How do you know when you’ve got your storyform right?

There is no right or wrong storyform. The Dramatica software makes sure that every storyform is a dramatically valid one. In fact, you could conceiveably calculate out all the different storyforms that can be created (32,768) and print them out, and just arbitrarily pick one.

So, why is a storyform "right" for a particular story, but not another? It has to do with what you, as author, are trying to say to your audience. What is the story you have in mind? Which storyform accurately reflects that?

A storyform is just the skeleton or framework of a story, so it is often difficult to determine which one is "proper" for a story you have in mind. What you are thinking of already has a lot of the story telling done: characters, scenarios, plot devices. All of these are a combination of the underlying structure and the manner in which it is expressed by your creative style and inspirations.

So, how can we determine when we have arrived at the best storyform to act as a pattern for our story? By feel. You need to "feel" that the words that crop up as Story Goal, or Main Character Domain express what you have in mind, both logistically and emotionally, for your audience. To do this, you must truly understand what is meant by Main Character Domain, or any of the other dramatic "appreciations" provided by the Story Engine. Also, you must develop an empathy with the words that fill those appreciations, such as Universe, or Psychology.

Getting to know the terminology in Dramatica is the hardest part! The reason it is hard is that our language tends to create lots of words to deal with common concepts, and hardly any to deal with less up front notions. For a story to be complete, ALL essential considerations need to be addressed to prevent holes. So, in the areas in which our culture does not focus, there are few (and sometimes no existing) words to do the job. This means that there will be appreciations and the words that fill them that are easily understood, and a whole range of other terms that are progressively more obscure. Thus, to have a feel for which storyform is "right" requires becoming familiar with all of these terms. The more you are comfortable with, the stronger your sense of which storyform is best will be. Your choices in creating a storyform will become more precise and meaningful, and the end product will better reflect what you had in mind.

It seems like even the examples you give in the documentation could go other ways just by changing the verbs used in describing them. For example, the story I'm working on is a mystery. The characters are trying to decipher the clues that will help them discover the identity of the mystery person so they can help her. What I can't decide is: are they concerned with doing (helping someone), obtaining (the answer to the clues), or learning (the identity)? And then I wonder if I'm in the wrong domain -- solving a mystery is an external activity, but maybe the mystery itself is an external situation. Is there a general blueprint for mystery stories?

The "mystery" is a genre of story. Some genres describe settings, like "westerns". Others describe character relationships, such as "buddy pictures", or "love stories". A mystery can either describe characters who are trying to figure something out, as in the old Columbo series, where the audience knew who the killer was from the very start, or they can be mysteries to the characters AND the audience, such as most Agatha Christie stories, or the Sherlock Holmes stories. A few mysteries have the characters knowing the score, but the audience being in the dark. The one combination that is NOT a mystery is when both characters and audience know the facts up front.

This difference in focus prevents there from being a single, typical "mystery" storyform. If the mystery part resides with the audience, then it comes from the storytelling, not the storyform. If the mystery is at least partly with the characters, then it becomes part of the storyform as well.

The "Types" you mentioned above, Learning, Understanding, Doing, and Obtaining, are all from the Physics "class" and describe activities. This does not make them any more appropriate to a mystery than any of the Types in the other three "classes". For example, in the Universe Class are the Types Past, Present, Progress, and Future. If one were writing a mystery about finding the killer of a school boy twenty years ago before he can repeat his crime on the twentieth anniversary, these types might best describe the chase.

In fact, all sixteen Types (four from each class) will show up in EVERY storyform. The difference is: from what point of view are they explored? The Main Character Domain will be the Class that contains the Types that best describe what the Main Character is involved in or concerned with. The Objective Story Domain will be the Class that contains the Types that best describe what ALL the characters of the story are jointly involved in or concerned with. So, in creating a storyform that is "right", you will need to consider which set of Types you want your characters to explore, which are right for your Main Character, your Influence Character, and your Relationship Story.

Think about the kinds of things you want each of these four areas to explore, or examine. Think about the kinds of scenes that might be created that revolve around these Types of Concerns. That can go a long way to determining how to make your selections that will lead to a storyform that fits your desires as an author.

What is a Grand Argument Story?

What is a Grand Argument Story? From the documentation, all I can tell is that Dramatica describes Grand Argument Stories, and that a Grand Argument Story is a story that can be described by Dramatica.

Simply put, a Grand Argument Story is a story that covers all the ways a problem might be identified and solved. By covering all the bases, the author (who is probably not present when the audience experiences the work) need not be present to respond to challenges an audience might have based on story "holes" or inconsistencies. We have found that many other forms of Narrative fall under the umbrella of the Grand Argument Story including fairy tales, stream-of-conscious works, etc.

Can you provide a definition of the four throughlines?

There are four throughlines in every story: the Main Character throughline, the Objective Story throughline, the Relationship Story throughline, and the Influence Character throughline. When a story is written, all four of these throughlines are represented in it from beginning to end by the particular events and characters pertaining to each throughline. As the story moves from describing the Main Character point of view., to the Objective Story, to the Influence Character, etc., the story's throughlines are woven together so that the audience can feel them all unfolding at the same time. For a story to be completely illustrated, each appreciation from each throughline has to appear somewhere in it.

The Main Character Throughline contains all the appreciations in a storyform which describe how the story is seen when it regards only the Main Character. It is the part of the story which is felt by the audience as being the first-person, "I" point of view of the story.

The Influence Character Throughline covers all the appreciations which describe the growth of the impact of the Influence Character. This is felt by the audience as the second person, "you" point of view in the story.

The Relationship Story Throughline covers all the appreciations which describe the growth of the RELATIONSHIP between the Main and the Influence Characters. This is felt by the audience as the shared, "we" perspective in the story.

The Objective Story Throughline covers all the appreciations which describe the growth of the story which involves all of the Objective Characters. It is the analytical view of the story which is felt by the audience as if they were standing outside of the story looking in at "them." It is the third person, "they" point of view OF the story.

Look in the Theory book under Storyforming and Main Character, there will be plenty of material on this.

What is the point of developing an objective story line?

Especially if, through storytelling, all items will be present and at odds.

The nature of a story is to explore a "world" out of balance, or more specifically, a "Story Mind" out of balance. There is something out of whack that is throwing EVERYTHING off. The purpose of having four throughlines is to provide a sufficient number of differing perspectives to make obvious where/what the problem is. Any single perspective can SEEM to be correct but, when shown in the alternative contexts, may be completely out of line. The purpose of having all items present in every story is to cover all the places where a problem might exist. If you leave something out, it will seem to leave a "hole" and the audience will usually pick up on it.

What happens when I omit one of the throughlines?

The Grand Argument is missing one segment, but will the story still work with just three? What else should I consider?

You ask what happens when one omits one of the throughlines. Well, imagine what happens when you lose one of your eyes. You can still see, but the added information you have with two eyes allows you to see things (like depth) that a single eye cannot. Now imagine that you have two sets of eyes. These would correspond to the throughlines: Objective and Relationship Story throughlines are one pair, Main Character and Influence Character throughlines are the other. If you lose any one of them entirely, part of the audiences ability to perceive depth will be removed with it. It is far better to lightly sketch a throughline, than it is to take it out completely.

How can I tell if my script or novel has one story or two stories?

Each complete Grand Argument Story will have four throughlines: the Objective Story, the Relationship Story, the Main Character, and the Influence Character. Each of these throughlines represents a different POINT OF VIEW (there's the POVs in Dramatica I think you were asking about). To non-Dramatica eyes, the Objective and Relationship story throughlines appear to be different stories in the same work -- the Rhett and Scarlett love affair set against the Civil War story in Gone With The Wind, Jake Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray's love affair set against the mystery of early Los Angeles politicking in Chinatown, etc. If your story has two strong points of view, those may be the Main and Influence character points of view. Both the MC and the IC should explore ALL of the elements in their Domain (which includes ALL 64 character elements). This is different from the Objective Characters who must divide the set of 64 elements between themselves. That MIGHT account for the difficulty you were experiencing while assigning objective character elements to your MC and IC. The objective character elements should ONLY pertain to the functions that the MC and IC have in the OBJECTIVE STORY. This is distinctly different than their own points of view and participation in the Relationship Story.

There have been a couple of popular films lately that have TWO stories instead of the traditional one story. Both Jerry Maguire and The English Patient combine separate stories into one work. In Jerry Maguire, there is the love story and the sports story. In the sports story, Jerry is the Main Character who remains steadfast and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character is the Influence Character that changes. In the love story, Jerry is the Influence Character that changes, and his love interest (the woman with the son) is the Main Character that remains steadfast. Each has their own set of Objective Characters (some of which do double duty between the stories). In The English Patient, there is a pre-war love affair story, and the "post" war story involving the patient, the nurse, the Sikh, etc. I believe the book fleshes out the post-war love story to a greater degree than the movie did, but I haven't read it so I can't say for sure.

