Can you explain why Dramatica forces certain choices?

There is something inherent to the built-in logic of the Dramatica story engine that I find somewhat disturbing....perhaps someone there can shed some light on this for me.

If one makes certain selections, for instance: Main Character Problem - Avoidance Unique Ability - Self Interest Critical Flaw - Openness ....then the only allowable story outcome is FAILURE.

This bothers me, because it means that to deal with that particular combination of MC characteristics, there is NO VALID STORYFORM in which the goal of the story can succeed. Yet success or failure happen at the end of the story.

If there is only one valid way to tell a story dealing with this particular set of characteristics---that it ends in failure---then what does that do to the suspense and surprise of the story? Shouldn't success or failure be unguessable until the MC reaches that point near the end where he has to make a leap of faith, and change or remain steadfast? If a successful outcome can't even be imagined as part of a viable storyform at that point, then how can an audience be convinced it could turn out any other way? If the Dramatica theory is correct and success is ruled out (in this case, for instance), won't the audience unconsciously recognize that and find the ending predictable? This seems to me to be a built-in bias in the software, or am I missing something?

In order to create any system, you must establish givens. The mere establishment of givens creates blind spots (areas that cannot be explored because they are too closely associated with the givens and, therefore, are not available to be considered) and paradoxes (areas that appear to break the rules established by the system).

When we put together the Dramatica model of story for the software, we chose to give it a Western cultural bias--that is, we chose the givens that are closest to those found in current, popular, American stories. It is one of those blind spots that you have found in your Avoidance/Self Interest/Openness = Failure storyform.

What this means is that in current American culture, people (MCs) that have a personal problem growing from Avoidance that also are uniquely suited to help the achievement of "big picture" goals because of personal Self Interest, will ultimately be unable to use their unique ability effectively which leads to a failure to achieve said goals if their personal Openness undermines their personal Self Interests.

Does this mean that there are no stories (storyforms) that exist where those story points might lead to Success? No, it does not mean that. It means that you won't find them in typical "American" stories. In order to tell a story like that you would need to find an alternative set of cultural givens, establish those givens and describe how the new set of givens impacts the relationships of items in the structural model (including the language/labels used to describe the items within the model).

I know this sounds like a cop out--who knows, maybe it is--but that's my best shot at describing why those set of items are only found in a FAILURE story.

How does Dramatica work in debates and other biased articles?

Dramatica is an excellent tool for constructing and writing a debate and other forms of persuasive discourse. Since the theory is based on the concept that stories exist because of inequities, and a specific story is a specific "argument" (or Grand Argument Story as we call it in Dramatica) that an author makes to his audience, it naturally follows that the same form and techniques can be used in most any positional form of writing. How would one use it? Hmmm. I suppose there are a number of ways to do that. Here's how I would go about doing it:

  1. Identify the central inequity around which the debate or essay is centered.
  2. Determine your position on the inequity.
  3. Create a storyform that best resembles the argument you want to make taking particular note of Story Outcome, Story Judgment, MC Resolve, and Story Limit. Though you can explore and emphasize any of the dynamics, these seem to be the common points of reference in a debate-style argument.
  4. Determine the throughline you see as most important to your argument. Though you will want to make the entire argument from all four perspectives (if your idea is to make a bullet proof argument), it's still a good idea that you have a sense of which is a "more appropriate" point of view for the argument you make.
  5. Instead of characters, treat the character elements as topics of discussion. Use the Variations to make "thematic" commentary. Use the Types to organize the flow of the argument. Use the Domains to show the valid perspectives (points of reference) that frame your argument.

I think these would give you a good headstart on any type of persuasive writing you might like to do.

What similarities does Dramatica have with other story paradigms?

Dramatica theory (and software) has many touch points with other popular writing reference works. One example is comparing Dramatica's four act "Signpost" structure to the act structure described in the book SCREENPLAY: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. In SCREENPLAY, Mr. Field describes the structure of a screenplay to be broken into three acts. In a typical 120 page long screenplay, the first act is around 30 pages long, the second is 60 pages long, and the final third act is 30 pages long.

In a later revision, Mr. Fields updated his act descriptions by dividing the long second act into two, 30 page segments. This is frequently referred to as the 30-60-90 rule for screenplays, where each number represents the transition of one act to another in a four act screenplay.

