The Best Story Structure Articles of 2012

2012

External and Internal Dependencies

As co-creator of the Dramatica theory, I often take some of the concepts so for granted that I forget to consider wider application of them. For example, in my classes I often speak of the three kinds of character relationships: … Continue reading →

Conversational Inertia

Sometimes, no matter how one tries, a conversation cannot be turned.  Illustrating this in  conversations among characters is a way to illuminate the degree of power that is driving the conversation in a particular direction, or perhaps the magnitude of … Continue reading →

Introduction to the Story Mind

Every story has a mind of its own.   It has a Psychology determined by its structure, a personality established by its subjective matter, and a persona developed through its storytelling style. This Story Mind is not that of the author, … Continue reading →

The Measure of a Hero

It is said that the stature of a hero is determined by the magnitude of the villain he must overcome.  While this does help to define the scale of a hero’s achievement, it says nothing about how much he must … Continue reading →

Dramatica – How We Did It! (Part One)

As I approach my sixtieth birthday, I imagine the time is ripe to resolve some of the questions I’ve been getting in regard to the origin and development of the Dramatica Theory of Story and its principal concepts and implementations. … Continue reading →

The Dramatica Structural Model

Here’s an article I wrote about fifteen years ago that described the reason for and functioning of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements.  Though our understandings have refined over the years, the underlying concepts remain unchanged. The Model of Dramatica … Continue reading →

A Method for Locating Personality Types in the General Population

Introduction: Subject matter alone will not indicate personality type,  as many different kinds of people are interested in the same things and have similar habits.  Narrative psychology alone will not indicate personality type, as any two psychologically identical people may … Continue reading →

The Coming Global Story Mind

As described in my previous article, Birth of a Story Mind, when  people gather in groups, they self-organize into a group mind in which each individual specializes in one of our mental functions, such as becoming the voice of reason for the … Continue reading →

Defining and Identifying Personality Types

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a list or a chart of all the major personality types in the world and all of their sub-types and variations?  And wouldn’t it be even greater if we had a means … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 6 – The Grand Unifying Theory of Everything

Okay, so this is where I go a little nutso.  Yeah, I know…  But I’m going to be crossing the line that will prevent anyone from every taking my theories seriously again.  Because I can. Here’s the scoop…. The Grand … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 5 – The Interface Solution

Sometimes the solution to a problem comes from a most unexpected source.  Often, there is no relationship between the subject matter of problem and solution, but rather a dynamic resemblance, an analogy of system or operation. A case in point … Continue reading →

Birth of a Story Mind

For those of you familiar with Dramatica, you know the term “storyform” means a complete narrative structure – the logical framework that makes a story make sense. But where do storyforms come from?  How do they begin, how do they … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 4 – The Interface Conundrum

Unlike my usual articles, this piece is not intended to document an existing part of the Dramatica theory nor to reveal a part newly developed.  Rather, I will be sharing my speculations on a life-long thought problem of mine and, … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 3 – The Dramatica Model

In this series of articles, I’m documenting the development of a whole new side of the Dramatica theory – story dynamics. Dramatica is a model of story structure, but unlike any previous model, the structure is flexible like a Rubik’s … Continue reading →

Contextual Retribution

(Note to authors- use this description as a template for structuring arguments between two characters and how the conflict might escalate and eventually brought to a conclusion.) People think both in terms of time and of space.  Our time sense … Continue reading →

Goals vs. Purposes

When defnining characters or groups of characters, it is important to differentiate between their goals and their purposes.  Goals are the specific set of circumstances the character of group hopes to achieve.  But purposes are the overarching conditions they hope … Continue reading →

Predicting Human Behavior

Predicting Human Behavior By Melanie Anne Phillips Co-creator, Dramatica Theory Human behavior cannot be predicted by observation alone.  No matter how deep the statistical database, no matter how sophisticated the algorithms, accuracy derived from observation falls short because it is … Continue reading →

The Thematic Conclusion

While the plot magic a logistic or logical argument about the best way to solve a particular kind of problem, the theme makes an emotional argument about the best way to be while trying to solve a passionate problem.  But, … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 2 – Transmutation of Particles and Waves

In this second article in the Dynamic Model series, I’m going to explore really intriguing problem – how particles can be transmuted into waves and vice versa. Why this important to writers and even more important to psychologists and social … Continue reading →

Narrative Dynamics 1 – Introduction

This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing about a whole different way of looking at the Dramatica theory – in terms of dynamics, rather than structure.  In fact, the dynamic model is a counterpart, not … Continue reading →

Trigonometry and Dramatica

Here’s another clue for you all…. Though it wasn’t discovered through mathematics, Dramatica’s model of story psychology can, in fact, be described by mathematics – at least to an extent. Here’s the clue – In the Dramatica quad, there are … Continue reading→

The 28 “Magic” Scenes – Part 2

In this class, we extend the concepts of what dramatic elements the 28 magic scenes should contain for your plot by exploring how we can mix-up the order in which these elements are revealed in order to create a more … Continue reading →

Examples of Story “Concerns”

In previous classes, we’ve looked at how to zero in on the nature of your story’s central driving problem or issue at the most broad stroke level by seeing it as being an external state or process (situation or activity) … Continue reading →

Story Domain Examples

In previous classes we’ve talked about the problem at the heart of a story that drives all the dramatics – from character growth through plot progressino and even development of the message.  In order to have the best control of … Continue reading →

The Four Story Domains

The subject matter of any story that describes the nature of the central problem falls into one of four domains – Universe (a fixed state), Mind (a mind set or attitude), Physics (an activity), or Psychology (a problematic chain of … Continue reading →

Story Perspectives

Genre, Theme, Plot and Character: each of them is a different level of appreciation of story structure.  But each one needs to be seen from four different points of view in order to fully explore them. As described in previous … Continue reading →

