Yesterday I learned about story structure: specifically the idea of kishotenketsu. It is the convention of plot without conflict, and the post that introduced me to it can be read here.

Just go read the articles so I can blither about implications without explaining the basic concepts, okay?

I find it really fascinating how kishotenketsu contrasts with the convention of three acts. The role of plot without conflict in Western culture can be found somewhat in how we treat vignettes and one-act plays, but our approach to it is much different. When I think of vignettes, I think of Slums of Beverly Hills, where there’s some conflict within the family and internal conflict over growing up, but no over-arching conflict. I still remember it years after seeing it, because it had a tone all its own and I think it was also the first time I’d seen breasts in a movie, but it didn’t leave me inspired or emotionally satisfied the way The Hunger Games did.

Part of this is probably my predilection for adventure stories and grand fantasy and science fiction adventures where the world is changed forever. I like conflict. I like it when characters triumph. I like it when there’s something to fight.

I am not overly fond of vignettes. But kishotenketsu is something distinct from that, despite a vignette being the closest Western approximation I can think of, and it seems to me contains different opportunities. Kishotenketsu is less about personal agency than adaptability, and so requires a different mindset, which is always interesting to explore.

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