Dramatica Theory Overview (video)

This is a video clip from the “classic” 1999 12 hour video program on narrative structure entitled, Dramatica Unplugged.

In this segment, the key concepts and breadth and depth of the Dramatica Theory of Story are presented in concise form.

See all 112 story structure videos for free…

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Know Your Story Points – Main Character “Growth”

Over the course of your story, the Main Character will either grow out of something or grow into something. Authors show their audiences how to view this development of a Main Character by indicating the direction of Growth by the Main Character.

If the story concerns a Main Character who Changes, he will come to believe he is the cause of his own problems (that’s why he eventually changes). If he grows out of an old attitude or approach (e.g. loses the chip on his shoulder), then he is a Stop character. If he grows into a new way of being (e.g. fills a hole in his heart), then he is a Start character.

If the story concerns a Main Character who Remains Steadfast, something in the world around him will appear to be the cause of his troubles. If he tries to hold out long enough for something to stop bothering him, then he is a Stop character. If he tries to hold out long enough for something to begin, then he is a Start character.

If you want the emphasis in your story to be on the source of the troubles which has to stop, choose “Stop.” If you want to emphasize that the remedy to the problems has to begin, choose “Start.”

THEORY:

Whether a Main Character eventually changes his nature or remains steadfast, he will still grow over the course of the story. This growth has a direction. Either he will grow into something (Start) or grow out of something (Stop).

As an example we can look to Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Does Scrooge need to change because he is excessively miserly (Stop), or because he lacks generosity (Start)? In the Dickens’ story it is clear that Scrooge’s problems stem from his passive lack of compassion, not from his active greed. It is not that he is on the attack, but that he does not actively seek to help others. So, according to the way Charles Dickens told the story, Scrooge needs to Start being generous, rather than Stop being miserly.

A Change Main Character grows by adding a characteristic he lacks (Start) or by dropping a characteristic he already has (Stop). Either way, his make up is changed in nature.

A Steadfast Main Character’s make up, in contrast, does not change in nature. He grows in his resolve to remain unchanged. He can grow by holding out against something that is increasingly bad while waiting for it to Stop. He can also grow by holding out for something in his environment to Start. Either way, the change appears somewhere in his environment instead of in him.

USAGE:

A good way to get a feel for the Stop/Start dynamic in Change Main Characters is to picture the Stop character as having a chip on his shoulder and the Start character as having a hole in his heart.

If the actions or decisions taken by the character are what make the problem worse, then he needs to Stop.

If the problem worsens because the character fails to take certain obvious actions or decisions, then he needs to Start.

A way to get a feel for the Stop/Start dynamic in Steadfast Main Characters is to picture the Stop character as being pressured to give in, and the Start character as being pressured to give up.

If you want to tell a story about a Main Character concerned with ending something bad, choose Stop.

If you want to tell a story about a Main Character concerned with beginning something good, choose Start.

This article was excerpted from Dramatica Story Structure Software

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What Is Dramatica’s Quad?

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Here are some clues for all you Dramatica theory hounds…

Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic, Gravity

Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma

Mass, Energy, Space, Time

Universe, Physics, Mind, Psychology

Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire

Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb

The same relationships among them, repeated in different subject matter context.

Reflective not of the items but of the way the mind organizes the items.

Therefore reflective of the patterns not of the observed, but of the observer.

This group of interrelationships is the basis of the quad.

It is described by a series of equations.

One of the equations is the psychological equivalent of E=MC2

Each quad is a dramatic circuit in fiction or a psychological circuit in the real world

The items in a quad can be seen as Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power (dynamically).

The items in a quad can be seen as 1,2,3,4 (sequentially).

The items in a quad are not objects but processes.

The Dramatica chart is a periodic table of psychological processes, treated as objects, as in object-oriented programming.

Each quad has a pair that is seen as made  up of discrete items.

Each quad has a pair that is seen as two items blended into one.

There are three kinds of pair relationships in each quad – Dynamic (diagonal), Companion (horizontal), Dependent (Vertical).

The three kinds of pairs correlate to sine, cosine, tangent.

Each kind of pair has two examples – one positive, one negative

There is a fourth relationship in a quad – whether the items are seen as four individual items or as a single family of similar items, such as “This IS the United States” or “These ARE the United States”

This fourth relationship goes beyond the trigonometry functions with a fourth function that moves imaginary numbers into the real number plane since time is part of the equation.

The quad is the core and key to how the mind works and can be used to move beyond artificial intelligence to create artificial self-awareness.

There is much, much, more than this.

Download the Free Dramatica Theory Book in PDF

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A New Introduction to the “Story Mind” Concept

Narrative is not an artificial construct imposed on fiction or on events in the real world.  Rather, narrative is a description of how we go about solving problems, both as individuals and in interactions with others.

As individuals, we use all our faculties, such as “reason” and “skepticism” to evaluate our situation and determine the best way to improve it.  And when we get together in groups, we tend to specialize, so that one person emerges as the “voice of reason” for the group, and another as the “skeptic,” for example.