The Four Story Throughlines

A story “throughline” is a bit different than a story “point of view.”  A point of view is an angle from which you wish your readers or audience to see the topics of your story.  But a throughline is the … Continue reading →

Four Points of View in Every Story

There are four essential points of view in every fully developed story.  They are the Main Character, the Influence Character (AKA the Obstacle Character), the Subjective Story, and the Objective Story. The Objective story is the most familiar to audiences/readers …Continue reading →

Motivations, Methodologies, Evaluations and Purposes

Every story has a mind of its own, as if it were a single chcaracter, a single person.  The Dramatica theory of story structure includes a chart, sort of a “periodic table,” that maps out four different levels of consideration … Continue reading →

Levels of the Story Mind

The mind of your story, as with our own minds, can be seen to have four levels of consideration which fall into four topic categories describing the kind of thing that is being considered. For any topic, the mind considers … Continue reading →

Theme and the Dramatica Chart

The Dramatica chart of story elements is the equivalent of the Periodic Table of Elements in physics or chemistry.  In fact, it provides guidance for how to create the specific chemistry of your story by comining different dramatic elements. Each … Continue reading →

Introduction to Theme

Theme is perhaps the most powerful yet least understood aspect of story structure.  Theme is an “emotional argument” that strives to lead the reader or audience to feel about a topic as the author would have them feel. The reason … Continue reading →

Story Outcome and Judgment

Your story’s “Outcome” is determined by success or failure in the attempt to achieve the overall goal.  But this is independent of whether or not everyone is feeling good about the outcome, even if success is achieved.  Often the costs … Continue reading →

Our World, Our Selves

Consider the grand self-organizing principles of nature, to which human psychology and culture are not exempt.

Using Dramatica Example Stories

Dramatica Pro ships with 68 complete example stories ranging from “Hamlet” to “Star Wars” and including books, movies, teleplays and stage plays. Each of the Dramatica Story Example files loads up in Dramatica as if you had written it in … Continue reading→

Indy… Why does the floor move?

A Dramatica user recently noticed that Elements (the smallest, most detailed story points in Dramatica) are in different arrangements at the bottom of each of the four Dormains.   In other words, he was wondering why the “floor” moved.  (Click here …Continue reading →

Writing from the Passionate Self

Who are you, really? Do you even know? Or do you just think you know? At the center of our beings, at the heart of our souls, can be found the truth of our identity: our compassion, our anger, the … Continue reading →

Finding Inspiration

We all know that writing is not just about assembling words, but also about assembling ideas. When we actually sit down to write, we may have our ideas all worked out in advance or we may have no idea what … Continue reading →

Story Structure Part 10 (video)

“The Four Throughlines, Part One” http://storymindguru.com/dramatica-unplugged/10%20The%20Four%20Throughlines%20-%20Part%20One.htm In this episode I explore the first two of four throughlines essential to every complete story.  Throughlines are based on different perspectives on a story, much as you might have four cameras covering a … Continue reading →

Dramatica’s Semantics Explained

Some words about semantics… The terminology used in Dramatica is extremely precise.  Each word is designed to convey a very particular meaning.  But this creates a number of problems from a rather obtuse lexicon to an unfamiliar taxonomy resulting in an …Continue reading →

Finding Your Creative Time

You sit in your favorite writing chair, by the window, on the porch, or in the study. You wear your favorite tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, or your blue jeans, or your “creative shoes.” You look around at … Continue reading →

What’s in Your Story’s Mind?

As with people, your story’s mind has different aspects. These are represented in your Genre, Theme, Plot, and Characters. Genre is the overall personality of the Story Mind. Theme represents its troubled value standards. Plot describes the methods the Story …Continue reading →

Story Structure – Part 7 (video)

In this episode, I describe the difference between story structure and storytelling. Story structure has no subject matter involved – it is simply a map of the relationships among concepts. For example, if two concepts are in opposition, it doesn’t … Continue reading →

Why a Story Mind?

Before asking any writer to invest his or her time in a concept as different as the Story Mind, it is only fair to provide an explanation of why such a thing should exist. To do this, let us look … Continue reading →

Why Dramatica Works – Part 1

Over the past twenty years I have written innumerable articles and recorded over one hundred hours of video explaining what the Dramatica is , how to use it and even how it works, but I have never made a concerted … Continue reading →

The Creativity “Two-Step”

The concept behind this method of finding inspiration is quite simple, really: It is easier to come up with many ideas than it is to come up with one idea. Now that may sound counter-intuitive, but consider this… When you … Continue reading →

Be a Story Weaver – NOT a Story Mechanic!

Too many writers fall into the trap of making Structure their Story God. There’s no denying that structure is important, but paying too much attention to structure can destroy your story. We have all seen movies and read novels that … Continue reading →

Dramatica: Out of Balance

Here’s a note from a Dramatica user and my reply. (Careful, highly technical discussion follows that bears little connection to stories or writing) Dramatica user: Just as an experiement, I cleared the storyform, and opened the plot progression screen. I …Continue reading →

Dramatica – Where’d The Idea Come From?

