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…I Don’t Get It

I just read about 2/3 of the theory book, which although complicated was clear and understandable. I was very interested to see how all that theory would be implemented through the software. I also watched and understood all of the video tutorials you have available on your site. As suggested on your site, I dipped my toe in by opening a new file and answering the Level One Story Guide questions for a pretend story. I did this twice, actually.

Having done all that, I confess I have no idea at all how the Dramatica software would ever help me create a story. I can only enter the information I already know, and I didn't see anything that was even remotely suggestive as to how I might think about going from there. I don't see how the dynamics and interrelationships described in the theory show up to help me as a creative tool.

Obviously I'm missing something, but I just don't get it at all, and that's disappointing after putting in the time to read the theory and orient myself to the software as recommended. So is it hopeless, or is there anything you can tell me or point me toward that might help me see whatever it is I don't get?

Thank you for your perseverance. To be sure, there is a 'there' there (to misquote Gerturde Stein).

First the caveats, then the answer I believe you seek.


First off, StoryGuide Level 1 is nearly the most simplistic way to get to a storyform and explore a bare minimum of what Dramatica has to offer in terms of illustrating those limited story points.  It's meant to be training wheels, and if you're an experienced writer--as I assume you are--it is far too simplistic to seem useful.

Secondly, the StoryGuide Level 1 is one of many tools in the software, all of which are more sophisticated and in depth.  Judging the extent of the software's usefulness by StoryGuide Level 1 is like judging the English language by learning the alphabet (Okay, maybe that's a stretch but you get my gist).


I believe you are unaware of what Dramatica did when you went through the StoryGuide Level 1.  Apart from asking you to fill in blanks about your story, the StoryGuide asked you to answer eleven storyforming, multiple-choice questions.  All of those storyforming questions related to either the 'big picture' Overall Story throughline or the Main Character. Some were dynamics questions while others were structural questions. Asking you to identify aspects of the story you already know may be clarifying but hardly warrants an expensive piece of software like Dramatica.

So what DID Dramatica bring to the table?  In addition to the eleven choices you made and the illustrations you added, Dramatica asked you to illustrate an additional ten story points (out of a total of 80+ story points in a storyform) based on the implications of YOUR choices. Specifically, all the story points about the Influence/Impact Character were determined by the storyform, as were the story points relating to the MC/IC Relationship throughline.  So instead of asking generic questions for you to illustrate those topics, Dramatica asks specific questions, e.g. "Describe how [the IC] Chuck's influence on Barry [the MC] concerns Innermost Desires".

The value of this is not obvious when you're making up a story that lacks any personal meaning for you.  Imagine, however, that you're working through YOUR story and are having troubles with:

  • Fleshing out a story
  • Having holes in the story
  • Having a story that 'doesn't' work
  • Having no idea how elements of your story can work together

THAT'S when using Dramatica is of greatest value. Dramatica indicates how to fill in those holes and identifies what is necessary for the story to make a complete argument to your audience -- to make your point as an author.

Let's face it, if you don't have any problems developing and writing your stories, then Dramatica is not going to be of much use to you except in an esoteric sense.  Dramatica is there to help tune up your writer's instincts and lend a hand when you need an objective third party (such as a writing partner) to show you what is or is not working in your story

Follow-up discussion: Dramatica...I Still Don't Get It

What movies or books have been made with Dramatica?

I've looked everywhere and can't find one professional writer who admits they use Dramatica. How can I be sure I'm not wasting my time learning these complicated and sometimes frustrating concepts?

We have the most inside scoop on the TV and Film industries, so most of the intel we have gathered is in that area. Many of the following projects have multiple writers on them, and one or more used Dramatica. Some examples (firsthand, secondhand, and rumors) with which you might be familiar include:

  • TV Series: Dead Like Me
  • TV Series: Band of Brothers
  • Author Tracy Hickman
  • Author: Tom Clancy (secondhand rumor)
  • Various video games and RPGs, including the Firefly RPG
  • Movie: Contact
  • Filmmaker: Wes Craven
  • Several Michael Mann movies

There are a whole bunch more that we've been asked NOT to mention, some of which are the biggest grossing films in the last five years. It is irksome, but understandable. Dramatica is seen as a competitive advantage by many in super-competitive Hollywood.

