries to thank NEYTIRI, but she uses SKILL 2: NATURISM

NEYTIRI tries to teach JAKE killing predators is bad if it’s not necessary.

NEYTIRI uses NA’VI FLAW 1: RACISM and tells JAKE he’s like a baby.

JAKE pleads for her to help him, but she refuses until THE GREAT TREE uses RESOURCE 1: WOODSPRITES to bless JAKE again.

RESULTING SITUATION:

NEYTIRI agrees to help JAKE and leads him to safety.

EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE has earned an opportunity to infiltrate TEAM NA’VI.

  

BEAT 15 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 43-45

SUMMARY:

JAKE is taken captive by TSU’TEY.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to follow NEYTIRI to safety

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

TSU’TEY wants to kill JAKE

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE gets closer to TEAM NA’VI but experiences backlash

JAKE meets a recurring source of conflict in TEAM NA’VI community

 BEAT 15 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: DEEP JUNGLE 4

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE and NEYTIRI are running through entertaining background.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE tries to get to know NEYTIRI by asking her questions.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

TSUTEY shows up riding NA’VI RESOURCE: DIREHORSE

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

TSUTEY uses NA’VI RESOURCE: BOLO to catch JAKE.

TSUTEY tries to use NA’VI FLAW: RACISM and NA’VI RESOURCE: BOW to kill JAKE.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA. He’s helpless.

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

NEYTIRI intercedes and saves JAKE’S life, but TSUTEY hauls JAKE to HOMETREE for judgment.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE is officially a helpless captive.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

PROTAGONIST WEAKNESS 2: UNPREPARED FOR PANDORA

JAKE enters TEAM NA’VI’s home, a huge step closer to infiltrating them.

This is his first chance to gather military intelligence on TEAM NA’VI.

  

BEAT 16 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 45-48

SUMMARY: Jake joins TEAM NA’VI

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to not get killed by TEAM NA’VI

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

EYTUKAN wants to kill JAKE

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE survives the night and succeeds at infiltrating TEAM NA’VI

New Na’vi characters are introduced

BEAT 16 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

LOCATION: HOMETREE

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is dragged to the center of a circle of Na’vi.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE is docile.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

EYTUKAN uses NA’VI FLAW 1: RACISM and says JAKE should have been killed already instead of brought to their home.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE tries to be friendly. It doesn’t work.

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

NEYTIRI tells the mob that THE GREAT TREE told her to save JAKE in BEAT 13.

MO’AT shows up to speak on behalf of EWA. MO’AT questions JAKE.

 THE PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO THE UNIVERSE’S ACTION:

JAKE tells MO’AT he’s a warrior and he wants to learn from them. MO’AT decides they could learn from JAKE Too.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

MO’AT orders NEYTIRI to train JAKE in the ways of TEAM NA’VI.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE begins a new TRAIN IN THE WAYS OF TEAM NA’VI.

BEAT 17 PLOTTING INFO

 PAGE: 48-50

SUMMARY:

Jake learns to eat with TEAM NA’VI.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to impress NEYTIRI by eating BEETLE FOOD

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

NEYTIRI wants to test JAKE by feeding him BEETLE FOOD

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Establish JAKE and NEYTIRI’S personal and training relationship.

 BEAT 17 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

TREE HOME

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE and NEYTIRI are sitting down for dinner.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE eats dinner with NEYTIRI

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

NEYTIRI wants JAKE to eat NA’VI RESOURCE: BEETLE FOOD

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

NEYTIRI encourages JAKE to BEETLE FOOD.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE eats BEETLE FOOD enthusiastically and compliments them.

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

MO’AT and EYTUKAN comment that NEYTIRI will kill JAKE

 THE PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO THE UNIVERSE’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 2: NEVER GIVE UP

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE survives his first lesson.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE is one step closer to completing his training.

 

BEAT 18 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 50

SUMMARY: JAKE debriefs with the Avatar team

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to debrief with the Avatar team.

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

NORM and GRACE don’t appreciate JAKE’S victory

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

The Avatar team accepts JAKE’S role as their new ambassador to TEAM NA’VI.

BEAT 18 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

 OPENING LOCATION:

HOMETREE, He wakes up in JAKE wakes up in AVATAR CONTROL ROOM.

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE falls asleep next to NEYTIRI in NA’VI RESOURCE 6: HAMMOCK.

NEW LOCATION:

AVATAR CONTROL ROOM

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is laying in his AVATAR POD.

GRACE is slapping JAKE in the face, telling him to wake up.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION:

JAKE greets GRACE.

NEW LOCATION:

RDA CAFETERIA

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is sitting at a cafeteria table with NORM, GRACE and MAX.

JAKE tells his audience about his night and its implications for their mission.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

NORM is jealous. GRACE is credulous. MAX is impressed.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE uses PROTAGONIST RESPONSE TO OVERWHELMING ODDS 1: SARCASM AND HUMOR

RESULTING SITUATION:

GRACE and NORM accept the situation.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE progresses one step closer to quest goal.

BEAT 19 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 51-52

SUMMARY: JAKE debriefs with the military team

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to report his progress to QUARITCH

BEAT AGENT’S BEAT GOAL:

QUARITCH wants intel on HOMETREE

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

Progress military plot line

 BEAT 19 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

RDA CONTROL ROOM

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is in a meeting with QUARITCH and SELFRIDGE.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE tells QUARITCH about his night and becoming TEAM NA’VI ambassador

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

SELFRIDGE is at the meeting.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

SELFRIDGE says HOMETREE is the next UNOBTANIUM mining site.

SELFRIDGE uses GOAL 2: MINE UNOBTANIUM

SELFRIDGE says bad press from killing NA’VI is better than bad shareholder reports.

SELFRIDGE uses GOAL 1: MONEY

SELFRIDGE gives JAKE new mission: CONVINCE NA’VI TO RELOCATE in 3 months.

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

JAKE accepts the mission.

RESULTING SITUATION:

The meeting ends.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE has conflicting missions.

 

BEAT 20 PLOTTING INFO

PAGE: 53

SUMMARY: JAKE identifies NA’VI in photos to GRACE, which brings up the topic of NEYTIRI’S sister, who GRACE informs JAKE, is dead.

PROTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

JAKE wants to give GRACE inside information about TEAM NA’VI.

ANTAGONIST’S BEAT GOAL:

NORM resents JAKE’S success

BEAT’S IMPACT ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

JAKE gives GRACE intel on Na’vi, and GRACE trains JAKE by giving him info that prepares him.

JAKE learns NEYTIRI’s sister was killed by humans.

 BEAT 20 SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

OPENING LOCATION:

AVATAR LAB

OPENING SITUATION:

JAKE is sitting at a computer terminal with GRACE, NORM and MAX.

GRACE is showing JAKE pictures of TEAM NA’VI on the terminal.

PROTAGONIST’S OPENING ACTION TO ACHIEVE BEAT GOAL:

JAKE identifies TSU’TEY, NEYTIRI, EYTUKAN and MO’AT in photographs for GRACE. GRACE explains the cultural significance of the positions each person holds in NA’VI society.

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY:  

NORM and GRACE

AGENT OF CONFLICT OR OPPORTUNITY’S OPENING ACTION:

NORM resents JAKE’S success and ignorance. He gives JAKE BACKGROUND INFORMATION: EWA is TEAM NA’VI’s deity.

GRACE tells JAKE BACKGROUND INFORMATION: RDA killed NEYTIRI’S sister

PROTAGONIST’S REACTION TO AGENT’S ACTION:

Sadness

THE UNIVERSE’S REACTION TO THE PROTAGONIST’S ACTION:

GRACE puts JAKE into his Avatar body.

 RESULTING SITUATION:

JAKE goes into his avatar body.

 EFFECTS OF RESULTING SITUATION ON PLOT PROGRESSION:

The stakes of JAKES’s missions are escalated.

Click here to download the Word document of the rest of the break down.

If you liked this break down, you may also like these break downs:


Excerpts from my upcoming book about film script plot templates

I’m currently working on a book that explains the standard film script plot structure used in all those Hollywood movies that seem to have the same plot. I’ve still got a few months of work to do before it’s finished because the formula contains a surprising amount of detail and a lot of subtle variations. Plus I’m also busy creating an autistically detailed break down of the plot to Avatar.

While I’ve been working on these projects I’ve had a couple of people E-mail me through my About page asking for advice on story plotting, which reminded me there are a lot of people looking for this information right now. So I’m going to go ahead and share a few useful excerpts from the book:

THE 7 MOST COMMON ACT STRUCTURES FOUND IN HOLLYWOOD MOVIES

  • 1. The hero accepts the quest. 2. The hero trains to fulfill the final condition. 3. The hero attempts to fulfill the final condition and fails. 4. The hero fulfills the final condition. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero fails to fulfill the goal that would yield the incentive, resulting in creating a new condition. 2. The hero identifies the new condition of obtaining the incentive. 3. The hero acquires a resource he needs to fulfill the final condition. 4. The hero fulfills the condition. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero identifies the incentive and its three successively dependent conditions. 2. The hero completes the first condition. 3. The hero completes the second condition. 4. The hero completes the final condition. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero accepts the quest. 2. The hero attempts to complete the final condition and fails, creating a new condition. 3. The hero attempts to complete the new condition and fails, creating a new condition. 4. The hero completes the final condition. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero accepts the quest. 2. The hero gathers a team. 3. The team accomplishes the first condition of obtaining the incentive. 3. The team plans and prepares to fulfill the final condition. 4. The team succeeds at neutralizing the final condition. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero survives an apocalypse that creates a deficiency in his need. 2. The hero creates a plan to survive. 3. The hero fulfills the first condition of survival. 4. The hero fulfills the final condition of survival. 5. Denouement.
  • 1. The hero accepts a job that will fulfill his highest need and in-processes into the new job. 2. The hero trains at his new job. 3. The hero applies his training on his assigned task and fails. 4. The hero applies what he learned from failing to the task and completes it. 5. Denouement.

DETAILED SAMPLE SCRIPT TEMPLATE

Act 1

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 7

Suggested beats: 1-3, 7-10

The A-story in Act 1 introduces the hero, his ultimate external goal, a problem that stands between him and his goal. He attempts to achieve his goal but either fails at the end of the Act or accepts an opportunity to progress towards his goal. Either way, he crosses a threshold he can’t return from.

