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.

What is the difference between Storyforming and Storyweaving?

I have a story in which the characters are concerned with the past. While I want the story to start with the Main Character many centuries after the past events, much of the history of the Overall Story situation lies in the past.

So, do I encode that history onto the storyform, or do I only encode events surrounding Main Character's activities? I originally envisioned her story being parallel to the story of one of the other characters, but now I'm thinking they're both part of the same story.

Or as someone once said, "Where do I start?"

I think the distinction you're looking for is that of Storyforming and Storyweaving. If the order of events is tied to the order in which things REALLY HAPPEN in the story, that's part of the storyform. If the order of events is tied to the order in which the audience experiences the events, that's storyweaving.

The biggest clue is to determine if the CHARACTERS are aware of the time changes. If they are (Somewhere In Time; Back to the Future), it's part of the storyform. If they're not (Memento; Pulp Fiction), then it's storyweaving. A good example of seeing storyweaving at work in a story that spans many decades is The Remains of the Day. The film begins in the present and intercuts events that happened in the past all the way to the end. The characters are not aware of the moving back and forth between time periods. Effectively, the film's point of attack is the beginning of the fourth (last) act. It then inserts Acts 1-3 in proper chronological order within the exploration of Act 4. The end of the movie is the last part of Act 4. Alternative ways to have a story in different time periods include:

  • Bookend the story with storytelling, such as in the movie, Stand By Me, and the play, The Glass Menagerie.
  • Interweave two or more stories from different time periods, e.g. The Godfather II.

How do I figure out what my Objective Story Domain is?

I'm beginning to use Dramatica Story Expert to build a story, and I have a problem; perhaps you can help me. I'm using the workbook for the StoryGuide Pro, and having a lot of trouble figuring out what the Objective Story Domain is for my purposes. I intend to write a fairly standard romance novel. The heroine feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship and eventually she's "saved" by her knight in shining armor. Can you help me see which of the four domains--Universe, Physics, Psychology, or Mind--I should choose to get the ball rolling?

My recommendation is always to start with what you know best. If that's the Main Character throughline, then start there. If it's the Relationship Story throughline (which is frequently strongly emphasized as the "romance" part of a Romance Novel), start there. The same goes for the Objective story throughline or the Influence Character throughline. Another trick is to skip the Domain level if nothing jumps right out and grabs your attention, and proceed to the Types level. Which group of four types (there are four in each class) seems to describe your story's "plot" best? If that doesn't work, skip the Types and go for the Variations. Given the context of the domain you are choosing, which thematic issues seem to be most relevant? Each Type and Variation is unique to the Class in which it is located. (This is not true of the Elements.)

One more thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of picking (or assigning) a domain to a throughline is to identify the general area from which conflict emanates. Is it a situation (Universe), an activity (Physics), an attitude (Mind) or a manner of thinking (Psychology) that is CAUSING TROUBLE for the characters?

You say that your MC "feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship". If the focus is on her physical situation, then that would imply a Main Character domain of Universe. If, however, these feelings were more due to a disturbed (or out-of-balance) mind, then Psychology might be a better MC Domain -- particularly if she is a Be-er and would prefer to change her feelings or ideas when confronted with conflict, as opposed to doing something about it physically.

Is the conflict between the MC and the IC due to physical abuse or problematic activities (Relationship Story Domain of Physics), or is it more like the conflict grows out of manipulations or mind games (Relationship Story Domain of Psychology)?

I have no idea what your Objective Story throughline is about so it's nearly impossible to make a useful suggestions. However, here's a little trick you can use to help think of the Objective Story "objectively." Think of what ALL the characters in your story are concerned with. What holds them together -- why are they even in the story. Make sure that, when thinking of the characters, you identify them by their ROLE (heroine, villain, father, doctor, sister, etc.). Avoid using their proper names. Once you think about a character in terms of their name it's very difficult to avoid personalizing your feelings about them which makes seeing them objectively very hard indeed.

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.

Must all domains be present in one story according to Dramatica?

In order to make a complete argument to an audience, a story should have all four throughlines. Depending on the type of work you are creating, you can choose NOT to have all four throughlines to create a statement instead of an argument. We refer to these as Tales (e.g. fairy tales, etc.).

How come when I get to domains it only offers me two choices?

How come when I get to domains it only offers me two choices? [Mind and Psychology] Is it "interpreting" what I said in synopsis or somewhere else to eliminate Universe and Physics? Can I add them back?

Your choice of Do-er/Be-er limits your Main Character domain choices. Answering the Stop/Start question impacts the relationship between the Main Character domain and the Objective Story domain. The easiest way to loosen up the domain choices is to unselect the Main Character Direction (Stop/Start). The other alternative is to clear the storyform choices by using the Clear Storyform command, then answer the questions out of order -- that is, answer them in the order of importance to YOU, not necessarily the order in which the answers are presented.