Do all narratives have to be Grand Argument Stories?

In the Dramatica Theory Of Story book, you state:

To fully explore any issue, an author has to examine all possible solutions to that issue and make an argument to prove to an audience that the author’s way is best.

May I understand “To fully explore any issue” as an equivalent of “writing the ‘perfect’ screenplay”? If so, where can we put those French movies that are but a glimpse of how people fail or even if they succeed—they do so by accident? These films do not judge nor label, but put us in the position of accepting the human condition and learning from others, even if they are only fictional characters in a movie.

This seems to me a very different concept. Or am I missing an important point here?

The comment about the “author’s way is best” is not an evaluation of the validity of the author’s opinion, but that it represents the argument the author makes. It is a comment on the author’s intent, not the message represented by the author’s argument.

The comment about fully exploring any issue is a broad generalization about the nature of a grand argument story. In other words, the storyform represents a sufficient set of components to make a complete argument/grand argument story. It’s not meant to be hyperbole, but it may come off that way without providing the contexts and caveats a longer description might include.

Are all narratives grand argument stories? No. Not even close. Most stories contain aspects (story points) of a storyform, but only a grand argument story has them all (by definition).

Are all well received narratives based on grand argument stories? No. The storyform is only one of four major phases that go into the creation of a grand argument story, and positive reception may be indifferent to well ‘formed’ stories.

Are all grand argument stories successful narratives? No. Storyencoding, Storyweaving, and Story Reception play a great part in how well a finished work successfully communicates the underlying universal meaning/message baked into the storyform. Authors are responsible for the choices they make in creating and telling stories. Audiences are responsible for interpreting the stories in way meaningful to their own lives and experience. When there is a meeting of the minds between authors and audiences, there can be ‘magic.’ Our interest was to make the magic a bit more understandable and repeatable.

So, our comments are meant to be objective descriptions of grand argument stories, not all narratives, nor the success or failure of the efforts to communicate an author’s intent. Our primary goal was to describe as accurately as we could the elements and processes that comprise the creation and analysis of grand argument stories, as well as the larger connection to the processes of human problem-solving and psychology that they mirror.

Do all 72 parts of the Storyform have to be in there to effectively make an argument?

Theme encoding involves three acts; in each the main thesis vs. antithesis is presented within a sub-thesis/antithesis. The sub-thesis/antithesis can be argued six different ways--that's eighteen arguments. Multiply that by the four through lines for an astounding 72 arguments. I'm overwhelmed!

Am I missing something here?

What Dramatica theory is doing then is forcing me as an author to develop extensive arguments for and against the main thesis/antithesis, with three main sub-thesis/antithesis areas to explore in four different contexts. Do I have this right?

I wasn't thinking of writing a 400 page novel here! smile Is there any way to simplify at all? Do ALL of the 72 arguments need to be there? (Again, what if I leave out one throughline?)

Your question concerns the quantity of information that can be necessary to completely explore the thematic arguments in a story. You ask, do all 72 arguments (interactions) need to be there? The answer is, yes and no. To completely argue the thematic issue, all of its relevant positions need to be made. HOWEVER, the depth to which this is done is COMPLETELY at your discretion. For example, you can illustrate Self Interest v. Morality in a single sentence or observation: "I slave day in and day out for our family, never taking any time for myself, and all you think about is getting more money so that you have a nose job!" That simple example (I have no idea where it came from) could easily act as the exploration of one of the 72 thematic issues. If you're an adept and clever writer, you can be far more original and succinct in your own examples.

Whatever you do, at least address the thematic conflicts in each of the four throughlines. Otherwise an entire aspect of your story will be noticeably absent.

How do you know when you’ve got your storyform right?

There is no right or wrong storyform. The Dramatica software makes sure that every storyform is a dramatically valid one. In fact, you could conceiveably calculate out all the different storyforms that can be created (32,768) and print them out, and just arbitrarily pick one.