B-story

Suggested number of beats: 3-4

Suggested beats: 4-7

The B-story in Act 1 introduces the hero’s ultimate internal-oriented goal, conditions and the stakes. You can foreshadow future conditions and complications in Act 1 or wait to introduce them in Act 2.

C-story

Suggested number of beats: 1

Suggested beats: 7-8

The C-story in Act 1 introduces the hero’s third goal, stakes and possibly foreshadow its conditions and complications. Since crossing the threshold in Beat 10 creates the problem, he won’t be able to create a plan until Act 2.

Any additional storylines should also be introduced in Act 1. The C-story can impact the hero’s quest when it’s introduced, but it doesn’t have to.

Act 2

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 7

Suggested beats: 11-13, 17-20

Act 2 reboots the hero’s problem solving steps in the A-storyline, because after crossing the threshold in Beat 10, there is a new problem standing between him and his ultimate goal. So he must have experiences that walk him through the process of defining the problem, the conditions of success and the stakes. Then he must create a plan and enact it. He will complete the plan in Beat 20, but he will learn in Beat 21 that his success has backfired, creating a new condition he will spend Act 3 attempting to fulfill.

B-story

Suggested number of beats: 3-5

Suggested beats: 14-19

When the B-story is appears in Act 2, it will collide with the A-storyline, usually because the hero uses one of his signature flaws to solve a problem. The B-story will conflict with the A-story. In Act 2, the hero can either be aware or unaware of the fact that completing the B-storyline goal is a condition of completing his A-storyline goal, but it usually creates more tension if the character is aware of the fact.

The B-storyline goal, condition/s, stakes and primary obstacle must be stated by the end of Act 2.

If the condition of the A-story and B-story goal require the hero to complete the same task, such as in “Avatar,” where Jake Sully must infiltrate the Na’vi in order to fulfill his commitment to both his military boss and his scientific/humanitarian boss, then the hero can spend Act 2 on one quest in which every beat is technically both A and B-story.

C-story

Suggested number of beats: 1

Suggested beats: 15-17

In Act 2, the C-story reveals how crossing the threshold in Beat 10 created a problem with a condition the hero must fulfill in order to complete the C-storyline. The hero can also create a plan and enact it, but he shouldn’t fulfill the goal until the latter half of Act 5.

Act 3

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 7

Suggested beats: 20-27

Act 3 begins with the hero finding out his success at the end of Act 2 didn’t fulfill the condition/s of his ultimate goal. Instead, it resulted in a worst-case setback in the A-storyline, B-storyline or both. Now the hero must create a new plan to meet the new condition of the new complication. It’s usually the most dramatic if the hero fails every step of the way, forcing him to adapt and try again until he fails completely at the end of Act 3. However, if it makes sense for the story, he can win a few rounds.

The hero’s false victory at the end of Act 2 can create a worst-case setback in the hero’s quest to accomplish his A-story goal without affecting the B-story in any other way than, it would be futile or impossible to complete the A-storyline goal without fulfilling the condition of his B-storyline goal first. If this is the case, you can devote all 7 beats in Act 3 to the A-story.

B-story

Suggested number of beats: 0-7

Suggested beats: 21-27 or 24-27

The hero’s false victory at the end of Act 2 can create a worst-case setback in the hero’s quest to accomplish his B-story goal without affecting the A-story in any other way other than the hero can’t fulfill the major condition of his A-storyline goal without fulfilling the condition of his B-storyline goal. If this is the case, you can devote all 7 beats in Act 3 to the B-story.

You can devote some of the beats in Act 3 to the A-story and the B-story, but at the end of Act 3, the hero will can fail to complete at least whichever quest takes up the most beats in Act 3. You can also have the A and B story collide in a way that causes him to fail one or both of his quests.

C-story (0-1 Beats)

Suggested number of beats: 2

Suggested beats: 2-23, 29

The hero will continue enacting his C-storyline plan in Act 3 and fail. This storyline still doesn’t have to be impacted by, or have an impact on, the A or B storylines.

Act 3 Finale

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 0-3

Suggested beats: 28-30 or 28, 30

If the hero failure at the end of Act 3, the repercussions of his failure will put him in a worst-case scenario. All of his options will be eliminated, and he is tempted to give up. However, he restates the stakes of failure and decides he must press on.

If Act 4 is the last 3 beats of Act 3, the hero will make his final attempt to meet one of his storyline’s major conditions under the most dire circumstances.

B-story (1-3 Beats)

Suggested number of beats: 0-3

Suggested beats: 28-30 or 29

The hero uses a lesson he’s learned in the B-storyline to solve the A-storyline obstacle in front of him. Since the B-storyline is an internal conflict, completing the B-story quest means he fixes an internal flaw, creating a new virtue inside him. He then applies that virtue to the problem in front of him and overcomes it.

C-story

Suggested number of beats: 0-1

Suggested beats: 29-30

The C-story doesn’t need to appear in Act 4 since there’s so little time to cram it in. However, you can have the hero apply a lesson he’s learned or resource he’s gained in the C-story quest to fulfill the condition of the A or B storyline.

Act 4

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 5-7

Suggested beats: 31-37

If the major condition of the B-storyline was resolved in Act 4, then all 7 Beats in Act 5 will be A-storyline. In the last beat of Act 5 the hero will fulfill the major condition of the A-storyline, neutralizing the antagonistic force that has a conflict of interest with him achieving his ultimate goal.

B-story

Suggested number of beats: 0-2

Suggested beats: 31, 34-36

If the major B-storyline condition hasn’t been met yet, then the hero can use a lesson or resource gained from the B storyline to fix his internal flaw and turn it into a new virtue when he is “dug in” halfway through Act 5.

C-story

Suggested number of beats: 0-2

Suggested beats: 31-32, 38

The hero will attempt to solve the C-story one last time. The audience can see the hero succeed or find out in Act 6 that his actions fulfilled the condition of completing the C-story quest. The effects of completing the C-story quest can impact the hero’s ability to complete his A-story goal or not.

Act 5

A-story

Suggested number of beats: 1

Suggested beat: 38

The hero gets the A-story prize.

B-story

Suggested number of beats: 1

Suggested beat: 39

The hero gets the B-story prize.

C-story

Suggested number of beats: 1

Suggested beat: 40

The hero gets the C-story prize.

THE 12 STEPS OF A HERO ACCOMPLISHING A GOAL:

Once you’ve defined your hero’s need, the rest of the plotting process is just stating the steps he takes to get from Point A to Point B. In order for his thoughts and actions to appear human, you must show the following 12 events in this order:

  1. State the hero’s need.

In order for a hero’s actions to be logical, they must be done in pursuit of obtaining an incentive that will satisfy an unfulfilled need. So the first step is to state or illustrate the hero’s need.

  1. State the stakes of completing/failing to fulfill the need.

If a hero has a goal but no reason to accomplish the goal, then his actions will only be half-logical. The more clearly the audience understands the hero’s motive, the more reason they have to care if he accomplishes his goal. The less they understand his motive, the more distracted they’ll be trying to figure out why the hero is doing anything. The more poignant the hero’s motive, the more poignant the story will be to the audience. The less poignant the hero’s motive, the less reason the audience will have to finish watching or reading the hero’s story.

The reason the hero wants to accomplish his goal is because there are stakes at risk. If he succeeds, something good will happen. If he fails, something bad will happen. Since there are foreseeable good and bad consequences, the hero could literally write down the cost/benefit analysis of trying to accomplish his goal and come to the logical conclusion that he must take action. It could be patronizing to the audience to have the hero spell out his motives so explicitly, but the audience does need to know the consequences of both success and failure to fully understand the hero’s behavior.

When brainstorming the stakes in your story, bear in mind that the stakes will define the hero’s character. Whether the author intends it or not, the fact that the hero cares about the stakes, says something about his internal character. If you use the most exciting stakes you can brainstorm, it will make the hero seem like an exciting person. The more you personalize the stakes to the hero, the more depth the hero’s character, and his relationship to the story, will have.

  1. State the condition of fulfilling the need.

The fact that the hero has an unfulfilled need, implies that he must do something to satisfy it. If he didn’t have to do anything, then that would imply it’s already satisfied, unimportant or absurd.

The thing the hero must do to get the incentive is the condition (aka, goal). One condition/goal can have multiple conditions. The hero can learn all the conditions at the beginning of the story or along the way. If/when the hero doesn’t know his goal’s conditions, his immediate goal can be to learn them.

  1. State the hero’s decision to fulfill the conditions.

If the audience doesn’t witness the hero consciously decide to engage in his quest, then his behavior will appear random. When the hero chooses to commit to accomplishing a goal, he takes ownership of his quest. Plus, when he states what he’s about to do and why, the audience can follow the story.

  1. State the hero’s plan to achieve his ultimate goal.

After the hero has stated his goal and the condition to complete it, but before he takes action, he must decide what action to take. He must have a plan. The more clearly the plan is stated, the easier it is to follow the story.

Children’s stories state the hero’s plan almost every step of the way so children don’t get confused, but adults find this patronizing . They can easily follow the plot if the hero’s plans are implied.

The hero should state his plan for his major goals, but the audience doesn’t always have to know what the hero intends to do before he does it, especially when he’s completing minor goals. If the plan isn’t stated, as long as his behavior is within his character, the audience will accept the hero’s unexplained behavior as natural.

  1. The hero enacts his plan to meet the condition.

Once the hero knows what he wants to do, the next step is to do it. If he does anything between the time he formulates his plan and acts on it, he’s wandering around aimlessly. He might have an interesting adventure, but the story won’t move forward until he gets back to his plan, and a tightly written story is always moving forward.

  1. The hero encounters an obstacle or complication.

Technically, it would make a logical, coherent story if the hero decides to do something, does it and succeeds. Psychologically, though, that’s not very interesting. An enthralling story needs tension, and tension comes from the fear the hero won’t succeed.

So, the hero must encounter something at odds with him achieving his goal. Since a hero is measured by the quality of his opponents, the hero should encounter poignant ones that are tailored to reflect and draw out his character.

Whatever stands between the hero and his goal must have a logical reason to be there. Surprises are great, but the less relevant they are to the story, the more absurd your story will be.

The obstacle must have a conflict of interest with the hero achieving his goal. If the problem is a person, they will have a reason why they would benefit from the hero failing and lose something they value if the hero succeeds.

If the obstacle is inanimate, then its existence is the worst-case scenario God or the universe could put in front of the hero to prevent him from achieving his goal.  It helps to imagine that “God” is the antagonist, and God has a conflict of interest with the hero achieving his goal. So God keeps putting worst-case scenario obstacles and complications in the hero’s path.

