Q: I am confused. I think my problem is the definition of context. You say change the context and you change the meaning, but from my reading of Dramatica it’s strength is that it provides meaning outside of context. By this I mean it talks of the possibility of creating a complete story form without first needing to have the usual elements of a story - locations, setting, place and so on. The story structure once created can be applied to many different worlds. Aren’t these worlds or symbols the context of the story? Or have I completely miss-understood the term context? Can you help?
One other thing which I’ve found very useful is a definition of ‘meaning’ which comes from Stephen King. He brought it up when describing the use of the writers visual imagination - rather than saying what does something mean, chose ‘what does it make me think of?’ I love the clarity this definition gives me by not having to translate the word ‘meaning’, but taking me straight to a thought process.
A: In Dramatica, context is defined as that which surrounds something and gives it meaning. Another way of seeing context is as a frame of reference.
The context or frame of reference Dramatica provides surrounds the circumstances of the "problem/inequity" at the heart of your story. In order to explore a "problem" and argue how to and how not to resolve it in a story, an author must create a context within which that argument holds true.
Why is this necessary? It is needed because there are no inherent Truths (capital T) in the story world. In that place the author is God and makes or unmakes ALL THE RULES.
For example, take a moment to think of something you believe is absolute. Write down as many as you can think of in a minute.
Done? OK, now think of "contexts" within which those absolutes do not hold true. For example, I might say that I have to breathe is an absolute. Of course, that ASSUMES I want to live. If I don't want to live then I don't have to breathe. Change the context and things looks differently.
In Dramatica, an author makes all sorts of context choices to create a framework we call the storyform. The storyform is subject matter independent. You can examine ANYTHING with any storyform. The difference between storyforms is what you have to say ABOUT the subject matter.
For example, choosing a story outcome of success says something about the subject matter that is different than choosing failure. Limiting the scope of the story by limiting the amount of time available to resolve the problem (timelock) provides a different context within which to solve a problem with a limited number of options (optionlock).
Each storyforming choice you make builds the framework/context within which the subject matter of your story is explored. Each storyforming choice adds a layer of meaning to that exploration.
So, when you choose to create a success story, "what does it make you think of?"