The point I'm trying to make is that one story has FOUR throughlines. A work with two stories will have EIGHT throughlines, two of each. This should help you determine which best describes your story.

How does Dramatica apply to different lengths of fiction?

How does Dramatica apply to different lengths of fiction, i.e. how would one apply it to short stories and also to 'epic' fiction (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Shogun, etc..)???

Short stories are usually a subset of a Grand Argument Story. This means that they typically do not go to the depth of a full story, or the breadth (cover all of the throughlines) of a full story. "Epics" usually have one "main" story embellished with LOTS of substories -- stories that are outgrowths of the main story. These substories frequently have one of the objective characters act as the Main Character of the substory. Some "epics" have more than one main story going on. In these cases, it is necessary for the author to be clear about what storytelling belongs to which story. In addition, these stories frequently ALSO have many substories tagging along.

How come when I get to domains it only offers me two choices?

How come when I get to domains it only offers me two choices? [Mind and Psychology] Is it "interpreting" what I said in synopsis or somewhere else to eliminate Universe and Physics? Can I add them back?

Your choice of Do-er/Be-er limits your Main Character domain choices. Answering the Stop/Start question impacts the relationship between the Main Character domain and the Objective Story domain. The easiest way to loosen up the domain choices is to unselect the Main Character Direction (Stop/Start). The other alternative is to clear the storyform choices by using the Clear Storyform command, then answer the questions out of order -- that is, answer them in the order of importance to YOU, not necessarily the order in which the answers are presented.

Must all domains be present in one story according to Dramatica?

In order to make a complete argument to an audience, a story should have all four throughlines. Depending on the type of work you are creating, you can choose NOT to have all four throughlines to create a statement instead of an argument. We refer to these as Tales (e.g. fairy tales, etc.).

How do I override the program’s choices for MC Domain and IC Domain?

How do I override the program's choices for MC Domain and IC Domain? In my estimation, the two domains for the story I'm currently working on should be switched, but as the program decided there was only one option for each of these categories. I seem to be unable to change them.

There actually is not an "override" command for changing Domains because the setting of the Domains is one of the most influential decisions you can make in creating a storyform. If you cannot change the Domains you have set for your Main and Influence Characters, then too many other appreciations are set in your storyform to allow them to be changed. All of the appreciations are linked together by complex relationships which limit how easily they can be changed. If you are telling a story about a Main Character who is primarily seen in terms of his physical activities, that is a completely different kind of story than one about a Main Character who is seen primarily in terms of their Psychological manipulations of others. As a result, changing a storyform from reflecting one kind of story to reflecting another involves changing many appreciations beyond just the MC Domain.

The best place to make this kind of change is in the Story Engine, which displays the most essential Objective Story appreciations and the most essential MC appreciations all in one window. In the Story Engine, beside each appreciation, is a little box that is supposed to look a little like a pad-lock. Click on these boxes next to the appreciations that you know are set the way you want them to be in your story (for example: Resolve, Outcome, Judgment, OS Domain--whatever you are sure is right). Then use the button to the right of the screen called "clear." This will clear all of the appreciations except for what is held in place by the locks you have set. At that point, you can use these pull down menus to select what you really want.

This can be more complicated than it sounds though. You may not realize the impact of all the selections which you locked. For example, Approach (Do-er/Be-er) and Mental Sex (Problem-Solving Style) can have a strong impact on what MC Domains are available. Direction (Start/Stop) can too. These appreciations are also easily misinterpreted in stories, so you may have accidentally selected the opposite of what is most appropriate for your story. I recommend double checking the definitions of these appreciations and reading about their impact under the "Background" buttons in the DQS to make sure you set them the way you want to.

Another thing you should know is that you can't lock selections in the Story Engine which are in italics. You must first select them yourself and make them appear in regular type before you can lock them. Do this by simply clicking on them with your mouse.

It sounds like you have a good grip on how you see your Objective and Relationship Story in Dramatica because you want to swap the Main and Influence Character Domains. Since these two characters represent the opposing sides of the story's central issue, it can be easy to be selecting appreciations for one when it turns out you are really describing the other. Remember that the Main Character presents the first person view of what it feels like to be in your story while the Influence Character is always felt by their impact on the Main Character (and thus, by the audience). We ARE the Main Character, while we WATCH the Influence Character and feel their influence.

How do I figure out what my Objective Story Domain is?

I'm beginning to use Dramatica Story Expert to build a story, and I have a problem; perhaps you can help me. I'm using the workbook for the StoryGuide Pro, and having a lot of trouble figuring out what the Objective Story Domain is for my purposes. I intend to write a fairly standard romance novel. The heroine feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship and eventually she's "saved" by her knight in shining armor. Can you help me see which of the four domains--Universe, Physics, Psychology, or Mind--I should choose to get the ball rolling?

My recommendation is always to start with what you know best. If that's the Main Character throughline, then start there. If it's the Relationship Story throughline (which is frequently strongly emphasized as the "romance" part of a Romance Novel), start there. The same goes for the Objective story throughline or the Influence Character throughline. Another trick is to skip the Domain level if nothing jumps right out and grabs your attention, and proceed to the Types level. Which group of four types (there are four in each class) seems to describe your story's "plot" best? If that doesn't work, skip the Types and go for the Variations. Given the context of the domain you are choosing, which thematic issues seem to be most relevant? Each Type and Variation is unique to the Class in which it is located. (This is not true of the Elements.)

One more thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of picking (or assigning) a domain to a throughline is to identify the general area from which conflict emanates. Is it a situation (Universe), an activity (Physics), an attitude (Mind) or a manner of thinking (Psychology) that is CAUSING TROUBLE for the characters?

You say that your MC "feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship". If the focus is on her physical situation, then that would imply a Main Character domain of Universe. If, however, these feelings were more due to a disturbed (or out-of-balance) mind, then Psychology might be a better MC Domain -- particularly if she is a Be-er and would prefer to change her feelings or ideas when confronted with conflict, as opposed to doing something about it physically.

Is the conflict between the MC and the IC due to physical abuse or problematic activities (Relationship Story Domain of Physics), or is it more like the conflict grows out of manipulations or mind games (Relationship Story Domain of Psychology)?

I have no idea what your Objective Story throughline is about so it's nearly impossible to make a useful suggestions. However, here's a little trick you can use to help think of the Objective Story "objectively." Think of what ALL the characters in your story are concerned with. What holds them together -- why are they even in the story. Make sure that, when thinking of the characters, you identify them by their ROLE (heroine, villain, father, doctor, sister, etc.). Avoid using their proper names. Once you think about a character in terms of their name it's very difficult to avoid personalizing your feelings about them which makes seeing them objectively very hard indeed.

Which “Goal” is the Story Goal?

When studying "Goal," I came to understand that, for Dramatica software, the story goal could not be the same as the Main Character's goal. That made sense, finally! But then the tutorial went on to say that "Dramatica software insists that the "Objective Story's Chief Concern" also be the "Story's Goal" (even though this does not have to be the case in Dramatica theory). OK, I believe it. But then...

If I write a story whose protagonist is not an archetype but is a "complex character," is he still an "objective character"?; and if so, does that make his goal the goal of the "objective story?"

Please forgive the ignorance. I think I'm brain dead after so much studying of this difficult theory!!! Please respond and save me from discouragement meltdown.

Each of the four throughlines has a Concern. Concerns can look an awful lot like a Goal, especially if it is a very specific concern. Therefore, the MC can seem to have a "goal" that is his own personal goal, the IC a different "goal," etc.

The Overall Story Concern will double for the Story Goal. The Story Goal is the thing that everyone in the Overall Story is, to varying degrees, for or against. So you are right in seeing the objective characters relating to the Story Goal, and certainly to the Objective Story throughline's "goal."

Here's one caveat that I believe is worth mentioning. Each grand argument story has four throughlines, and each throughline has a Concern which is similar to a "goal." Some authors prefer to emphasize one or more throughlines over the others. For example, Hamlet emphasizes the Main Character throughline, while 48 Hrs. emphasizes the Subjective Story (Relationship) throughline. Though the OS Goal is the same as the Story Goal, it may not appear to be the most important "goal" of the story because of the degree of emphasis or de-emphasis the author chooses to use when storyweaving the pieces together.

And "yes," the protagonist is an objective (Overall Story) character whose is concerned with the OS Story goal.

How do I build an Overall Story Problem?

I'm creating a story around a protagonist who is manipulating/deceiving his friends. They think they are helping him, but are really being put into uncomfortable situations by the protagonist on purpose...I'm pleased with the Story Goal (Playing A Role) and most of the storyform. However, though I've read and re-read the Context and Examples for "Proven," I cannot wrap my head around its use in this story. The examples seem to be very literal; a problem with something that is either proven or unproven, like in court. But this is a story about trust and manipulation. In fact, my McKee-esque Controlling Idea is "Relationships are destroyed when your trust is betrayed by a loved one." That feels right, but I absolutely cannot relate it to a problem of "Proven" for the life of me...Any insight will be of tremendous help.

