A New Theory of Story

The following  excerpt is taken from

The Dramatica Class Transcripts

Dramatica : Well, let me just do a brief recap, then get into the new material. First of all….Dramatica is two things: a new theory of story, and the software that bears its name. This class focuses on the theory, but I’ll be happy to answer questions about the software at any time. There is a central concept to Dramatica, that every COMPLETE story is an analogy to a single human mind dealing with an inequity.

Dramatica : Hiya, RDC!

RDCvr : Hey.

Dramatica : This has come about because in order to make a complete argument, or a complete exploration of an issue, an author must address all other ways of looking at the issue other than the one they are touting, and this leads to documenting all meaningful ways of looking at the problem in the story itself.

It becomes a defacto “map” of the mind’s problem solving processes. There are two ways to look at this “Story Mind”. From the outside, and from the inside. When we look from the outside, it is like the view of a general on a hill watching a battle. This is called the “Objective” view in Dramatica. But when we look through the eyes of a soldier in the trenches, that is the Subjective view, where we look FROM the Story Mind, as if it were our own, through the eyes and heart of the Main Character.

Dramatica sees, character, plot, and theme, as the thoughts of this Story Mind as it tries to work out its problems. Dramatic tension is built out of the “parallax” between how those problems look subjectively compared to objectively. That is where dramatic meaning is generated.

Dramatica : (hiya, Dan!)

Dan Steele : Hi.

Dramatica : To create meaning, Dramatica asks authors to make choices about how they want things to look, from the Objective and Subjective views. Then, the Story Engine in the software, keeps limiting remaining choices to those that are compatible with what has already been chosen. This happens until there are no more options left, because everything has been locked in, to one unique storyform. Now, this could become really formula, accept that there is no fixed pathway through the questions, no steps one has to take. You can start anywhere and skip around, because the model of story is holistic, more like a cross between a Rubik’s cube of story, and a periodic table of story elements.

There are 12 Essential Questions that get to the heart of the matter most quickly, so although you don’t need to answer these at all, if you’d rather not, they will form up a storyform and choose your dramatics, faster than any other path. Four questions are about character, four about plot, four about theme, and Genre is the relationship between character, plot, and theme. We covered the four character questions already in an earlier class.