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Trying to understand "yes, but" and "no, and"

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I'm trying to wrap my head around the yes, but and no, and in writing plot.



So I thought I'd use an example from film to ask my question.


In the film Maleficent for example, is the scene where she has her wings cut off a Yes, But example?


Yes, she falls in love with the prince, but he turns out to be a power hungry jerk who cuts her wings off which then sends her down a dark path?


Is that how this works?


How about the no, and?


Could that not also be a no, and moment? No they don't end up together, and he turns out to be a power hungry jerk and cuts her wings off?


How do we define the difference?


Thanks for taking time to answer this!




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It sounds like you have a decent grasp of the general idea. 


As for the that particular scene, I think you need to consider the character(s)'s motivations, not just what happens in the scene itself. How you define those motivations will determine which branch of the formula you fall under. If you consider Maleficent your main character (as, I believe, you should), then her objective could be to find true love and happiness or get together with the prince, or something along those lines. In that case you have a "no, and" situation. If her goal had been to, I don't know, spend more time with the prince, then you have a "yes, but".


Regardless, don't worry too much about that. The takeaway is that if you want to apply this technique, you want to decide what the goal(s) of the character(s) is, whether this goal is reached, or at least made progress towards (the yes/no part), and how things are going to get worse, or at least more complicated because of that (the but/and part).

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An alternate example, from Dan's favorite reference:


Inigo Montoya wants to kill the six-fingered man.

Through many trials, he enters the castle.


Does he find the six-fingered man?

Yes, but four guards get in the way.


Does he defeat the guards?

Yes, but the six-fingered man runs away.


Inigo gives chase! Does he catch up?

No, and the six-fingered man has barred the door.


Fezzik busts the door and Inigio runs through. Does he catch up?

Yes, but he gets a throwing knife in the gut.


Can he regain his feet and continue?

Yes, but the six-fingered man has a sword at the ready.


Can Inigo defend himself?

Yes, but he gets stabbed in each shoulder.


The six-fingered man bargains for his life. Does Inigo overcome the temptation?

Yes, and he achieves his goal.


What ever the goal is, "yes, but / no, and" is a reminder to you to not allow it to be easy. Make things worse, and the journey will be more exciting, and the payoff sweeter in the end.

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