Dramatica Story Expert

How does Dramatica predict the order of character development?

The theory goes so far as to suggest that it can predict the necessary order and appearance of these dynamic elements. I feel like I have missed something very important about the structure of my story and the employment of character. Not only do I not know how to assign the elements effectively, I am beginning to unravel what I do understand about the structure and its relationship to my character formation. Where do I find such a prediction of character dynamics? How does the structure make such predictions?

That's why we refer to Dramatica as a theory of story. The program COULD do that type of prediction, but we do not allow it to. To do so, Dramatica begins to micro-manage the story development process which is completely antithetical to the creative process. In other words, don't look for this in Dramatica because you won't find it in any version of the software that has been released.

My recommendation to you is to loosen up a little on your objective characters. Understand that, from Dramatica's point of view, it doesn't matter which character elements each of your objective characters has. That is COMPLETELY a storytelling choice determined by you, the author, and will not have any bearing on the meaning of the STORYFORM. It will, however, have a potentially strong impact on your STORYTELLING (storyencoding and storyweaving). So even though it makes no difference to Dramatica, it will make a difference to you. SO . . . create characters that you want to populate your story. Follow the rule of 3's as a general guideline. Be aware of each character's characteristics when they interact to determine the nature and direction of those interactions. But most importantly, write it the way that FEELS and LOGICS right for you.

How do I build my characters using the Storyguide?

The StoryGuide is designed to lead you through a PARTICULAR method of creating a story in Dramatica using Archetypal Characters. It is far from the only way, rather it is a guideline for how a writer MIGHT approach developing a story using Dramatica. Since you are not using Archetypal Characters, do not follow the specific directions in the StoryGuide. Just keep in mind that each of your complex characters must be introduced, they must interact, and then they must be "dismissed" or be shown where they stand after the interactions. It's best not to think of Dramatica telling you what you HAVE to do, particularly when it concerns objective characters. The only thing that Dramatica is concerned with (re: objective characters) is that the character elements are shown in action. Dramatica doesn't care one whit about the distribution of the character elements into characters -- that's your storytelling choice as an author.

Is there a way to see the connections “behind the scenes” in Dramatica?

Frequently, I get my storyform all set, then I get to the one little detail where it doesn't quite fit, or where something else might fit better. I know the usual cautions about not having to follow the storyform exactly, but I'd like to at least take a shot at re-massaging it. Usually when I do, other elements fall into place even better than before.

The challenge is that it's almost never apparent (to me anyway) which elements "up the chain" I have to unlock in order to change the one I really want to change. I then spend frustrating hours poking around in trial and error to discover them. While such poking sometimes gives me a better picture of the inner workings, it always seems to come at the worst possible time, and is the source of the "hate" in my "love-hate" relationship with Dramatica.

Is there a way to see the interconnections (or at least some of them) "back up the chain", so that if I want to change Element D, I know I will have to change C, B, and A? Obviously, each element would have to have its own web of connections, but it would be incredibly helpful to be able to visualize them (or at the very least calculate them). I'm using StoryEngine and ThemeBrowser.

Some connections are obvious--others are virtually impossible to detect.

The simplest way to change your storyform is to clear it and remake your choices based on your newer priorities. I know, that's not what you're asking, but I felt it was important to at LEAST mention this because it is, by far, the fastest and easiest to make storyform changes 95% of the time.

Here are some basic guidelines to how storyforming choices impact your storyform.

First a little description of the pieces of the Dramatica structural model for those on the list less familiar with its organization. In no particular order....

  • There are four Domains that make up the storyform: Situation (Universe); Activity (Physics); Fixed Attitude (Mind); and Manipulation (Psychology).
  • Each domain has four levels. Starting at the top and going down they are: Domain; Types; Variations; Elements.
  • Though each level is the same size, the levels increase in complexity (and the items get smaller) as you go from the topmost to the bottommost level. For example, in any given Domain there will be: 1 domain; 4 types; 16 variations; and 64 elements.
  • The basic organization of the Dramatica structural model is a quad. Basically, a quad is a square divided once vertically and horizontally into four equal squares (two squares on each side).
  • The relationship of the items in the quad has meaning and there are label for the different relationships.
  • Items in a diagonal relationship are called Dynamic Pairs. There are two dynamic pairs in a quad.
  • Items in a horizontal relationship are called Companion Pairs. There are two companion pairs in a quad.
  • Items in a vertical relationship are called Dependent Pairs. There are two dependent pairs in a quad.

OK. Now let's look at the impact of some Storyforming choices.

