Story Judgment

How does the Main Character Problem work within Steadfast Characters?

As I understand it, the MC Problem is what's "wrong" with the MC.

In a story where the hero Changes and the outcome is Success/Good, this is the character flaw the MC has to overcome in order to solve the story problem. In a story where the hero is Steadfast and the outcome is Success/Good, this is what everybody else thinks the MC is doing wrong. In reality the MC Problem is what allowed him to overcome the story problem. (For example, I think Dirty Harry or Jack Bauer's MC Problem could be that they're willing to break the rules to get results.)

Is this right?

Not quite. You've confused a few different story points.

Success is tied to the Story Outcome and determines whether or not the story goal has been achieved.

Good has to do with the Story Judgment and is related to whether or not the story inequity was resolved, as opposed to the MC Problem.

Change has to do with the Main Character Resolve and indicates that the MC has adopted the MC Solution.

Each of these are independent, which means you can have any combination of Outcome, Judgment,and MC Resolve. The audience may infer connections between these because each has part of the meaning in the story, but the CAUSALITY is non-obvious and non-linear.

For Steadfast MCs, it's best to think of the MC Problem as the source of the MC's drive. What other characters think it is may not be relevant and is not relevant to its functionality in the story development.

Is Story Judgment really an Overall Story Plot Dynamic?

When looking at the Story Engine it has Judgment in as an OS Plot Dynamic though its definition seems to be more concerned about the MC journey.  I was wondering why it is in the OS Plot Dynamics window when, for me, it feels like it belongs more to the Main Character window?

Short answer: No and Yes.

The Story Judgment sits half in the Main Character Throughline and half as part of the story's plot dynamics.


The Story Judgment is about the resolution of the Main Character's angst. If it is resolved, that is 'good.' If it is not resolved, that is 'bad.' This is what makes it seem like Story Judgment should be part of the Main Character dynamics.


Most people do not make a distinction between Outcome and Judgment when thinking about story endings. They generally think of the ending as either a happy ending, a tragedy, or a bittersweet ending. AND, they tend to associate the story ending with the part that Dramatica identifies as the Overall Story throughline.

When we separated out the Outcome and Judgment components, we kept them together and put them in the Plot Dynamics since both were associated with how the story ended. Each throughline has character, theme, plot, and genre elements, so putting the Judgment with the plot dynamics is a valid way to understand that dynamic.

Is ‘Negative Feeling’ merely descriptive or is it instrumental?

Does it 'twist' some part of the structure? Using my story and as well as made-up input, the only way I can get a 'Positive Feel' is to change the Judgment to Bad. 'BAD' works regardless of Success/Failure, Stop/Start, or anything else I've tried. From what I've read I assumed Bad + Failure AND Good + Success would be 'Positive.' What besides Good/Bad influences the 'Feeling'?

The combination of MC Growth (Stop or Start) and Judgment (Good or Bad) are the basis for the audience appreciation, Essence. The idea of 'negative' and 'positive' in this context describes how the story feels. A positive story is one where the characters are doggedly pursuing a solution to their troubles -- they seem to be in control. A negative story is one in which the problem is dogging the characters as they attempt to escape its effects -- they seem to be at the mercy of the problem.

  • Stop something Good, or Start something Bad = Negative
  • Start something Good, or Stop something Bad = Positive

Again, negative and positive in this context do NOT mean bad and good. Detailed definitions can be found in the dictionary:

What if you can’t decide on “Success” or “Failure”?

I have a hard time assigning a simple "Success" or "Failure" label to many stories, because the success is often tempered with failure, and vice versa, and sometimes it is hard to tell which one predominates. In Rob Roy, for example, Rob stays alive -- success -- but he fails to make life better for his people, which was his original goal. In fact, a tremendous number of his people are much worse off than they were when he first decided to try to change things for the better. I suppose it depends on whether the Story Goal is "Staying Alive" or "Making things better for all of MacGregor's people." (I'm sure you have some specific terminology that covers both of those goals, but I haven't learned it yet.)

Actually, you should treat the issue of Success/Failure in a completely non-judgmental way. If the goal was achieved: Success. If it was not: Failure.

There is another question in Dramatica which is where you make the judgmental call: the Story Judgment. If the MC resolves their personal angst, then the judgment is Good. If the MC is left having to cope with personal issues, then the judgment is Bad. The degree of Success, Failure, Good, or Bad is completely up to you. Combining the two questions gives you four different kinds of endings: Success/Good = Triumph (Star Wars). Failure/Bad = Tragedy (Hamlet). Failure/Good = Personal Triumph (Rain Man). Success/Bad = Personal Tragedy (Silence of the Lambs).

As far as Rob Roy goes, my take on it is that the general concern (for EVERYONE in the story) is to protect one's honor (abstracted as the honor of the Scottish) and one's own to prevent destruction of the family line. This is true of the peasants (tracking down and killing cattle robbers) as well as gentry (both English and Scottish). More specifically, it is the concern for Rob Roy and his friends and family (Story Goal). If that is the story goal, then it is a Success / Good story. HOWEVER, Dramatica also discusses a story point call the Story Costs. In Rob Roy, the costs are very high. This offsets the "triumph" feel of the story by bringing the value of the goal down