Dramatica…I Still Don’t Get It

In response to Dramatica...I Don't Get It:

I understand your explanation that Dramatica tailored some additional questions based on the implications of my initial answers.  I also get that it would be useful to have this theory-based program provide some kind of input or perspective when I am fleshing out a story, have holes in the story, etc.  That's exactly what interested me in it in the first place. I think what I don't see yet is how the one gets me to the other.  Or to state it another way, I think I don't yet see how the overall process is supposed to work.

That is, speaking in a very practical sense, what do I look at that gives me this kind of input/feedback/suggestion or whatever you want to call it?  In other words, after I go through and answer the questions as best I can, at level 1, or 2, or 3, or whatever, what do I then get back that helps me in some way to flesh out my story, fill in holes, etc.?  Is there a particular report or some other document that I can then look at that will help me understand what Dramatica is able to tell me?  I haven't yet seen anything that does that, or if it did, I didn't understand that it was doing so.

Perhaps I'm just not envisioning the process the way it really works.  But I'm assuming that, after I put in the information I put in, Dramatica gives me something back that provides whatever kind of guidance or perspective the program is able to provide based on the underlying theory.  (I understand, of course, that it doesn't make things up for me and it doesn't do the writing for me, but I still don't think I actually understand what it DOES give me.)

A related (or perhaps not, I'm not sure) question: what in the world is up with the Theme Browser?  I click on the icon and see a full screen of multicolored information, and it says "1 Storyform" at the top, so I speculate that the screen in some way represents the storyform that got created as a result of my answers, but I have no idea at all what I'm seeing, what it's supposed to tell me, or how it might be useful to me.

Again, I appreciate your time, and I don't expect you to hold my hand and teach me Dramatica, but if you could help me get oriented enough to have a sense of how it works and how I can use it, in a practical sense, I would appreciate it.

There are several purposes for using Dramatica for story creation or analysis:

  • Understand your story more fully
  • Identify and correct story problems
  • Create (or understand) the basic foundations of your story
  • Develop a step outline of your stories (in the StoryGuide / Query System)

A unique aspect of Dramatica that helps with the first three is the determination of the storyform and then identifying (analysis) or illustrating (story creation) the various story points.

The best way to see what it does is to see it in action.

- Go into Dramatica (Pro or Story Expert).

- Create a new document.

- Go to the Story Engine by clicking on the icon or using the menus.

- Notice that it says there are 32,768 storyforms remaining.

- We're going to do a quick analysis of Star Wars so make the following storyforming choices:

-- Main Character Solution (in the Main Character Story Points):  Trust​

(Always start with what you know about the story best, FIRST.  In Star Wars, Obi-wan comes back from wherever he is and convinces (finally) Luke to trust himself and "Trust the Force.")

Notice that many of the other items have gone from Any to Any of #.  These have been limited by your choice of Trust as the Main Character's Solution.

-- OS Throu​ghline (Domain):  Activity

(The battling between the Empire and the Rebellion is an ongoing conflict that creates troubles for everyone)

Notice that making these two choice brings the storyforms remaining down to 128 and identifies several other story points, such as the MC Problem of Test (Luke's tests to prove himself often get him into trouble, e.g. the Sand People, rescuing Princess Leia, etc.), and the OS Concern of Doing (The Empire is building the Death Star and searching for the location of the Rebels; the Rebels are attempting to keep their location secret and are trying to transport the plans of the Death Star to their home base; etc.)

-- Main ​Character Resolve:  Change 

(Luke goes from a whiney farm boy who does whatever anyone tells him to do to a Jedi Knight who makes his own decisions)

Notice that OS Issue of Skill (vs. Experience) is now an implied choice (The entire war between the Rebellion and the Empire is a match between skills and experience.  The Empire has a great deal of experience in quashing upstart groups, but its skills at doing so are rusty.  The Rebellion, which has far less experience, is made up of great numbers of raw talent like Luke.  This is counterpointed by the conflict between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.) 

It also identifies that the OS Problem is Test (Rather than trusting in the design and efficiency of the Death Star, the Empire determines it must have a test run on Alderaan--this clues Princess Leia, Obi Wan and subsequently the Rebellion, as to the terrifying nature of what they are facing.  This also allows the Rebellion forces to prepare for the worst which is the Empire's undoing.  The Rebellion, on the other hand, does not fully trust their information about the Empire's secret weapon and tests its accuracy by waiting until they actually have the plans in their hands.  Had they trusted their initial reports they could have moved the base and remained out of the Empire's reach.)

I think you can see where this is going. 

To continue:

-- Main Character Ap​proach:  Do-er

(Luke prefers to solve problems though action)

-- ​Main Character PS Style:  Logical or Linear

(Luke is a cause and effect, follow clues to a goal kind of guy)

-- Story Driver:  Actions (drive Decisions)

(Key events are Action-driven, e.g. discovery of the hidden message in R2D2, destruction of Alderaan, escape from the Death Star, Discovery of the Rebel base, destruction of the Death Star)

-- Story Limit:  Optionlock

(There are a limited number of ways the Empire can discover the location of the Rebel's base)

-- Story Outcome:  Suc​cess

(The Death Star is destroyed before it destroys the Rebels)

-- Story Ju​dgment:  Good

(Luke is one happy Camper, and so are all those siding with the Rebellion)

An voila, you're down to a single storyform with a whole lot of aspects of the story that you did not indicate to Dramatica but Dramatica has indicated to you based on the choices you have made.

To see the full extent of those choices in one place, you can either go to the Story Points window or the Reports Window.

Let's go to the reports window.

Select the Story Engine Settings report from the Advanced Reports list/menu.  This report gives a listing of each of the story points identified in the storyform -- both the items you chose and the items that are inferred by those choices.

If you'd like to see how these items might be interpreted, select the Four Throughline Themes report.  This is a (long-winded) textual report that begins to weave together the story points found within each throughline.  I recommend skipping to the summary of each section.  For example, here is the summary for the Main Character throughline taken from the latest version Dramatica Story Expert using the gists feature, which allows you to replace structural terms with your own story-specifc words or phrases:

"In summary, a situation or environment is the realm in which Luke primarily operates involves Being a farm boy stuck on Tatooine with untapped Jedi powers, especially in regard to How Little Progress He's Making, which is his chief Concern.  As an individual, Luke is focused on issues involving Fantasizing about Joining the Rebellion more than most, which makes him responsive to issues regarding Fact.  He often perceives a disparity between Fantasizing about Joining the Rebellion and Fact.  Luke is driven by an over abundance of Constantly testing himself and being tested by Others, which causes him to believe Having Things Be Open-Ended is the source of his problems and Finishing Something as the best response.  In fact, Luke's own excess of Constantly testing himself and being tested by Others is what prevents the story's problem from being resolved.  Luke is given the opportunity to see this as he becomes wholly involved in the effort to achieve the goal.  It is Luke's Unique Ability pertaining to Believing in his Jedi Heritage that holds the means to resolving the story's problem.  Unfortunately, his effectiveness is undermined by an aspect of Having Low Apparent Worth.  Over the course of the story Luke's growth (and backsliding) in effectiveness can be seen in the degree to which he engages in Being in the Moment."


The theme browser is a view of the structural model that is a WAY ADVANCED and not very writerly way to look at how the story point choices map onto Dramatica's structural model.  It's there for those interested in that stuff (and believe me, there are a lot of them), but most writers avoid using it like the plague.

Dramatica Story Expert

the next chapter in story development

Buy Now