The following is excerpted from a class on story structure presented by co-creator of the Dramatica theory of story, Melanie Anne Phillips, signed on as Dramatica:
Dramatica : First off, let’s separate the Dramatica theory from the Dramatica software. The Dramatica theory has been in development for over 15 years, the software implements the theory. This class focuses on the theory, though I will answer questions about the software you may have. The Dramatica theory is not a theory of screenplay, but a theory of story. As such, it can be used equally well for novels, plays, song ballads AND screenplays.
The central concept of the theory is called The Story Mind. This means that Dramatica sees every complete story as an analogy to a single mind, trying to deal with a particular inequity. In fact, stories are an analogy to the mind’s problem solving process. With me so far?
Dan Steele : yes
RDCvr : Yes
Dramatica : Is this boring, or an okay rate of information for you?
RDCvr : good.
Dan Steele : I can take it in as fast as you wish to deliver it.
Dramatica : Great! Here goes… stop me if you have questions… The theory sees Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre as being the thoughts of the Story Mind, made tangible, so we can look at our own mental processes from the outside, more objectively. Characters are the motivations of this Story Mind. Plot is the problem solving methods the Story Mind uses. Theme is the standard of values the Story Mind uses to determine what is favorable or unfavorable. And Genre describes the nature of the Mind itself: what kind of mind is it?
We think the Story Mind came into being as follows: First of all, no one would ever sit around trying to create an analogy of the mind. Rather, the first stories were simply statements that a particular path led to a particular outcome. In and of itself, this statement (or what Dramatica calls a “tale”) is great for that one particular situation that it describes. But what about extending that?
Suppose we as authors want to say that what happened in our tale was true for all such similar situations? Well, our audience might not buy that kind of blanket statement. They would question us and ask, “what about THIS particular case”, or “what about THAT case”? If we were telling our story “live” in front of the audience, we could counter each rebuttal to our blanket statement one by one. If our argument were well thought out, we would eventually address the concerns of everyone in the audience so that they would buy into what we were saying.
However, when we record our story, either as written words, or a screenplay or book, we are not there to counter the rebuttals to the blanket statements we might make. So, we have to incorporate all possible counters to all possible rebuttals in regard to the point we are making, right in the body of the work itself. This way, any issue anyone in our audience might take with us is covered already and dealt with. This is what makes a story complete: That the central issue of the story is seen from all essential logical and emotional points of view.
When we create a work of that nature, it is not a statement or tale, but a full argument. And that is how Dramatica defines a story. Since all the ways anyone might look at the issue have been incorporated, Since all the ways anyone might look at that particular issue are incorporated, the story actually maps out all the perspectives and considerations ANY mind might take on the issue. This is what creates the analogy of the mind.
Dan Steele : bacl – AOL just booted me off
Dramatica : No problem, Dan! 🙂
Dan Steele : wait
Dramatica : Yes?
Dan Steele : obviously you cannot give in the story all possible outcomes of an event.
Dramatica : True, outcome is the author’s bias on the issue.
Dan Steele : do you perhaps mean that the story maps out the end result of all perspectives?
Dramatica : The author chooses which outcome out of the infinite number will occur in HIS story. But the road that leads to that outcome must be fully described.
Dan Steele : oh, so at the story level all the outcomes exist, but at the presentation level one is selected by the author to be shown.
Dramatica : Absolutely correct. If a path is not taken that is an obvious alternative, the audience will cry, “foul” and you will have a plot hole. In other words, all the possible considerations along this path must be addressed, to make a complete argument. Now, even after making the argument, the audience may discount your concept and reject it out of hand, but they cannot argue with the internal logic of your message or claim that the characters are not consistent.
Okay, that’s the first concept out of several hundred. How we doing?
Dan Steele : okay so far
RDCvr : hanging in
Dan Steele : Obviously you have to condense things a lot, but okay so far.
Dramatica : Alright, lets take this concept of the Story Mind, and see what it does for us as authors. Let’s take this mind and hold it out in front of us. Kind of like a visible mind. We have two views of that mind: One view is from the outside looking in. This is the Objective view of the mind. Its kind of like a general on a hill watching a battle., You care about the outcome and the pain of your troops, but you are not personally involved in the action.
But there is a second view of the Story Mind that we share with the audience. That is the Subjective view. It is as if we take the Story Mind and make it our own, so we think its thoughts and feel its emotions. This is more like the view of the soldier in the trenches. He can’t see the whole battle like the general on the hill, but he is much more personally involved with the guy coming at him with the bayonet! This is the view through the eyes of the Main Character of the story. The audience sees through their eyes and feels through their heart. The other character coming at him, by the way, is what we call the Obstacle Character. Any questions on this part?
RDCvr : I’m okay.
Dan Steele : No,no questions.
From the Dramatica Class Transcripts