In this way, the perspectives and methods of our own individual minds are mirrored in the roles and functions of individuals in a group.  This results in a “group mind,” in which all members take different points of view on the issue in order to resolve difficulties of a common concern, just as individuals bring all available viewpoints to bear on their personal concerns.

In the following video clip from the “classic” original presentation of the Dramatica theory of narrative structure in 1999, you’ll learn about the core concept of the Story Mind and a whole new way of looking at stories and how they work.

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How Characters Avoid Truth

It is well known that the observer changes the observation, but it is equally true that the observation also changes the observer. Consider that the order in which you observe a series of perspectives changes you as you go. But because we always feel like ourselves, so we believe we are constant and any differences between perspectives are due to the object under observation, not to ourselves. This becomes especially crucial when we observe ourselves, for the order in which we take points of view of “us” is continually altering us, so in the end, we get a warped view of who we are because all we see is seen as us, not as us that was, us that is, and us along the path from was to is.

Lfe experience gives each of us a belief that a particular order is best (because we have found that we are safest putting our inaccuracies in one place over another). And society indoctrinates us to take a particular path through all points of view, because as a culture, it works best to sweep the inaccuracies under a particular corner of the rug.

But, no path is objectively accurate, and we can never see all points of view at the same time. Therefore, we always fall short of capital “T” truth, but can only hope to approximate it.

Still, if we are bold enough (and enough of a risk-taker) to continuously alter the order in which we play mental musical chairs, we can get even closer to objective truth by having the inaccuracy move around.

Problem is, when inaccuracy is always in the same place, you can discount that particular part of the observation and focus on what is most clearly seen. But if inaccuracy is mobile, you never know where it may show up, putting one in danger of relying on incorrect understandings.

Life is not a quest for truth – life is a race against misconception.

Melanie Anne Phillips

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The Holistic Side of Narrative Structure

Dramatica is a theory of narrative that has a very specific model – rather like the DNA of narrative psychology.  But, the model is just the structural linear side of the theory – a way of visualizing how narrative works from a definitive, almost mechanical perspective, like a Rubik’s Cube of story or a Difference Engine of psychology.

But there’s the whole other side of the theory that hasn’t been much expressed – a holistic or analog side that is more attune with the processes and emotions of narrative psychology than the specific nexus points of a given structural storyform.

It’s about time to creative a more balanced view of what Dramatica really is, and how it really works.

So, here’s a concise little crash course on Dramatica from a holistic point of view…

To the heart of the matter, are you familiar with the initial psychological equation of Dramatica that started it all – K/T = AD?

The left side of the equation is all about logic – Knowledge divided by (or parsed) by Thought – K/T.  It’s how we reason.  But the right side is Ability multiplied by Desire, which created a product we know as Desirability.  It is all about motivation or drive – If Ability is zero, motivation is zero.  If Desire is zero, motivation is zero.  But for any non-zero value of both Ability and Desire, some degree of motivation is created.

When this equation came into my mind for the first time I thought it meant, “One side divides and the other multiplies.” But It turned out it wasn’t a math equation, but a logic equation describing a psychological balance. It reads like this: When Knowledge is divided by (parsed by) Thought, the result is balanced against Desirability.

What is means is that K/T is Knowledge divided by thought or deductive reasoning or, for practical purposes “logic” (or linearity).

In other words, a lot of folks would say, “Emotion does not figure in my logic – my logic is pure reason, critical thinking.” And they’d be right. But, we might apply our logic anywhere, so how did we end up thinking about this particular thing? Desirability.

In other words, logic may be pure, but what we use it on (as opposed to some other topic) is determined by desirability – emotion, holism, touchy-feely.

So, while logic is pure, the application of logic is not. But, that doesn’t put passion at 180 degrees away from logic, because it isn’t against logic, it just directs its use. So, from a passionate or holistic perspective, passion is 90 degrees away from logic, because it also arrives at a conclusion – where to put our logic to work. But, from a linear or reason based perspective, passion is 270 degrees away from logic, because it keeps creeping into the purity.

So, linear thinking says – logic and passion are nothing alike because logic requires evidence and proof and passion does not. But from a holistic way of thinking, logic and passion are quite alike because each arrives at conclusions, and it requires both to direct and then implement logic – they are team members of the greater process.

Now this runs right up against the nature of the philosophy of duality. Linear thinking is going to see things as components, separate entities whose borders, perhaps even their natures, can be precisely defined. Things have edges that define them. And this is what K/T is all about – defining things as independent components. And this is how the model of the Dramatica theory was built – in order to best service and communicate with a linear society.

But, the holistic side of the Dramatica theory is more inclusive, rather than exclusive. It focuses on how separate things are actually interconnected, parts of a family or a greater whole.

For a more practical example of this, check out this video clip on my web site about main and influence characters. One of them is going to say, “you and I are both alike” and the other will respond “we are nothing alike.” I’ll tell you why they do this and how it relates to exclusive/inclusive and duality after you see the clip.

Here’s the ink: http://storymind.com/video/examples/you-and-i.mp4

Now that you’ve seen the clip, you can see how often that conversation comes up in stories. And yet we never see it as cliche, because it is the core and essence of that duality problem.