How does Dramatica predict the order of character development?

The theory goes so far as to suggest that it can predict the necessary order and appearance of these dynamic elements. I feel like I have missed something very important about the structure of my story and the employment of character. Not only do I not know how to assign the elements effectively, I am beginning to unravel what I do understand about the structure and its relationship to my character formation. Where do I find such a prediction of character dynamics? How does the structure make such predictions?

That's why we refer to Dramatica as a theory of story. The program COULD do that type of prediction, but we do not allow it to. To do so, Dramatica begins to micro-manage the story development process which is completely antithetical to the creative process. In other words, don't look for this in Dramatica because you won't find it in any version of the software that has been released.

My recommendation to you is to loosen up a little on your objective characters. Understand that, from Dramatica's point of view, it doesn't matter which character elements each of your objective characters has. That is COMPLETELY a storytelling choice determined by you, the author, and will not have any bearing on the meaning of the STORYFORM. It will, however, have a potentially strong impact on your STORYTELLING (storyencoding and storyweaving). So even though it makes no difference to Dramatica, it will make a difference to you. SO . . . create characters that you want to populate your story. Follow the rule of 3's as a general guideline. Be aware of each character's characteristics when they interact to determine the nature and direction of those interactions. But most importantly, write it the way that FEELS and LOGICS right for you.

Why the emphasis on Dynamic Pairs?

I believe I've read before that during the development of the current Structural Chart greater emphasis/importance was placed on those items found diagonally across from each other (Pursuit and Avoid, Faith and Disbelief, etc.). Why is this? Is it because they represent the best opportunity for conflict in a story or was there some deeper reason?ff

I note that in the Theory Book the definition of Dynamic Pair brings this to light:

"they create a paired unit where the presence or absence of one affects the presence or absence of the other."

How does this tie into the need for the Main Character and Influence Character Throughlines to be in a Dynamic Pair relationship? For that matter, why must the Overall Story and Relationship Story Throughlines have this quality as well?

Yes, dynamic pairs offer the most opportunity for direct conflict. While not strictly binary, they come the closest to representing binary choices. We chose dynamic pairs as the basis for the Dramatica structure because they are a key component to linear thinking, which mirrors the bias of most American culture. In Dramatica terms, the Dramatica structural model is based on the Male Mental Sex style of problem solving (linear). Since all audiences for Dramatica can understand linear thinking, we chose the binary bias for Dramatica.

The basis of Dramatica is that stories are analogies to a single human mind trying to resolve an inequity. In fact, stories are more than analogies, they are maps to the layout and functioning of human problem-solving. Part of the design of the structure includes both binary and analog elements. Not only does binary fit the Western bias, but it also works well with computers for creating software.

The Overall Story and the Relationship throughlines represent objective and subjective views of groups. The Influence Character and Main Character represent (somewhat) objective and subjective views of individuals. That is why they are balanced that way as dynamic pairs.

How can I use Dramatica to write interactive fiction?

I am writing interactive fictions mostly (RPG etc). Since I can’t know if the players are going to be “be-ers” or “do-ers”, if they are going to “success” or not, I can't finish the Storyform. I am interested in (any kind of) tips on what Dramatica can offer in ways of improving a plot with an open ending.

There are all sorts of ways to use Dramatica for interactive, open-ended stories. However, the more open-ended the story is, the less Dramatica can do for you. Why? Because the way the Dramatica software is set up assumes that there is an author's intent—a message, if you will—and that the story's meaning is built into an argument. "Open-ended" implies that meaning is not determined by the author and that there isn't any explicit meaning in the story.