Chris Huntley and I began our exploration of story structure in 1980. He and I had met a few years earlier while we were both attending the University of Southern California and both making short films. I had left school … Continue reading →

Abandoning the Logic

Thought: For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a book entitled “Abandoning the Logic” about the fact that while half of what we are is driven by reason, the other equally important half embodies our purpose and meaning. There … Continue reading →

Ability – What it Means to Dramatica

What’s “Ability” have to do with story structure? If you look in Dramatica’s “Periodic Table of Story Elements” chart (you can download a free PDF of the chart at http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf ) you’ll find the “ability” in one of the little squares.  … Continue reading →

Applying Dramatica to the Real World

Analyzing and Predicting the Activities of Groups & Organizations   By Melanie Anne Phillips   Based on theories developed by Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley Introduction to Dramatica Theory and Applications The Dramatica Theory of Story is a model … Continue reading →

A Story is a Argument

Dramatica Unplugged Home Transcription of the soundtrack from this video: Dramatica Unplugged Class One: Introduction 1.3 A Story is an Argument A tale is nothing more than a statement. A statement that ‘this lead to this lead to that’ and … Continue reading→

A Tale is a Statement

Dramatica Unplugged Home Transcript of the soundtrack from this video: Dramatica Unplugged Class One: Introduction 1.2 A Tale is a Statement Imagine the very first storyteller, maybe a caveman sitting around a campfire. Perhaps the very first communication was not … Continue reading →

Introducing the Story Mind

Dramatica Unplugged Home Transcript of the soundtrack from this video: Dramatica Unplugged Class One: Introduction 1.1 Introducing the Story Mind Let’s look at the central concept in Dramatica: the Story Mind. It’s what makes Dramatica unique. Dramatica says that every … Continue reading →

Dramatica and the Brain

Recently, a Dramatica user asked a question about the relationship of the Left Brain / Right Brain concept to Dramatica’s Story Mind concept.  My reply (which follows) provides the nitty gritty, but is pretty dense and uses “short speak” because … Continue reading →

Dim Bulb ~or~ The Foibles of an Eccentric Writer

When I was first starting out in the film business, still at USC cinema as a matter of fact, I heard a story of a famous writer who loved to use just one make and model of typewriter – couldn’t … Continue reading →

Concept for a Theme

Life is filled with opportunities to begin a story.  Sometimes you encounter a bit of news, observe an interpersonal interaction, or simply see a post on Google+ or Facebook. Today, for example, I was writing a private message on Facebook … Continue reading →

The Dramatica Concept

Over the years there’s been so much sophisticated material written about how Dramatica deals with all kinds of complex story issues that it is easy to forget about the central purpose of Dramatica in the first place. So, here’s a … Continue reading →

Fractal Psychology in the Real World

Response to a Dramatica User: What characters represent in the Story Mind is not their own psychology but rather just the small fragment of that overall entity. Essentially, in the story at large characters are nothing more than automatons – … Continue reading →

Narrative Space in the Real World

In my last post I described how the term “narrative space” refers to the breadth and depth of the subject matter from which you will develop a story.  Like a cloud, the subject matter is just the raw material – … Continue reading →

Narrative Space

“Narrative Space” describes the complete breadth and depth of subject matter in which you seek to define a story. Simply put, most authors don’t come to a story with a complete structure immediately in mind.  Rather, they are attracted to … Continue reading →

2011

If Dramatica’s Options Aren’t What I Want, What Then?

A new Dramatica user recently emailed to say she was stymied when she reached a point in the storyforming procedure and the options she wanted for a particular story point were grayed out and not available, even though she was … Continue reading →

Do Stories Have 28 or 24 Scenes?

In the Dramatica Theory Book, we lay out a method of story development that results in 28 scenes, each with a component of Character, Plot and Theme.  We also describe a 24 scene perspective of story structure.  Recently, a Dramatica … Continue reading →

Character Development and the 28 “Magic” Scenes

A Dramatica user recently asked a couple of questions about developing characters other than the Main and Impact (Obstacle) and also about Dramatica’s reference to “28 magic scenes” in one place and 24 scenes in another.   Here’s my reply … Continue reading →

Using Dramatica for a How-To Book

A Dramatica user recently asked: I bought your Dramatica Pro software a couple of weeks ago and am finding it difficult to figure out how to use it for writing a how-to type of book. I’ve developed a few imaginary … Continue reading →

Storyforms in the Real World and the Mobius Doughnut

Ever since we developed Dramatica as a theory to describe the elements and mechanisms of story structure, we have understood that as a model of the Story Mind, Dramatica might also be applied to the psychologies of real people as … Continue reading →

Act Order – Sign Posts, Journeys & Throughlines

A Dramatica user asks: Hi Melanie, In the [Dramatica] theory book you can find this text: “Just because we have absolute freedom, however, does not mean our decision will have no effect on our audience. In fact, the order in … Continue reading →

al Awlaki, the “Uncanny Valley” and Writing Empathetic Characters

Recently, al Awlaki (the infamous “American” Al Qaeda) was killed by American forces. He was viewed as a great threat because of his ability to speak to the domestic population of the United States in their own language and culture … Continue reading →

Questions About Act Order in Different Cultures

A writer asked the following question regarding my earlier article, “Changing Dramatica’s Suggested Act Order.” How does one go about sussing this out? What approach would you recommend if I were trying to figure out which argument is primary in … Continue reading →

Writing Charcters of the Opposite Sex

Perhaps the most fundamental error made by authors, whether novice or experienced, is that all their characters, male and female, tend to reflect the gender of the author. This is hardly surprising, since recent research finally proves that men and … Continue reading→

Definitive Scientific Article on Dramatica Theory

Here is a link to the definitive explanation of the Dramatica theory (in PDF) from 1993, that explains all of the key concepts in text and graphics, including descriptions of non-story uses of the psychological model and the functioning of … Continue reading →

God and Dramatica

Now here’s a touchy subject.  Still, over the years, many have taken a philosophical, even spiritual view of Dramatica.  There are even some who have drawn a comparison between Dramatica’s 64 elements and the 64 trigrams of the I Ching.   … Continue reading →

Changing Dramatica’s Suggested Act Order

A Dramatica user recently asked: Hello:  would appreciate your help on this.  Am using the Dramatica software.  Level III.    Impact Character is MIND and that’s OK.  However, the software keeps telling me that Signpost #1 is Memories and Signpost #2 … Continue reading →

Questions About Dramatica’s Features

A teacher of writers recently asked: Does Dramatica include a database structure for building character files? Too me it seems this would be an important story building concept that a computer could offer with great advantage; the ability to collect …Continue reading →

More Questions from Alice

A response and further questions from the Dramatica user who was answered in my last post: Can Two Characters Share the Same Traits? Hi Melanie Okay, that is understood, and makes sense, and I like the logic, but this makes … Continue reading →

Can Two Characters Share the Same Traits?