  1. The hero reacts and adapts to the obstacle or complication

The obstacle will require the hero to perform an action to neutralize it. The hero can use one of his signature moves and neutralize minor opponents directly and immediately, but his major goals will need more eloquent problems and solutions.

  1. The hero fulfills the condition of the need.

Ultimately, the hero will either succeed or fail to fulfill the condition/s of his ultimate need. The only question is how many conditional steps he has to accomplish along the way.

  1. The hero attains the incentive.

The act of the hero accomplishing his goal is the catalyst of a cause/effect reaction that manifests the incentive that will satisfy his need. In other words, he gets the prize.

  1. The repercussion

The premise of the whole story is that something good would happen if the hero satisfies his need, and something bad would happen if he didn’t. Whenever a hero accomplishes a minor goal, the repercussions of that accomplishment will determine what he does next. In the second to last scene of the movie, the audience sees the repercussions of the hero fulfilling his ultimate need.

  1. The sunset

After the hero fulfills his need and experiences the repercussions, the story still begs the question, what does the future hold for the hero? What’s the hero’s next goal? The beginning of each beat is the sunset of the previous beat, and the last scene is the final sunset of the story.

Technically, a story doesn’t have to include steps 10-12 at the end of the story, but the whole story has been a stick and carrot leading up to this point. The author practically promised it, and the audience will be insulted and let down if they don’t get what they expected. You’re really not being clever by ending a story abruptly.

THE 9 PARTS OF A BEAT

My definition of a “beat” is, everything that happens between the time the hero enacts a plan to achieve an immediate goal and fails or succeeds to accomplish it.

Beats tend to be 1-3 minutes long and last 1-5 scenes, though most beats are only 1 scene long. This way, each scene opens to a new action sequence and ends with the hero succeeding or failing to accomplish a goal.

Every beat follows the same 9 steps, which are listed below:

  1. Opening image:

Each beat begins with the hero approaching a problem he needs to solve in order to accomplish a goal that will help him achieve his ultimate goal. This establishes where the camera will start rolling. So it needs to include the location and what the protagonist is doing when the director shouts, “Action.” Describe how the hero arrives or is found at the scene. The most common opening image is the hero walking through a door into a room where needs to do something.

  1. Hero’s opening action:

Once the hero’s presence is established on the scene, he needs to do what he came there to do. He already has a goal and a plan in mind. This is the first thing he does to engage the environment in pursuit of his goal.

  1. Opponent with a conflict of interest or opportunity:

There is always something standing between the hero and his immediate goal. It’s usually a person who has a conflict of interest with the hero. However, the “opponent” can be an ally of the hero, and the opponent’s ultimate goals can align with the hero’s. There still needs to be a source of conflict standing between them. In those cases, the conflict is the hero doesn’t want to the opportunity.

  1. Hero’s response:

After the hero encounters his opponent, he must logically react to it. The hero can only act in his character. The only way the audience can know the hero’s character is by watching him demonstrate his values and skills, of which he has 5-10 he reuses in every beat.

  1. Opponent’s response:

After the hero responds to the conflict in character, the opponent will counteract the hero’s action. Their action is usually a worst-case scenario that minimizes the hero’s chance of success. If the opponent has been seen before, they will use responses that were introduced in their first one or two appearances.

  1. Hero’s escalated response:

After the hero is hit with the opponent’s response, he will counteract the opponent’s move. This move will be more dramatic than his first response.

  1. Opponent’s escalated response:

The opponent will get at least one more chance to counter the hero. If the hero is destined to lose the conflict, this will be the deciding blow that neutralizes the hero and prevents him from achieving his goal. If the hero is destined to win the conflict, he would get another chance to respond with action after the opponent’s turn is over.

The beat can go on longer by having the hero respond again, and the opponent can respond again after that. In an action movie where the hero is physically fighting an enemy, the tit-for-tat can go on for five minutes in a single beat. Most conflicts are conversations where two people parse words briefly and then reap the consequences.

  1. Final outcome:

The final outcome is whether or not the hero won or lost the conflict.

  1. Hero’s closing image:

The closing image is what the camera sees right before the director shouts, “Cut.” This shows the immediate aftermath of the encounter and either implies or states how the outcome affects the hero’s progress towards his ultimate goal. If the hero wins, he may be doing a victory dance. If the hero loses, he may be laying in a gutter bleeding.

If you would like to see the current rough draft, you can download it by clicking here. As long as you give attribution credit, I don’t care if you steal it because I’m publishing it under creative common license.

Below are links to my earlier work on story plotting:

Formula plot templates:

Choose your own adventure story templates

 


Tips on conversation: Part 1

Talking isn’t a competition. It’s an opportunity.

Humans have a tendency to approach conversations like a competition where the winner is whoever proves themselves the coolest, smartest, most successful, or most charming. But life isn’t a competition for social status. It’s nice when people like you, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Nor are you under any obligation to like or impress anyone else. Think about it. How many times as someone completely changed your life after you impressed them in a conversation? Unless you’re married, probably never.

Trying to impress everybody is futile, because you’re completely incompatible with at least half of the people you meet. So you were never going to be friends anyway, and most of the people you do get to know will be gone from your life in a few years, rendering their opinion of you meaningless eventually.

There are more enjoyable and useful kinds of conversations  you can have than dick waving competitions. Use conversation as an opportunity to learn, have fun and connect with others. That’s what they’re for.

Nobody is out to judge you.

Nobody who cares about you will judge you, and nobody else cares enough about you to judge you. Ultimately, you’re just another face in the crowd who isn’t going to be around in a few years. Everyone is obsessed with themselves. When they talk to you, they’re only paying half attention to what you’re saying. The rest of their mind is busy thinking about their own needs and insecurities.

In fact, strangers are more likely to want to give you the benefit of the doubt, because we all want to believe we live in a good world, full of good people. When you meet someone new, don’t you hope they turn out to be nice and enjoyable? When you introduce yourself to someone, they’re most likely crossing their fingers, thinking, “Please, let this person be one of the good guys.” They don’t want you to impress them. They mostly just want you to not make their life harder.

It’s true, there are people out there who will judge you, but those people usually judge everyone. Habitually judging others is dysfunctional behavior that has more of a negative impact on the perpetrator’s life than the victims’. That kind of behavior fits the definition of a mental disorder. It’s not a sign of evil. It’s a condition that requires treatment. So when a judge-aholic looks down on you, don’t take it any more personally or seriously than you would someone with an eating disorder judging the size of your meal.

Nobody sees the real you. 

If society’s dress code required everyone to wear masks all the time, we would all be more confident. Hiding our faces makes us feel safer, because nobody can see the real “us.” The more anonymous we feel, the more permission we give ourselves to act as bold in real life as we would on an internet message board. This is ironic, because nobody will ever see anyone for who they really are. Everyone has a completely unique universe in their mind that only sound can escape. Trying to understand who a person is by talking to them, is like an astronomer trying to study the night sky using an ear horn.

Our internal universes are so unique and inaccessible, it’s impossible for us to accurately imagine what reality is like from anyone else’s perspective. Since we can’t see people for who they are, we fill in the blanks with patterns from our own universe. So no matter what you do or say, when anyone looks at you, they mostly see themselves. The way they treat you usually has more to do with how they treat themselves, than how you deserve to be treated. So take advantage of your anonymity to act outside your comfort zone, and don’t worry about what people say to a mirror.

The scarier talking to people is, the more you should seek help.

Talking to people isn’t war. Nobody wants your worst-case fears to come true. They don’t even want to think about it. They just want to feel good. Even if conversations do go bad, in the long run it doesn’t matter. Stressing out about failing in conversations is an irrational fear. That’s the definition of a “phobia,” specifically, social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety exists only in your mind. You can turn it off like a light by thinking about anything else. If that doesn’t work, read some books on coping with social anxiety disorder and insecurity. If that doesn’t work, go see a mental health professional. Relief will only come as quickly as you pursue it.

The more you look at things from other people’s point of view, the less lost you’ll be. 

I learned some of the advice in this list from books, but I picked most of it up from watching people and trying to imagine life from their point of view. It’s easy, fun and enlightening. The more you understand where people are coming from, the better you can communicate with them. The less you understand them, the more lost you’ll be. If you don’t make a conscious decision to habitually look at conversations from other people’s point of view, you’ll always be lost.

Relax. We’re all apes here.

Some of my advice may seem contradictory, pessimistic or arrogant, but there’s a logical, impartial explanation for all of this. For example, I say people are unique, unknowable universes, but you can figure them out by watching them. I say people deserve love, but we’re all obsessed with ourselves. I say people are lost, ignorant and selfish, which raises the question, why don’t I live alone in the woods if everyone is so intolerably dumber than me?

Relax. I never said I was better than anyone else. The truth is, we’re all basically apes. We’re really clever apes, but our thought processes and motives are primitive enough to be predictable.

Apes are going to ape. That’s no reason to hate them. We may be goofy creatures, but we’re also cosmic miracles. The fact that we exist at all is reason enough to love us.

No matter how much better anyone thinks they are than anyone else, we’re all apes at the end of the day. There’s no reason to feel superior or inferior to anyone else. Nor is there any reason to stress over winning the approval of other apes. If someone ever throws shit at you, take it as personally as you would an ape throwing shit at you. If someone treats you divinely, cherish it. In the meantime, relax.

People would rather hear what they have to say than what you have to say.

When people talk to you, it’s like you’re standing behind an opaque mirror, and they’re talking to a reflection of themselves superimposed over a hazy outline of you. They’ve been talking to themselves their entire life, because they’re all they know of the universe. Being the only thing in their universe, their lives revolve around themselves, and they’re the most important thing in their universe.

People want to talk about what’s most important to them, which means anyone without social anxiety disorder probably wants to talk about themselves. Usually, they don’t even want to have a two-way conversation. They just want to talk about themselves and have you listen, smile, nod and compliment them.

The more you talk about yourself, the less they’re going to feel like they’re getting out of the conversation. After a few minutes they’re going to lose interest and spend the rest of the conversation impatiently waiting for their turn to talk or for the conversation to be over. Impressing people in conversation requires almost no talking at all. The only thing you have to do is find out what aspect of their life they want to talk about and ask them about it. The harder you try to blow their mind with what you have to say, the more likely you’ll convince them you’re an arrogant bore.

Flattery will get you everywhere.

People may be unique and unknowable universes, but making them feel good is simple. Just make them feel good about themselves. Give them the approval they so desperately yearn for. Flatter them.

