Can you use Dramatica to structure a 7-Act story?

Any suggestions for taking the four-act story and changing it into seven acts, e.g. TV movie?

The simple answer is to break the piece up into its Signposts (4) and Journeys (3) so that it goes Signpost-Journey-Signpost-Journey-Signpost-Journey-Signpost. That's seven segments or "acts". TV acts, like chapters in a book or acts/scenes in a play, are arbitrary units of measure imposed on the "story". The one rule you can follow is to break for commercial at a natural break in the story. This can be a break in the Objective Story throughline, the Relationship Story throughline, the Main Character throughline, or even the Influence Character throughline. With 24 transitions between signposts and journeys (12 if you look just at signposts or 8 if you look at only journeys), that gives you plenty of opportunities to find a natural break for commercials.

How do you go from working with Dramatica to actually writing?

I've done all up to the storyweaving and I can't seem to go any further. My problem is trying to blend all of the misc'l into the story. Another problem I'm not clear on is this: Once you've woven the story and numbered the scenes, do you write the story in that order? Ex: if the first scene has an Objective Signpost or Journey, do you write that scene from the "objective" POV? And if the next is Main Character is that the POV from the Main Character? I know you referred to them in the text as individual cameras. Am I to understand then that you cut the story in that manner: Objective, Main, Relationship, etc.

The order in which events REALLY happen in your story (1-2-3-4, etc.) is the Plot of your story. How you choose to illustrate each of the plot points is the storyencoding of the plot. This is different than REAL storyweaving. Since there are multiple things happening simultaneously in your story, and since you cannot tell them ALL AT ONCE, you must weave the pieces together. You can do a simple weave that attempts to present the information in chronological order by presenting all of the "1"s and then the "2"s, etc. (simple but less interesting to a sophisticated audience). OR, you can choose to mix things up a bit by withholding information, misleading the audience, or presenting information out of sequence. This forces the audience to reconstruct the linearity of the story and frequently makes the audience "experience" more interesting.

My suggestion at this point would be to put your Dramatica work away (or at least to the side) and write a "sketchy" version of the story in the fashion YOU would like to tell it. Consider what you want to emphasize, or de-emphasize, what is most important for the audience to know up front, and what you want to withhold for a while in order to tantalize or surprise them.

After you have done this little bit of freefall, go back over your Dramatica notes and determining what "pieces" you neglected to put in your story and pick where you want them to be introduced and/or explored. That should get you well into the writing process. From there, it's principally a matter of TELLING your story. Remember, you have LOTS of stuff with which to work -- Characters (Subjective AND Objective), Plot (4 throughlines PLUS Static Plot Appreciations like Goal, etc.), Theme (four thematic conflicts, one for each throughline), and genre issues to flavor the entire mix (Entertainment, Comedy, Drama, and Information as different modes of expression).

Are the 28 scenes in Dramatica supposed to fill up a two-hour movie?

After the Storyweaving 28 worksheets B (Sheet 10) are completed, are the 28+ scenes supposed to fill up a two-hour movie? I know I must be missing something here. Is it that the 28 scenes are the core scenes, and from them additional scenes are created to fill out each act?

It was a judgment error to refer to the 28 storyweaving worksheets as "scenes". They are not scenes in the filmic/television sense, but are the basis from which you develop the scenes and sequences in your script. Don't forget that, in addition to the 28 storyweaving sheets, you also have all of the character and theme storyweaving worksheet information to drop into your story, as well as all your static plot appreciations like the story Goal, Consequence, etc.

How do I work the character information Dramatica provides into my story?

I am using Dramatica to write a novel and have some questions. How do I use all the character information that I put in at the beginning of the program? Do I need to print out the information and just plug it in as I write chapters? Do I eventually just print out everything I put in your program and write the novel using my word processor?

Anything you put into Dramatica you can export via the reports. You are correct in identifying that Dramatica is a place to develop your ideas and materials, but eventually you will write the finished work in your word processor.

Most of Dramatica's topics ask you to describe story elements in a single place. However, those descriptions may be broken down into bits and pieces which are sprinkled throughout your story. How you use what you've written in Dramatica in your finished work completely depends on what you've written.

Some writers use Dramatica to jot ideas and notes--just enough so that they know how they're going to illustrate the story points. When it comes to writing, they use their notes as guidelines but do not incorporate much of the material itself.

Other writers go into great depth in their descriptions. When it comes to writing the finished work, they copy and paste portions of the materials they've written which become part of the finished work itself. These are just two of the many ways that Dramatica users work with the material they've developed in the Dramatica software.

How do you determine the order of thematic sequences?

I am quite a fan of Dramatica theory. It works well for me, especially the character stuff. Where I'm having problems is with plot. So here is a question: I'm looking at the script to Witness. I would like to break it up into it's six sequences. Supposedly, the sequences are:

  • Delay/Choice
  • Delay/Preconception
  • Delay/Openness
  • Choice/Preconception
  • Choice/Openness
  • Openness/Preconception

So what is the ordering of these sequences, what are the specific examples from the script, and where are the breaks between them?

First off, you can organize the order of the sequence any way you want. So, the order you have chosen may be the one in Witness, or some permutation of it may be more appropriate. Secondly, I've never read the script and it's been a little while since I've seen the movie, but I'll give it a try using the sequence you provided.

  • Delay/Choice comes at the very beginning of the movie. Rachel is barely widowed when a local suitor (Daniel) makes it very clear that she is his choice for a wife. She delays the matter by going to visit her sister "among the English." Delay is shown to be advantageous. Choice is not.
  • Delay/Preconception seems to come when the police are first introduced to the "witness" and his mother. Rachel is concerned about the delays to their trip, while the police express concerns about certain preconceptions of Amish and children witnesses. This thematic exploration continues on through the roughing up of suspects (preconception of guilty parties), and up to the point John realizes the bad guys are cops (Samuel's choice of perps).
  • Delay/Openness starts with a touch of it in the witnesses at John's sister's house segment ("Your sister says..."). It really takes hold during John's early recovery from the gunshot wound while staying amongst the Amish. Rachel uses John's condition to delay her complete withdrawal from the English by bringing him home. The elders show great openness by allowing John to be healed and recuperate at Eli's home.
  • Choice/Preconception seems to begin about the time the boy Samuel finds the gun. This brings up issues of choice of life-style and the preconceptions the English have of the Amish, and vice versa. This continues through the discovery of what is and is not permissible amongst the Amish, and discussion of characters' life choices (most particularly John's and Rachel's).
  • Choice/Openness comes to the forefront during the barn building sequence. Rachel seems to openly flaunt her clear choice of John over Daniel. Meanwhile, John is more open to the positives of Amish life and both he and Daniel recognize the choices each must make. The Amish women are somewhat scandalized by Rachel's choice AND openness of her preferences.
  • Openness/Preconception opens with Eli confronting Rachel about her relationship and her place in his home, and climaxes with John's speech to his boss Chief Schaefer. This scene contrasts the openness of the Amish Society and the exposure of the Chief's wrongdoings to an innocent crowd with the single-minded, preconceived view of the world held by Chief Schaefer (and, to some degree, John Book).

Ultimately, the thematic conflict of Delay vs. Choice is played, rehashed and emphasized in the final scenes. Both John and Rachel realize that the delay has given each of them time to explore the potential opportunities. Rachel chooses to stay among the Amish. John chooses to return to the English. And as John drives away, he passes good ol' Daniel coming to pay a call on his original choice for his wife.

That's a rough guestimate of the OS thematic sequence for Witness. There's a lot of wiggle room when you're talking about thematics, but I hope this gives you some direction for use in your own work.

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.