Mr. Field's newer description falls into line with Dramatica's four signpost view of a story's act structure where each story is divided into four "signposts." Dramatica takes the act structure a step further by separating a story into four throughlines -- the Overall Story throughline, the Main Character throughline, the Impact Character throughline, and the Relationship Story throughline. Each of the four throughlines are subdivided into four "signposts" or acts. The throughlines allow a writer greater flexibility in pacing a story while maintaining the act integrity needed to structure the story effectively.

For a more comprehensive comparison of Dramatica to other stories, check out How & Why Dramatica is Different.

What’s the best way to learn the Dramatica theory?

You can approach Dramatica from several directions:

  1. Read the theory book (available for FREE here)
  2. Use the software (or the free demo version of the software) to examine the example stories that come with the software.
  3. Use the software (or the free demo version) to develop the storyform for a story you make up.

Can Dramatica be adapated for half-hour TV shows?

I am interested in using Dramatica for 1/2 and 1 hour sci-fi type shows. The half hour show would be likened to Twilight Zone, thus no running plot. Could you give me some tips on how to do that?

There are basically two different approaches to using Dramatica with "short form" works. One is to cover all of the various story points quickly and economically (timewise). The other is to spend more time illustrating the story points, but limit the scope or depth of the coverage. Then, of course, there is the blend between the two. In all cases, it is best to explore all four of the story's throughlines: the Objective Story, the Relationship Story, the Main Character, and the Influence Character. Even if you only treat one or two of the throughlines superficially, by addressing them you avoid HUGE gaps in your story's argument.

Now, sometimes the intent in a short form piece is NOT to tell a story but to tell a tale (make a statement, but not fully argue the point). In these instances, you can use Dramatica to explore just one or two of the throughlines. Doing this will tend to lessen the long term emotional impact on the audience, but it can free up valuable screen time for a deeper exploration of the issues or subject matter you REALLY want to explore.

The one hour format, e.g. Outer Limits, is long enough to include all four throughlines, though one or two may not be explored as deeply as the others. If you try to tell a tale, your audience might get a little impatient unless your work is a non-stop entertainment. If it's not, the audience will be looking for "more," more than a tale can deliver.

Can Dramatica describe all stories?

Can Dramatica describe all stories? Please give me an example of a story that does not fit into Dramatica theory.

Ostensibly, the answer is "Yes." If not completely, then at least to a competent degree. However, the current incarnation of Dramatica does not handle multiple Main Characters (e.g. Big Chill) very well. Though ensemble pieces like the Big Chill and many Robert Altman works are possible to work with in regards to the Dramatica theory, the software is not designed to handle them at this time. EVENTUALLY we hope to address this issue in a better manner.

Does Dramatica limit ambiguity?

Dramatica requires authors to make specific decisions about their story. In contrast, most great artists prefer to keep things ambiguous so that the audience is left with a richer experience. Doesn't this indicate a limitation of Dramatica?

According to Webster, "ambiguous" means, "having more than one meaning":. By this definition, Dramatica would agree that ambiguity is a hallmark of great art. Please note that "ambiguous" does NOT mean "unclear", "cloudy", nor "obscure". Most artists do not desire to create a work that holds no meaning because no one can figure it out. If the audience doesn't get ANY feeling from the piece, then why create it in the first place? However, if the audience experiences CONFLICTING feelings, we have not only moved it, but created a potential within it that forces it to address an issue of interest to us as authors. The audience is forced to consider all sides of the issue logistically and/or emotionally. We, as authors, have then accomplished our intent.

If the point of "great" art is to create multiple meanings, then first we must build single meanings. Next, we combine them together - some on this side of the fence, some on the other. In this way, we temper the "emotional argument" of the work so that it falls somewhere in the range between one-sided and evenly balanced, thereby creating an overall ambiguous meaning. This is one of the concepts upon which Dramatica is based. The choices an author makes in working with Dramatica have been designed to represent these essential or "elemental" meanings that can be combined to create more complex meanings. This is not unlike the periodic table of elements in chemistry. Similar to the scientific chart, in stories there are "families" of emotions. Some react together, some do not. And just like elements, they all have individual identities. Lead is very stable. Gold is chemically inert. Both are malleable. One is dull, the other shiny. Both are heavy. But place Hydrogen and Oxygen together and they will quickly form water, which has properties that don't resemble either parent. Sometimes catalysts are needed and other times inhibitors will slow down reactions. Both "catalysts" and "inhibitors" can be found in the terminology of Dramatica, and these story equivalents provide much the same function.