  • The relationship of the Main Character throughline to the Impact Character throughline is a dynamic pair. Therefore, the MC domain and IC domain will always be is a diagonal relationship on the Dramatica structural model. It also means that choosing the domain for one of the throughline's automatically picks it for the other.
  • The relationship of the Overall Story throughline to the MC/IC throughline is a dynamic pair. Therefore, the OS domain and MC/IC domain will always be is a diagonal relationship on the Dramatica structural model. It also means that choosing the domain for one of the throughline's automatically picks it for the other.
  • Since the Type labels are unique, choosing a throughline Concern also selects the throughline domain.
  • Since the Variation labels are unique, choosing a throughline Issue also selects the throughline concern and domain.
  • Choosing a throughline Problem, Solution, Symptom, or Response may select the throughline issue, concern, and domain. Since the Element labels are NOT unique (each label appears four times with the Dramatica structural model), where you make the choice will determine if you are picking a specific element AND its domain (Theme Browser), or if you are narrowing down the storyforming choices for issue, concern, and domain (StoryGuide/DQS, StoryGuide, etc.).
  • Choosing "Do-er" for MC Approach limits your MC domain to either Situation or Activity.
  • Choosing "Be-er" for MC Approach limits your MC domain to either Fixed Attitude or Manipulation.
  • Choosing "Start" for MC Growth limits the relationship between the MC domain and the OS domain to a dependent pair (vertical) relationship.
  • Choosing "Stop" for MC Growth limits the relationship between the MC domain and the OS domain to a companion pair (horizontal) relationship.
  • Choosing "Change" for MC Resolve establishes that the MC domain and OS domain will have the same Problem and Solution element labels.
  • Choosing "Steadfast" for MC Resolve establishes that the MC domain and the OS domain will share the Symptom and Response element labels.
  • Choosing the Concern for one throughline chooses the Concerns for all four throughlines. The concerns will all be in the same relative quad position. For example, if you choose FUTURE as a concern which appears in the lower left quadrant, the other concerns in your story will be Obtaining, Innermost Desires, and Changing One's Nature.

These are the simplest and most straightforward impacts of storyforming choices that I can think of. There are, obviously, many other choices you can make. The impact of those choices are more likely to be more complex and less obvious.

Why are there similar questions in the Story Guide found in Dramatica Story Expert?

I'm finding similar (identical) questions in the story encoding stages i.e. Story Goal and OS [Objective Story] Concern. Why?

This is because the Story Goal will be the common Concern shared by all the characters. When not seen as the Story Goal, however, Concern (in the Objective story) is descriptive of the broad category in which all of the objective characters' personal concerns can be found. For example, a Concern of Obtaining might have one character concerned with obtaining a diploma and another concerned with obtaining a raise at work. In each case, "obtaining" describes their concerns, but the specific illustration or "encoding" is unique to each.

In contrast, the Story Goal is the singly encoded concern SHARED by ALL of the objective characters. For example, all the character are concerned with obtaining a lost treasure. In this case, the specific treasure is of interest to every character in one way or another. It doesn't have to be the prinicpal concern of each character as an individual, but the one common concern shared by them all. Some may be for it and some against, but all share an interest in that singular concern which is, by definition, the Story Goal.

In stories, it is possible to have any one of the four throughlines' Concerns be the Story Goal. (The four throughlines are the four perspectives of a story from which an audience seeks meaning - Objective, Relationship, Main Character, Influence Character). Which throughline holds the story's overall Goal is simply a matter of the author determining which points of view he or she wants to emphasize - in essence, where the author wants the most commentary as the story unfolds. For example, if all the other characters are focused on the Main Character's Concern, that becomes the Goal of the story as a whole as well.

In most storys told in Western culture, the Objective throughline will be home to the Story Goal, simply because it is easier in our culture to visualize a shared goal from an outside perspective. Because of this convention, the Story Goal provided by the Dramatica software will ALWAYS be doubled up with the Objective Story Concern.

Since Dramatica, as a theory, is a completely new paradigm for story structure, when creating the software it didn't make sense to clutter the already daunting prospect of learning new concepts (such as the four throughlines) with too many alternatives - at least not at first. Once more people are familiar with the basics, future versions of the software will open up to allow the Story Goal to be selected from any of the four throughlines.

What do you mean by “Illustrate” in the various stages of Dramatica Story Expert?

I have just recently purchased Dramatica Story Expert and have a question I hope you can answer...Can you define your use of the word ILLUSTRATE in the various stages of story encoding?

"Illustrate" means to come up a real world event or scenario that fulfills a dramatic function in your story.

