I like this Kishotenketsu concept, astraldata.
I was thinking more about it and I while it is nice to think that it offers a way to convey a story without conflict. I don't think that is what it does.
Conflict has to be interpreted. It can't exist without having relativity. I would say that Kishotenketsu actually creates conflict, because the twist(ten) introduces a seemingly different & contrasting idea that must be interpreted.
So the way I see it is that, Kishotenketsu has more of a relationship with the reader/viewer- the sole purpose of the story becomes one that teaches the reader/viewer on how to handle conflict. The conflict is created, and then the sides become blended together.
Am I misunderstanding it?
To be honest, I think you're close with your understanding, but the thing that separates the 'twist' in eastern vs. western story-structure is that, in the east, conflict is not necessary to have a story. In Japanese, and in other similar cultures in the east, it is very common to observe that a thing is simply what it is -- a thing -- and that 'thingness' is celebrated over there. While that seems 'boring' to western culture, the 'thingness' of a thing, being as authentic as it can possibly be, is the essence of substance and truth. While 'ten' is generally used to throw an idea into the mix that isn't expected -- the purpose of the 'ten' aspect as it is used in eastern storytelling isn't to make a story more interesting or more palatable to the audience as much as it is to help promote their understanding
of the subject from less obvious and more telling angles -- in other words, teasing out that 'click' or 'aha' moment that everyone enjoys feeling when they finally put together a seemingly 'hidden' meaning and/or relationship that was actually already there all along. It is the idea of creating an understanding that was just beyond reach in which you were able to make the jump (with a little help from the story) on your own that makes Kishotenketsu so effective. Conflict, or any sort of perceived (or actual) contrasting setups, is actually a byproduct
of that goal and should never
be the focus, or otherwise you run the risk of breaking the suspension of disbelief you worked so hard to create in the development phases of 'ki' and 'sho' when you arrive at the 'ten' portion of the story.
I know it's subtle, but it's very important to keep in mind that, as Conceit hinted at, there are underlying truths that make the work more long-lived than a simple "does the guy save the girl, or does the bad guy kill her?" sort of setups. For example, the fact that she dies because she's attracted to the guy out to kill her while the good guy risks his neck for her, even after warning her and then being ignored, changes the overall nature of the story towards more universal truths, perhaps about blindness and ignorance and a potentially rationalized 'love' on the guy and girl's part -- things that aren't very easy to put into words -- leading to something that's deeper than a simple reveal of the plot twists to the audience, and also to something that 'you have to see to understand' when you share it with your friends -- versus, of course, 'it's just another guy with a superhero complex who just needs to get laid' sort of story that you can easily convey to anyone.
To further elaborate on the lack of necessity of conflict, in the example I gave above, the 'ten' could be that the guy is killed by the bad guy when he tries to save her (despite being ignored), leading him to be at fault almost as much (if not moreso) than the girl -- or even the bad
guy! The 'ten' (which, in this example, actually eliminates
the conflict in this story altogether, rather than simply resolving it as most would expect) offered alongside the rest of the story development gives the overall story a more long-lasting shelf-life (or short-lived, assuming the 'ten' was absent or poorly executed). In the end, the characters could suck, the writing could suck too, but as long as there is still some human-level understanding reached from the combination of all the parts (the guy's part, the girl's part, and the bad guy's part) in the story, Kishotenketsu is probably present in some form. In the end, conflict wasn't necessary as the guy didn't save the girl, and further, it was a moot point anyhow since he was killed -- so the story is no longer about him saving the girl, but it instead it became about you
, making you think about how and why things ended the way they did, meaning that it is your
story now -- and that
is exactly what makes it transcend simple plot devices, like, in this case, conflict itself, while still keeping the story 'interesting' in the end. If it were a movie, you could rewatch it a second and a third time, and you may come to a different conclusion about why the guy should or shouldn't have gone to save her every single time, but just like in art, the perception you want to convey vs. the one you actually
convey depends upon how strong you are at communication via your breadcrumbs of understanding to allow the audience to come to the conclusion you want them to. Bottom line is, conflict aside, Kishotenketsu is about effectively communicating an authentic and universal understanding
through some medium. Generally, the understanding you wish to convey is only possible when you communicate it on a level of truth and authenticity that anyone can see and feel (sometimes that truth even has to be a little dirty) -- but
to convey authenticity like that, you have to actually understand
it on a level you can also put into physical form! Helping the audience come to an understanding on their own by providing them the tools and resources to do so is a skill that requires many skills, but the most important of which is the ability to cut through to the most base and experiential level possible to actually see
the subject from every angle possible from both above and below (and never just from your own pov [or those similar to it], because those views will only make it more difficult to see more truthfully) -- From that point onward, you can determine what it is you want to actually say about the subject once you have gained the ability to actually see.
(As a side note now that that's out of the way, I forgot to mention earlier in this post when speaking of another 'form' of Kishotenketsu in the example story, the 'ketsu' in the above example would likely be 'mixed' with the 'ten' just after the 'ki' and 'sho' exposition are complete since, the 'understanding' in this example story can almost
be reached in very nearly 3 parts (but not completely!) instead of the usual 4. I say 'almost' because the 'ketsu' and 'ten' concepts are not actually merged, they're just tightly coupled -- the core concepts of 'ten' and 'ketsu' are still completely there functionally, regardless of the form the exposition takes that masks their presence by allowing them to happen almost simultaneously.)@Mr. Beast
It wasn't anything complicated. As it's fairly obvious that most of your game assets are, by default, supposed to further a game's story/lore/world/etc., individual assets can tell their own individual stories as well. Kishotenketsu, since it is about communicating effectively in a way that teases an understanding out of its audience, allows one to use virtually anything that can communicate to tease that understanding out. A simple example is a sprite character's posture and appearance -- he's confident because is back is straight (ki) he's determined because his eyes are straight ahead, even with weird girly-looking eyelashes (sho), but he has the body of an ugly yellow sponge-with-a-face that wears a dumb-looking hat and having tiny stick arms (ten), which tells us he's unaware of his appearance since he's obviously somehow ready-to-go-at-a-moment's-notice like any other go-getter superhero with an overly-positive attitude (ketsu). This art asset offers meaning to all of those who gaze upon him because there's an underlying thing there in your head that says "this guy is totally stoked -- but why? He has nothing to be stoked about, right?" and yet your audience, as players, secretly feel encouraged by the effort you, as the artist, put into making him so true to his own personal uniqueness, leaving them with a sense of meaning from nothing more than a simple drawing that puts forth clues to who he might be, making them feel stoked themselves to play as him. Even the story itself couldn't tell you why he stands the way he stands or feels the way he feels about the world -- only the asset itself can truly (and most effectively) convey its own meaning (indirectly) through visual clues that tie together their invisible story. This generally helps you to arrive at an understanding about their character (even a tile in a tileset is a character, after all!) deeper than you would have if they had been told to you explicitly through dialogue and cutscenes in the story itself. These tiny stories always have their place, and they are personal and private to each asset you create, making them very effective at communicating an understanding of themselves. And, by extension of these tiny personal stories arrived at by way of Kishotenketsu, the world you're building becomes much more rich and substantial, making it a million times easier to relate to, and also to understand!
(I apologize in advance if this doesn't make sense -- I might have to approach this again when I'm not falling asleep at my desk. Maybe I can condense it into something more readable tomorrow...