A Dramatica user recently wrote:   Hello Melanie   I need help, I’m trying to assign characteristics to my characters, I have a multitude of characters, and many share the same characteristics but the software seems to only allow one … Continue reading →

StoryWeaver – Exposition of Structural Character Roles

A StoryWeaver user recently asked: Inside the story weaver software in the stage 3 Exposition part, inside the character folder, and precisely at the structural role, it says I should describe how I will reveal to my readers or audience the structural role …Continue reading →

Does your story suffer from “Multiple Personality Disorder?”

Does your story suffer from “Multiple Personality Disorder”? In psychology, Multiple Personality Disorder describes a person who has more than one complete personality. Typically, only one of those personalities will be active at any given time. This is because they … Continue reading →

The Structural Side of Love Interests

A lot of books about writing describe the importance of a “Love Interest.” Other books see a Love Interest as unnecessary and cliché. What does Dramatica Say? As with most dramatic concepts, Dramatica pulls away the storytelling to take a … Continue reading →

Characters: Alchemy or Chemistry?

Excerpt from an early, unpublished draft of the Dramatica Theory Book. Many of these concepts were not included in the version eventually published: To make an argument that a particular element is or is not a solution to a particular … Continue reading →

Have You Lost Your Tale (and become one of the “Drudge People?”)

Drudge people.  You see them every day.  On the news.  In your town.  Outside your window.  Perhaps, even in your own home. You can easily recognize them as they have lost their tales.  With no tale, they are directionless, shuffling … Continue reading →

8 Character Archetypes Portray the Facets of Our Minds

There are 8 essential archetypal characters, each of which represents a different aspect of our own minds. The Protagonist portrays our initiative, Antagonist our reticence to change. Reason is our intellect, Emotion our passion. Skeptic is our self-doubt, Sidekick our … Continue reading →

The Main Character: To Change Or Not To Change….

Just because a Main Character ultimately remains steadfast does not mean he never considers changing. Similarly, a Change Main Character does not have to be changing all the time. In fact, that is the conflict with which he is constantly … Continue reading →

A Poem About Inventing, Teaching, Selling & Proselytizing Dramatica

“Verbatim” by Melanie Anne Phillips Have you ever wished you had something to say to open the heart or capture the day. To dissect the mind or rally the cause, but your words come up empty, like stasis on pause. … Continue reading →

Historic Dramatica – Justified Characters

This early article was originally written as part of a first draft book on the Dramatica theory which was never published.  It seeks to describe the dynamics of how character justifications are the force that “winds up” dramatic potential in a story, … Continue reading →

4 Novel Writing Tips

Novels Aren’t Stories A novel can be extremely free form. Some are simply narratives about a fictional experience. Others are a collection of several stories that may or may not be intertwined. Jerzy N. Kosinski (the author of “Being There”) … Continue reading→

5 Screenwriting Tricks

Most of our writing tips focus on the creation of a sound story, regardless of the medium in which you are working. But since the writing of screenplays has its own unique restrictions, requirements, and opportunities, we thought it might … Continue reading →

Story Bubbles

Remember blowing bubbles with that solution in the little bottles and the plastic wand? The craft of writing is a bit like blowing bubbles (life is like a box of chocolates!) This holds true not only for your dramatic approach, … Continue reading →

10 Screenwriting Tips

Screenplays are blueprints for movies. As such, they are not art, but instructions for creating art. Therefore, there are two things every great screenplay must have: A good story, and a clear and understandable description of how it should be … Continue reading→

Story Throughlines & How to Use Them

Some time ago I described the difference between the two basic forms of story structure with the following phrase: You spin a tale, but you weave a story. The common expression “spinning a yarn” conjures up the image of a … Continue reading →

“Hero” is a Stereotype NOT an Archetype!

In an earlier discussion of what sets the Objective Characters apart from the Subjective Characters, we described how Objective Characters represent dramatic functions in a story whereas Subjective Characters represent points of view. The Protagonist is an example of an … Continue reading →

Archetypes and the Crucial Element

A writer recently asked: Is it necessary to have the main character as one of the archetypes?   No. The Main Character point of view must be attached to one of the character elements, not necessarily to an archetype. A … Continue reading →

How Can You Write If You Don’t Know Who You Are?

Who are you, really? Do you even know? Or do you just think you know? At the center of our beings, at the heart of our souls, can be found the truth of our identity: our compassion, our anger, the … Continue reading →

Your Story is Your Child

Is your story a good enough conversationalist, or does it need to go back to finishing school with another draft before it is ready for prime time? You have days, months, perhaps even years to prepare your story to exude … Continue reading →

How to Come Up with Story Ideas

We all know that writing is not just about assembling words, but also about assembling ideas. When we actually sit down to write, we may have our ideas all worked out in advance or we may have no idea what … Continue reading →

When Is Your Creative Time?

You sit in your favorite writing chair, by the window, on the porch, or in the study. You wear your favorite tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, or your blue jeans, or your “creative shoes.” You look around at … Continue reading →

Should all characters be developed as much as the Main Character?

A writer asks: Hello I’m trying to write a novel and I have a quick question. I have my main character developed and some of the other characters. I want to know do I have to developed every single character … Continue reading →

Stories on the Mind

As with people, your story’s mind has different aspects. These are represented in your Genre, Theme, Plot, and Characters. Genre is the overall personality of the Story Mind. Theme represents its troubled value standards. Plot describes the methods the Story …Continue reading →

Are You Writing a Story or a Tale?