Look at their wardrobe and how they present themselves. Find whatever they put the most thought and energy into and compliment it. Part of them doesn’t even care if you’re sincere or smooth about it. They just want positive reinforcement.

It looks desperate if you constantly praise people, but they won’t hate you for it. More likely, they’ll feel bad for you that you feel the need to impress your equals. However, you can stealthily give them subtle positive reinforcement by smiling, looking them in the eye, laughing and agreeing with them.

This doesn’t mean you should act like a Stepford Wife. If you’re talking to a violent racist, you shouldn’t be laughing and agreeing with what they say. But as a general rule, if you want people to approve of you, then approve of them. They wish you would.

Your name is the sweetest sound you can hear in any language.

Everyone is existentially lost in an incomprehensible universe waiting to die an unexplainable death. We don’t even know if we really exist or if this is just a simulation in a dream. Even living in a city, surrounded by people, you can feel utterly meaningless if nobody ever says your name.

Hearing someone say your name verifies your existence, and connects you to society. It makes you feel popular, important, and worth knowing. When you hear your name, for that moment, the attention is on you. You’re the belle of the ball. We all want to feel that, and we rarely do.

Saying someone’s name is more than just existential flattery. It’s the difference between a stranger and an acquaintance. The more you hear someone say your name, the more a part of their life you’ll be. To build a long lasting relationship with someone, you have to say their name.

Don’t constantly tell people your life story.

Very few people really want to know your life story. It bores everyone else. It also eliminates your mystery and anonymity. The less people know about you, the more they have to fill in the blanks with speculation. We tend to assume people are more perfect than they are. The less we know about them, the more we build them up. This is why teenage girls get so obsessed with boy bands. Since she’ll never meet the boy in person to find out what he’s really like, she falls in love with a mental construction of her ideal boyfriend. To far lesser degrees, everyone you know has done the same thing to you. The more they know about you, the more they see you as a regular, flawed person.

I’m not saying you should strive to be fake or aloof. You should have at least one confidant who knows your entire life story and all your secrets, and you should share your stories freely with the people you want to build life bonds with. But in casual conversation with acquaintances and strangers, you have more to lose than you have to gain by constantly spilling all your beans and cramming them down people’s throats.

Don’t constantly tell people your traumas, dramas and dark secrets. 

Nobody wants to hear about the best vacation you ever took. They really don’t want to hear about the worst things that have happened, are happening, or might happen in your life. All they want, is to feel good.

Hearing your horrible stories will force them to visualize unpleasant things. Then they’ll feel sad for you and guilty that they can’t save you. Then they’ll feel anxious as they try to come up with a solution to your problem. Then they’ll feel frustrated when you don’t take their advice. Then they’ll feel afraid you’re going to ask them for something. When the conversation is over, they’ll feel relief that you’re not battering their psyche like an emotional tornado. After they leave your company, they’ll continue feeling bad. If this happens enough times, they’ll avoid you.

Nobody wants to feel your pain. They want to feel your joy. If you can’t make people laugh, the least you could do is not go out of your way to burden them with your problems. If you need to talk about your problems, you should talk to a therapist.

Don’t constantly bitch about anything. 

Your life might be great, but there’s something else wrong in the world that pisses you off, like your government, immigrants, your lover, your boss, the opposite sex, young people, etc. Nobody wants to hear about it. Nobody cares that you’re upset. They care about making it through the day as happily as possible.

When you bitch about anything, you put a rain cloud over your audience’s head. You may be right about what you’re saying, and it may be important, but depressing the people you hang out with isn’t going to fix the world’s problems. It’s just going to earn you a reputation as an emotionally draining whiner.

Nobody wants to hear you brag.

You can impress people by bragging for a few minutes. The longer you try after that, the more it’ll have the opposite effect. You’d think people’s admiration of you would be proportional to how awesome of a life you’ve lived. But the more amazing your life is than theirs, the more your success highlights the shortcomings in their life. That makes them feel unfulfilled, which makes them feel guilty. Then they resent you for rubbing it in. Then they dismiss their emotional pain by blaming you and labeling you an arrogant brat who thinks life is a dick waving competition and always hogs the conversation telling your life story that nobody wanted to hear in the first place.

If you do have some really great stories that are genuinely interesting, wait until the most poignant time to share them, preferably when someone asks. Your stories will be far more impressive and digestible if you save them. Then people will be amazed you lived a more interesting life than they thought. Then they’ll fill in the rest of the blanks in your life with more positive speculation.

Don’t one-up people’s stories.

It’s painful enough to hear someone deliver a monologue about how much better they are than you. It’s even worse when they try to trump all of your stories. This is the fastest way to convince people you’re not worth talking to.

Be vigilant not to constantly auto-contradict people.

Having anything you say shot down is annoying. Yet many people’s default manner of speaking is to contradict everything anyone says. They believe they’re being smart by finding exceptions and holes in other people’s statements, but their efforts accomplish nothing. They don’t learn, teach or stand for anything, and it shows. Even if you’re right, your audience probably wouldn’t listen. The only thing they’re going to learn is that you’re impossible to talk to.

Don’t play the devil’s advocate.

Some people don’t realize they’re stuck on auto-contradict. Others make it a point to say things they don’t even believe because they’re on a mission to poke holes in people’s conversation. If you call them out on it, they may say they want to help stupid people correct their ignorance, which may be true, but their deeper motivations are sadism, self-centeredness and insecurity.

If your audience really is ignorant, then taunting them is like belittling a child because he hasn’t gone to college yet. Even if they’re too stupid to see what a misguided fraud you are, your actions still prove you’re a bad person in the greater scheme of life.

If your audience is smarter than you think, which they probably are, they’ll see through your shallow game. Even if they don’t, they’re going to remember how you made them feel. If you didn’t make them feel good, they’re not going to try to be a positive force in your life.

Don’t gossip or bitch about other people behind their backs.

It’s common knowledge that anyone who gossips to you, will also gossip about you. Every time you gossip, you’re convincing your audience you’re not trustworthy. And, obviously, you can only talk about other people so many times before it gets back to one of them. On the other hand, if you never do wrong by people, then that’s what people are going to say about you, and respect is going to come back to you.

Constantly bringing up negative information doesn’t help you or your audience achieve happiness. Sure, gossiping is a guilty pleasure, but it pales in comparison to the good feeling you get from talking about the positives in life. There are enough that focusing on the negative is like going to a rose garden and looking for dog shit to sniff.

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Tips on conversation: Part 2

Advice on relationships

Advice on living


Tips on conversation: Part 2

Talking about touchy subjects ends in absurdity often, violence sometimes and cohesion rarely.

There’s an old saying, “Never talk about politics or religion.” This is because nobody has the exact same beliefs, and we tend to defend our beliefs more than we question them. We behave this way partly because we’re cognitive misers and party because we’ve been indoctrinated not to question certain topics. Either way, talking about those topics is more likely to end in conflict than cohesion. However, people are more likely to avoid conflict than jump at the chance to escalate it. So you’ll probably spend the whole conversation dancing around taboos, trying not to offend each other.

The whole exercise was probably futile to begin with, because most people only have a vague idea what they believe. So the deeper you dig, the more excuses and flimsy justifications you’re likely to find than useful or interesting knowledge.

Disagree respectfully.

By some people’s definition, an enemy is anyone who disagrees with them. Yet, everyone disagrees with everyone on something. If you perceive disagreements as battle lines, you’ll have to go war with everyone, and the only thing that would accomplish is making enemies out of all your potential allies and friends.

The chances of you changing anyone’s mind about anything are slim. The odds fall to zero the moment you speak disrespectfully towards them, but the more polite you are, the more kindly they’ll have to view you and your ideology.

Even if you can’t convert them on the spot, you may plant a seed that will germinate later. Regardless, you can still win their respect by treating them with respect and presenting your arguments professionally.

The only person who wins an argument is the one who learns something.

Since you’re unlikely to change people’s minds about anything, and it usually doesn’t really matter whether or not you do, the only thing you stand to gain by arguing is learning something yourself. And since arguments usually happen when both people are half right, the fact that you’re arguing in the first place, probably means you need to learn something. Fighting the other person is the worst way to accomplish that goal.

Accepting responsibility for your actions will get you out of trouble better than making excuses.  

The topic of hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations you’ll have throughout your life will be about how you did something wrong. People tend to instinctively defend themselves when criticized, which is one of the worst things a person can do to themselves. When people say to your face, that you did something wrong, they’re almost always at least half right. Their criticism is like a gift from God, because it warns you what’s wrong with you and tells you what you need to fix, before you suffer any real consequences. Getting defensive and/or fighting the people who try to hold you accountable is like fighting a doctor who is trying to remove the knife you stabbed yourself with.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who don’t need to. The more excuses you make, the less people will take you seriously. If you want to impress people, then listen to them, and admit when you’re wrong. You might think weaseling out of accountability lets you save face, but it really just makes you look like a weasel. If you accept responsibility for your actions, admit when you’re wrong and fix your flaws, the people you once disappointed will come to look up to you.

 Take advice. 

You can learn how to fix your flaws before they get you in trouble. You probably ask people for advice all the time. The more you bitch about your problems, the more advice people are going to give you whether you want it or not, because that’s the only way they can unburden themselves of the problems you’re dumping on them. People’s advice is rarely 100% true, but it’s also rarely 100% useless. You have nothing to gain by rejecting advice and everything to gain from embracing it.

Don’t give much advice.

Everybody needs advice, but people rarely take it, even when they ask for it. Trying to give someone advice, or expecting them to take it, almost always ends in nothing but frustration for the giver. You’re more likely to burn a bridge than save a life. I’m not saying you should never give people advice. I’m just saying, be aware that you’re playing with fire. If you start to see smoke coming out of the other person’s ears, stop.

Ask for advice. 

People like to give advice, as long as you listen to them and take what they say to heart. It’s flattering and creates a meaningful connection between the confidant and confessor. Plus, it just feels good to help people.

This is convenient, because you need advice. You’re so lost, you don’t even know how lost you are. Everyone around you is a treasure chest of information waiting to be opened. Not asking for advice is leaving money on the table.

Don’t let people constantly dump their problems on you. 

You should try to help whoever you can, because all life is equally valuable. So it’s as good to help others as it is to help yourself. This also means it’s important for you to make the most of your own life, and it’s a waste of your invaluable time and energy to coddle people who just want to bitch about everything with no intention of changing anything.