OK, let's break it down into components.

First, we're dealing with the Overall Story so it's going to be the "big picture" view of the goings-on. This involves all the OS characters (to varying degrees).

We have an OS Throughline of Manipulation (Psychology). This is the area of mind games, deceit, mistaken identities, mistaken attributions, etc.

The OS Concern is Playing A Role. This fits well into the throughline topics above. People concerned with playing roles which cause or are in reaction to conflict.

The OS Issue of Knowledge means we're dealing with thematic materials concerning what is known, unknown, knowable, unknowable, and all things related to familiar patterns taken for fact.

The OS Problem creates conflict by definition. The OS Problem of Proven means conflict is created from too much proof, or too little proof, or the acceptance of something as Proven, or the non-acceptance of something as Proven, etc. The point is, the existence or exploration of Proof (or something proven) is the source of conflict. So, if you have an erroneous Proof it will create trouble.

Proven itself is not necessarily problematic. You must find a context in which it IS problematic.

Here's an example tying in the four levels of this OS throughline with Proven as a problem:

Proctor Jones is an evil man who wants complete control of his 17th century township. The only problem is the goody-two-shoes vicar. To get rid of the vicar, he decides to manipulate the town elders by creating a "witch scare" and blaming it on the vicar (MANIPULATION).

He convinces a local woman to pretend like she has been possessed by the Devil (Playing a Role). The woman blames the possession on the vicar. Proctor Jones suggests bringing in someone familiar with possession, an expert in arcane knowledge, who is unknown to all but Proctor Jones (OS Issue of KNOWLEDGE).

The expert suggests that the vicar is the cause of the woman's possession. The town elders, with the subtle guidence of Proctor Jones, decide the vicar must be stoned unless he can prove his innocence (OS Problem of PROVEN).

To make things worse for the vicar, the "expert" points to several moles and scars on the vicars body as "proof" of the vicar's evil pact with the Devil. Since there is no proof the vicar can give to prove his innocence, it is unlikely he will survive, unless.....

This technique works well. Try it on your own particular story.

Can you explain the Relationship Story Throughline further?

Of the four throughlines in a Dramatica grand argument story (GAS), the "relationship" throughline is perhaps the easiest to recognize and the most difficult to understand.

This throughline, originally labeled the Subjective Story (SS), then the MC/IC throughline and now the Relationship Throughline, describes the relationship between the Main Character and the Influence Character. Some examples include the budding romance between Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, the reluctant partnership between Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond in 48 Hrs., and the non-traditional family bond developed between Lilo and Genetic Experiment 626 in Lilo and Stitch.

The SS or RS throughline is important to a GAS because it contains the emotional facet of the story's argument. It counter-balances the objectified, matter-of-fact viewpoint provided by the Overall Story throughline.

The relationship throughline explores the conflicts inherent in the relationship. The relationship may be well established or new. It may be growing or falling apart. It may be there by mutual agreement, by unilateral choice, or imposed by outside forces. It may end in disaster or blossom into something new. The relationship is exciting in its possibilities.

Many writers confuse the relationship throughline for the characters in it. Though the characters are party to the relationship, the RS is not about the characters as individuals. The RS is about the relationship. This means the RS Problem is about the source of conflict in the relationship. The RS Concern is about the source of general concern in the relationship. The same is true for all other story points in the relationship throughline. Though you may choose to reveal the RS through your characters' actions and words, the RS is always about the relationship.

Here's a quick example.

  • MC -- Bob is a prude dealing with personal, sexual hang-ups. (Fixed Attitude)
  • IC -- Sue is a woman naturally endowed with physical beauty. Her presence makes Bob consider his hang-ups. (Situation)
  • RS -- Their marriage is going through a lot of stress because they are moving. (Activity)
  • OS - The local civic leaders are developing a plan to secede from the larger city to form a separate community and use psychological coercion to make it happen (Manipulation)

Two angels talk about them.

Angel 1

So, how's Bob' know...problem?

Angel 2

He's dealing with it. Sue doesn't make it any easier for him, if you know what I mean.

Angel 1

And how's their marriage holding up?

Angel 2

The move's really taking it toll. I'm not sure it will weather the stresses it's under, but it's hanging in there despite their individual worries.

(OK, so the dialogue is lame, but it should be clear enough to identify the "marriage" as separate from Bob and Sue.)

Can you explain the Story Driver further?

The Story Driver drives the OS Story, not the MC per se (except in the MC's capacity as a player in the OS throughline). MC Approach moderates the MC's problem solving methodology.

The Story Driver appears in at least five instances in your story.

  1. The inciting incident -- this event kicks off the story by setting things into motion.
  2. The transition between OS Signpost 1 and OS Signpost 2 -- this event changes the direction of the story in a significant way and indicates the act break transition
  3. The transition between OS Signpost 2 and OS Signpost 3 -- this event changes the direction of the story in a significant way and indicates the act break transition
  4. The transition between OS Signpost 3 and OS Signpost 4 -- this event changes the direction of the story in a significant way and indicates the act break transition
  5. The concluding incident -- this event closes the story, or its absence indicates an open-ended story.

In each case, the nature of the event is consistent with the Story Driver. So, a story with a Driver of Action has an action as the inciting event, actions forcing OS Act transitions, and an action to bring the story to a close. A story with a Driver of Decision has a decision (or deliberation) as the inciting event, decisions (or deliberations) forcing OS Act transitions, and a decision (or deliberation) to bring the story to a close.

Consistency is important. Consistency sets up the temporal, causal logistics of the story. Consistency sets up whether actions drive decisions in the story, or decision drive actions in the story. Order has meaning and the Story Driver controls the order and is part of the storyform dynamics.

All Stories Have Actions and Decisions

Choosing the Story Driver does NOT eliminate the unchosen item from the story.

Choosing the Story Driver sets the order of cause and effect. The chosen driver describes the cause. The remaining driver describes the effect.

For example, imagine an American football game with the two teams on the field. The one with the ball is the offensive team. The one on the other side of the line of scrimmage is the defensive team. In American football, the offensive team is driven by DECISIONS. At the start of each new play, the offensive team gathers together in a huddle and DECIDES what actions they are going to take. Based on their decision, they act accordingly. If you change the decision, the actions that follow necessarily change to accommodate the new decision.

The flip-side is true for the defensive team. The defensive team is driven by ACTIONS (specifically, those of the offensive team). Once the offense acts, the defense can decide how best to respond to the actions. For example, if the offense moves all their team members to one side of the field, the defense may decide to change their plan of defense.

What Constitutes a Driver? Is There a Litmus Test?

Actions or decisions are Story Drivers if they fundamentally change the course of the overall story, such as the five events described earlier. The closest thing to a litmus I know of is to think of the cause and effect relationship between the Driver and the unchosen driver. Ask yourself, "Would the effects still happen if the cause is removed?" If the answer is, "Yes, the effects still happen," then your driver does not stand up to the test. If the answer is, "No, the effects would not happen," then that's a good indication that it IS a driver.

Let's look at some examples.

Star Wars (1977) has a Story Driver of Action. The inciting event is the theft of the Death Star plans by the Rebellion. What decisions follow that driver? The Empire decides to disband the Senate, kidnap Princess Leia, and take their secret weapon out of hiding. If the plans had not been stolen, would the Empire have decided to do the same things within the same time frame? No. The Death Star was not yet complete. The theft of the plans forced the Empire to change plans. The concluding event in Star Wars (1977) is the destruction of the Death Star. Does it end the overall story? Yes. Was there a decision that could have been made that might have stopped the Empire from destroying the Rebel base? No, not within the framework of the story as presented. (Anything is possible, but the story "rules" dictated an action must be taken to resolve the conflict in the story--not every conflict in the story's universe, but the one around which the story revolves.)

The Verdict has a Story Driver of Decision. The inciting event is the decision to give Frank the case. Since that happens before the film begins, let's say the "real" inciting event is the plaintiff's attorney's (Frank's) decision to bring the case to trial. Based on that decision, the defense attorneys send Frank's key witness to the Caribbean, hire a woman to act as a mole within Frank's camp, and otherwise stack the legal deck in their favor. Would the defense have done this if the plaintiff's attorney had chosen to settle? No, their actions would change accordingly.

The concluding event in The Verdict is...the VERDICT. A verdict is a decision. In this story, it is THE decision that draws the OS throughline to a close. Is there an action that could have resolved this story? No. If the case was thrown out, the plaintiff's case would remain unresolved and the case could come back again in some other form. The verdict, ANY verdict, resolves the story and brings it to a conclusion.

What does Dramatica consider a Story Dilemma?

In Dramatica, a Dilemma is an unsolvable problem. A solvable problem is called Work. When you combine the Main Character's Resolve to Change or remain Steadfast with the Story Outcome of Success or Failure, you get the Dramatica story point called Nature. This story point describes what the core problem looks like from the AUDIENCE's perspective, not the author's. It is one of Dramatica's four "audience appreciations" found in the Dramatica Pro Story Points window, and influences how your story is received by an audience.

