A way with worlds: 30 - Cycles of Conflict
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 2 of 2
Of course, this can't go on. The ethical systems of
the out-of-balance mind will eventually collapse out fo
realization or drive the person or people who are out of balance
to some insane action. At this point, rational thought and
perhaps even logical self-preservation are long gone.
Then, coping with what has
been done begins. I imagine many a murderer, after a moment of
stupidity, wondered just what they'd done - and knew they
couldn't fix things now that someone was dead. There's many a
leader who looked at a war the same way.
In "Maps of the
Mind," this out-of-control process was titled
Schizmogenesis, a term originated by Gregory Bateson, originally
referring to "splits" or "gaps" in
communication. Since it means "generating a split" more
or less, I like to use it to refer this entire out-of-control
WRITING WITH THIS
To review, the theory is that the normally balanced
human mind can get out of wack when an idea becomes an obsession
and the rest of the ethical system of that person (or people)
feeds the obsession instead of correcting it. As the ethical
system spins out of control, it makes its problem worse by
continually justifying actions as opposed to correcting
When writing, first of all,
keep this in mind - people don't just turn evil and do nasty
stuff. There are reasons, and that reason is usually a case of
the ethical system spinning out of control. The person or people
have ethics, have values, have morals - but they've become
co-opted to justifying an obsession, then justifying the actions
does not happen to "bad" people, it can happen to
anyone. Ask yourself if the "heroes" in your story
aren't suffering from this - maybe on some great crusade and/or
totally convinced of their superiority. Maybe one of them is
currently in this unbalanced state and will mess up, having to
learn and correct themselves.
Thirdly, the obsessive
actions of one person or group may result in other persons or
groups becoming unbalanced themselves. Trying to cope with the
seemingly insane or evil actions of others does not necessarily
lead to rational, balanced behavior. You can become the monster
you fight all to easily.
Fourth, people may do some
pretty nasty things without being out of wack mentally. If you've
ever had to face a tough ethical decision, I'm sure you know you
can truly think things over, deal with the ethical issues, act -
and still feel like scum.
I find keeping this concept of Schizmogenesis in mind
helps me write a lot. It also helps me write more realistic
conflict and characters.
All it takes is one idea
going too far and no attempts at correcting the ethical
inconsistencies, and you have a conflict.
And its results.
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