With that said, here are some ways to use Dramatica for interactive stories:

  1. Create a storyform (or set of storyforms) for your underlying story. Use the storyform for the "story" portion of the interactive fiction/game, particularly the Overall Story throughline. For example, specific tasks can be set up and achieved or not. If they're "storyform necessary" tasks, then certain criteria need to be met before moving on.
  2. Use the concepts of Dramatica's story points as conceptual guidelines for building the loose structure of your interactive fiction. For example, include the ideas of Story Goal, Requirements, Consequences, etc. in your story even though they may not be structurally related (not connected by a storyform). This will give the fiction the appearance of a "story" without the constraints of author's intent.
  3. Use the character elements as building blocks for creating characters and/or character "powers." These can give you an idea of how the character elements might interact.

The great thing about interactive fiction is that it is interactive—it responds to the desires of the role playing user. The greatest downside is that the story cannot "mean" anything and the user cannot enjoy the first person experience without a storyform (author's intent) molding the events into something meaningful. Grand argument stories are more complete than real life, even if "real life" is experience through role playing. Real life does not have story Outcomes because it is never over. There are no absolute beginnings or ends--everything is contextual. The closest things are birth and death and we're not really around before or after those events.

Can I use Dramatica to craft a non-fiction book?

Can I use Dramatica to craft a non-fiction book? I bought the software a few years ago to write an historical novel but, after much research and many false starts, I've concluded that the material lends itself better to some sort of roots-search-turned-biography. Please advise.

Dramatica can be used for non-fiction if you're writing something with an opinion, such as an essay or a piece of non-fiction told in a slightly novelized fashion. If your intent is to create a piece of non-fiction in which the author does not make any value judgments, then Dramatica will not be of much use. Dramatica is designed to help a writer create a compelling argument to his audience, one that has definite opinions.

Many biographies and histories are fictionalized to make them more interesting and accessible to an audience, often achieved by omitting or rearranging events. The movie "Ray" is a recent example. However, many biographies and histories are written as objective observations and recollections of events in a person's life or in a particular place at a particular time. Dramatica is great for the former, not much use for the latter.

Why does Dramatica limit a story to four Throughlines?

Why does the Dramatica Theory limit a story's perspectives/throughlines to four: namely, Overall (objective story), Main character, Influence character (obstacle character), and Relationship (subjective story)?

The most direct answer is that there are only four perspectives we use in our everyday lives to solve problems. In no particular order:

  1. The Inside view of the Inside; the personal, "I", first person perspective (Main Character perspective).
  2. The Outside view of the Outside; the objective, "They", third person perspective (Overall Story perspective).
  3. The Inside view of the Outside; the impersonal, "You", second person familiar perspective (Impact Character perspective).
  4. The Outside of the inside; the subjective, "We", second person plural perspective (MC/IC or Subjective Story perspective)

These are the only perspectives we can use in life.

In our own life, we see the I, YOU, and WE perspectives directly. We can only guess at the THEY perspective because we cannot stand outside ourselves and see how we fit into the "problem" objectively.

In the lives of other people, however, we can see the THEY, WE, and YOU perspective directly. We can only guess at the "I" perspective because we cannot stand in other people's shoes.

Stories offer all four perspectives within a single context. This is one of the reasons stories are so compelling--they offer us the sense of more "reality" than real life.

Why won’t Dramatica let me pick the story structure points I want?

Just when I get a grasp on the 4 Classes and Throughlines, I have reached a point where I can't make the decisions I really want in the Storyform. For example, since I chose an MC Throughline of Situation, I can't choose a concern of How Things Are Changing or The Present because of something else I chose in another Throughline.

I understand the Dynamic Pairs of Throughlines (for which ever Throughline you choose in one persepective, chooses the other), but the way the program automatically picks Concerns, Issues, and Problems doesn't make sense to me.

When you pick a single Concern, you limit the other throughline Concerns to the same position in the quad. When you pick a Concern, you also limit the Domain / Throughline above it.

Dramatica is organized like four different pairs of glasses (perspectives) looking at the same inequity. Each pair of glasses distorts the view differently because they're looking from different places--kind of like the blind men describing an elephant. Each one describes what he sees and comes to different conclusions because of the limitation of their view (one feels the trunk and thinks it's like a snake, another feels the leg and thinks it's like a tree, another feels the ears and thinks it's like a fan, etc.). All of the are partially correct, but also incorrect in their conclusions.