Use this special audience appreciation story point as a way to approach your story from the audience's perspective. Nature has four possible settings:

  • Actual Dilemma
  • Apparent Dilemma
  • Actual Work
  • Apparent Work

ACTUAL DILEMMA = CHANGE + SUCCESS When a Main Character changes and the Overall Story Outcome is successful, the audience believes the Main Character had a real unsolvable problem and had to change for things to work out for everyone.

APPARENT DILEMMA = CHANGE + FAILURE When a Main Character changes and the Overall Story Outcome is a failure, the audience believes that it only seemed like the Main Character should change, when in reality he shouldn't have.

ACTUAL WORK = STEADFAST + SUCCESS When a Main Character remains steadfast and the Overall Story Outcome is successful, the audience believes the Main Character had the right idea and just needed to work at it long enough for things to fall into place for everyone else.

APPARENT WORK = STEADFAST + FAILURE When a Main Character remains steadfast and the Overall Story Outcome is a failure, the audience believes that the Main Character should have changed instead of "staying the course" because working at the problem in the same way would not lead to a successful outcome.

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.

How can I separate the Main Character Thoughline from the Overall Story?

 I'm developing a story where my Main Character is also my Overall Story protagonist. I'm having trouble distinguishing between Main Character and Overall Story throughlines. Would I be right to think that the Main Character throughline follows the story of the Main Character's personal motives - why they act and what they want - while the Overall Story throughline follows what they do and what results? I'm having a hard time seeing separate story lines. Clarification, especially with examples from sources I know, would be wonderful.

Here's a useful trick to help you keep the Main Character and Protagonist separated in your thoughts. Refer to the Main Character by his or her proper name: Dorothy Gale; Michael Corleone; Rocky. Refer to the Protagonist by its role: the girl from Kansas; the youngest son of the Corleone family; the wannabe boxing champion.

  • In The Fugitive, Dr. Kimble is the Main Character and he is concerned with finding his wife's killer. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone is concerned with capturing the "fugitive" convicted murderer (the doctor) and putting him back on death row.
  • In Hamlet, Prince Hamlet is the Main Character and is concerned with the loss of his father and how his life has lost its rudder because of all the recent changes. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone wants to forget about the unfortunate circumstances of King Hamlet's death and move on...if only that son of his would let them.
  • In Star Wars, Luke is the Main Character and feels stuck in his adolescence--he's meant for bigger things. In the Overall Story throughline, the Rebellion has stolen the Death Star plans and hopes to use them to find a flaw in the planet-killer before it wipes them out.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling is the Main Character and is haunted by the screaming of slaughtered lambs (and has transformed that drive into protecting the "lambs" of the world from "wolves" like Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill). In the Overall Story throughline, the serial killer, Buffalo Bill, has kidnapped the Senator's daughter and will kill her and others if he is not stopped.
  • In Garden State, Andrew Largeman is the Main Character and is concerned with his health (short but blinding headaches) after a lifetime on lithium. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone is concerned with reconnecting with the "famous" actor ("Hey, aren't you that retarded guy on TV?") after his mother dies and he returns for an extended weekend to attend her funeral.

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.

How does the Main Character’s Unique Ability interact with the Story Outcome?

For a story with a failed Story Goal (OS Outcome of Failure), is the MC's Unique Ability the thing that causes the failure? And what about stories where the MC is not the protagonist--not even remotely driving the story? Does this quote from the Dramatica software still apply???

Every Main Character has a special strength, even if she is not aware of it herself. Without such a strength, there would be no compelling reason why the story revolved around this particular character as Main instead of any other. With a Unique Ability, the Main Character becomes an essential participant in the story, as well as holding the ultimate key to resolving the story's difficulties.

The MC Critical Flaw is the quality that undermines the MC's Unique Ability. In Success stories, the MC Unique Ability is more effective than the MC Critical Flaw. In Failure stories, the MC Critical Flaw is more effective than the MC Unique Ability and therefore scuttles the MC's ability to help achieve the Story Goal.

The MC holds the key to achieving the Story Goal, but does not have to be the one to use it. You can easily imagine Dr, Watson (often the MC and almost ALWAYS the MC in the novels) making a casual observation or discovery which Sherlock Holmes (the protagonist) seizes upon and uses to solve the mystery. Since MCs are often Protagonists, it seems as though the MC Unique Ability is tied to the Protagonist. This is not the case and only appears to be connected because of the MC/Protagonist storytelling convention.

How can I effectively illustrate the different character interactions?

It says by highlighting a Character that has been assigned to the grid in character builder [The Build Characters window in the Dramatica Pro and Writer's DreamKit software], you can see a basic description of that characters dramatic relationship.

But if two characters are in a scene and one has hinder and the other as Logic (motivation grid and thus are not adjacent) according to Dramatica there is No character interaction between there character traits or should I say Dramatica can not represent this.

The interaction of character elements makes the most sense when interacting elements within a single quad. Describing interactions between character elements from different quads is fine, but there won't seem to be a lot of identifiable ground for conflict other than general agreement or disagreement.

So, don't feel inhibited from interacting any elements. It creates interesting storytelling.

You can show personal information about characters other than the MC and IC, but beware. When you begin to create personal experiences with OS Characters, your audience will be inclined to see them as MC's. This is fine if your creating substories for these characters. However, if you're not, you run the potential of confusing your audience.

CAVEAT: This seeming limitation is only regarding the Grand Argument Story that you are telling. Digressions and substories are open to all sorts of exploration--personally or impersonally. Just make sure YOU don't get confused so your audience doesn't get confused.

Can you explain the Story Limit further?

The Story Limit describes the “size” or “scope” of a story and brings about the story’s climax. It clues the audience in to when the story will be over. Without a Story Limit, there is no structural reason for a story to come to a close. Therefore, the Story Limit plot dynamic plays an important part in defining the story’s limitations. Those limitations come in two forms: Timelocks and Optionlocks.

Timelocks are unchangeable limits on time that draw the story to a climax. There are two forms of Timelocks:

  • A Deadline — A deadline is a specific time, such as 8:00 AM next Monday or 12:00 noon (e.g. High Noon).
  • A Fixed Amount of Time — A fixed amount of time is a quantity of time allotted for the story to take place, such as one day or forty-eight hours (e.g. the TV show, “24,” and the film, “48 Hrs.”).

Optionlocks are unchangeable limits on options that draw the story to a climax. There are two forms of Optionlocks:

  • A Destination — A destination is a specific location that brings about the story climax when reached, such as the Rebel Base in the original Star Wars,” or Los Angeles in “Midnight Run.” This type of Optionlock is often used in road pictures.
  • A Limited Number of Options — A limited number of options consists of a finite set of variables to be explored before the story is drawn to a climax, such as three wishes in the short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” and seven deadly sins in the film, “Se7en.”

Though all stories may contain both Timelocks and Optionlocks, only one may be the Story Limit within a given story. For an example of what happens when a story has more than one Story Limit read, A.I. Wars: The dueling visions of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Spielberg in A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

NOTE: As a gross generalization and general rule, female audiences tend to find Optionlock stories more involving than Timelock stories, while male audiences tend to find both Story Limits equally involving.

How do the Issue and Counterpoint interact?

Moving through the Story Guide, I got to the part where you're asked to rate if an ISSUE or COUNTERPOINT is advantageous or disadvantageous. I'm not sure how to interpret this. I "suspect" it is strictly judged by its utility to the characters. Seems straightforward when dealing with a positive story goal.

Faux example: If I'm writing a story about a couple of guys snatching purses from elderly blind women in order to raise money to go on a seal-clubbing safari and I'm presented with a ISSUE/COUNTERPOINT of MORALITY vs. SELF-INTEREST ... well, obviously "self-interest" is an advantage and "morality" a liability. Is this the way to view it? Or, do I guage it depending on the Story Judgement (ie: the author's standard?)

(The former version is about the only way I can even envision "MORALITY" being a disadvantage.)

Is it different in other throughlines?

The evaluation of a thematic point being advantageous or disadvantageous is from YOUR (the author's) perspective not the characters'. It's so you can objectively make a note to yourself how you want they are to be seen by the audience at the end of the work. You'll most likely want to "gray" the evaluation by showing positives and negatives for each thematic point. The slider tool in Dramatica is to let you indicate how you'd like everything to balance out after all is said and done.

In your faux example with the purse-snatching, seal-clubbing safari boys, I don't see that there's any clear advantage to "self-interest" or disadvantage to "morality." Don't take for granted your values are the same as others. You must say (or show) WHY one is more advantageous than the other. It's all a matter of context. For example, in a world where seals are overpopulating the world and threatening to destroy the ocean's fish supply, the stingy woman's reluctance to part with her purse (self interest as disadvantageous) contrasts the risks the thieves run by using her money to finance a trip to club seals in order to prevent world starvation (morality as advantageous).

