“Correctly” Answering Dramatica Questions

Dramatica can offer a lot of powerful insights into your stories if you can tell it what you have in mind. Answering Dramatica's storyforming questions correctly is tougher than it seems. By "correctly," I mean in a fashion that accurately reflects the author's intent—if it's your story, identifying what you have in mind; if it's someone else's story, finding the storyform that best reflects the author's intent. Fortunately, there are a few guideline that make this process easier:
  • Answer Dramatica's questions based on what REALLY happens in your story, not how it appears to happen from the audience's perspective. For example, Plot describes the order of events as they happen in the story. Some genres, such as thrillers or mysteries, reveal the details of the plot to the audience out of order through a technique called Storyweaving. The author knows who killed the old lady walking the cat in Act 1 but may choose to withhold that information from the audience until the end of the film or book. When answering storyforming questions in Dramatica (questions related a story's structure and the dynamics (rules) that connect it together), pick answers that describe your story as an author sees it, not what it might look like to an audience as it experiences the story.
  • Answer questions you know best about your story before addressing questions about which you know less or care less. Authors often approach different stories knowing different aspects of the story. If you've got some strong ideas about your Main Character, start there first. If you know how the story ends, start there. Dramatica is non-linear so there isn't a "wrong" place to start, but beginning with what you know best about your story assures that subsequent choices you make support your earliest choices.
  • Make three or four different storyforms for your story in Dramatica. You might get it right the first time but trying alternatives goes a long way to clarifying why one storyform is better for your story than another. I suggest printing the "Story Engine Settings" report for each storyform with the Definitions button turned on. That way you may compare and contrast the strenghts and weaknesses of each storyform to find the best one for your story.
  • Use the Dramatica Dictionary and Help text to get thorough definitions of Dramatica terms. Dramatica has a lot of terminology. That is both a strength and a weakness. It is a weakness because not knowing the terminology can be a barrier between an author and his work. It is a strength because the Dramatica terminology lets you work with abstract story concepts in effective and concrete ways.
  • When all else fails, trust your instincts.
Keeping these hints in mind when storyforming should help you find the single storyform that your story quickly and, relatively-speaking, painlessly.

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