It doesn’t even help the person with the “apocalypse of the week,” because it enables their parasitic behavior. As long as they have a willing host, they’ll stay an emotionally crippled parasite forever, guaranteeing their trivial problems will always be your emergencies.

People tend to mimic your emotional tone.

Humans learn about the world by mimicking others. Even as adults, we’ll stand up if everyone in the room stands up. It’s almost impossible to frown in a room full of laughing people, and it’s just as hard to laugh in a room full of crying faces.

Behavior is contagious. This doesn’t mean you always act like the last person you spoke too, but you will get swept up in their emotion. For example, if you meet someone who is crying, you’re going to react with sadness. If you someone screams at you, you’re going to want to scream back. When someone shows you kindness and love, you’re probably going to be nice to them.

If you want people to like you and be nice to you, then approach them with happiness and friendship. If you want someone to listen to you, don’t scream at them. If you don’t want people to be stressed out and anxious around you, don’t act like everything is always hopeless.

Everyone uses and reacts to emotional tones differently.

As children, we tend to assume everyone is more or less exactly like us. We reason that if we’re all human, then we must all express emotions the same, but we’re all unique snowflakes when it comes to that. For instance, you’d think you could judge how mad a person is by how loud they raise their voice, but some people shout when they’re not mad, while other people perceive any outburst over a whisper to be apocalyptic.

It’s harder than you’d think to accurately assess people’s emotional state or intentions. So it’s a generally good idea to stay on guard not to let yourself get swept up by people’s emotions. Hear them out while wearing a dumb leopard expression on your face. If there really is an emergency, getting swept up in their hysteria won’t help you fix it. On the same token, don’t shout at people or react to minor inconveniences with excessive emotion. Even if you’re calm in your head, you’re freaking everyone out.

Don’t interrupt.

You’d think it goes without saying not to interrupt people when they’re talking, but it happens every day, because the point of being rude is you don’t think about how your actions affect other people.

Look at conversations from the other person’s point of view. They’re in it for what they can get out of it. They probably feel insecure and want to prove their worth. They’re just hoping someone validates their existence by saying their name and complimenting them. No matter how you look at it, they just want to have an experience that makes them happy.

When you interrupt someone, you may as well stop the whole conversation, point to the person you just interrupted and declare whatever they’re saying isn’t important because they’re not important. Then carry on the conversation.

Nobody deserves to be made to feel unimportant. It’s unjust and will probably make an enemy out of the person you cut down. Plus, observers are more likely to view you as rude, than as the savior of the conversation.

You don’t have to lie to kick it.

Lying to make yourself look better never works in the long run. Eventually people will see what you’re doing and lose respect for you. If they do believe all your outlandish stories, they’ll resent you for making them feel inferior or just for talking about yourself all the time.

People don’t stay friends with the people who impress them the most. They stay friends with the people they’re most comfortable around and don’t have to compete with. If you believe you need to constantly impress your friends, the problem is either in your head, or you need new friends.

Cops, blood, sex and drugs.

If you’re ever in a group that’s either struggling to keep a conversation going, or the topic is boring, ask if anybody has any good stories about themselves or a friend involving cops, blood, sex and/or drugs. You’d be surprised how many stories everyone has involving those topics. They’re as fun to tell as they are to hear. Plus, it creates a meaningful connection with people when they share mildly taboo information about themselves. However, the more formal the social gathering, the more inappropriate it would be to raise these topics.

Always have a few jokes up your sleeve.

Jokes are always enjoyable, but it’s rare to hear one person tell more than five jokes in a single conversation. Anyone can memorize five jokes to have ready. You don’t need to tell a joke in every conversation, and you certainly shouldn’t tell the same five jokes every time you talk. Tell a joke if someone asks, if it’s relevant to the current topic or to bridge a silent gap in conversation. People will like you for it, and your conversation will be more fun.

You are what you talk about.

If all you ever talk about is children’s cartoons, then that’s what your mind will consist of. If all you ever talk about is how angry you are about injustice, you’ll live in a bitterly unjust universe. If all you ever talk about is pop culture, your life will amount to a television commercial. If you spend your whole life bitching about other people, then you fit the definition of a bitch.

If you always speak nicely to people, you’ll feel nice, and you’ll have nice memories to look back on. If you ask everyone for advice, your mind will fill up with superpowers. If you meet people from all over the world and listen to their stories, you internal universe will become as colorful as a Holi festival.

Mind your karma ghosts.

The emotional impact of how you treat people lasts long after you’re gone. If someone walks away from you happy, they’ll probably be nicer to the next person they meet. If someone walks away from you angry, they’ll probably be meaner to the next person they meet. The bigger an impact you have on people, the longer they carry the ghosts of your actions with them. The memory of a single conversation with you could pop up in their mind periodically for the rest of their life, bringing those old feelings back to the surface, like a ghost from the past haunting them.

Your actions have ripple effects that extend across time and space. Every time you make someone feel good, you make the world better. Every time you make someone feel bad, you make the world worse.

Mind your appearance.

The cleaner and more professional you look, the more professionally people will assume they should interact with you. The more sexually attractive you are, the more people will try to woo you and overlook your flaws.

The sloppier you dress, the less seriously people will take you. The more you dress like a stereotypical violent criminal, the more people will be afraid of you. The blander you dress, the less you’ll excite people.

The weirder you look, the more likely people are to reject or dismiss you, which can be a blessing or a curse, because the more you look like the person you’re talking to, the more likely they’ll accept you… and hold you accountable to the cultural standards and values of people who dress like you. In other words, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, but if you don’t want to be held to Roman standards, don’t dress like a Roman, but don’t be surprised when the Romans don’t accept you.

Surround yourself with people who enjoy talking about the same things as you. 

Conversation is an opportunity to learn, have fun and build connections. If you’re constantly bored by the conversations you have with the people in your life, then you probably need to surround yourself with new people who want to talk about the same things as you. Life is too short, and the potential for joy is too great, to spend time with people you don’t find interesting.

Cutting people out of your life doesn’t mean you think you’re better than them. There’s no such thing as “the best people.” There’s just the best people for you. The people you’ll enjoy talking to the most tend to be the ones who share most of your interests as strongly as you.

If you liked this post, you may like these:

Tips on conversation: Part 1

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Wisdom is asking the most important questions, and it’s a moral imperative.

Knowledge is having the right answer to a question. Wisdom is figuring out the right answer to the right question. The more you know, the wiser you can become, but until you use a piece of knowledge in a question, it’s just inert information in a data set waiting to be queried. You have to ask yourself questions and use the knowledge in your brain as the variables in the equations in order for your knowledge to serve a purpose.

The more important the question, the more valuable it, and the knowledge required to answer it, becomes, but tallying the sum total of your knowledge is futile. The only thing that really matters is you came up with the best answer to the best question to have the most positive affect on your life. If you’re doing that, then you’re moving forward in life and shouldn’t have time to rest on your laurels anyway.

You can appear wise if you happen to know the right answer to a lot of random questions, but if the question is unimportant, then the only people who would praise you for mastering futility are fools. That’s not the definition of genius. That’s the definition of insanity.

Nobody will ever ask you all the most important questions in life. You’re the only one who can do that for you. If you don’t make a habit out of asking yourself, “What is the most important question I can ask?” then you’re a ship lost at sea, not because you can’t sail, but because you don’t.

Wise people appear to be two steps ahead of everyone else because they’ve already asked themselves the most important questions before they came up, and they’re focused and driven because it doesn’t take external motivation to do what’s most important to you. Far from needing a push, you’ll make excuses to justify doing what’s really most important to you. It takes motivation to act against your beliefs. That’s why there are so many backsliding religious people. Religion is hard to do because it requires a lot of cognitive dissonance to believe in something that fails the test of truth.

Since thinkers have already taken it upon themselves to thoroughly question what’s logically most important in life, they’re more likely to be working towards a logical end goal. People who don’t make a habit of asking themselves, “What’s most important in life?” are unlikely to be toiling towards or defending a logical goal. That’s ultimately how you measure the difference between wisdom and foolishness: by the value of the end goal. You can accomplish everything you set out to by being clever as a fox, but if your goals are unimportant, then you’re just the world’s sharpest fool.

So ask yourself, “What’s the most important question I can ask?” Think about that for the rest of your life. While you’re doing it, bear in mind, the only way to answer a question is to ask more questions, and the more skilled you are at asking questions, the better answers you can deduce. So initially, the most important question you can ask yourself is, “How do you ask a question?” Like most questions, there are a lot of answers, and some are more useful than others. If you need a place to start, I wrote a guide which offers one perspective, and there are thousands more  on Amazon.

As you question your way to enlightenment, you’d be wise to question your answers. Our brains trip us up with schemas, biases, logical fallacies, and all sorts of other reasons to be irrational. To make enlightenment more difficult, many of life’s questions have multiple right answers. Some questions have answers that can’t be proven, but have to be asked anyway. And the most important question you can ask right now may not be the same as anyone else. Plus, no matter how much we learn about life, our understanding will always be at least 99.9% incomplete.

We’re all on lost on our own seemingly futile journey customized to our own life, but we’re also all in the same boat. We’re studying the same data set and sharing the stakes. So a lot of our goals/questions will line up. Sometimes corroborating your answers with someone else is proof you’re on the right track. Other times it’s a sign we’re all making the same mistake.

One thing most of us can agree on is, if a lion is charging at you, then the most important question you can ask yourself is, “How do I not get eaten by this lion?” because if you die, then you’re out of the game. So to the extent that life is valuable, it’s important for you to ask yourself, “Am I about to die?” If the answer is “yes,” then the next most important question you can ask is, “How can I prevent that?” If the answer to the first question was “no,” then the next question you need to ask is, “Are other people about to die, and if so, how can I prevent that without getting myself killed in the process?”

You may be a murderous psychopath who views other humans as soulless piles of atoms, or you may be a sociopath who measures the value of others by how you can use them to get what you want. You may be a religious zealot who measures the value of other people by how many of your favorite prophet’s rules they break, or you may be an abused, broken child in an adult’s body, who hates the world for everything it’s done to you. No matter what you think of anyone else, the bigger picture is that we’re all in this together. It takes a collaborative effort to advance humanity. The more people die, the fewer allies we have to accomplish mankind’s long-term goals. We can’t survive, let alone colonize new planets with utopian village theme parks if we don’t work together, but first we have to save each other.

We all need to survive, and right now the sky is looming with apocalyptic threats so obvious you can’t take your eyes off them. The answer to the question, “Is something coming to kill us?” is “Yes.”