The four domains work in a similar fashion. When we look at the Concerns, for example, the Past is similar in its relationship to a Situation as Memories' relationship is to Fixed Attitude. They aren't the same thing, but are similar in nature within its own context.

Every time you choose an item in one throughline, you limit (and sometimes pick) other choices in the remaining throughlines. This is what keeps the "argument" you are making consistent. Comparing apples to apples, so to speak.

How can I use Dramatica to help structure a massive trilogy?

I have started writing the first of a trilogy of fantasy novels, using Dramatica.

I have found Dramatic very useful in developing the structure of the first novel. I am struggling with how or whether I can or should use Dramatica to ensure that the trilogy has structure in itself and that integrity is sustained between the stories of the individual novels and the overall story of the trilogy.

The success of the classical 3 act structure suggests to me that each novel should represent an act on the trilogy's story. I am interested in any suggestions as to how I can best use Dramatica in this satiation and am sure such advice might be useful to others.

There are several ways of developing trilogies:

  1. Simple Segmented Trilogy -- Basically, take your storyform and break the storyweaving into three parts. The transitions between books are generally at Overall Story transitions, and frequently combined with one or more transitions in the other throughlines. This works for fairly simple stories, such as children's stories or novellas. Advantage: Easy-to-follow story development. Disadvantage: Books do not stand well on their own as complete story.
  2. Multi-Story Segmented Trilogy -- Blend two or more storyforms (such as those described in Simple Segmented Trilogy) and break the storyweaving into three parts. Exploring more than one storyform at a time gives you a LOT of latitude (and material) for pacing each segment of the trilogy. The Lord of the Rings trilogy loosely fits this category. Each of the stories introduced in volume 1 develops in volume 2 and resolves in book 3. The pacing of each story, however, can be radically different for each throughline. This is an advantage to this form. This works for complex stories. Advantage: Multiple stories allows for interesting storyweaving with many opportunities for "cliff-hangars." Disadvantage: Books do not stand well on their own as complete story.
  3. Single-Story Trilogy -- Take three stories and put them together in sequence. This is, essentially, a trilogy consisting of a core story and two sequels. Each book is a complete storyform. There are many tricks to link the books together, but the books are separate and stand alone. This works well for episodic stories. Advantage: Each story stands on its own. Disadvantage: Less compelling story connection between "episodes."
  4. Combination Trilogy -- By far the most complex form, this combines Single-Story Trilogy stories with either a Simple Segmented Trilogy or a Multi-Story Segmented Trilogy. Each book will have a complete, stand alone story that begins, develops, and concludes within the confines of the book. It will also have elements that span the full length of the trilogy, each book exploring a part of the whole storyform. When this works, it's amazing. It's very tough to do because you have to develop a LOT of material for each book. Advantage: Each book stands alone but also encourages reading the sequel. Disadvantage: Can be too complex for some audiences and authors, particularly during the "set-up" period in book 1.

Of course, these are generalizations. Many works exist somewhere between them.

In case you're interested, the fantasy trilogy The Bronze Canticles was written by Tracy Hickman (New York Times best-selling author). Mr. Hickman is both a Dramatica user and very interactive with his readers. I'm sure he'd be open to answering some of these questions himself.

What advice can you give to someone new to Dramatica?

One of the best tips I can give to new Dramatica users is this: Test drive Dramatica BEFORE you try to fix your story's problems. Do not try to introduce yourself to Dramatica's concepts while struggling with your story. Learn what Dramatica has to offer. Then run your story through Dramatica's paces. Here's how to do this.