When an author tells a tale, he simply describes a series of events that both makes sense and feels right. As long as there are no breaks in the logic and no mis-steps in the emotional progression, the structure of … Continue reading →

The Master Storyteller – Tickling Your Muse

The concept behind this method of finding inspiration is quite simple, really: It is easier to come up with many ideas than it is to come up with one idea. Now that may sound counter-intuitive, but consider this… When you … Continue reading →

A Bug in Writer’s DreamKit? (Say it ain’t so!)

A Dramatica Writer’s DreamKit user recently contacted me to say that she had encountered a bug in the software.  First, when she created a character and assigned it a role as a particular archetype (such as Reason), and then reassigned … Continue reading→

The Passionate Side of Story Structure

We all know that a story needs a sound structure. But no one reads a book or goes to a movie to enjoy a good structure. And no author writes because he or she is driven to create a great … Continue reading →

The Master Storyteller: Create a Story “Focus”

If the Story’s underlying or central problem is seen as a disease, the solution would be the cure. The “Focus”, however, would be the principal symptom. Since the symptoms of a disease are often more apparent than the disease itself, … Continue reading →

Four Facets of the Story Mind

One of the unique concepts that sets Dramatica apart from all other theories is the assertion that every complete story is a model of the mind’s problem solving process. This Story Mind does not work like a computer, performing one … Continue reading →

Essential Perspectives in Your Story’s Structure

All meaning comes from perspective – putting things in context. Perspective is created by the combination of what you are looking at, and where you are looking from. Change the object of your intention and perspective is altered. Shift your … Continue reading →

The Cardinal Rule of Storytelling

You probably know someone who can take a bad joke and tell it so well that you are rolling on the floor. And you probably know someone who can’t tell a joke to save their life, even if the joke … Continue reading →

A Story’s Four Essential “Throughlines”

Imagine a story’s structure as a war and the Main Character as a soldier making his way across the field of battle. Suddenly, through the smoke of dramatic explosions he spies a murky figure standing right in his path. In … Continue reading →

Mentors, Guardians, Obstacles & Star Wars

Here’s an unusual situation where both Chris and myself independently answered the same question from a writer. Comparing our two replies is both interesting and also sheds light on two different ways of looking at the same central story structure …Continue reading →

Enough Theory! How Does Dramatica Work on Real Stories?

From a Dramaticapedia reader: Your blogs seem to be always in the abstract. Let’s see something about a successful story in the real world.    I would love to see a Dramatica setup for real stories that have been successful. My … Continue reading →

Does Dramatica Edit Your Story?

A writer asks: Does dramatica pro edit and give better solutions for certain parts of a story as a editor may do? My reply: Dramatica doesn’t read or process what you write in it. Rather, it asks a series of … Continue reading →

Applying Dramatica to the Real World

Analyzing and Predicting the Activities of Groups & Organizations   By Melanie Anne Phillips   Based on theories developed by Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley Introduction to Dramatica Theory and Applications The Dramatica Theory of Story is a model … Continue reading →

“Ability” in Story Structure

What’s “Ability” have to do with story structure? If you look in Dramatica’s “Periodic Table of Story Elements” chart (you can download a free PDF of the chart at http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf ) you’ll find the “ability” in one of the little … Continue reading →

Does Your Story End in Success or Failure?

A story without a clear indication of success or failure is a failure with your readers or audience. You need to work out exactly how the audience will know the goal is achieved or not. This might seem obvious in … Continue reading →

Write Your Novel or Screenplay Step by Step (Sort of….)

Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not really possible to write a novel (or screenplay) step by step because that’s not how the creative mind works.  But there are stages in the creative process that are best followed in order.  When we force … Continue reading →

The “Love Interest” and the Dramatic Triangle

A lot of books about writing describe the importance of a “Love Interest.” Other books see a Love Interest as unnecessary and cliché. What does Dramatica Say? As with most dramatic concepts, Dramatica pulls away the storytelling to take a … Continue reading →

Is Story Structure a Myth?

A whole flock of Story Gurus (myself included) will tell you that stories have structure. Therefore, if you learn that structure you’ll improve your stories. Ostensibly, this will lead to fame, riches, a keen sense of accomplishment, and the unparalleled … Continue reading →

Thematic Premise vs. Thematic Conflict

Many authors have been taught that a meaningful story must have a premise in the form of “Some human quality leads (or does not lead) to a particular inevitable conclusion.” Such a premise might be “Greed (human quality) leads to … Continue reading →

The Chemistry of Characters

Excerpt from an early, unpublished draft of the Dramatica Theory Book. Many of these concepts were not included in the version eventually published: To make an argument that a particular element is or is not a solution to a particular … Continue reading →

A Tale is a Statement

Dramatica Unplugged Class One: Introduction 1.2 A Tale is a Statement Imagine the very first storyteller, maybe a caveman sitting around a campfire. Perhaps the very first communication was not really a story but just a physical need, like this … Continue reading →

Players vs. Characters

What is a character? Like most dramatic concepts, it depends on who you ask. Some say characters are just ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Others say characters represent personality types. And then there are those who see characters as archetypes …Continue reading →

Audience Reach

In Dramatica, there are some story points that deal directly with the structure and others that pertain to the collective impact of a number of story points. Audience Reach is one of these combined dramatics. It is also called an … Continue reading →

Understanding the Villain

Villains are perhaps the most misunderstood of characters.  They are held up to ridicule, publicly maligned, and too often relegated to a stereotypical role in a melodrama. But villains can be so much more.  They have the potential.  If you … Continue reading →

How to Beat Writer’s Block

Ever find yourself in a creative log jam? Try the following technique excerpted from the StoryWeaver story development software to help regain your inspiration: 1. Inspiration Inspiration can come from many sources: a conversation overheard at a coffee shop, a …Continue reading →

Avoiding the Genre Trap

A common misconception sees genre as a fixed list of dramatic requirements or a rigid structural template from which there can be no deviation. Writers laboring under these restrictions often find themselves boxed-in creatively. They become snared in the Genre … Continue reading →

Word Salad: Slicing and Dicing Story Structure

A writer recently asked: I’ve read what you wrote about slicing and dicing the Dramatica chart on your web site and in Dramticapedia. It’s very interesting. Two questions if I may: * Limiting depth: “When you limit depth, you simple … Continue reading →

Finding & Fixing Holes in Your Story Structure

A writer recently asked: Hi, Melanie. I found your website while researching for my feature film screenplay. I have been rewriting this version of the script since October 2010 and writing the entire script for over ten years. I am … Continue reading →

Don’t Try To Be Shakespeare – He Didn’t!

