What do you mean by “Illustrate” in the various stages of Dramatica Story Expert?

I have just recently purchased Dramatica Story Expert and have a question I hope you can answer...Can you define your use of the word ILLUSTRATE in the various stages of story encoding?

"Illustrate" means to come up a real world event or scenario that fulfills a dramatic function in your story.

The encoding stage of story creation has nothing to do with the actual writing that will become a part of a screenplay, novel, or whatever. It has everything to do with conceptualizing the specific implementation of an aspect of your story's deep dramatic structure by fleshing out the raw idea into a tangible manifestation.

For example, if the goal of your story were to OBTAIN something, that describes the generic nature of the goal from a deep structure standpoint. This kind of information can help make other structural choices for our story, such as the kinds of requirements which might be needed to achieve a goal of OBTAINING, or perhaps help us choose the kind of character who might get caught up in such a goal.

Still, we can't simply write a story in which we say, "The goal is to OBTAIN." We must turn that raw structural concept into a real world item. For example, a goal of OBTAINING might be encoded or ILLUSTRATED as finding a treasure, obtaining someone's love, obtaining a diploma - anything at all that is "obtaining" rather than, say, "becoming". In this manner, the deep structure becomes the heart and soul of the symbols through which you tell your story. In other words, illustrating story points based on deep structure ensures that the audience will feel an overall sense and logic to what they are seeing. Simply, the story will hang together.

If we look at a storyform as a skeleton, encoding puts flesh and blood on it by ILLUSTRATING each bone and joint. The flesh is the nature of the structural appreciations, the blood is the nature of the dynamic appreciations, such as acts or scenes.

Still, this story/body is not in motion until we incorporate Storyweaving. Storyweaving is a lot like the meaning of exposition. It is the process of doling out your encoded deep structure to the audience. Here, the word "illustrate" takes on a different meaning. Now, instead of illustrating the structure, we have to illustrate the encoding!

For example, suppose the raw structural goal in your story is to Obtain. Further suppose that the goal to Obtain is encoded as Obtaining a treasure. Okay, now how do you tell that to your audience? Do you come right out and say it in the first scene? Do you trick the audience into thinking the goal is something else and then let them in on the secret? Do you illustrate the goal by bringing it up in several different scenes in a story, of is it more like Hitchcock's McGuffin, getting the chase started and then never being heard of again until the end of the story? Making these choices is the process of storyweaving, and the choices you make are another form of "illustration".

Why are there similar questions in the Story Guide found in Dramatica Story Expert?

I'm finding similar (identical) questions in the story encoding stages i.e. Story Goal and OS [Objective Story] Concern. Why?

This is because the Story Goal will be the common Concern shared by all the characters. When not seen as the Story Goal, however, Concern (in the Objective story) is descriptive of the broad category in which all of the objective characters' personal concerns can be found. For example, a Concern of Obtaining might have one character concerned with obtaining a diploma and another concerned with obtaining a raise at work. In each case, "obtaining" describes their concerns, but the specific illustration or "encoding" is unique to each.

In contrast, the Story Goal is the singly encoded concern SHARED by ALL of the objective characters. For example, all the character are concerned with obtaining a lost treasure. In this case, the specific treasure is of interest to every character in one way or another. It doesn't have to be the prinicpal concern of each character as an individual, but the one common concern shared by them all. Some may be for it and some against, but all share an interest in that singular concern which is, by definition, the Story Goal.

In stories, it is possible to have any one of the four throughlines' Concerns be the Story Goal. (The four throughlines are the four perspectives of a story from which an audience seeks meaning - Objective, Relationship, Main Character, Influence Character). Which throughline holds the story's overall Goal is simply a matter of the author determining which points of view he or she wants to emphasize - in essence, where the author wants the most commentary as the story unfolds. For example, if all the other characters are focused on the Main Character's Concern, that becomes the Goal of the story as a whole as well.

In most storys told in Western culture, the Objective throughline will be home to the Story Goal, simply because it is easier in our culture to visualize a shared goal from an outside perspective. Because of this convention, the Story Goal provided by the Dramatica software will ALWAYS be doubled up with the Objective Story Concern.

Since Dramatica, as a theory, is a completely new paradigm for story structure, when creating the software it didn't make sense to clutter the already daunting prospect of learning new concepts (such as the four throughlines) with too many alternatives - at least not at first. Once more people are familiar with the basics, future versions of the software will open up to allow the Story Goal to be selected from any of the four throughlines.