The questions asked of authors in Dramatica that have the greatest impact on a story (and therefore limit out more alternatives) were placed so as to come right up front in the software where the new user can see them before anything else. They are designed to let the new user become familiar with Dramatica concepts while having some powerful tools to use right off the bat. But there are HUNDREDS of other much more subtle, sophisticated and complex questions later like "Relationship Story Catalyst" and "Objective Story Inhibitor". Experienced alchemists (authors) who understand these concepts, even intuitively, can jump right in and create magic. For the novice, like the Sorcerer's apprentice, he or she will need to work up to that level of sophistication.

Just as with the great masters, it is not only in their subject matter that we appreciate their work, but in the nature of the brushstrokes as well. The brushstrokes are the storytelling, the creative, intuitive, organic part of communication. Although Dramatica offers some insights into this part of the creative process, it is specifically designed to focus on the exploration of the rational or emotional topic of a work and provide a "periodic table of story elements" from which to fashion complex and, yes, "ambiguous" meanings.

Why would a master storyteller have an interest in such a program? Because not all works by a great master are great masterworks. It is not that intuition fails or skills diminish, but that each of us carries our own biases, givens and preconceptions to the creative process. If our purpose is simply to document these, then there is no need for Dramatica. But if our intent is to impact our audience in ways we can predict, then Dramatica is an extremely valuable tool for creating both complex and ambiguous meanings.

What is a Grand Argument Story?

What is a Grand Argument Story? From the documentation, all I can tell is that Dramatica describes Grand Argument Stories, and that a Grand Argument Story is a story that can be described by Dramatica.

Simply put, a Grand Argument Story is a story that covers all the ways a problem might be identified and solved. By covering all the bases, the author (who is probably not present when the audience experiences the work) need not be present to respond to challenges an audience might have based on story "holes" or inconsistencies. We have found that many other forms of Narrative fall under the umbrella of the Grand Argument Story including fairy tales, stream-of-conscious works, etc.

Can you give me more information on the psychology of writing?

I highly enjoyed learning as much as I did, pertaining to your book, Dramatica: a New Theory of Story, and I look forward in reading your online book, Mental Relativity. I did ask you for some information that you did not respond to and I am sure it was an accident. I wanted information on the psychology of writing, the visual aspect of the reader, and the "Whole Brain" theory of placing subject, space and so forth within the sentences, paragraphs, pages etc. This interests me, as I am sure you can understand why, greatly. Do you know anything about this?

The topic you are addressing has enormous ramifications which amount to an entire approach to communication theory. The best I can do in a limited reply is refer you to our Dramatica concept of the "Story Mind", as being that the underlying deep structure of any complete story is an analogy or model of a single human mind as it tries to deal with an inequity. In Dramatica theory, we see four stages of communication (creating the conceptual Story Mind in "Storyforming", encoding the concept into tangible symbols in "Storyencoding", transmitting those symbols over or through a medium in "Storyweaving", and finally the attempt by an audience to discern the symbols and pull them from the medium, decode them to their basic structural meaning, and reconstruct the Story Mind in "reception". Clearly, the Story Mind is present at all four stages, but in a different form. Similarly, we might look at the job the audience does in interpreting the story experience as having it's own four stages.

When you talk about placing subject and space in the sentences and paragraphs, this can occur in any single stage or any combination of stages. Each stage represents a different kind of topic being looked at, or a different point of view from which a topic is seen. Therefore, although we can say with confidence that subject and space are present in the work, pinpointing exactly where it occurs is actually impossible for much the same reason one cannot determine the location of an electron at the same time one is measuring it's mass. It is the old particle and wave problem, and that stems from our own brains' alternative organizations into spatial and temporal perspectives.

In fact, the issues you are bringing up are almost more pertinent to the psychology of the author, as opposed to the psychology of the story. Rather than go into more detail here, I suspect that you will find the information you are looking for by reading the material regarding the psychology behind Dramatica which is available on the Mental Relativity site, Storymind.com. Taking this in conjunction with the book, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story, should provide you with a good parallax on the relationship between the structure and dynamics of our minds and that of the stories we create.

Why does Dramatica focus so much on “problem-solving”?