I’ll save you some time decoding the matrix of cluster fucks that are strangling the world. The lynchpin of the world’s problems is poverty. Understand that and everything else will fall into perspective. Fix it, and all its satellite problems will fall away.

But what happens after we fix all the world’s problems and establish utopian settlements on Mars? What’s the next most important question we should ask ourselves then? We’ll see when we get there, but one question we should be prepared to ask is, “What’s the greatest threat to the perfect world?”

It would be logical to prepare ahead of time for an asteroid or futuristic Hitler, but the root of all evil is ignorance. If you build a perfect city and fill it with fools, the first thing they’d do is tear it all down with sincerely good intentions. We’ll never live in anything resembling utopia until everyone is wise. That doesn’t mean we all agree on the same answers, just that we’re all talented, self-driven question-askers who are asking ourselves the most important questions.

Before we become wise enough to live in utopia though, we have become wise enough to create it. Plus, if we all became as genius as possible, we wouldn’t even need to solve half the world’s problems, because we’d be smart enough to not do those stupid things in the first place. This means, the most important thing we can do to create and protect utopia is to learn new things and ask new questions today. The better learning resources we have, the faster and further we can improve ourselves.

This means it’s of paramount importance everyone do something to improve education. There are some free online schools, that could use donations, but every nation in the world should be putting money in a single fund to create one online school with the budget of a small country. If your politician isn’t talking about something like that, you should tell them to start or replace them with someone who does.

With or without the perfect education tool, it’s still up to the individual to decide to teach themselves by any means necessary. It’s a moral imperative everyone asks themselves every day, “What’s the most important thing I can teach myself today?” because you won’t grow until you do, and when you don’t grow, the world doesn’t either. The less you grow, the more the world is full of idiots.

scumbag us

It’s worth speculating what would you do if you became an uberman and all the world’s problems were solved. What’s the most important question you can ask when there’s no threat to distract you… or when death is unavoidable? You’re here, and you’re going to die eventually. There’s more to life than just surviving and preparing. If you only live for tomorrow, you put off living indefinitely. There’s value in the moment, and there’s value to who you are independent from what you can do for society.

Whoever you become is who you have to live with. Who you are is how you experience reality right now, and for the rest of the fleeting moments in your life regardless of anything going on anywhere outside your skin. There’s no point training to be the perfect problem solver, student, worker, artist, citizen or parent if you’re not becoming the perfect you. I could be wrong, but sooner or later, the most important question you can ask yourself may be, “How do I become more me?”

What do you do after that? Well, if you can be your favorite you in the present moment, then afterwards, you’ll have the perfect past to look back on.

Everything I’ve said up to this point may feel more like a guilt trip than an inspirational speech. Nobody can just jump up, become an ubermensch and build an intergalactic empire, but I’m not begging or demanding you to carry a burden. I’m pointing out what an opportunity life is. Every question you ask is a step forward, and the more steps you take, the farther you get. Climbing that mountain yields at least three rewards: the experience of the journey, getting to see above the clouds and being able to say you did it. That’s life, and it doesn’t happen on accident.`

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Advice on anal sex for beginners

Note 1: This post is directed to people who have zero anal sex experience. These are just tips to get you started safely and enjoyably. This guide is also directed towards people who are nervous about anal sex. So these instructions take the longest path to the goal. If you’re 100% ready to jump into anal sex, and your partner is an anal pro, you might be able to fast-forward the process and use more exotic positions than are listed here. This guide may still be worth reading to help you see the bigger picture, and some day you might have a partner who is nervous about anal; on that day, this guide may be more useful to you.

Note 2: Men and women can both receive anal sex, and with a strap-on, even women can give it. Since anal sex is gender-neutral, this blog will refer to the person doing the penetration as “The Top,” and the person being penetrated will be referred to as “The Bottom.”

What should you to do prepare?

Step 1: Communicate. The first step towards having virgin anal sex with your partner is to talk to them about it. Never pressure anyone into doing anything they don’t want to. Just express your interest, and explain the benefits and the process. Create a plan and agree on your boundaries. The better they understand what they’re getting into, the less misconceptions they’ll have holding them back.

Step 2. Acclimate The Bottom’s mind and body. If you don’t loosen the anus before penetration then you run a high risk of tearing the tissue. So you’ll want to loosen it with some light stretching before you penetrate it with your penis or strap-on. It’s a good idea to begin the process a few days before you do the real deed. Not only will this prepare the tissue for preparation, but it also acclimates your partner’s mind. It’s a natural reflex for the body to tense up when the anus is penetrated, and if you try to force your way through you increase your risk of tearing tissue. If The Bottom is already used to being penetrated, they’ll be more relaxed and more able to safely and enjoyably receive deeper penetration.

You’ll definitely want to loosen the anus immediately before penetration every time. You can use a finger for this, but if either of you have anxieties about poop, this could be a turn-off. You could wear a medical glove to keep from getting your fingers dirty, but some people may find still find that awkward. Also, many people have latex allergies. So you may want to use a non-latex glove just to be safe.

Your other option is to use a sex toy. There are a dizzying number of sex toys on the market. The most important thing you need to remember when picking an anal sex toy is that the anus tends to pucker when penetrated, which can suck toys into the anus resulting in an embarrassing trip to the E.R. to have it removed.

There are anal pros who will tell you that you can safely use vibrators and dildos for anal play, but most X-Ray technicians would advise you to only use toys that are designed not to get lost. The safest, simplest toy is a butt plug with a wide base. An added bonus to using a butt plug is that you can insert it and leave it there while you make out or have oral or PIV sex prior to anal penetration. Both partners can also wear a butt plug so that The Bottom doesn’t feel like the experience is one-sided. Not only is that a fair compromise, but it’s actually a great opportunity for both people because hey, anal penetration is fun.

Wearing a butt plug can give a man a higher-level orgasm, but he can get an even higher-level orgasm by having a vibrating prostate stimulator inserted in his anus. Again, make sure you use one with a wide base. If you give a man a blow job while probing his anus with a vibrating prostate stimulator, he’ll have a mind-blowing orgasm, and it’ll be a great bonding/equalizing experience for both of you.

Whatever you stick into an anus, it’s absolutely vital to lubricate both the object and the anus first. You’ll want to use 5-10 times the amount of lube as you would use to lubricate a vagina. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Nothing bad is going to happen from using too much lube, but you can easily create a worse-case scenario by using too little.

When lubricating the anus, the thing to remember is that, unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t produce its own internal lubricant. So if you apply a generous amount of lube to the opening and the object, then stick it in, the object will slide in easily for an inch or so, but the lube will quickly rub off on the sides of the anal cavity, and then the dry object will hit dry tissue and tear it. So you want to lube the hole and the object, penetrate the anus a little bit. Then re-lube the opening and the object and penetrate it again. Then do that again. Keep in constant communication with your partner to determine how many times you have to repeat the process, and be prepared to re-apply even more lube at any time during anal play.

Not everyone wears a condom for anal sex, but until you’re in a long-term monogamous relationship with someone, you should, because it prevents the risk of STDs and UTIs. It defeats the purpose of having fun if it’s going to make you sick.

If you’re worried about poop, you can take a laxative or get an enema earlier in the day to clean out your colon prior to having your anus penetrated. Beware though, if you take laxatives or receive enemas too often, your body will become dependent on them, and then your life is going get a lot harder. The simplest thing you can do to keep your colon clean is eat plenty of fiber like Shredded Wheat. Just don’t eat too much fiber or you’ll get constipated.

Lubricants

There are tons of options available for anal lube. If you’re looking for the best anal lube for you and your partner, check review sites like Lubricant Reviews to see all of the options available. A good anal lube will usually be thicker than your standard lube and some of these products include a desensitizing agent that help numb the sphincter. Because of this numbing agent, you MUST be careful how fast you proceed in case your partner is not fully aware of any issues with unintentional tearing.

Anal sex positions

There’s no one right or best position for anal sex. They all have their pros and cons. The question is which position you and your partner most comfortable with and what mood you’re trying to set. Here’s a list of the pros/cons of the basic positions to help you figure out what’s best for you and your partner:

Normal doggy style

Of all the sex positions, doggy style is the most synonymous with anal sex for one good reason: It angles the anus perfectly to slide an object in comfortably (though other positions can be just as comfortable). It also allows The Bottom to play with their genitals while being pleasured from behind.

The downside of doggy style is that it’s the least intimate position. So if you’re doing anal for the first time, you might want to start in the doggy style position for a few minutes and then switch to a different position in which there’s no chance of The Bottom feeling like they’re being used as an impersonal fuck toy. Having said that, you should revisit the doggy style position when you’re both ready for hard, wild, uninhibited anal sex,

Laying on the stomach

Have The Bottom lay flat on their stomach (possibly with a pillow under their hips), and have The Top mount them. This is more relaxing for The Bottom than doggy style, it provides a good angle for penetration, and it allows The Top to hug and kiss The Bottom thus making anal sex a more intimate full body experience. The only problem is it’s difficult for The Bottom to pleasure themselves.

Spooning

Spooning gives you just as good of an angle for penetration as the previous two positions, and it allows for more intimacy. Plus, it gives The Bottom plenty of room to pleasure themselves with their hands or toys. The Top can even reach around and pleasure The Bottom’s genitals. This way, The Bottom isn’t just someone that anal sex is happening to, they’re the center of attention, and they have a good chance of having an orgasm (as long as their genitals are being stimulated while their anus is being penetrated).

Missionary

The missionary position is arguably the most intimate sexual position. It gives both partners the most room to kiss and use all their body parts to express their passion. If you put a pillow under The Bottom’s hips, they can be comfortably penetrated.  The Bottom has the freedom to relax on their back completely or take control of the speed and force of the thrusts. Both partners also have room to pleasure The Bottom’s genitals with their hands or toys. If your goal is to make your first anal sex session as romantic as possible, you may want to use the missionary position.

Cowgirl

The cowgirl position gives The Bottom more control over the speed and force of thrusts than any other position. So if you’re nervous about anal being too intense and damaging your bodily tissue, this might be a good position to start in. If The Top lays flat on their back, they may not get the intimacy they’re looking for. But if The Top sits on a chair or couch and has The Bottom straddle them while they’re sitting upright, then both partners can experience lots of intimacy, and if The Bottom is a female, she can rub her clit against The Top’s abdomen and possible get an orgasm. If your main concern is that anal sex be as physically pleasurable for both partners, you might want to use this position.

