Showing posts from August, 2016

Plot and the correlation-causality continuum

When I talk to people about plot or read books about how to write a great plot, for instance for a movie (1), folks generally assume that plot indicates causality. Events occur in an order, one causing another, as a straight line of dominoes each causing the next to topple. That bad old wolf wouldn't have eaten Grandma if Little Red Riding Hood hadn't strayed from the path, like her mother said, right?  But I don't think causality alone is what fascinates most of us about a good story. I argue that plot operates on a continuum between correlation and causation . This is a continuum that includes both ends. What I mean is that stories actually don't make clear and explicit arguments about causality all of the time. They do sometimes, when they are operating at the extreme causation end of the spectrum, but many times events occur in sequence without an argument about causation. Our minds are drawn to stories because the sequence of events in a typical plot is