Problem Solving, Problem Solving... and more problem solving. I know how if fits into Dramatica.......... but I also know of a very well intellegent, published author who teaches individuals and organizations how to create what they want and the first thing he teaches....."creating is not problem solving." I REALLY wish you could have this author look at the Dramatica theory and give a brief overview. He may provide a fresh look at scriptwriting like never before. He teaches his "Creating" seminars by watching movies and then discussing what is seen and or not seen.

Please let me know. I hate to always be in a problem solving mode, or worse, a teaching and preaching mode. But I do hunger for the correct perspective. Understanding opposites, which "He" calls establishing "structual tension". Sound interesting?

ps: The opposite of problem solving is?

Thanks for your note. You bring up some very important points, and I'd like to take a moment to, at least briefly, address them.

In your letter you quote an author who teaches creativity as saying,."creating is not problem solving." I couldn't agree more! The process of creating comes from the heart. Still, unless one is satisfied to be his or her own audience, often the fruit of the heart speaks clearly only to the author. This is because storytelling is not about creating a story, but communicating a story. And, it is the process of communication that requires problem solving.

An author often works from real experiences. Even if he or she is building a fictional scene between fictional people, the emotions that arise can only be expressed because at some point in his or her own life the author has felt those emotions, even if under different circumstances.

We do not feel our emotions as singular events. Rather, every emotion is "tied" to many others and connected in a whole network of both strong and weak forces. When an author conjures up a feeling for a scene, this feeling will bring with it all kinds of baggage.

As a result, an author is likely to carry those additional feelings right over into the scene under construction without actually writing them in. This creates a scene in which the primary emotions are well covered, but all the supporting emotions are either missing or so personal that, overall, the scene fails to communicate anything in depth at all.

This is where problem solving comes in. By focusing on the primary emotions (and information) to be communicated and determining the context in which the author wishes to present these topics and experiences, Dramatica can "calculate" the necessary supporting components to the story's "argument". The argument, by the way, is just a short hand way of saying the story's "overall consistent and fully explored message."

Now, for a story that is not designed to have either a message or point of view, Dramatica is really pretty useless. Still, such stories can be quite moving as an audience experience. They are an art form all their own. Free form stories follow a course that is unpredictable and creates its impact by the layering of experiences. A story that is an argument, however, is structured in such a way that all dramatic parts ultimately focus on the same central issue, and are seen as reflections of the "problem" at the heart of the story. It is here Dramatica can be of service.

This seems a good point to talk about the "opposite of a problem" question you also pose in your note. The opposite of a problem would be a solution. This fits in with tradition binary opposites. Dramatica, however, is not based on binaries, but on the relationships among four things. For example, in Dramatica we cannot consider only a problem or just a problem and solution, but must also consider "focus" and "direction" as well.

"Problem" and "solution" are well-understood terms dramatically, but "focus" (Symptom) and "direction" (Response) are not nearly as often considered. As an analogy, if we think of a problem as a disease, then the solution would be the cure. Focus would be the principal symptom of the discease, and Direction the threatment for that symptom.

Sometimes a body can heal only by curing the disease. Other times, there is no cure and the body can heal only by continuing to treat the symptom until the body heals itself. In story, it is the choice to go with the cure or the treatment of the symptom that determines if characters are on the right path, and it is their choice to stick with that path or jump to the other that determines if they will remain steadfast or change as human beings. The quad structure is a much more descriptive model of real dramatics than simple binary opposites.

To go a step farther, Dramatica is not only concerned with the problem, but (as you indicated at the top of you note) with problem solving as well. It is important to note the difference between the structural "problem" and the dynamic of "problem solving".

A problem is something that is out of balance, which creates an inequity. Problem solving is the effort to eliminate that inequity. Pusuing your line of inquiry a bit farther we might ask, "What is the opposite of problem solving?" The answer to this question is "Justification".

If problem solving is the process to eliminate an inequity, justification can be seen as the process to try and balance the inequity. As examples, if you are hungry and you eat you have eliminated an inequity, hence: problem solving. In contrast, if you are on a diet and get hungry, but instead of eating you light up a cigarette, you have created a new inequity to balance the first one, hence: justification. Justifications are not necessarily bad. They are just our way of putting off immediate gratification for long-term goals, or sometimes becoming conditioned to a particular way of doing things to the point we become inflexible. Either way, problem solving and justification can be seen as opposites.