Shakespeare just wrote as himself, and you should too. While trying to emulate another famous writer can be useful as an exercise (just as an artist might copy the Mona Lisa as a “study”), that approach is never userful in creating … Continue reading →

Descrepencies in Dramatica Terminology?

A Writer recently asked: Dear Melanie, I think, if I understand this correctly, that there is an incongruence between the Dramatica software terminology and the book – in that the software calls it the “Main vs. Impact Storyline” whereas the … Continue reading →

StoryWeaver vs. Dramatica

Writers often ask what the difference is between StoryWeaver and Dramatica Pro (or it’s little brother, Writer’s DreamKit). Here’s the answer in a nut shell: StoryWeaver and Dramatica (or Writer’s DreamKit) are like hand and glove, or two sides of … Continue reading →

A Poem Based on Dramatica

Some time ago, I decided to write a poem based on sound Dramatica Theory concepts.  Specifically, I wanted to cover all four throughlines and have each follow a quad of plot points as an illustration of signpost/journey four act/three act structure … Continue reading →

Four Archetypes

Excerpt from an upcoming book on story structure: So far I have spoken of characters as representing or embodying fragments of the overall Story Mind, but that is misleading; characters are much more orderly than that. The term “fragments” provides … Continue reading →

Players vs. Characters

What is a character? Like most dramatic concepts, it depends on who you ask. Some say characters are just ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Others say characters represent personality types. And then there are those who see characters as archetypes …Continue reading →

The Meaning of the Story Mind

Excerpt from The Dramatica Theory: So far in our journey we have explored the underlying concepts of the Story Mind, the elements that make it up, the forces that drive it, and the perspectives through which we can connect to … Continue reading →

Story Perspectives

Another excerpt from the new book I am writing on the Dramatica Theory: It should be noted that there is a big difference between reading a map and actually traveling the road in person.  While both have value, a map … Continue reading →

Structure and Dynamics

When we pull away the curtain of storytelling we finally get a good look at the dramatic mechanism behind it.  And one of the first things we notice is that it actually has two parts: dramatic components (such as the … Continue reading →

Problem, Symptom, and Critical Flaw

A writer recently sent these questions.  First, their letter, then my response: Kris: I’ve been following Dramatica for almost a year now and when you think you’ve got everything sorted out, something comes along to make you question what you …Continue reading →

The Dramatica Chart

The Dramatica Theory A Conversation on Story Structure by Melanie Anne Phillips 1.4 The Dramatica Chart As a part of that book, we developed the Dramatica Chart of Story Elements which is not unlike the Periodic Table of Elements in … Continue reading →

Ideas vs. Theories

One of my pet peeves and personal frustrations is how great ideas – truly revolutionary paradigm shifts – are often lost in the bundled clothing of a larger concept, hypothesis or theory. A case in point:  In the Dramatica theory … Continue reading →

Watson and Dramatica: Building an Artificial Mind

Watson and Dramatica: Building an Artificial Mind By Melanie Anne Phillips Some twenty years ago, upon realizing that the structure of stories was actually a model of the mind itself, Chris and I began to wonder if that model could serve as … Continue reading→

A Story is an Argument

The Dramatica Theory A Conversation on Story Structure by Melanie Anne Phillips 1.3   A Story is an Argument To recap, a tale is a simple linear path that the author promotes as being either a good or bad one, depending on … Continue reading →

A Tale is a Statement

The Dramatica Theory A Conversation on Story Structure by Melanie Anne Phillips 1.2   A Tale is a Statement The Story Mind concept is interesting, but how would such a thing have come to be?  After all, there was certainly never … Continue reading →

 

Introducing the Story Mind

The Dramatica Theory A Conversation on Story Structure by Melanie Anne Phillips 1.1 Introducing the Story Mind Every story has a mind of its own, as if it were a person.  Like each of us, this Story Mind has a … Continue reading →

The Dramatica Theory – Prologue

The Dramatica Theory By Melanie Anne Phillips  Part One  The Story Mind Prologue When I wrote the first edition of “Dramatica: A New Theory of Story” in 1991, it was the intent of Chris Huntley and myself to introduce our … Continue reading →

Dramatica & Non-linear Game Theory

In regard to non-linear video game story structuring, in fact, that is where Dramatica excels in ways no other system has been able to achieve.  To illustrate how, we need to take a few steps back and then work our … Continue reading →

Dramatica vs. McKee

Dramatica vs. McKee Two Approaches to Creativity A client recently wrote to me asking how followers of Robert McKee view Dramatica.  Here is my reply: Usually, McKee students see his method and Dramatica as two sides of the same coin … Continue reading→

The Big Bang Theory – A “Penny” for Your Thoughts

This issue, I take issue with The Big Bang Theory – that wonderous, splenderous, eclectic, erudite series from Chuck Lorre – that wonderous, splenderous, eclectic, erudtie writer, producer, director & composer.  Did I miss anything?  Did he? Well, he hasn’t … Continue reading →

Relationship of Story Driver to Journeys

Recently, a writer asked about the relationship of the Story Driver to the three Journeys in every throughline.  Here’s my response: The Story Driver is one of the eight dynamic questions (the eight “essential” questions) that Dramatica asks, including Main …Continue reading →

