Domain Placement in Story Structure

Over the years, a lot of people have asked why Dramatica forces some of the throughlines into certain domains. Why can’t “anything go?”

Well, once again, the Dramatica theory allows for more versatility, but the software doesn’t – yet. Still, what the software does is probably what you want!

Software-wise, OS, MC, SS, and OC form a quad. OS is always opposite SS and MC is always opposite OC. So, When you plop down OS or SS on a domain, you know where the other one will be. And, if put MC or OC in a domain, you’ll know where the other is. Why does the software do this? Because it creates conflict.

Universe and Mind (two of the domains) are fixed states of things and share a similar nature. Physics and Psychology (the other two domains) are processes and thereby share a nature.

Therefore, “forcing” the MC and OC into opposite domains and forcing the OS and SS into the other two creates a structure-wide consistency. In short, it forces each of the two families MC & OC (people) and OS & SS (relationships) into the greatest conflict within each family.

Since Hollywood thrives on conflict (“where’s the conflict?!”) this arrangement serves very well for MOST of the stories actually written, purchased, and produced.

But, quads have more that one kind of relationship! To see what I mean, go to the Build Characters window in D Pro (or Movie Magic Dramatica). If you open that window full wide, you’ll see three different kinds of relationships listed on the right for every quad.

The family of two items in a diagonal relationship form a “Dynamic Pair.” Since there are two diagonals in each quad, there are two Dynamic Pairs.

The two items in a horizontal relationship form “Companion Pair,” and there are two of those as well.

Finally, two vertical items form a “Dependent Pair,” also being two in a quad.

Each of these relationships has a different nature. Also, one of the two pairs of each kind will be “positive” and the other “negative.”

1. Dynamic relationships are conflictual. Positive Dynamic relationships are like the “loyal opposition” where two sides butt heads, but synthesize a better solution because of the conflict. Negative Dynamic relationships occur when two sides butt heads until each is beaten into the ground.

2. Companion relationships involve the indirect impact one character has on another. Positive Companion relationships occur when there is beneficial “fall-out” or “spill-over” between the two sides. For example, a father might work at a factory where he can bring home scrap balsa wood which his son uses for making models. Negative companion relationships involve negative spill-over such as a room-mate who snores.

3. Dependent relationships describe the joint impact of the two sides. For example, positive Dependent relationships might bring Brain and Braun together so that they are stronger than the sum of their parts. A negative Dependent relationship might have a character saying, “I’m nothing without my other half.”

There’s also one other relationship which doesn’t show up in the software – the Associate relationship.

4. Associative deals with the relationship of the individual to the group. Rather than being consistently positive or negative, the two varieties of this kind of relationship may be either – but in any given relationship one variety will be positive and the other negative. The Component variety sees the items in a quad as individuals. The Collective variety
sees them as a group.

For example, two brothers might fight between themselves (Component), yet come to each others’ aid when threatened by a bully because they now see themselves as family (Collective).

Neither one is inherently positive or negative – it depends on context. That is why we, as a culture, have trouble with terms such as “the United States.” Well which are they, United or States?

Now these same kinds of relationships can also function between MC and OC or between OS and SS. In theory then, the Main Character and Obstacle Character might be in Dynamic, Companion, or Dependent relationships, and so might the Objective and Subjective stories.

But more than this, the each throughline will have the other kinds of relationships with the other throughlines. So the MC, for example, will have a Dynamic relationship with one of the other three throughlines, a Companion with another, and a Dependent with the third. Quite a lot of interrelationships going on in a single story!

As it stands in the software, those relationships already exist. They just aren’t referred to anywhere. If you plot the positions of the four throughlines in your story on the Dramatica structural chart (or look at them in the Theme Browser) you can see by the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal relationships how each throughline relates to the others. Again, a lot to explore in your story!

Still, you can’t yet make the MC and OC companions or dependents in the software. But shouldn’t it be easy enough to do? Shouldn’t it be easy to just allow the MC and OC to share any kind of available relationship?

Sure it’s easy, but there’s a catch. EVERYTHING – all story points are connected by the Story Engine. And, for the story to have consistency, all parts of the structure must favor ONE KIND OF RELATIONSHIP. So, you can’t just change the MC and OC rules, without changing them for everything else as well. And, you also have to rewrite the entire DYNAMIC part of the engine so that it can “flip” items (as discussed in an earlier post) on the horizontal or vertical axis of a quad, rather than on the diagonal.

To tell the truth, we simply haven’t had time to work out the algorithms that would drive such a system! But we will. Or someone else will. And then the software will expand in versatility yet again.

To get a feel for the size of the nut we will have to crack to get this working, try to imagine a gripping story which has no conflict at any level. It’s do-able, but tough. We’ll add that part of the theory to the software eventually.

In the meantime, when dealing with any quad, go beyond thinking about only the diagonal conflictual relationships and think about the horizontal companion ones and the vertical dependent ones as well. Even if there is not a lot of specific support for that in the software, a little bit of theory knowledge can go a long way to added nuance and depth to your work.