What about the Dramatica quad as it pertains to problem solving? One binary in the quad would be problem solving and justification. The other would be Male and Female Mental Sex (Problem-Solving Style).

At face value, this seems hardly likely. What, after all, do Male and Female Mental Sex have to do with problem solving or justification? Well, to solve a problem or to justify, one must determine if it is a problem now or could be a problem later. The NOW problem is a spatial appreciation - looking at the structure of the beast. The LATER problem is a temporal appreciation - looking at the dynamics that might come together to create a problem.

As it turns out, although we all have space and time sense, men and women emphasize them differently. As a result, what appears as problem solving to one Mental Sex, is likely to appear as a justification to the other. One cannot absolutely say that something is problem solving or justification unless one knows wheter the effort is being advanced by a Male or Female Mental Sex charater.

Well, I must close now, as to go any further would be to step beyond the scope of the questions you posed in your note.

I hope I have been able to clarify the difference between the structure necessary to clear communication and the dynamic of the personal creative process. Also, I hope I have adequately described the differences between binary opposites and Dramatica's rather more detailed approach of dealing in quads.

Your thought about having the creative writing teacher/author look at Dramatica is a good one. I hope it can be arranged. After all, we're just authors ourselves who worked out a paradigm of story which we have found useful. There's always room for improvement, although I know we often get so excited and wrapped up in our enthusiasm that we can come off sounding rather preachy. We're working to improve that too!

Response from Original Inquisitor:

Thanks for such a wonderful reply...have saved to review and contemplate.

Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.

Is it possible to write a script without a main character whose goal is to solve a problem?

Reason I suggested another author: Looking at "dramatics" from a different perspective for a more complete understanding.

Author, Robert Fritz (CREATING, PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE and soon to be released CORPORATE TIDES) writes that the basic STRUCTURE for Creating is: A person describes as clearly as possible what they want and then describes their current reality which results in "Structural Tension."

Seems most people in society today do exactly the opposite which results in self limitation...........so if we script write in the same "mind set" I get a sense that our scripts would also be self limiting.

I know, I know........ may not be sounding real clear in this area but I'm trying to understand the "bottom brick" of scriptwriting so that I don't develop bad scriptwriting habits as I believe most people have in life, looking at EVERYTHING as a problem to be solved.

Can you point my needle a bit more north.... recommend a movie to see or something?

Melanie Anne Phillips responds:

I'm glad you found it useful. I think we are all learning about the implications of the Dramatica theory every time we question it. The answers to those questions often open up new insight for ourselves and improve the theory at the same time.

Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.

Don't get me started on that! I believe there is a tremendous binary/linear bias to all societies world-wide. This belief grew out of the work Chris and I did on Mental Relativity, the psychology behind Dramatica. If you'd like to explore some of those non-story concepts, visit my Mental Relativity site, Storymind.com

Is it possible to write a script without a main character whose goal is to solve a problem?

Sure! The way the software and documentation currently reads, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters are out to solve a problem - the difference being in their "problem solving technique." That is another limited binary appreciation. In fact, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters might be driven by a completely different kind of concern: they might want to be at peace.

Male Mental Sex Characters would seek satisfaction, Female Mental Sex Characters would seek Fulfillment. Currently, Satisfaction and Fulfillment are lumped together in the Dynamic question of"Judgment: "Does your Main Character resolve his or her angst?"

Note the difference here. In problem solving, we have all kinds of problems represented by the sixty-four elements. The "nature" of the problem can be defined in an extremely detailed manner. That is a structural approach, based in logic. But Judgment (a dynamic) is only available in two flavors: "Good" and "Bad". It almost makes you laugh when you compare the degree of sophistication of the logic based problem to the simple binary appreciation of the emotion based Judgment.

Why this imbalance in the software? It is necessary! Just as one cannot see light being a particle and a wave AT THE SAME TIME, so too in Dramatica, one cannot explore the logistic AND the emotional at the same time. Development costs of a product as revolutionary and complex as Dramatica made it impractical in a business sense (and also from the strain on the developers!) to try to create two completely different implementations of the theory. Since Western culture (as is true with most cultures world-wide) emphasizes logic over emotion, we opted to first create a logic-based system that focused on problem solving. In fact, in Western storytelling, problem based stories account for at least 90% of what is written, so our practical decision made Dramatica available to the most writers in the most expedient manner. It is my hope that additional software development will some day implement the emotional side of the theory, thereby opening a whole new door to the organic writer.