Write Your Novel Step By Step – Part 5

Write Your Novel Step by Step by Melanie Anne Phillips creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica Step 5: Creating Characters from Plot In Step 4, I outlined some great techniques for creating characters from scratch.  But If you already have a story …Continue reading →

Write Your Novel Step by Step (Step 2)

Step 2: How to Come Up with Ideas   Raw creativity is all about coming up with ideas from scratch – in other words, making something from nothing.  But when ideas won’t come, we are suffering from the all-too-familiar “writer’s … Continue reading →

Sequences, Variations, and Acts

A Dramatica user just asked: I have reached a small roadblock in reference to SEQUENCE, in terms of a division of ACT and organization of SCENE. The term is not covered in your Dramaticapedia pages nor in your theory book … Continue reading →

Write a Novel or Screenplay Step by Step

Let’s not kid ourselves.  It’s not really possible to write a novel (or screenplay) step by step because that’s not how the creative mind works.  Rather, we come to a story with a whole bag of bits and pieces of … Continue reading →

How to Use Dramatica & StoryWeaver Together

A writer who has both Dramatica and StoryWeaver Story Development Software recently asked me what was the best way to use them together.  Specifically, how could he take the information he got for one of the programs and apply it … Continue reading →

Application of Dramatica Theory and Technology to Analysis of Multi-Source Intelligence Data & Prediction of Target Group Activities

Application of Dramatica Theory and Technology to Analysis of Multi-Source Intelligence Data & Prediction of Target Group Activities By Melanie Anne Phillips Based on theories developed by Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley Introduction to Dramatica Theory and Applications The … Continue reading →

Dramatica Theory Application on World Problems

By Melanie Anne Phillips Based on theories developed by Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley Introduction to Dramatica Theory and Applications The Dramatica Theory of Story is a model of the mind’s problem solving processes which has been successfully employed … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: “Prediction”

Prediction explores the effort to learn the course of one’s destiny. Destiny is the path to a particular fate, or through a series of fates. Fates are experiences or conditions one must encounter along the way as one’s destiny directs … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Fate

The distinction between Fate and destiny is an important one. Destiny is the direction one’s life must take, Fate is any given moment along that direction. So whereas one can have many Fates, one can only have one destiny. Fate … Continue reading →

Character Interests (Likes and Dislikes)

“Snakes… Why did it have to be snakes….???” What a character likes and dislikes takes the curse of its larger than life stature. Whether you are writing a novel, play, screenplay, or teleplay, your characters loom in the hearts and … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: The Conscious

When one has all the facts, knows all the impact – both positive and negative; when one is fully aware of detrimental consequences and still decides on the poor course of action, there is something wrong with the way one … Continue reading →

Zen of Story Structure: The Subconscious

The Subconscious describes the essential feelings that form the foundation of character. These feelings are so basic that a character is often not aware of what they truly are. When The Subconscious is involved, a character is moved right to … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: The Preconscious

Built into the mind is an instinctual base of reactions and attitudes that cannot be altered but merely compensated for. When a story’s problem revolves around the unsuitability of someone’s essential nature to a given situation or environment, the central … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Memory

The Past is an objective look at what has happened. In contrast, Memory is a subjective look at what has happened. Therefore, Memory of the same events varies among individuals creating many different and possibly conflicting recollections. Often one’s current … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Conceiving

Conceiving is the process of arriving at an idea. For example, If there were no artificial light in the world, one might conceive the need for some form of electric torch. That would be conceiving. But the design of an … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Becoming

Becoming means achieving an identity with something. This is different from “Being” which merely requires posing as something. To Become, one must do more than just pretend to be by mimicking all the traits of what one wants to become. … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Being

“Being” is an elusive concept, subject to inconsistent common usage. For purposes of story, Being is meant to describe the condition of existing in a certain manner. Whomever or whatever is “Being” a particular way is not truly of that … Continue reading →

Zen of Writing: Conceptualizing

Conceptualizing means coming up with a practical implementation of an idea. It is not enough to simply have the idea. To conceptualize, one must develop an actual mental model of how such an idea might be made manifest. In other … Continue reading →

Writing with the Story Mind (eBook)

Here’s the first 27 pages of a book in process that I’m writing about the Story Mind concept and how to apply it in your writing. Just thought I’d share it since it may be years before I get around … Continue reading →

Introduction to the Story Mind

Syllabus from one of my seminars: Introduction To The Story Mind Excerpted from “Writing with The Story Mind” by Melanie Anne Phillips What if your story had a mind of it’s own, as if it were a character unto itself … Continue reading →

Is Story Structure a Myth?

A whole flock of Story Gurus (myself included) will tell you that stories have structure. Therefore, if you learn that structure you’ll improve your stories. Ostensibly, this will lead to fame, riches, a keen sense of accomplishment, and the unparalleled … Continue reading →

Do You Write Like An Actor or a Director?

Here are two ways to approach the craft of writing. The first is to step into the role of each character and write it very personally, as if you were an actor portraying a part. The second is to consider … Continue reading →

A Talk On Dramatica

Here’s the transcript of a talk on Dramatica I gave in 1997 – another archival discovery on some old back-ups of a long-ago computer that no longer exists… LAAC Conference Room Transcript A Meeting with Melanie Anne Phillips February 23, … Continue reading→

Media & The Individual

I was going through some old back-ups of my computer from many years ago and came across this lecture I had prepared for a meeting of psychiatrists involved in the psychological aspects of art and therapy. Alas, after being invited … Continue reading →

Elements of Structure – Art of Storytelling

The Dramatica Theory Book begins: “Part of what makes a story great is its underlying dramatic structure and part is the manner in which that structure is related to an audience, often called “storytelling”. Therefore, this book is divided into … Continue reading →

How to Structure Your Story’s Theme

Your thematic message (moral of the story) has two sides: the Issue and the Counterpoint. The Issue is the human quality under examination in your story (such as greed) and the Counterpoint is the opposite trait (such as Generosity), presented …Continue reading →