You're the story god. You say what is right and wrong in your story world--what is advantageous or disadvantageous and how much it is.

How does the Main Character Solution work with a Steadfast Main Character?

I am currently working on my first storyform with a Steadfast Main Character and I don't understand one thing: If my Main Character is steadfast what does Solution mean for him??

When you have a Steadfast Main Character (MC), it's best to see his "Problem" as the source of his drive—his motivation. The Solution is the thing that saps him of his drive by removing the motivation. Since he’s a steadfast character, the solution is not adopted by the Main Character and his “Problem” continues to drive him.

A Steadfast Main Character Symptom is the thing the Main Character THINKS is the source of conflict in his personal life. The MC Response is what he thinks is necessary to address conflict created by the MC Response. A steadfast main character works to resolve conflict in his personal life by treating the symptoms, not the problem. Though he may be tempted to address the problem by adopting the solution he never does—not doing so is what makes him steadfast.

Here’s a Main Character Problem/Symptom analogy: Imagine the MC Problem is a disease and the MC Solution is the cure for the disease. As deadly or dangerous as the disease may be, it might also be hidden from detection. However, imagine the MC Symptom as the symptom of the disease and the MC Response as the treatment for that symptom. In some cases, treating the symptoms will not prevent the problem from getting worse and only curing the disease removes the problem (Change Main Character). In other diseases, there is no cure but treating the symptoms can be sufficient enough to survive (Steadfast Main Character).

Whether the Main Character makes the right or wrong move by treating the symptom instead of the problem is determined by the Story Judgment (Good or Bad).

There is a short discussion of this topic towards the end of the podcast of this April 2006's Dramatica User's Group meeting In the Heat of the Night that goes into a little more detail. I've marked the podcast with chapters so that you can forward to the various topics faster.

What are some examples of State of Being as an Issue?

The dictionary describes State of Being as:

State of Being: one's true nature, State of Being describes the actual nature of a character -- essence, one's true self, true self, essential nature, core being

Are there any examples of this Issue in play within a story (besides those found in the Example Storyforms)? Be sure to include the throughline (Overall Story, Main Character, Influence Character or Relationship Story) since the context will have an influence over how it is colored.

This one is tough for me because I see "State of Being" and all I think of is Hamlet's MC throughline ("To be or not to be...").

So, I'll give an example by making one up on the spot. This will be the Relationship throughline with the following settings:

  • Domain: MANIPULATION (Psychology) -- Pretending to be Someone Else
  • Concern: DEVELOPING A PLAN -- Outdoing Someone by Skillful Planning
  • Issue: STATE OF BEING -- Seeing Someone's True Self
  • Problem: SPECULATION -- Guessing Something
  • Solution: PROJECTION -- Projecting the Present into the Future
  • Symptom: DESIRE -- Being Desirous
  • Response: ABILITY -- Being Someone Unable to do or be Something
  • Catalyst: SENSE OF SELF -- Understanding One's True Nature
  • Inhibitor: SUSPICION -- Being Suspect
  • Benchmark: CHANGING ONE'S NATURE -- Changing into something else

RELATIONSHIP: A famous actor (Marcus) and his body double (Aaron) as unequal co-workers.

Tension exists between teen idol Marcus Black and his equally photogenic and talented body double, Aaron as they work together closely on the pilot for a new cable series, "Burbank Rules." Spending so much time together let's them see each others true colors. Marcus is pompous, self-serving and insecure but famous, whereas Aaron is equally talented and driven, but unknown and inexperienced. The nature of their top dog / underdog relationship is made starkly visible to all concerned as the two become more agitated as first the crew, then the media begin to call them, "The Marcus Twins." (Issue of State of Being).

This gives 'the Twins' the idea of switching identities during a one week break in the filming schedule, a la Prince and the Pauper (Domain of Manipulation, Pretending to be Someone Else). Things get complicated by the fact that Aaron wants a shot at replacing Marcus...permanently, which he thinks might be possible if he plays things right (Concern of Outdoing Someone by Skillful Planning). They both think the problem in their relationship is the desire for what the other has (Symptom of Being Desirous), but feel safe as they look at each others different skill sets (Response of Being someone unable to do or be something).

Sparks fly in their relationship when Marcus asserts his 'obviously' superior talent (Catalyst of Sense of Self), but are squelched when their behavior makes each suspect they are more alike than not (Inhibitor of Suspicion).

As their experiment moves forward, the nature of their relationship slowly changes from top dog / underdog to that of peers and possibly even friends (Benchmark of Changing into something else). It is only as someone begins guessing about the nature of their relationship and ruse does any real trouble come between them and threaten to break up their teamwork (Problem of Guessing Something). But if they look at where their relationship might go given its present track, both Marcus and Aaron are happy with the prospects (Solution of Projecting the present into the Future).

Why do Story Drivers always have to be the same?

Dramatica says that every major Plot Point, those that turn Acts and start and stop a story, are either all Actions are all Decisions. I can see in the example files and discussions with others that this pattern does exist, but the question is Why? In addition, what does this structural aspect of story have to do with the Story Mind concept? How does this similarity between the Story Drivers relate to the psychology of the human mind trying to solve a problem?

All static story points, including the Story Driver, must remain the same over the course of a story because they form the basis of the story's argument. This is true for the Story Limit, Main Character Approach, Story Goal, etc. Consistency is important when making an argument, and Dramatica grand argument stories are no different.

Having Actions or Decisions move the story forward at the five key turning points* of the Overall Story throughline shows one of those frames of reference for "how things work" in a particular story. Using inconsistent story drivers nullifies the meaning that story drivers bring to a storyform.

The Story Driver establishes the nature of the story's causality: Actions drive Decisions, or Decisions drive Actions. All stories have both actions and decisions (including deliberations). The question is, which moves (forces) the story forward toward its resolution?

Each story point provides a point of reference by which to measure the meaning in and of the story by the audience. The story dynamics indicate how the story moves -- how it flows and the directions it can and cannot turn. Consistency in the story points is essential because a storyform is like a snapshot of an entire argument, complete with perspectives, frames of reference, relationships, and even the flow of time from beginning to end of a story. Consistency provides the unchanging context that lets the audience make sense of the storyform.

(* Five key turning points for Story Drivers. The following are the recommended MINIMUM number of instances of the Story Driver in a story. Each turning point should use the same type of driver within a single storyform, either all actions or all decisions. These drivers are best understood in the context of the Overall Story plot:

  • Inciting Event: Starts off the story. Without it there is no story
  • First Act Turn: Turns the story from the end of Act I to the beginning of Act II
  • Second Act Turn: Turns the story at the midpoint of the story, between the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III
  • Third Act Turn: Turns the story from the end of Act III to the beginning of Act IV
  • Closing Event: Ends the story

Does the Influence Character’s Problem-Solving Style matter?

The Main Character's Problem-Solving Style can be chosen/viewed in both the Story Engine and the Query System. However, the Influence Character's Problem-Solving Style does not seem to be choosable or viewable anywhere within the software. Is it there somewhere that I missed? Or can it be determined 'by hand' by looking at other choices, such as the MC's Problem-Solving Style? Even if it doesn't matter I would like to know how to determine what the IC problem-solving style is.

It is not something you can choose in the software. I believe, theoretically--in a perfect story--the Influence Character's Problem-Solving Style would be the opposite of the Main Character's (Holistic when the Main Character's PSP is Linear and Linear when the MC's PSP is _Holistic). But I don't believe this is absolutely needed for complete comprehension of a story's meaning (storyform).

In other words, it is nice to have it in there, but it doesn't have to be opposite.

Can Memories include imaginings and envisionings of future and present?

Memory is about recalling and forgetting. In most stories, memories are about something that has happened in the past and is being recalled or forgotten. Daydreaming about the future is still about the future, and daydreaming would not be considered recalling something or forgetting something.

Daydreaming aside, there are exceptions in special circumstances where events of the present or future may appear as memories.

If you have someone traveling outside of "normal" time, then it might be possible that memory could reflect recollections of something in the present or future. For example, the films Timecop and Millenium have main characters/protagonists that travel back and forth through time. There are points where these characters' personal timelines are at odds with the Overall Story timelines. Things they should remember that have happened in the OS and which they are part of (as protagonists) in the Overall Story timeline, have not yet occurred in their own main character throughline yet. Meanwhile, other times these main characters remember things in their throughline that have not yet happened in the OS throughline.

The trick to using memory in this non-linear fashion is to make sure the audience understands this non-traditional use of "memories," as well as making sure the audience does not confuse the memories with the Future, Present, etc. I remember quite a number of people were confused by Timecop because of the non-traditional flow of time. It was complicated by the "present" constantly being affected by changing events in the "past", as well as events in the present and past affecting the "future."

Another example appears the current season of Fringe. In it a character that was in the previous season was erased from history. This season, that same character pops up again, but other characters have no memory of the character, whereas this character's memories of the present challenge everyone else's understanding of the world. This is a more traditional use of memory, but it often borders on matters of the "present" and "future."

