Ensemble Stories Such as “Crash”

Q: I am trying to write an ensemble story but find very little help either in Dramatica theory book or Dramatica for Screenwriters by Armando. Good news is that I have successfully pitched a story (a thriller) with a producer using Dramatica for the first time. But Ensemble is the second one, so how do I go about writing one (even a synopsis using Dramatica)? Can you kindly give the latest Oscar winner Crash as an example please?
A: The Dramatica software isn't well suited to working with ensemble stories, but it can be helpful in developing or evaluating them. There are different types of ensemble stories. The Big Chill is one in which most of the characters share the same world view and therefore loosely work as a collective Main Character. Other ensemble stories are a tapestry of two or more stories that weave in and out, sometimes sharing players between the stories. Personally, I think Crash has at least one grand argument story that involves the prejudiced cop and the African-American woman he gropes and then later saves. Much of the rest of the story, however, is an exploration of prejudice in general. You have characters that act like stereotypes, others work against type, others accurately predict behavior, others inaccurately predict behavior--essentially every combination one can imagine with regards to stereotyping, profiling, and otherwise prejudging. At the end, what does it all mean? If it were a grand argument story, the audience should understand the author's position on the subject. I don't think that was the author's point in Crash. I think he wanted to point out that you CAN'T reliably predict how people will behave based on snap judgments and circumstantial evidence. Sometimes people behave according to cultural stereotyping (e.g. the two black youths carjacking). Sometimes people do not behave predictably. I think that IS the point of the story--to show how predictions based on preconceptions AREN'T reliable. The characters in Crash primarily are in service of the thematic exploration more than character exploration. And this is where I think Dramatica might be able to serve your efforts best. Approach your storyform from the story's thematics. When answering character storyforming questions, think of them as descriptive of character groups in your story instead of specific characters. In that way you can use the storyform to indicate how your thematics will develop over time. Congrats on your thriller. Good luck on your ensemble piece.

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