So, why is a storyform "right" for a particular story, but not another? It has to do with what you, as author, are trying to say to your audience. What is the story you have in mind? Which storyform accurately reflects that?

A storyform is just the skeleton or framework of a story, so it is often difficult to determine which one is "proper" for a story you have in mind. What you are thinking of already has a lot of the story telling done: characters, scenarios, plot devices. All of these are a combination of the underlying structure and the manner in which it is expressed by your creative style and inspirations.

So, how can we determine when we have arrived at the best storyform to act as a pattern for our story? By feel. You need to "feel" that the words that crop up as Story Goal, or Main Character Domain express what you have in mind, both logistically and emotionally, for your audience. To do this, you must truly understand what is meant by Main Character Domain, or any of the other dramatic "appreciations" provided by the Story Engine. Also, you must develop an empathy with the words that fill those appreciations, such as Universe, or Psychology.

Getting to know the terminology in Dramatica is the hardest part! The reason it is hard is that our language tends to create lots of words to deal with common concepts, and hardly any to deal with less up front notions. For a story to be complete, ALL essential considerations need to be addressed to prevent holes. So, in the areas in which our culture does not focus, there are few (and sometimes no existing) words to do the job. This means that there will be appreciations and the words that fill them that are easily understood, and a whole range of other terms that are progressively more obscure. Thus, to have a feel for which storyform is "right" requires becoming familiar with all of these terms. The more you are comfortable with, the stronger your sense of which storyform is best will be. Your choices in creating a storyform will become more precise and meaningful, and the end product will better reflect what you had in mind.

It seems like even the examples you give in the documentation could go other ways just by changing the verbs used in describing them. For example, the story I'm working on is a mystery. The characters are trying to decipher the clues that will help them discover the identity of the mystery person so they can help her. What I can't decide is: are they concerned with doing (helping someone), obtaining (the answer to the clues), or learning (the identity)? And then I wonder if I'm in the wrong domain -- solving a mystery is an external activity, but maybe the mystery itself is an external situation. Is there a general blueprint for mystery stories?

The "mystery" is a genre of story. Some genres describe settings, like "westerns". Others describe character relationships, such as "buddy pictures", or "love stories". A mystery can either describe characters who are trying to figure something out, as in the old Columbo series, where the audience knew who the killer was from the very start, or they can be mysteries to the characters AND the audience, such as most Agatha Christie stories, or the Sherlock Holmes stories. A few mysteries have the characters knowing the score, but the audience being in the dark. The one combination that is NOT a mystery is when both characters and audience know the facts up front.

This difference in focus prevents there from being a single, typical "mystery" storyform. If the mystery part resides with the audience, then it comes from the storytelling, not the storyform. If the mystery is at least partly with the characters, then it becomes part of the storyform as well.

The "Types" you mentioned above, Learning, Understanding, Doing, and Obtaining, are all from the Physics "class" and describe activities. This does not make them any more appropriate to a mystery than any of the Types in the other three "classes". For example, in the Universe Class are the Types Past, Present, Progress, and Future. If one were writing a mystery about finding the killer of a school boy twenty years ago before he can repeat his crime on the twentieth anniversary, these types might best describe the chase.

In fact, all sixteen Types (four from each class) will show up in EVERY storyform. The difference is: from what point of view are they explored? The Main Character Domain will be the Class that contains the Types that best describe what the Main Character is involved in or concerned with. The Objective Story Domain will be the Class that contains the Types that best describe what ALL the characters of the story are jointly involved in or concerned with. So, in creating a storyform that is "right", you will need to consider which set of Types you want your characters to explore, which are right for your Main Character, your Influence Character, and your Relationship Story.

Think about the kinds of things you want each of these four areas to explore, or examine. Think about the kinds of scenes that might be created that revolve around these Types of Concerns. That can go a long way to determining how to make your selections that will lead to a storyform that fits your desires as an author.