So, the short answer is that it can be done, but having memories of the present or future are unconventional, difficult to convey, and probably should be avoided unless you're telling a genre story that allows for non-linear use of time and memory.

Must a new Act begin with a Story Driver?

Dramatica recommends at least five Story Drivers: before (or to start) each Act, and as the closing event. But say a story had six or seven drivers. Would four of them still have to line up as turns into each act, with the fifth as the closing event?

Or could seven drivers be evenly spaced between the four acts, with only the Inciting and Closing events lining up with act breaks?

Short answer: Yes


All act turn driver events must occur between the Inciting and Closing events in the Overall Story thoughline, which means the inciting and closing events cannot line up with act breaks because the open and close the story's argument. You can have material before the inciting event (prologue) and material after the closing event (epilogue) if you want.

The driver events in the Overall Story throughline move the throughline forward. While you can have more than the five drivers, they should be in addition to the locations of the five standard drivers (opening event, first, second, and third act turns, and closing event).


Each of the four throughlines has three act breaks, which gives you a total of twelve act breaks. When all four throughlines are synchronized, the story will seem to have only three act breaks. However, one can easily make them asynchronous and have more act transitions (though the drivers only control the Overall Story throughline). This technique is often used in television so that commercial breaks have the feel of act transitions.

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.

Why do all four Domains have to be explored?

Wouldn't it be just as good to look at the same Problematic Activity from the They perspective, the I perspective, the You and We perspectives so that one could understand what is truly wrong with that particular Activity?

An inequity is an imbalance between things, not the things themselves. It does not matter if the "things" are perspectives or domains in which the associated problems manifest because the inequity can be anywhere. The purpose of the problem-solving process is to identify, isolate, and address the inequity as best as possible. The largest areas in which the inequity can be identified are the perspectives and the domains. One way to identify the effects of an inequity is to look for conflict.

Conflict is the product of effort to resolve an inequity as it meets resistance. We look for conflict as we attempt to identify an inequity's source(s). If we neglect to look in all the possible places conflict can exist, we open ourselves (and the story) to missing the entirety of the conflict and a true understanding of the inequity, leaving the real likelihood of failing to resolve the inequity thoroughly. So, all four perspectives and all four domains must be explored in order to understand the nature of an inequity and the nature and source(s) of conflict generated by trying to resolve the inequity.

The storyform expresses the effects of an inequity differently in each domain because the context for each domain is different. The Situation domain shows the inequity in the context of an external state. The Activity domain shows the inequity in the context of an external process. The Fixed Attitude domain shows the inequity in the context of and internal state. The Manipulation/Psychology domain show the inequity in the context of an internal process.

Using different perspectives on the same domain shows the effects of the inequity within the different contexts of the perspective. This may give us a greater understanding of the difference in the perspectives, but it would not give us any greater understanding of the inequity as it is expressed in that single domain. Conflict does not exist BETWEEN a domain and a perspective, so shifting perspectives on a domain will not provide more insight into the nature of the inequity.

The true inequity of a story doesn't necessarily lie in one Domain or the other, but rather between all of them. An inequity can never truly be defined. One can't say, Well, the inequity of this story is injustice...You would need all four Domains to actually surround and approximate that inequity.

Why does the core inequity of a story fall into different Domains depending on the Perspective?

And by Perspective I mean Throughline...

Context creates meaning. It is the combination of the four perspectives with the four domains that collectively describe and allow us to identify the nature of an inequity. You need look no further than the Dramatica table of Genres to see how combining perspectives with domains creates meaning. For example, combine the situation domain with the "they" OS perspective and you get a situation comedy OS throughline. If you combine the same perspective with the activity domain, you get a physical comedy OS throughline. Yet you need all four perspectives bound to the four domains to have a complete exploration of an inequity, which is one of the foundations of a Grand Argument Story.

Why do Villains tend to be the Influence Character in Horror stories?

Why do villains tend to be the impact characters in horror stories? Also, are there any examples of horror that come to mind in which the Influence Character is not the Villain or Antagonist?

The Villains, who are also often the Antagonists, are frequently the Influence Character because the IC is one of the few characters whose perspective must exist until the end of the story. So the Villain is often the IC in horror stories because everybody else is dead or removed from the scene.

There are a couple of movies that come to mind where the Villains (or monsters) are not the IC, though several of them are mixed genres such as Horror/Fantasy, Horror/SciFi, or Horror/Drama"

  •  The Reaping: IC: The little girl; Villain: Doug (and the townsfolk)
  •  Pitch Black: IC: Riddick; Villians: Monsters
  •  Aliens: IC: Newt; Villains: Aliens/Mother Alien
  •  Stir of Echoes: IC: Ghost (Samantha Kozac); Villians: The neighbors that killed her and covered it up.
  •  Edge of Darkness: IC: Hit Man; Villains: Corporate and government cover-up guys
  •  30 Days of Night: IC: Stlla Oleson (love interest); Villains: Vampires

Granted, these are the exceptions rather than the rules, and each of these seem to be more than just "horror" movies.

What MC attributes does the IC Unique Ability undermine?

Does the Influence Character's Unique Ability undermine the Main Character’s personal problem or their Unique Ability?

The IC Unique Ability undermines the MC Unique Ability. The IC's Unique Ability acts to counter the effectiveness of the MC's Unique Ability, which is the quality that makes the MC uniquely suited to helping the Story Goal be achieved in the Overall Story throughline.

Can the Preconscious mean absent-mindedness?

The Preconscious is often encoded in a very flamboyant way, like Tyler Durden in Fight Club or the Joker in The Dark Knight. I'm wondering, can The Preconscious also mean something subtler like the absent-mindedness of an author submerged in his work? Or having ADHD.

Absolutely. It can be big or small, such as a stammer or tic or being jumpy at loud noises. But make sure absent-mindedness is not seen as a matter of memory

In The Godfather, Preconscious shows up as a Story Precondition with Fredo fumbling with the with the gun, Sonny being impulsive, and Michael being calm under the threat of attack, which is what is required to be accepted and effective as the new don.

How do I create complex themes?

After reading the Dramatica Theory book, it stated that Gone with the Wind used archetypal characters to explore it's more complex theme. The problem is that in the book I learn to build complex characters but not complex themes, so I was wondering how to build complex themes, and how do I know if I have a complex theme.

In each throughline is an Issue. This is the MOST thematic point of exploration of the throughline. Exploring the throughline Issues is the minimum required for a grand argument story.

Each thematic point has a counterpoint, such as Morality vs. Self Interest, Desire vs. Ability, Security vs. Threat, etc. Exploring the balance between the thematic point and counterpoint develops theme to a greater level than just exploring the thematic Issue.

You can delve into even greater thematic depth by evaluating the thematic point and counterpoint in terms of the co-dynamic pair in the same structural quad in which the Issue is found. For example, Morality and Self Interest can be more deeply examined in terms of Attitude and Approach; Security and Threat can be more fully understood in terms of Fact and Fantasy. Creating relative and comparitive assessments of each item in an a throughline's Issue quad gives you the opportunity to explore your story's themes with a greater degree of subtlety than examining an Issue by itself.

Who does the Relationship Throughline apply to?

I am in the Determine the Relationship window. I have a steadfast MC. I chose the "considering something unacceptable" option. Is this just something unacceptable to the MC? The IC makes an offer to the MC that the MC considers unacceptable, so that works. Or is it necessary for the IC to consider something unacceptable, too, i.e. the refusal of the MC?

If you're looking at the relationship throughline, then "considering something unacceptable" would describe an aspect of the relationship. You did not indicate what story point you are exploring (e.g. Problem, Solution, Concern, etc.), which would allow a more specific answer since each is its own context to give it meaning.

For example, a Relationship Throughline Problem of Consider ("considering something unacceptable") would mean one thing, versus it being a RS Problem of Non-Acceptance, or a RS Concern of Contemplation, and so on. Plus, you may have it an attribute of the relationship ("the couple considers their current circumstances unacceptable") or something that is attribute to them ("a neighbor considers their relationship unacceptable").

What is the difference between the Domain and the Problem?

Using the gists my Relationship Story Domain comes up as "Considering Something Unacceptable". When I look at the Theory information is says "the heart of the problem" and "this describes how the MC and IC relate to each other in the story". When I look in All Topics to the left and click on Relationship, this Considering something unacceptable shows up in RS Domain, not RS Problem. When I click on RS Problem, the only choice is Equity.

Would that mean they start off thinking each other's attitude/response is unacceptable, then the IC changes? Does the IC change if the MC is steadfast, or does he just fade away? Would it make sense for the IC at the end to consider himself kind of equal with the MC, giving him a tip that saves him, before fading out?

It's a matter of scale. As a domain, the main conflict in their relationship will be a clash of attitudes in terms of considering something as unacceptable. A RS Problem of Equity means that the heart of the conflict in the relationship grows out of equity (fairness; balance). For example, a married couple come into conflict in their marriage when everything has to be completely even (if one set of inlaws stays for two weeks, the other set of inlaws must stay with them for two weeks (even though neither of them can stand spending time with one set of inlaws) in an effort to be fair.