The encoding stage of story creation has nothing to do with the actual writing that will become a part of a screenplay, novel, or whatever. It has everything to do with conceptualizing the specific implementation of an aspect of your story's deep dramatic structure by fleshing out the raw idea into a tangible manifestation.

For example, if the goal of your story were to OBTAIN something, that describes the generic nature of the goal from a deep structure standpoint. This kind of information can help make other structural choices for our story, such as the kinds of requirements which might be needed to achieve a goal of OBTAINING, or perhaps help us choose the kind of character who might get caught up in such a goal.

Still, we can't simply write a story in which we say, "The goal is to OBTAIN." We must turn that raw structural concept into a real world item. For example, a goal of OBTAINING might be encoded or ILLUSTRATED as finding a treasure, obtaining someone's love, obtaining a diploma - anything at all that is "obtaining" rather than, say, "becoming". In this manner, the deep structure becomes the heart and soul of the symbols through which you tell your story. In other words, illustrating story points based on deep structure ensures that the audience will feel an overall sense and logic to what they are seeing. Simply, the story will hang together.

If we look at a storyform as a skeleton, encoding puts flesh and blood on it by ILLUSTRATING each bone and joint. The flesh is the nature of the structural appreciations, the blood is the nature of the dynamic appreciations, such as acts or scenes.

Still, this story/body is not in motion until we incorporate Storyweaving. Storyweaving is a lot like the meaning of exposition. It is the process of doling out your encoded deep structure to the audience. Here, the word "illustrate" takes on a different meaning. Now, instead of illustrating the structure, we have to illustrate the encoding!

For example, suppose the raw structural goal in your story is to Obtain. Further suppose that the goal to Obtain is encoded as Obtaining a treasure. Okay, now how do you tell that to your audience? Do you come right out and say it in the first scene? Do you trick the audience into thinking the goal is something else and then let them in on the secret? Do you illustrate the goal by bringing it up in several different scenes in a story, of is it more like Hitchcock's McGuffin, getting the chase started and then never being heard of again until the end of the story? Making these choices is the process of storyweaving, and the choices you make are another form of "illustration".

How do I override the program’s choices for MC Domain and IC Domain?

How do I override the program's choices for MC Domain and IC Domain? In my estimation, the two domains for the story I'm currently working on should be switched, but as the program decided there was only one option for each of these categories. I seem to be unable to change them.

There actually is not an "override" command for changing Domains because the setting of the Domains is one of the most influential decisions you can make in creating a storyform. If you cannot change the Domains you have set for your Main and Influence Characters, then too many other appreciations are set in your storyform to allow them to be changed. All of the appreciations are linked together by complex relationships which limit how easily they can be changed. If you are telling a story about a Main Character who is primarily seen in terms of his physical activities, that is a completely different kind of story than one about a Main Character who is seen primarily in terms of their Psychological manipulations of others. As a result, changing a storyform from reflecting one kind of story to reflecting another involves changing many appreciations beyond just the MC Domain.

The best place to make this kind of change is in the Story Engine, which displays the most essential Objective Story appreciations and the most essential MC appreciations all in one window. In the Story Engine, beside each appreciation, is a little box that is supposed to look a little like a pad-lock. Click on these boxes next to the appreciations that you know are set the way you want them to be in your story (for example: Resolve, Outcome, Judgment, OS Domain--whatever you are sure is right). Then use the button to the right of the screen called "clear." This will clear all of the appreciations except for what is held in place by the locks you have set. At that point, you can use these pull down menus to select what you really want.

This can be more complicated than it sounds though. You may not realize the impact of all the selections which you locked. For example, Approach (Do-er/Be-er) and Mental Sex (Problem-Solving Style) can have a strong impact on what MC Domains are available. Direction (Start/Stop) can too. These appreciations are also easily misinterpreted in stories, so you may have accidentally selected the opposite of what is most appropriate for your story. I recommend double checking the definitions of these appreciations and reading about their impact under the "Background" buttons in the DQS to make sure you set them the way you want to.

Another thing you should know is that you can't lock selections in the Story Engine which are in italics. You must first select them yourself and make them appear in regular type before you can lock them. Do this by simply clicking on them with your mouse.

It sounds like you have a good grip on how you see your Objective and Relationship Story in Dramatica because you want to swap the Main and Influence Character Domains. Since these two characters represent the opposing sides of the story's central issue, it can be easy to be selecting appreciations for one when it turns out you are really describing the other. Remember that the Main Character presents the first person view of what it feels like to be in your story while the Influence Character is always felt by their impact on the Main Character (and thus, by the audience). We ARE the Main Character, while we WATCH the Influence Character and feel their influence.