Getting back to the question that started all this.... Currently you need to do some mental gymnastics with the software to "convert" the concept of problem-solving to one of Satisfaction or Fulfillment. Here are a few tips and suggestions about how to approach this...

When using logic, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek to solve a problem. When using emotion, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek satisfaction. Problem solving is seen here as a binary notion of things being "correct", satisfaction is a holistic sense of things being "right".

When using logic, Female Mental Sex Characters will ALSO seek to solve a problem. But when using emotion, Female Mental Sex Characters will seek fulfillment. Problem solving is seen here as a comparison of things being "balanced", fulfillment is a holistic sense of feeling "good".

So, both Male and Female Mental Sex Characters can use either reason or emotion as their principle standard of evaluation from which they derive their drive. But, one will seek satisfaction emotionally and the other fulfillment, and even though both will engage in problem solving (which makes them appear the same) they interpret problem solving differently (which makes them un-alike.)

To develop a satisfaction or fulfillment based story, one must currently emphasize the Subjective Story Throughline, which means that one is thrown back into the logistic nature of the appreciations in order to construct something of a framework around the emotional "argument".

But there is an easier way. Well, perhaps not easier but much more nuanced. Get in touch with your own feelings. Use the structured aspects of the Dramatica software to handle the logistics of the plot and the topics of the theme and the objective characters. But when it comes to the Main Character, put yourself right in his or her shoes.

The software examines the Main Character as being where the audience is positioned in the story - the "I" perspective; first person singular. But rather than putting the author in that perspective, it takes an outside view of this character so that the author can construct the appropriate concerns that will connect the journey of the Main Character to the development of the story as a whole.

What is not yet provided is support for actually jumping into your Main Character's skin and seeing what the story looks like from there. Early on in the development of the theory, Chris and I did some preliminary work on "skewing the model" so that a subjective view of what the story looked liked from ANY character position might be provided. With all the other areas we needed to address, however, we never had the time to fully develop that aspect of the theory.

Until we are able to incorporate that approach in the software, it is really a simple matter to do it yourself. Pay attention to two things: the "static appreciations" of your Main Character that remain the same for the whole story (such as his or her Concern and Unique Ability) and also the "progressive appreciations" which change over time, such as the act progression through the four "Types" that describe the Main Character's signposts and journeys.

Imagine what it would be like to be in this particular story, having these overall concerns, and also being focused on other immediate concerns of the moment. How would you feel? How might your feelings change the longer you explored these issues? What might be your "gut reaction" to the impact of the Influence Character.

By using the logistic output of the software as a guide, you can then follow your heart within that context and be confident that your character will start to take on an honest humanity yet function appropriately in the Grand Scheme as well.

If you don't wish to focus on problem solving at all, make your story an exploration of the Main Character's feelings only. The logistic sense will come by itself between the lines as the Main Character illustrated the both the static and progressive appreciations by the way he or she feels, responds, reacts, and by the shadings that temper his or her observations of the story at large.

Well, I'd better draw this to a close before I write a whole new theory book in one setting!

Keep those questions coming, and best of luck in your writing endeavors.

By using the logistic output of the software as a guide, you can then follow your heart within that context and be confident that your character will start to take on an honest humanity yet function appropriately in the Grand Scheme as well.

If you don't wish to focus on problem solving at all, make your story an exploration of the Main Character's feelings only. The logistic sense will come by itself between the lines as the Main Character illustrated the both the static and progressive appreciations by the way he or she feels, responds, reacts, and by the shadings that temper his or her observations of the story at large.

Well, I'd better draw this to a close before I write a whole new theory book in one setting!

Keep those questions coming, and best of luck in your writing endeavors.

What if I don’t agree with what Dramatica says about my story?

As the writer of your story, you can always choose to ignore what Dramatica believes is the most dramatic approach to telling your story. You can also emphasize or de-emphasize any aspect of Dramatica's advice.

There are usually a few reasons why you won’t agree with Dramatica's advice:

  1. You've selected the wrong storyform. An easy way to tell if you have the wrong storyform is that many of the Dramatica-generated StoryPoints don’t make sense. In this case, it's best to go through all the questions you've answered carefully, and see if your choices are really compatible with the story you wish to describe.
  2. You have no idea what a few of the StoryPoints mean. This is quite common. Usually, the unclear StoryPoints represent areas of your story that are underdeveloped. These are important hints that you need to put some more work into these areas.
  3. You don't like where your storyform takes the story. This can indicate that the story may not really be about what you initially thought it should be. That's a common process for writers, to "discover" the story as they are writing. Dramatica can significantly shorten that discovery time.