Reverse Cowgirl

Everything I just said about the cowgirl position applies to the reverse cowgirl position. The two biggest differences are that if The Bottom is a female, she can’t rub her clit against The Top’s abdomen. However, if The Top is sitting upright, he/she can easily reach around and pleasure The Bottom’s genitals using hands or toys. So more than any other position, this gives a female Bottom the most potential to be the center of attention.

Speeds

If you or your partner are nervous about anal sex, talk with each other about what speed/s you’re going to use ahead of time. The more everyone understands what they’re getting into, the less reason anyone will have to be anxious.

Slow

You definitely want to start out an anal sex session very slowly to give The Bottom’s mind and body time to acclimate. If it’s their first time, you might not even want to ever build up to medium or fast speeds. There’s nothing wrong with penetrating The Bottom and then holding your penis or strapon inside them without ever thrusting at all. This way you can use all your time together to focus on pleasuring The Bottom’s genitals while  they’re statically/passively penetrated from behind. This will give them a safe, pleasurable, intimate experience that could wet their appetite for more vigorous anal play later on instead of shocking them and scaring them away from experimenting with anal in the future. Another option is to statically/passively penetrate them for a few minutes and then work your way up to slow, fluid pumps and stick with that pace for the rest of the session. This can make for a nice, soothing introduction to anal sex.

Medium

You always want to start an anal sex session with slow thrusts for the safety of The Bottom. However, if you only ever have slow anal sex, both partners will probably get bored eventually. It’s hard to go wrong with a nice, even medium pace. It allows both partners to feel what’s going on, and it’s probably not going to hurt anyone. Just make sure that your movements are fluid and everyone should have a good time.

Fast

For the safety of The Bottom, don’t start with fast thrusts. Start slow, then speed up to a medium pace. Stick with that for a little while, and then rev up your speed. Check with your partner first to see if they want you to be that aggressive, and make sure their anus still has plenty of lubrication. Fast anal sex can be great as along as everyone and everything is ready for it.

Is it morally okay to have anal sex?

I’ve never heard a logical, coherent argument for why anal sex is immoral. Sure, it involves poop and the butt, but life involves poop and butts. Poop and butts is a mundane non-issue. There’s no reason for it to be a taboo. It’s just there. Actually, it’s better than just there. It’s a gift. It’s an opportunity for intimacy with the ones we care about. There is only good in that. If we’re not here to live and love, then what the hell are we doing here? I can’t, don’t and won’t believe that we’re here to fear and loath any part of our bodies. I believe we’re here to live and love, and anal sex is one way of doing that.

Having said that, anal sex is not a moral imperative either. There’s no logical reason why anal abstinence would make you a bad person. Your prerogative is your choice, and your choice is your right. You do your thing, and don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable with.

 If you liked this blog you may like these:

Sex Positions and Techniques

Dating and Relationships

Philosophy of Sexuality


My Approach to Thinking/Problem Solving

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This guide details the steps I use to solve problems. It’s also an excerpt from my first book, “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.”  This isn’t the only way to solve problems, but it’s a good place to start.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather data
  3. Identify the variables you have.
  4. Identify the variables you don’t have.
  5. Sort the data.
  6. Apply formulas.
  7. Ask sub-questions.
  8. Question your answer.
  9. Apply the solution.

STEP 1: ASK A QUESTION

The first step in this process is deceptively simple. Anyone can ask a question; the skill lies in knowing which questions to ask, and, once you’ve picked a question, knowing how to ask it.

In your finite lifespan there are an infinite number of questions to ask and thus an infinite number of answers to learn. So which questions should you ask? You could try to answer as many of them as possible, but that would be futile. You could focus on trying to answer the hardest ones, but that would be foolish, because the hardest questions aren’t always the most important.

You need to answer the most important questions first, and if you have time after that you can answer whatever questions you want. Otherwise you’ll waste your life fretting over inconsequential issues while ignoring the questions that truly matter and have the biggest impact on your life and potentially every other living creature.

So whenever you ask a question you should also ask yourself if there’s a more important question you could be asking instead. And at some point you should decide what the most important questions in life are. Then you should systematically answer them in descending order. Obviously, the most important question you can ever ask is, what is the meaning of life?

Once you find an important question to ask you need to make sure you’re asking the right question to address the heart of the issue. Psychologists, doctors, and mechanics have to excel at looking past the symptoms of a problem and identifying/addressing the root cause/s. If you’ve ever been married you’ve probably had arguments that could have been resolved much quicker if you could/would have just addressed the real reason you were angry at each other.

Politicians face this problem every day as well. You can’t eliminate crime by asking, “Should the death penalty be legal?” or “How many times should you be arrested before you’re sent to jail for life?” Sure, those questions addresses crime, but they don’t address the heart of the issue. So to focus on them is to hack away at the branches of the problem but never touch the trunk. To end crime you first need to ask, “What is crime?” Then you need to ask, “What causes people to commit crime?” Then you focus on that/those cause/s.

STEP 2: GATHER DATA

The second step of the problem solving process is to gather data (a.k.a. variables). This isn’t just a good idea or something that’ll help when you get stuck in a rut. You have to do it. If you don’t articulate the data then you don’t have any information to deduce the answer from. So you don’t actually have an equation at all.

Intelligent investors know this well. They would never buy stock in a company without knowing as many variables about the company as possible. You wouldn’t marry someone without knowing as much about them as possible. A jury wouldn’t pass a verdict on a defendant without knowing as much about the case as possible. If you’ve ever bought a used car that turned out to be a lemon you definitely know the value of gathering variables before coming to a conclusion.

Sometimes we refuse to even try to find any variables or we refuse to acknowledge the variables that are right in front of us. This is why people say not to talk about religion or politics. It’s common knowledge that people have already made up their minds on these topics and refuse to think about them. So discussing them (analyzing the variables) is futile.

Half heartedly identifying the variables in an equation can ultimately be just as bad as not identifying any of them. Just missing a piece of the puzzle can cause you to hit a dead end or make a wrong decision. This is easily exemplified in war. A general can know everything about military strategy, but if the enemy has one secret weapon or launches one surprise attack the tide of the war can change. Rocket scientists are no stranger to this fact either. When you send a space craft to another planet you have to calculate every equation perfectly or years of work and millions of dollars worth of research and design are going to end in disaster, which has actually happened.

The principle applies just as much with every day questions as it does with rocket science. If you’re only half heartedly articulating the variables in the questions you ask then you’re only half heartedly thinking, and that will get you half hearted answer, and that will either produce a wrong answer or no answer at all.

STEP 2A: GATHER THE DATA YOU HAVE

When you’re solving an algebra problem in a text book you’ll sometimes be given a few of the missing variables to plug into the equation. In real life you’ll also usually be able to identify a few of the variables of a problem immediately, but inevitably you’ll realize you’re missing variables. If you weren’t missing any variables there wouldn’t be a question to ask. You would just see the answer.

To be successful at solving real world problem you need to be acutely aware of this fact, and after you ask a question the next thing you need to do is articulate the variables you have while keeping in mind that you probably don’t know all of them.

Lawyers, auditors, and consultants all pay special attention to this step in the problem solving process. When they’re faced with a new job they immediately try to gather all the information about the issue at hand. They know that they won’t have anything to do if they don’t gather all the data available. Then, only once that data is collected will they be able to find holes or areas of improvement on the data system they’re working with.

What’s the first thing a detective does after arriving at the scene of the crime? He analyzes the crime scene to gather any readily available data. When the murderer is standing over the victim with blood on his hands the detective doesn’t have to think any further to solve the problem, but if the culprit has fled the scene the detective has a missing variable on his hands.

STEP 2B: GATHER THE DATA YOU DON’T HAVE

Sometimes you don’t have all the data at hand though. In that case you have to try to gather the data you don’t have.

Imagine you’re cleaning your house, trying to put everything where it should be, and you see a dirty sock lying next to the hamper. No big deal. You know all the variables to the equation of “What should I do with this sock?” You practically unconsciously pick it up and put it in the hamper. But suppose you saw a gun lying next to the hamper. Then there would probably be some variables missing from the equation that you would need to identify before taking actions, such as “Is it loaded?” “How did it get there?” “Where is a safe place I can put this?” etc.

What if, when you found the gun lying next to your hamper, you didn’t try to identify the missing variables before taking action? What if you assumed you knew them? You might end up shooting yourself or someone else. You might leave it in a place that a child will find it. The burglar who dropped it might still be in the house. Never assume you already know everything.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office with an arrogant manager knows the consequences of answering questions without trying to identify the unseen variables. Many businesses have been bankrupt by managers who assumed they knew everything and consequently made faulty decisions. Even in businesses that don’t go bankrupt, an arrogant and ignorant boss can make life a living hell for the employees who have to cope with his poor decision making skills on a daily basis. Socrates would have made an excellent manager because he believed, “I know that I don’t know.” Or “I know that I know nothing.” (Depending on the translation)

If you’re humble and wise enough to try to identify the variables you’re missing there are countless ways you can go about doing it. Detectives extrapolate clues from the variables they already have to point to the variables they don’t have. Inexperienced small business owners who want their business to grow recruit marketing firms who already know the variables involved in increasing sales to tell them what variables they’re missing. Students writing term papers just have to study their topic to death until they learn what they didn’t know they needed to know. How successful you are at identifying the variables you don’t know depends on how creatively and persistently you search for them.

Inevitably though, you’ll have to make many decisions without knowing all the facts. That’s life. All you can do is minimize the risk of making an incorrect decision by identifying as many variables as possible. Then, after the decision is made you should be mindful of your ignorance and be ready to jump back into the problem solving process if it becomes obvious you did in fact make the wrong decision because you didn’t take enough variables into consideration. If you can’t identify enough variables it might be wisest to abandon the whole situation all together. If you’re a politician who wants to invade a country that you know very little about the wisest course of action is probably to just leave it alone.

STEP 3: SORT THE DATA

So you’ve asked a question and identified as many of the variables as possible. That information is only good for regurgitating until you make sense of the data. In algebra this means finding meaningful relationships between the variables. If somebody told you that A=B and B=C then you could easily see the relationship between A and C. They’re the same. In the real world you also need to sort data by finding meaningful relationships between variables. But don’t worry. It’s not always that cryptic.

Suppose you just got promoted to assistant manager at your high school job. One of your new duties is to make the work schedule for all the employees. You’ve identified who works at the business, what shifts need to be filled, who has asked for days off, and who has any other conflicting schedules. Now all you need to do is to determine the relationships between each of the variables to determine who should work when.