Do all 72 parts of the Storyform have to be in there to effectively make an argument?

Theme encoding involves three acts; in each the main thesis vs. antithesis is presented within a sub-thesis/antithesis. The sub-thesis/antithesis can be argued six different ways--that's eighteen arguments. Multiply that by the four through lines for an astounding 72 arguments. I'm overwhelmed!

Am I missing something here?

What Dramatica theory is doing then is forcing me as an author to develop extensive arguments for and against the main thesis/antithesis, with three main sub-thesis/antithesis areas to explore in four different contexts. Do I have this right?

I wasn't thinking of writing a 400 page novel here! smile Is there any way to simplify at all? Do ALL of the 72 arguments need to be there? (Again, what if I leave out one throughline?)

Your question concerns the quantity of information that can be necessary to completely explore the thematic arguments in a story. You ask, do all 72 arguments (interactions) need to be there? The answer is, yes and no. To completely argue the thematic issue, all of its relevant positions need to be made. HOWEVER, the depth to which this is done is COMPLETELY at your discretion. For example, you can illustrate Self Interest v. Morality in a single sentence or observation: "I slave day in and day out for our family, never taking any time for myself, and all you think about is getting more money so that you have a nose job!" That simple example (I have no idea where it came from) could easily act as the exploration of one of the 72 thematic issues. If you're an adept and clever writer, you can be far more original and succinct in your own examples.

Whatever you do, at least address the thematic conflicts in each of the four throughlines. Otherwise an entire aspect of your story will be noticeably absent.

Can you better define “Production” for me?

I cannot for the life of me understand the definition of the concept you call "production" found in the questions in the story forming section "MC Symptom" and Relationship Story Problem. Could you please re define Production for me and perhaps offer some story examples which I find very helpful, in fact in general, more helpful than the rather abstract definitions included.

Production means creating something from very little to nothing. Production, in and of itself, is not problematic. However, put into the proper context, production can create all sorts of conflict.

As a Relationship Story Problem, conflict might arise between the MC and the IC when one or the other "makes a production" out of something that the other feels isn't warranted. For example, in Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell (spelling?), Mame invites her nephew's fiance and future parents-in-law over for a "little" cocktail party. She makes a HUGE production of the affair which results in alienating her nephew's potential new in-laws. If it had been a simple affair (as expected), it is likely that there wouldn't arise any conflict between Mame and her nephew (MC & IC). This is one way to look at it.

As an MC Symptom, Production might be seen as problematic (a symptom of the problem for a Change character, and the primary area of conflict for a Steadfast character) in any number of ways. Let's say the MC is a "Producer" and she is involved in a "runaway production." The costs are growing, the cast is growing, everything about the production is growing except the budget -- this is very problematic. The MC would then look to the MC Response of Reduction as a treatment for the runaway production. She would work to cut scenes, locations, etc. to slow down or stop the runaway production. Another way Production could be an MC Symptom is if your MC felt that that she (or people whom she observed) was always making "much ado about nothing." In other words, blowing things out of proportion. The bottom line is that Production in the context of the MC Symptom will appear as some form of creation or creating that appears to be the source of their troubles (yet is really only its primary symptom).

How can I illustrate the Influence Character from a first person point-of-view?

I've gone through the entire process for one story and am ready to write it. But I want to write the novel in a first-person point-of-view (from the Main Character/Protagonist's POV). With this POV, I don't see how I can present the Influence Character's throughline. It is how the audience would view the Influence Character; yet, the storytelling is colored always by the Main Character's POV. The Main Character's story line and the Relationship Story throughline are easy. The Objective Story throughline is working (although somewhat colored by the MC's POV, too.)

Concerning your question about the Influence Character POV in a predominantly Main Character (first person) story, there are several points to consider. The first and foremost is the relationship between the MC and the IC (the Relationship Story Throughline). The MC has a perspective (world view) that comes into conflict with the world around him/her. The IC is defined by his or her alternative perspective (or world view), and by how that alternative impacts the MC. One of the two perspectives, the MC's or the IC's, will make better sense and have a better feel than the other. Ultimately, one perspective will give way to the other (for better or worse).

It is easy to illustrate the alternate world view, even from the first person narrative form. For example, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby is the Influence Character to the MC and narrator, Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway was raised to be tolerant of other's moral shortcomings. By his presence, Jay Gatsby forces Nick to reconsider this long held belief. Ultimately, to quote our story analysis, "The events that occurred in the summer of '22, however, gave him an aversion to the ways of the corrupt and dissolute, and his essential nature changed."