I’ve heard Dramatica is able to “predict” certain aspects of stories. How does it do that?

Dramatica is a model of the human problem solving process, as reflected in stories. When you answer Dramatica's questions in Dramatica about your story's characters, plots and themes the software limits out choices that aren't compatible with the story you desire. As choices are eliminated, you are left with only those pieces that fit with your intent.

Dramatica's ultra-accurate story engine then provides information about your intended story that you didn't enter. More often than not, these provided pieces match up exactly with what you already knew about your story. Frequently it seems that the software is "predicting" the dramatic pieces of your story.

Dramatica's ability to automatically provide these answers enable it to be helpful to a writer who may need assistance for a particular aspect of their characters, plots, or themes.

Won’t selecting options in Dramatica somehow limit my creativity?

Unlikely. Although some writers are temporarily slowed down by having to take the time to learn new concepts and integrate them into their working methods, others find that process liberating and creatively energizing.

Making choices is part of the creative process. When you make choices, you decide not only what you want to do in story, but also specifically what you don't want to do. Two quotes do a superb job of illustrating this issue:

"At first sight, the idea of any rules or principles being superimposed on the creative mind seems more likely to hinder than to help, but it is quite untrue in practice. Disciplined thinking focuses inspiration rather than blinkers it."
-- G. L. Glegg, The Design of Design

"The Enemy of Art is the absence of limitations."
-- Orson Wells

If I select the same storyform as another writer, will others recognize our work as the same story?

There are 32,768 storyforms in Dramatica, but a storyform isn’t a story, it's an argument. An infinite number of stories can be created from the same storyform.

Two writers working with different subject matter might not even realize they have worked from the same storyform. There are probably thousands of stories that have been done that would match some of the more commonly selected storyforms, and it's doubtful that a reader would ever even recognize that those stories are making the same underlying argument.

Isn’t Dramatica just a mechanical method of writing a story?

Won't it create formulaic "cookie-cutter" stories?

No. Dramatica doesn’t tell you what to write. It doesn’t tell you what subjects to write about, or the specifics of what characters or plot points to use to illustrate your subjects. Dramatica guides you to create a structure for the underlying argument of your story, and prompts you to come up with writing that illustrates that argument.

Although this may sound pat, "form" is not the same as "formula". "Structure" is not the same as "expression." There are certain elements that are required to make a house structurally sound, but not all houses look the same.

How do I know Dramatica is for real?

Is there any way to prove it?

While there is no PROOF that Dramatica is 100% accurate (it's just a theory, you know), there are a number of things you can do to give you confidence that the theory is correct:

  1. Try it on your own story. This has been one of the most effective methods of demonstrating Dramatica's power. By understanding Dramatica's questions and answering them, Dramatica will "predict" certain things about your story that you didn’t provide in your answers. Generally, for a story that doesn’t have structural problems, these answers will line up with what you know to be true. That usually gives you the confidence to try Dramatica on one of your stories that has problems you're trying to work out.
  2. Carefully examine the example stories. Open some of the excellent stories, like The Verdict or Hamlet (or a story you're familiar with) and look at the StoryPoints window. There you will have a summary of structural points about the story, and you can read the storytelling that illustrates those points. Compare what you know about the story to Dramatica's perspective. Does it make sense? Is it insightful? This is a great way to see and learn about Dramatica's concepts in action.
  3. Attempt to make a different storyform match an example story. For hard-core skeptics who want to take active steps to disprove the validity of the theory, try this little exercise: Choose one of our example stories, one you're familiar with. Create a new story document, and select one of the 32,768 storyforms at random (you can either use the "Spin-the-Model" feature or just randomly answer questions). Now, try to illustrate the key structural points in the StoryPoints window, and see if you can make the storyform you've selected make sense for example story you've chosen. In other words, can you pick another very different storyform and illustrate it to make as much sense as the storyform for, say, The Verdict? If you can make random choices sound as good as a storyform created by careful analysis, then you've just created substantial doubt as to the validity of that storyform. If you can do it for many stories, you've shot down the theory. Good luck.