One is saying, “We are nothing alike because I am an apple and you are an orange,” and the other is saying, “No, we are both alike because we are both fruit.”

So, one is using linearity to find the differences that define us as individuals, and the other is using holism to find the similarities that bind us together as a group.

Fact is, each one is right, but each thinks the other is wrong. Why? Because neither can conceive that there is no single answer to the question, “are we alike?” because in some ways we are and in other ways we aren’t.

But why would we have these two perspectives yet never reconcile them? Simply put, life experience shows us that under some conditions, it is better to see things as separate and other times as part of the same group. This is how we determine friend from foe, mine from yours, and even defining ourselves sometimes as individuals and sometimes as part of a family.

Children struggle with this as they grow up, first seeing themselves as part of the family, then trying to find their place within it, then trying to define themselves independently of it. But the truth is that we, like Schrodinger’s Cat, are both independent and dependent at the same time.

That is the core problem in the United States – are we United or are we States? There is no single answer because we are all part of the collective, yet at the same time each state has rights independent of the nation as a whole.

These concepts appear over and over again both in the elements of story structure and in the subject matter we explore in stories because choosing one view over the other is never absolute and must be determined by experience for a given context, yet is always changing, drifting, and what was best seen linearly this week (or in our childhood) may be better seen holistically (as an adult) at this time (though it might change again next week).

Linearity looks to the long-wave truths, calls them predicable, labels them as a law, sets up rules to impose the law, and defines any instance where it doesn’t work as an exception.

Holism looks to the short wave truths, calls them “evolving,” labels them as trends, breaks down barriers to encourage evolution, and defines any instance where change does not occur as an obstacle.

Both are true, neither is right.

In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven about the time of the crusades and the struggle for the control of Jerusalem, the Crusader philosophically asks the leader of the Muslims, “What is Jerusalem worth?” The Muslim leader replies, “Nothing,” turns to walk away, turns back and replies again, “Everything.” And THAT is the truth.

Those who go in search of the answer are already looking in the wrong place, because there is no answer. There are two points of view of equal value conceptually, but different value specifically.

When I was around 5 – before Kindergarten – I was on my swing set on an overcast day with a seamless gray sky. I wondered if I could swing high enough so that nothing but gray would fill my field of vision – no swing set edge, no bushes, no trees – no frame of reference.

I swung higher and higher, and after nearly toppling the swing set, for one brief moment, I saw nothing but gray. And I stopped my swing and sat there and wondered – If there was nothing that existed, would it be black because there was no light or gray because there was no black either?

This was an unsolvable problem. I could see it both ways. But clearly neither was more compelling as being the absolute truth of the matter. In my own childish terms, I realize that there were some questions to which there was not a single all-conclusive answer.

I wasn’t bothered by that so much, but I WAS bothered by the notion that there could be something in existence about which my mind was incapable of finding a single answer. In those days, I was sure the answer existed, I remember thinking, maybe God can see the answer. But if he can, then why is mind mind forever incapable of knowing the answer – in what way is my mind inferior to God’s?

Imagine what kind of five-year-old I was to be thinking such thoughts on my own in the back yard while my mom thought I was just playing on the swing set….

So, the fact that such an answerless question could be asked did not ruffle me, but what stuck in my craw and, in fact, guided everything I explored since – especially my work in developing Dramatica and the Story Mind and Mental Relativity, was to at LEAST find an answer to the question of why my mind is incapable of seeing the answer that surely must exist!

I couldn’t answer THAT question with Dramatica. I couldn’t answer it with 64 years of life-experience. But eventually I did answer it. And then I found peace.

Simply, it isn’t that one side divides and the other multiplies or even one side is exclusive and the other inclusive or even one side defines the differences and the other defines the similarities. No, the way to grok the equation is, one side separates and the other blends.

That blending part is what you don’t see in the dramatica model directly, but it’s affect is omnipresent.

Whenever we abandon our common societal view to step into the shoes of another culture, we discover the same thing – there are those in each society who see the other society as different and those in each society who see the other as the same. But what you don’t often find are those who see the two societies as being both different AND the same.

Embracing that perspective is the closest we can come to becoming one with the Truth.

My advanced work on Dramatica has all been about modeling that. Pretty complex stuff trying to describe something rather simple, but isn’t that always the case?

Now, I don’t expect this note to open your eyes to any new ways of looking at anything or to put peace on your table along with the meat and potatoes, but, like Prince Rupert’s Drop (Google it and watch a video – it’s a cool physics effect), I expect it to disintegrate against against your hard-earned life experiences, at first, and then, by the time you’ve assimilated it for a while, the almost invisible shock wave of this concept will reach the root of the questions you set out to answer, and will work its way back up from your premises to your conclusion, shattering previous perspectives along the way.

But that is not my purpose.  Rather, the point for the here and now is to open a door to an additional realm within the Dramatica theory that leads to a more sweeping and more practical appreciation of the model as it initially appears and as you have currently applied it.

Melanie Anne Phillips

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