Put whatever story you're working on to the side for a moment and do the following:

  • Open one of the structure template files (screenplay, novel, or short story) and SAVE AS... "Test Story."
  • Click on the StoryGuide tile (the one that says "Start Here")
  • Select Level One
  • Get yourself an egg timer or one of those three-minute "hour glasses" that come with some board games.
  • Pick a familiar fairy tale or decide to make up a story.
  • Proceed through the Level One StoryGuide with the fairy tale or made-up story as your test story. The important thing is to get a sense of what Dramatica can do for you first--BEFORE you try fixing your own story's problems.
  • Have fun. Don't take this "exercise" too seriously. This is only a test story, not a story in which you have personal investment.
  • Spend no more than three minutes on ANY topic. Use the timer or hourglass if you need reminding.
  • For fill-in-the-blank questions, enter one or two sentences, or leave it blank if you run out of time.
  • For multiple choice questions, choose anything arbitrarily if you run out of time.
  • Continue on through the StoryGuide until you reach the part where you begin creating and describing scenes or chapters. At this point you can choose to stop this exercise or continue until the end of the scene building.

Once you have gone through the Level One StoryGuide once, you'll have a better understanding of the basics of what Dramatica can do for your writing. Take what you've learned and go through the process with your own story.

Can Dramatica be used to write in other languages, say spanish?

Though the Dramatica software is in English (including the help materials), you can easily WRITE in Spanish (and many other languages) without any problems. In fact, we have many international users writing in many different languages: Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, German, etc. I suggest downloading the demo software and try it out before buying it.

You may also be interested in reading a book in progress by one of our Mexico City-based Dramatica users. He is a native Spanish speaker and writes in English and Spanish. The book he is writing is in English, but you may find it interesting: Dramatica for Screenwriters.

NOTE: It's important to point out that the Dramatica software does not work properly with most multi-byte languages, such as Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, among others. Perhaps this limitation will be lifted in some future version of the software.

Can Dramatica handle a novel with three different story lines?

There are a couple of different ways to answer your question.

A Dramatica Story Expert document is designed to explore one story per document. Therefore, you could create three separate documents--one per story.

Since Dramatica Story Expert is not a place to write your finished work, this is often OK for most writers. With that said, it is important to note that Dramatica sees each complete story (Grand Argument Story) comprised of four different but interconnected "throughlines." In "Hollywood-esque" terms, these might be thought of has the "Head" line (the "big picture"), the "Heart" line (a relationship of some sort), the "personal or Main Character" line, and the "Opposition" line.* What most people think as optional (such as "A" line and "B" line stories), Dramatica sees as essential.

SO....if your story is TRULY composed of three separate Dramatica stories, then you'll have a truly complex (and potentially rich) novel involving multiple main characters, multiple opposition characters (or what we call Impact characters), multiple major plots with different goals, and multiple relationships explored between your Main and Influence characters.

If not, you'll still have a more traditional story with four throughlines that all work together to make a single argument.

* In Dramatica terms: the Overall Story throughline, the Relationship throughline, the Main Charcter throughline, and the Influence Character throughline.

How can I transfer what I’ve written in Dramatica to a word processor?

After I complete the story using Dramatica, how can I transfer what I've written to a word processor (e.g., Word) without having the system headings which are printed out with the software's print option?

The simplest way to transfer your story materials to Word is to:

  1. Open your document in Dramatica (your Dramatica story file)
  2. Go to the Reports window
  3. Choose the report(s) that contains the information you'd like to transfer to Word
  4. Export the text using the Export command from the File menu. I recommend putting .TXT at the end of the file name so that you'll know it's a text file.
  5. Start Word (or your word processing program of choice)
  6. Use the Open command from the File menu
  7. Change the popup (drop down) menu for file types to TEXT or ALL file types. Navigate to where ever you saved the .TXT file and open it up. If you don't change the "SHOW" file types option in Word's File Open window, you won't be able to see the Dramatica text file
  8. Choose the "SAVE AS..." command from the File menu in Word
  9. Make sure you change the file type to Word from Text
  10. Write and edit to your heart's content

Is Dramatica only for fiction stories?

Dramatica is primarily for fiction stories, though it can be used effectively for any form of discourse where the author is trying to make or argue a point. In addition to using Dramatica for traditional story forms such as novels, plays, and screenplays, we have quite a few people that use it for advertising, documentaries (those that take a position and argue that position), business strategies, and even personal problem solving.