If the IC is change, the MC is steadfast, and vice versa.

What effect does the order of elements have on a story?

I've been working with Character Build elements and thinking of ways to achieve the effects observed in real movies. There's a moment in Blast From the Past where the MC probes the IC for info. She reveals a self-evaluation about why relationships haven't worked out. This made me think of increasing the variety of unique moments by cross quad interaction. The MC interacts with a Motivation element while the IC interacts with an Evaluation element.

I also wondered what effect revealing at least one quad element of the MC before revealing the IC elements in detail. What if in Act One you revealed the MC quad elements early on? This bonds us with the MC first, so that the IC quad elements would feel more like revelations over the course of the movie.

With the exception of the problem/solution quads (one per throughline), the order in which you explore the other elements and levels of elements (characteristics) falls into the area of storytelling, for all intents and purposes.

Also, make sure you do not confuse the exploration of the SUBJECTIVE CHARACTERS (MC & IC) for those of the OBJECTIVE CHARACTERS (those in the Overall Story throughline). Those are different contexts and their explorations are throughline specific.

How do I know if I have a Negative Goal?

I watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon again recently. The options were pretty clear. Getting the pillars was the step of Signpost 2 and protecting Sentinel Prime was the step of Signpost 3. However, it turns out Sentinel has actually been acting for the Decepticons. He turns against our Autobot protagonists as Megatron hoped. Then, with all the pillars and Sentinel Prime to help, the antagonists start their plan for transporting Cybertron to Earth in Signpost 4, which I take to be the crisis. It seems happy when the Autobots win in the end, but this seems a failure story if you think of the options as prerequisites or requirements in pursuit of the goal. It's the same conundrum as in Michael Clayton or Ghostbusters.

That brings up my question. Would these have been Prerequisites and transporting Cybertron to Earth have been the actual Requirement at the end of the story to accomplish a goal? The goal would've been the purpose of transporting Cybertron.

Since my guess is that the goal has something to do with STOPPING the invasion, I think it would qualify as a SUCCESS story. I don't see the Decepticons as being protagonists. IMO, this is one of those negative goals where the goal is to prevent something from happening instead of trying to achieve something.

It's a bit different from Michael Clayton in that the subjective characters where on UNorth's team (employment-wise), so the goal was related to what UNorth was attempting to achieve. This is different than the human forces battling the Decepticons.

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.

Are there good techniques for distinguishing Conceiving from Conceptualizing?

This has come up a few times as I compare movies with the story form on Dramatica. I have some grasp, but am not as sure as I'd like to be. Conceptualization (Developing a Plan) sometimes seems indistinguishable from Conception (Conceiving an Idea). One of the founders of the theory likened Conceptualization to figuring out how a lightbulb would work. Conception would be the thought of having a lightbulb.

Conceiving is about coming up with ideas or "getting it" (think lightbulbs going off).

Conceptualizing (Developing a plan) is figuring out what do with an idea once you have it, of working out a plan for something that you haven't quite figured out (conceived) yet.

For example, Fred knows he's going to come up with an idea to save his company (Conceiving) but in the mean time he's making plans to implement it so that he's ready when he finally figures it out (conceptualizing).

Do Static Story Points Repeat?

Yes, static story points DO repeat -- at least once per signpost (ideally). Each throughline has its own static story points, which need to be explored within the confines of the respective domains.

For example, the Story Goal and Story Consequence should make an appearance at least once in the Overall Story Signpost 1, the Overall Story Signpost 2, the Overall Story Signpost 3, AND the Overall Story Signpost 4. (The same is true of all other static story points with the caveat that some works do not have the 'real estate' to explore everything in every Signpost.)

Why? Because each signpost creates a different context within which to explore / expose the static plot points in an attempt to discover the source of the inequity at the heart of the story. They can also be seen as ways to test the imbalances created by the story inequity by discovering what works to re-balance the conflict and what works to further push the conflict into greater imbalance.

By the end of the story, the source of the inequity is revealed by the various testing and retesting of the static story points within the changing contexts manifested by the signposts.

Can you change structural points halfway through a story?

Can you repeat the Classes (Situation, Activities, Fixed Attitudes and Manipulations) in your Throughlines? For example, can you change the Main Character Throughline of Activities to a Throughline of Fixed Attitude in the middle of a story?

Short answer: No and No.

Why? Because the entirety of a grand argument story is to explore a single inequity from multiple perspectives within a single context. Switching throughline domains before the inequity has been fully explored alters the context within which meaning is sought. Context creates meaning. Change the context and the meaning is altered. Some works have multiples grand argument stories or a main story and several sub-stories. Those techniques provide the best solution to having your Main Character explore inequities within different contexts.

Do the Signposts and Journeys have to sync up between the Throughlines?

Do the signposts and journeys from a given throughline need to correspond time-wise with the same signposts and journeys from the other throughlines? If so, how do you illustrate the Influence Character's impact on the main character at Signpost #1 if the IC isn't introduced until somewhere in MC/OS Journey #1?

In a perfect story world, the signposts happen simultaneously. HOWEVER, in the real world we dole them out in bits and pieces over time, and thus the need for Storyweaving. There are no RULES for storyweaving, only guidelines. For example, it's generally acceptable to finish weaving all four throughline signposts (e.g. Signpost 1) before moving to the next signpost. However, the Journeys, by definition, embody the transition of one signpost to the next. So, though it might be clearer 'logically' if all signposts are completed before you move on to the following journey or signpost, the reality is you can follow your gut and inter-cut and overlap them as you wish.

Is a Signpost a condition or an event?

For example, which of these is more appropriate for MC Signpost #1?

a. MC yearns to change her nature by finding a sense of stability and a defined set of duties.
b. Desperate for a sense of stability and duty, MC leaves her baby brother with her neighbor and leaves home to join the Organization.

And again, for MC Signpost #4?

a. Finally understanding the value of family over duty, MC looks forward to a new life, embracing uncertainty.
b. In the final moment before it's too late, MC decides to betray the Organization's rules by taking her son to the hospital, saving his life. In doing so, she experiences an epiphany that positively illuminates an uncertain future.

Either can illustrate a signpost, depending no the nature of the signpost and the way in which you prefer to explore it. Option A sounds like the concern of the signpost in general. Option B sounds like a transition from one event (or signpost) to another. When looking at more internalized signposts (e.g. Convceiving, Memory, Understanding, etc.) an Option A-type exploration may be preferred. When more overtly action-related signposts (Doing, Obtaining, The Future, etc.) are explored, an Option-B style may be preferred.

Same suggestions...HOWEVER...

There are many other story points than signposts and journeys that make up the plot. There are also the static plot points, the dynamics (plot and character), and the thematic points of each throughline, each of which need to be explored as you weave your story together.

For example, I could easily see your illustrations of Option B as being descriptions of the Story Driver (the first an Action, the second a Decision). The MC Signpost Option A example could just as easily be describing the MC Resolve and Story Judgment (Change(?) / Good).

So peppered WITHIN each throughline will be the illustrations for the the various story points appropriate to that throughline, which together populates plot and illustrates theme and character while doing so.

How do you illustrate an issue not covered by the Variations?

The Issue in my story is Intellectualism vs. Action -- a group of high-ranking military officers are set aside by a group of intellectuals. I can't find those listed in Dramatica's 64 Variations. Which ones should I use?

Really, it could be anything. If you haven't already done so, it might be helpful to identify the throughline in which this Issue resides. Also, assigning the throughline to a Domain (Situation, Activity, Fixed Attitude, or Manipulation) will help you even further.

Choosing the Throughlines, the Domains, and even the Concerns in your story provide specific context within which to understand the inequity you have chosen to examine. Treat the A vs. B conflict you described as the SUBJECT MATTER under examination rather than two pieces of a Dramatica thematic conflict. Dramatica helps you determine what YOU want to say ABOUT that conflict by giving you a thematic context within which you can explore it to its greatest depths.

Let's assume, for the moment, you haven't made ANY structural choices. I'll give you a sense of the variety of choices you have (though technically you have all 64 possibilities open to you).

Using the subject matter of "Intellectualism vs. Action", the Issue might be:

  • Preconception: There is a certain bias against military officers OR a bias in favor of intellectuals.
  • Security: Brain is favored over brawn in determining how to improve things as they develop. Or maybe the powers that be feel safer listening to intellectuals than the military.
  • Attempt: The intellectuals appear more capable in trying something new over a risk-averse military.
  • Approach: The intellectuals are called in for a diplomatic approach over the typically aggressive military approach.
  • Analysis: There is a need to learn more about an enemy for which the intellectuals are more capable than the military.
  • Truth: The intellectuals are thought to be better at recovering the truth from lost memories than the more assertive military's physical truth extraction tactics.
  • Denial: The intellectuals are chosen in order to deny the Military what it wants most.
  • Deficiency: The intellectuals are chosen because of a perceived (or real) deficiency in the military leadership.
  • Circumstances: The intellectuals are chosen in order to manipulate the circumstances in which a government finds itself, something for which the military may not be well-suited.