The Narrator

The narrator's "voice"--no matter which character "vocalizes" it--is that of the author. This means that a narrator, by definition, is not part of the story while they are narrating. So, if the narrator says, "A long time ago in a land far away..." it is not the Character speaking, but the author talking ABOUT the story, not speaking from within the story. (By Story, I mean a Grand Argument Story, not the type of "work" in which it is expressed, such as novel, screenplay, ballad, etc.)

Voice vs. Perspective

So now let's talk about the writer's use of voice (first person, second person, etc.) versus the four perspectives in a grand argument story.

An author can choose to tell a grand argument story using only one writer's voice, or several.

Let's use the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) as an example. Specifically, let's examine the event where LRRH first meets the wolf.

What are the four throughlines?

  • Main Character: Little Red Riding Hood
  • Influence Character: Wolf
  • Overall Story: LRRH is taking goodies to her ailing Grandmother when she is waylayed by a wolf.
  • Relationship Story Throughline: Predator/Prey

Now let's describe all four throughlines using the First Person writer's voice:

MC: "I was skipping along through the forest when a big, black wolf jumped out from behind a tree and blocked my path. I was so startled, I almost dropped my basket of goodies! Boy, was he a good-looking wolf."

IC: "I could see that you liked me by your staring glaze and crooked smile. You wanted more from me than what was in my basket. My mother had warned me about wolves like you."

OS: "What I didn't see was that there was a hunter with a big ax that was searching the forest for the wolf. It seems that the wolf had killed several of his sheep the night before. The wolf knew the hunter was nearby and that made him very nervous."

MC/IC: "The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the wolf and I had a lot in common. We were both alone together on a desolate forest path, looking for companionship. Sure, he might see me as a tasty morsel, but who says he so safe from he? You know, I think we might make quite a pair...given the right circumstances."

So, for the little examples above, you can see that the four throughlines can be expressed from the first person perspective. In the MC example, the narrator expresses personal (I) observations and feelings. In the IC example, the narrator expresses what the Wolf thinks and feels, and more particularly how the Wolf impacts the MC. In the OS example, the narrator describes events that she could not possible see as LRRH. That's what is meant by the "big picture." In the Relationship Story example, the narrator describes the relationship between LRRH and the Wolf.

You could choose to express the throughlines exclusively in the first person voice, such as the examples above, or you may choose to express them using different voices. Using multiple voices is much trickier because it can be jarring to the reading experience for the audience, but it is a completely viable alternate to the more common "one work--one writer's voice" practice. You may also use the second person voice and third person voice (more traditional) to tell your story.

Story Goal vs. Signposts

I have always thought a goal of the story should show up at the end of the story. However after playing around with Dramatica I often find the goal showing up as the first second or third signpost. How should I interpret this?

The story goal is a SPECIFIC instance of the Overall Story Concern (or Signpost) about which the Overall Story characters represent differing approaches to achieving it by resolving the underlying conflict.  The Story Goal should be explored in each of the four acts (signposts) of the Overall Story throughline followed by the resolution of the effort to achieve the goal identified by the Story Outcome (Success or Failure) somewhere toward the end of the story.

The Overall Story Signposts describe the various approaches toward achieving the goal while also exploring the alternatives, one of which is of the same nature (Type) as the story goal. 

For example, your story might have a Story Goal of OBTAINING, such as Finding the Lost Treasure.  It will also have an Overall Story Concern of OBTAINING, which is a more generalized concern that might include finding a map, winning the lottery, losing an election, losing a job, etc.  The various Overall Story Characters, some concerned with one thing while the others concerned with the other things, explore these in general. 

The signposts provide a broad context for a period of time in the story (an Act) that frames the effort to achieve the specific Story Goal, broad Overall Story Concern, and resolve the story's OS Problem(s). The Signpost that explores Obtaining might be thought of as "what do the characters gain or lose while trying to find the lost treasure?"  Another signpost -- such as Gathering Information/Learning -- might be thought of "what do the characters learn or what information is gathered while trying to find the lost treasure?" Thus all four acts are explored through the signposts within each throughline. 

There is no general difference if the Type (the structural item associated with the Story Goal and OS Concern and one of the Overall Story Signposts) shows up in the first, second, third, or last signpost.  The difference is the context in which the Type is found: whether it is the narrow focus of the Story Goal, the general area of the Overall Story Concern, or the temporary context provided by the Overall Story Signposts.