Whatever the wide uses Dramatica may have, the help materials and the design of the software is to maximize its use for writing fiction stories.

Why does the application sometimes contradict the theory book?

I'm a new Dramatica user. I've read the manual and am working my way through the theory book as I practice using the software. I've hit a spot in the software where it does something that is completely stumping me, because it contradicts everything I've read so far. I hope you can help.

Start a new document, select novel template. Select the characters tile, then build characters. It generates the 8 archetypes, preplaced across 16 elements just like the documentation says. Protagonist is Main Character, Emotion is impact character. The elements are presented like this:

CONSIDER- Protagonist LOGIC- Reason FEELING- Emotion RECONSIDER- Antagonist PURSUIT- Protagonist CONTROL-Reason UNCONTROLLED-Emotion AVOID-Antagonist

...and so on. This makes sense, then, looking at the diagonal, horizontal, and vertical relationships. Okay, so then I leave that and go to the tile on Main/Influence characters. I fill that out for my characters. Then I return to the build characters window, and it has reorganized the elements. This is not a matter of changing which character goes with which element. Protagonist/Main, for instance, is still attached to Consider, and Pursuit. However, the elements are listed in a completely different order within the quad

CONSIDER- Protagonist PURSUIT- Protagonist AVOID-Antagonist RECONSIDER- Antagonist LOGIC- Reason CONTROL-Reason UNCONTROLLED-Emotion FEELING- Emotion

This, however, would seem to render the horizontal and vertical relationships between the characters void. Plus, it violates the "rule" in the documentation that says don't put the character in the same quad more than once. Most importantly, it's completely reconstructing the quads, which I thought had a steady structure.

Anyhow, I'm probably missing something obvious, but it has stymied me completely, because it implies I'm misunderstanding something fundamental about the theory. I VERY MUCH appreciate any insight you can provide, because I feel like I can't move forward until I understand this.

First let me say that you're doing everything just fine.

Second let me say that the "rules" of Dramatica are guidelines, and there are exceptions to every Dramatica rule.

Third let me say that the Archetypes are like "Characters with training wheels." They are overly simplistic, yet also "pure." Rarely do characters show up as true Archetypes, but they are a great starting off point to developing characters.

OK. With that said, here's why your characters' elements shifted around on the Build Characters grid.

The Dramatica structure is made up of four levels--the largest (and topmost) is the Domain or Throughline level which is the most genre-like. Below that is the Concern level which is the most plot-like. Below that is the Issue level which is the most theme-like. And at the bottom is the Element or Problem level which is the most character-like.

Every item in the top three levels has its own unique label, such as Doing and Obtaining, and Activity and Fixed Attitude, and Worry and Confidence.

The bottom level is where the elements from which you build your Overall Story characters are found. Unlike the top three levels, however, each item does NOT have its own unique label (e.g. Pursuit and Consider). There is one set (or what we call a "chess set") of 64 unique labels which cover all of the elements for a single Domain/Throughline. Dramatica consists of four Domains and the elements appear within each of these Domains. The DIFFERENCE between the elements of one Domain and another is the arrangement of the elements within the quads. Though a dynamic pair is never split (e.g. Pursuit and Avoidance), it will be paired with different dynamic pairs to make up each quad.

When you first built your characters, you had not chosen a storyform so Dramatica presented the character elements in its "default" arrangement (that of the Activity Domain).

While determining your storyform, the Overall Story throughline ended up being chosen as something other than "Activity." I suspect that your OS throughline is "Fixed Attitude."

This is the reason your character elements appear to have rearranged themselves.

Where do you go from here? You have some simple choices.

  • Keep your archetypal characters as is. This may be challenging depending on how simple or complex you wish the characters to appear. They will appear to be slightly more complex than archetypal characters in an Activity Overall Story throughline, and that may suit your interests.
  • Make your characters complex by mixing up their elements. This will make them more interesting but requires you to explore the character aspect of your story to a depth greater than a story using the character archetypes.