And so on...Without context, the story can go in any direction.

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

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.

What is the difference between a Problem and a Symptom?

More specifically, how can Support be my MC's Symptom if Disbelief is his Problem? I don't under the context of Support here.

It makes a bit of difference if your MC is a change character or a steadfast character, but let's assume he's a change character for a moment.

In a story like this, the MC with THINK his problem comes from support, and he THINKS the solution to his problem is to oppose.  What he doesn't realize until late in the story is that he is truly driven by disbelief and only if he has faith will he have the possibility of resolving his personal issues.

For example, George hates it when his step-father tries to be supportive and responds by begin opposing every effort to engage him.  George thinks that as long as he plays naysayer he can keep himself from being hurt further.  As a START character he holds back when a bit of effort on his part could smooth out conflict, and only after time and a lot of resistance does George eventually get to the point where he can recognize that it is his own fundamental disbelief that anyone would want to be his father is at the heart of his fear of rejection and his dream that his biological father will return.  At a critical moment in his personal struggle, George chooses to have faith that there can be someone who cares about him enough to become the father he never dared to think he deserved...

Can the Main Character decide both he and the Influence Character are wrong?

In my story, he MC (in the case of a Change MC) is on the wrong track and the IC character is trying to influence or persuade him otherwise. SO, my question is: will a story still be as solid and "Complete" if the MC changes, but finds Faith (again, in my story's case) in something else than what the IC was arguing or what the Main character believed before? In other words, is it possible to keep a solid story structure if two arguments are being made throughout the story from the IC and the MC, but at the end the MC discovers both their arguments were wrong and discovers some new path to take (in terms of his character change)? So is it okay to introduce a new argument at the end of the story as a big twist to the audience? 

For lack of a better example, let's say the IC is arguing that the blue pill is the best pill, and the MC is arguing that the red pill is the best pill, but in the climax of the story the MC realizes that there is something better than the blue AND red pill - and I introduce the green pill, so he chooses that and his Problem is resolved through that path. Or is that not something I should really be doing?

The IC argument is FAITH, not any particular incarnation of faith.  For example, Obi-wan tells Luke he needs to trust the Force, when really all Luke needs to do is to TRUST SOMETHING... ANYTHING -- himself, the Force, doesn't matter.  So your MC  has to have faith in something even if the IC is saying have faith in something else.  The point is that the conversation is no longer about Disbelief, which was the source of his personal conflict.  The 'conversation' has moved on and the MC Problem becomes a moot point -- it is of no consequence any longer because that story (argument) is over.  THAT IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PART OF THE CHANGE.  It may turn out that Faith isn't the answer either, but the fact that the MC has  released himself from the black hole created by the blind spot associated with the MC Problem is what allows the MC to move on with his life.

Blue pill vs. Red pill isn't the right kind of comparison.  The real issue is perceived world versus reality (perception v. actuality), but the pill representation is only meaningful to the MC (Neo) if he can conceive of the difference between the two, which he can't because he's not ready.  What the pills represent at that point in the story is the first step TOWARD being able to know the difference between the two. Just like your character, Neo has to get past the distractions of the pills so that he can let go of his disbelief and have faith that he could be the ONE.  It just so happens that he is so we have a happy ending, but you could have had an ambiguous ending like that of Inception where the MC has changed but the audience doesn't know if he ended up in reality or perception land.  For the MC it doesn't matter because that was not his personal problem.

How does a story end when Protagonist and Main Character are not the same?

I know that Story Goal is primarily a concern of the Protagonist in the Overall Story throughline.  However, I tend to struggle when trying to map some of the Dramatica story appreciations to the beats of 'other' story paradigms -- terms like:  Inciting Incident/Catalyst, Break into Act 2, Point of No Return, rising conflict, Final Crisis, Climax.

In Dramatica, my understanding is that there is a Moment of Truth that leads to a Leap of Faith that leads to the Climax. These get tricky for me when the Main Character (the character through whose eyes the audience experiences the story)  is not the same as the Protagonist. Is the following true:

  • Story Goal (same term for other paradigms)--refers to Protagonist's goal?
  • Moment of Truth (analogous to Final Crisis in other paradigms)--refers to the Main Character?
  • Leap of Faith--refers to the Main Character?
  • Climax (same term for other paradigms)--refers to the Protagonist's effort to reach goal?

If so, it seems that the Moment of Truth and Leap of Faith (both related to the Main Character's effort) are not connected to the Goal and Climax (which are related to the Protagonist's effort). This feels like a problem to me.

Yes -- The Story Goal is the protagonist's goal.

Yes -- Climax refers to the protagonist's final effort to achieve the goal, generally against the greatest resistance and/or odds.

Yes -- The Moment of Truth and Leap of Faith both refer to the Main Character, and can describe the same moment.  My take is that both the Moment of Truth and Leap of Faith are 1) the conscious awareness of the choices (Moment of Truth) and 2) the decision to try a different path (Leap of Faith - Change).

That said, you can have stories where the character is changed over the course of the story, which would be a non-leap of faith story, and then the Moment of Truth is the test to see if the Main Character has changed his world view, or stayed the course and remained steadfast to his world view.

Why Do These Domains Impact Each Other?

From a broader perspective I've always wondered, "Why does a fixed attitude domain impact a situation domain and vice versa?", and "Why does a psychology/manipulation domain impact an activity domain?"   As in why are they so dynamically opposed that a situation could never impact an activity or an attitude upon a psychology?

The key to the dynamic pairs in the current incarnation of the model is that represent the opportunity for greatest direct conflict.  The companion, dependent, and component views are relevant, but do not provide the same type of relationship as the dynamic pairs.  We chose the dynamic pairs because they represent the relationships most aligned with Western (American) sensibilities and problem solving.

At the heart of a story is an inequity -- an imbalance.  The question is, "How does one best resolve the inequity."  To make sense of something, one must have (or create or decide on) a context with which to find meaning.  That means there must be some common base against which one measures everything else.

The domains (structural classes) are created by combining internal and external with state and process.  The four combinations create the four classes:


So, when evaluating an imbalance between a situation and a fixed attitude, the common basis is that they are both states -- that becomes the baseline or context within which to evaluate their differences.  The imbalance between the two classes then appears to be reduced to a question of where the 'problem' and 'solution' exist:  External (Situation) or Internal (Fixed Attitude)?

Activity and Psychology share 'process' as their baseline and then look to the balance between external and internal between them.

For the above reasons these classes are compared to create the domains and not the other possible combinations.

So for a Main Character, the domain that is most challenging to his personal perspective is the one that has a shared baseline ("We're alike, you and I"), yet ALSO offers an alternative approach ("No, we're nothing alike!").

Do all narratives have to be Grand Argument Stories?

In the Dramatica Theory Of Story book, you state:

To fully explore any issue, an author has to examine all possible solutions to that issue and make an argument to prove to an audience that the author’s way is best.

May I understand “To fully explore any issue” as an equivalent of “writing the ‘perfect’ screenplay”? If so, where can we put those French movies that are but a glimpse of how people fail or even if they succeed—they do so by accident? These films do not judge nor label, but put us in the position of accepting the human condition and learning from others, even if they are only fictional characters in a movie.

This seems to me a very different concept. Or am I missing an important point here?

The comment about the “author’s way is best” is not an evaluation of the validity of the author’s opinion, but that it represents the argument the author makes. It is a comment on the author’s intent, not the message represented by the author’s argument.

The comment about fully exploring any issue is a broad generalization about the nature of a grand argument story. In other words, the storyform represents a sufficient set of components to make a complete argument/grand argument story. It’s not meant to be hyperbole, but it may come off that way without providing the contexts and caveats a longer description might include.

Are all narratives grand argument stories? No. Not even close. Most stories contain aspects (story points) of a storyform, but only a grand argument story has them all (by definition).

Are all well received narratives based on grand argument stories? No. The storyform is only one of four major phases that go into the creation of a grand argument story, and positive reception may be indifferent to well ‘formed’ stories.

Are all grand argument stories successful narratives? No. Storyencoding, Storyweaving, and Story Reception play a great part in how well a finished work successfully communicates the underlying universal meaning/message baked into the storyform. Authors are responsible for the choices they make in creating and telling stories. Audiences are responsible for interpreting the stories in way meaningful to their own lives and experience. When there is a meeting of the minds between authors and audiences, there can be ‘magic.’ Our interest was to make the magic a bit more understandable and repeatable.

So, our comments are meant to be objective descriptions of grand argument stories, not all narratives, nor the success or failure of the efforts to communicate an author’s intent. Our primary goal was to describe as accurately as we could the elements and processes that comprise the creation and analysis of grand argument stories, as well as the larger connection to the processes of human problem-solving and psychology that they mirror.