Answering the question of who should work each shift should be easy if you have all the information at hand. However, sometimes the data set you’re working with is much more complex than that. In those cases you need a more powerful tool to sort the data.

STEP 3A: APPLY FORMULAS

A formula is defined as:

  1. “a statement, especially of an equation, of a fact, rule, principle, or other logical relation.”

Every field of study has its own facts, rules, and principles for making sense out of data. The reason for this is because every data set has patterns whether you’re talking about math, farming, psychology, interior design, engineering, biology, chemistry, dating, raising pets, cooking, fixing a computer, or anything else.

Without patterns data sets are just chaos. Very rarely in life do you ever find complete chaos. So anytime you’re trying to solve a problem try to identify patterns and figure out rules to explain these patterns. If you’re lucky somebody out there will have already identified the rules you’re looking for.

If you want to find a mate there are patterns and rules for dating. “Rules of the Game” and “The Rules” are books about dating based on formulas (though their accuracy is debatable). There are definitely patterns and rules for making money. The book, “The Intelligent Investor” is one big formula. There are patterns and rules for making music. It’s called music theory. Social skills are merely formulas for interacting with people. You might want to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” There are even patterns and rules for everyday living. Collectively, they’re called wisdom. Religions and self-help books are little more than formulas people have developed by analyzing the patterns in life.

There are also formulas for thinking. This whole chapter is a formula for thinking, but there are countless more sub-formulas. The more of those you can find or create the better of a thinker you’ll be. Here are a few examples of formulas related specifically to solving problems:

The simplest way to make the broadest changes in a system is to change the basics.

If you don’t know which direction to take when solving a problem then just shoot out in any direction, and eventually you’ll find a pattern to follow or a clue to point you in the right direction.

Make as general and as vague of an answer as you can and then slowly get more and more specific. This way you can always reference your more specific answers against your vague ones to make sure they’re in line with your overall goal.

Consider the unlikely.

The first step to finding the solution is finding where to look.

Find a parallel or analogy of your problem.  Seeing the problem in a different setting may give you a better perspective to see an answer.

Consider the extremes. They’ll help you put the problem in perspective.

Ask if the problem you are trying to solve is one among many that stems from a more basic problem.  If you can solve the basic problem then you can solve a slew of other problems in the process.  Maybe the basic problem is one stem of an even more basic problem.  Keep tracing back.

A sign of higher-level thinking is being able to think in multiple dimensions.

Another sign of higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts.  A sign of still higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts from distant sources.

A complex problem often has multiple causes, which would require multiple solutions.

There are always at least three solutions to any problem, and if you can find three solutions you can find more.

Formulas are an indispensable way of making sense of mathematical and real world data. Undoubtedly you already use thousands of formulas in your life to identify patterns in real world data sets without even realizing it, but once you do you can consciously and systematically develop them. When you do you’ll be a much more powerful thinker, and as a result you’ll enjoy a much more successful life.

A word of warning though, many of the formulas people use to help them understand the world they live in and subsequently act upon are wrong. Surely you have a friend who is always asking, “Why do I keep dating bad people?” Your friend is probably using a bad formula for choosing partners. Countless people have lost fortunes in the stock market using faulty formulas. Wars are lost and governments crumble because of inaccurate formulas. So if you find that bad things are always happening to you it’s probably not because you’re the most unlucky person in the world. Realistically, it’s probably because you’re using bad formulas. You should humbly and brutally reevaluate your formulas.

STEP 3B: ASK SUBQUESTIONS

This step is where you’re going to do the bulk of your actual work. The easiest way to explain it is to start with an illustration and go from there.

What’s the answer to the problem, 12X34? Work out this problem on a sheet of paper, and you’ll realize that in doing so you had to solve the equations 4X2, 4X1, 3X2, 3X1, 8+0, 6+4, and 3+1. You had to ask seven sub questions to answer the one question you really wanted to know.

When you think about it every step in an algebra problem is asking another question. The same is true with solving real world problems. If you’re not asking more questions then you’re not getting any closer to answering the first question. So if you can’t get any further on a problem you’re working on then you need to ask yourself, “What questions have I asked?” “What questions haven’t I asked?” “What questions do I need to ask?” etc. You might realize that you haven’t asked any questions at all, in which case it’s no wonder you haven’t found an answer.

If a detective is trying to solve the overall problem of “who done it” then the sub questions would be, “What is the motive? What evidence is at the scene of the crime? Who was the victim close too? etc.” A computer technician will ask himself a series of sub questions when trying to figure out why a computer doesn’t work. “Was there an error message? If so, what was it? Is the problem hardware or software related? Have any changes been made to the system lately? Is the computer turned on? etc.” If your question is, “Which couch should I buy?” you might ask yourself sub questions like, “How much money do I have to spend on a couch? How much room do I have? What colors match the room I’m going to put it in? etc.”

Each sub question can even have sub questions of its own. The better you can get at finding the right sub questions for the type of issue you’re working with then the better you’ll be at solving problems.

STEP 4: QUESTION YOUR ANSWERS

The next step in the problem solving process is to prove your answer (or anybody else’s answer for that matter). If you get the wrong answer on a math test you might have to take the class over. Getting the wrong answers in life can cause misery, insanity, injustice, financial loss, war, etc.

A lot of times we don’t want to prove our answer. We get the answer we want to hear and stick with it, but all this really does is create a fantasy world that keeps us from perceiving reality correctly, which causes us to answer more questions wrong because we’re stuck calculating future questions using incorrect variables. This results in the illusion of a rosy world, but in reality it only propagates a dystopian society.

This is why it’s important to be objective about your answers. If you’re not objective about your answers then you’re not a thinker, and all your answers are going to be wrong.

 “Objective” is defined as:

  1. “Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. 2. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually”

On paper that sounds great. Nobody would say, “I prefer to base my decisions on emotional or personal prejudices rather than on observable facts.” But everybody does it. People go to mind-bending lengths to conform observable facts to their emotional and personal prejudices even if it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we do it loudly, and sometimes we do it quietly in the back of our minds.

Take this two question test.

What do you believe strongest in?

How often do you deliberately doubt and challenge the validity of that belief?

Ironically, the stronger we believe in something the less likely we are to question it. This type of stubborn faith is often praised as a virtue, but the less likely we are to question our beliefs the more likely we are not to take into account all the variables. The fewer variables we take into consideration the more likely we are to be wrong about it. So the stronger we believe in something the more likely we are to be wrong about it.

Furthermore, when you tell someone to have faith in something and that they shouldn’t brutally analyze it you’re really telling them it’s good to be uninformed. You’re being the enemy of truth. And for what? If we question an idea we’re not going to hurt its feelings. It’s not going to get back at us for cheating on it. All that can happen is we increase our knowledge and perceive truth more clearly. Whereas if we don’t question our beliefs all that can happen is we increase the likelihood that we’re wrong. When that happens there’s no end to the pain we can and will inflict on ourselves and others. There’s also no end to how much control we can give other people over our lives.

How many people do you think have read this and said to themselves, “I’m not one those people. I wouldn’t sell out truth for emotions or personal prejudices. I wouldn’t think less about the things I believe the strongest.” The people who say they won’t sell out truth are the most likely to do it. If you truly believe you wouldn’t then you won’t guard yourself against it. On the other hand, if you admit to yourself that you have and/or will sell out logic for a selfish answer you’ll be cautious not to let it happen again.

In fact, a wise person wants, yearns, begs to be proven wrong, because if you learn that you’ve been wrong about something then you can become right, and thus you’ll have gained. If you refuse to be proven wrong then you might keep your pride, but at the end of the day you’ll still be ignorant and will continue to make faulty decisions to the detriment of yourself and everyone else in your sphere of influence.

STEP 5: APPLY THE SOLUTION

On a math test when you solve a problem you simply write down the answer and wait to see if the teacher tells you that you got it right. In life applying the answer can be as easy as putting on the socks you’ve chosen to wear today or as complex as writing a book about the meaning of life. It can be as rewarding as choosing which foods you want at a buffet or as perilous as choosing whether or not to use lethal force against an attacker. The only advice there is to give for this step is to make sure your answer is correct before applying it. If you’re unsure whether or not to act or you don’t have the courage to act then you obviously don’t understand the situation well enough. If you did there would be no debate left. There would only be action.

THE LIFESTYLE OF A THINKER

Learning how to think doesn’t make you a thinker any more than knowing how to shoot makes you a soldier. Being a thinker is a lifestyle, and it’s not a lifestyle that’s only useful to a few people like the lifestyle of a soldier is only useful to a few people. It’s not even just a skill that can be useful to everybody in the sense that say cooking is a skill that can be useful to everybody but you don’t necessarily have to be good at it. Thinking is the way to be a successful, self-actualized person. It’s vital for everybody to master.

Why do some people make a lifestyle out of thinking and some people don’t? The answer isn’t genetics. It’s motivation. Either external circumstances forced them to come to a clearer understanding of life or they figured it out on their own. Either way, every thinker has come to some version of the same conclusion:

We’re thrown into this life with no warning and no preparation. We’re born lost. In fact, we’re so lost most people never even realize they’re lost, and nobody even tells us that. If anything, we’re encouraged to just accept the world for what it is and to not ask questions.

To make things more confusing for us, the few explanations and instructions we are given differ from source to source. It’s like trying to play a game you don’t know the rules to and where everybody you ask tells you something different. The result is that we spend our lives bewildered and in a daze. And in the end all we have to look back on is chaos and anxiety.

But there’s hope. If we can make sense of the world we won’t be at the mercy of our environment. In fact, we can take control of our lives. How? We can perceive truth and empower ourselves using logic.

Being a thinker means realizing this and deliberately and consistently trying to make sense of the world you’ve been thrust into. It means the frustration of being lost and powerless fuels your curiosity to learn as much as you can. But this doesn’t just mean reading as many books as possible and cataloging the information in your brain. It means constantly looking at the world around you and questioning it. A curious person wants to know how everything works, because the more you understand the more empowered you’ll be. So thinking isn’t a chore. It’s a never ending opportunity to become more powerful.

The better you understand that the more you’ll want to think. Thus, the more you will think. The more you think the smarter, stronger, and happier you’ll be. The less you think the dumber, weaker, and sadder you’ll be.

However you felt about this post, you may feel the same way about these:

Biker Philosophy

Ethics

Thinking

Atheism and Agnosticism


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