Unfolding Your Thematic Topic

The thematic topic is the subject matter of your story, such as “death,” or “man’s inhumanity to man.” No matter what topic you will be exploring, it will contain large issues, small issues, and everything in between. In Act One, … Continue reading →

Characters in the Middle of Act Three

In baseball, they call it the “seventh inning stretch.” In stories, it is called the middle of act 3. Up to this point, your characters and your reader/audience have been on a roller coaster that’s been going higher and higher, … Continue reading →

Introducing Characters in Act One

Some stories introduce characters as people and then let the reader/audience discover their roles and relationships afterward. This tends to help an audience identify with the characters. Other stories put roles first, so that we know about the person by … Continue reading →

Character Dismissals

Over the course of the story, your reader/audience has come to know your characters and to feel for them. The story doesn’t end when your characters and their relationships reach a climax. Rather, the reader/audience will want to know the … Continue reading →

Rising Tension in Character Relationships

Character relationships should come under strain over the course of your novel or screenplay so that tension in the relationship rises. To accomplish this, you need to create dramatic moments in which outside pressures put each relationship in an increasing … Continue reading →

Characters’ Changing Emotional Relationships

Perhaps the most complex relationships among characters are the emotional ones because they can grow to any degree in any direction AND because both characters don’t have to feel the same way about each other! For example, how many stories … Continue reading →

Introducing Characters: First Impressions

When your reader/audience first meets your characters in a story, it has the same effects as when you are introduced to someone in real life. First impressions have a tremendous impact that you can use either to establish or mislead … Continue reading →

Your Plot, Step by Step

Here are some general guidelines to help you structure your story’s plot, step by step. Act One Beginning The beginning of act one is the teaser. It may or may not have anything to do with the actual plot of … Continue reading →

What Happens in Acts One, Two and Three?

ACT ONE Act one is about the Set Up. It establishes the way things are when the problem begins. It introduces the problem, establishes the goal and its requirements, as well as the consequences if the goal is not achieved. … Continue reading →

Character Relationships Baselines

Relationships begin with a “baseline” and then evolve. You will need to establish how your characters feel about one another at the beginning of your story. Later, in as things unfold, you’ll describe the growth of these emotional relationships over … Continue reading →

Keep Your Protagonist Human

Characters have dramatic functions, but the reader or audience needs to identify with them as real people as well. A necessary but difficult task is to intertwine the personal and structural aspects of each character so that they blend seamlessly … Continue reading→

The Core of Your Protagonist

The Protagonist is one of the most misunderstood characters in a story’s structure. When creating your Protagonist, don’t let him or her get bogged down with all kinds of additional dramatic jobs that may not be necessary for your particular … Continue reading →

Success or Failure?

A story without a clear indication of success or failure is a failure with your readers or audience. You need to work out exactly how the audience will know the goal is achieved or not. This might seem obvious in … Continue reading →

Creating Extra Tension with Consequences

A goal is what the characters chase, but what chases the characters? The consequence doubles the dramatic tension in a story by providing a negative result if the goal is not achieved. Consequences may be emotional or logistic, but the … Continue reading →

Don’t Forget the Requirements!

  The achievement or failure to achieve the goal is an important but short moment at the end of the story. So how is interest maintained over the course of the story? By the progress of the quest toward the … Continue reading →

Quick Tip: Characters’ Personal Goals

Personal Goals are the motivating reasons your characters care about and/or participate in the effort to achieve or prevent the overall goal. In other words, they see the main story goal as a means to an end, not as an … Continue reading →

Quick Tip: The Collective Goal

Some novice writers become so wrapped up in interesting events and bits of action that they forget to have a central unifying goal that gives purpose to all the other events that take place. This creates a plot without a … Continue reading →

Revealing Your Goal

Sometimes the goal is spelled out right at the beginning, such as a meeting in which a General tells a special strike unit that a senator’s daughter has been kidnapped by terrorists and they must rescue her. Other times, the … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 12)

Theme Prologue   Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfinished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 11)

Character Justification Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfinished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never …Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 10)

SUBJECTIVE CHARACTERS Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfinished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 9)

Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never fully developed, …Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 8)

Purpose Archetypes Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never fully …Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 7)

Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never fully developed, was …Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 6)

Methodology Archetypes  Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never fully … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 5)

Dynamic Pairs and Quads Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material …Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 4)

  Problems & Dilemmas Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 3)

  A STORY MIND Prologue Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 2)

 How Stories Came to Be Prologue    Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, … Continue reading →

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 1)

Before the final version of “Dramatica – a New Theory of Story” there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”. As a result, this material was never fully developed, was …Continue reading →

You Got Me! (Both of Us!)

Arthur says: I’m a great Dramatica fan so I’m a bit reluctant to take up Melanie’s challenge to refute the Dramatica Theory. My question was virtually identical to Armando’s but he put it better. Theory without practical application is not … Continue reading →

What’s the Worst Part of Writing for You, Personally?

The time I hate most as a writer is when I get a good idea that just can’t wait. It is like I get tied to Moby Dick and must let the damned thing pull me all over “creation” until …Continue reading →

Sine, Cosine & Dramatica

Jeff writes: My little finger keeps telling me that sine, cosine, tangent, and cotangent has something to do with the conceptualization of the story mind at some level—possibly explaining the crossovers between Spacial and Temporal, or quad relationships. Melanie? Chris? … Continue reading →

Using Dramatica for Short Stories

 A Writer Asks Hi, I bought Dramatica in January and have been having a great deal of fun with it. I’m probably a bit dangerous, give me hammer and everything becomes a nail, etc. Do you talk to Dramatica users? … Continue reading →

Why Dramatica Keeps Harping on Problem Solving

  A Writer Asks… Problem Solving, Problem Solving……..and..more……..problem solving. I know how if fits into Dramatica………. but I also know of a very well intelligent, published author who teaches individuals and organizations how to create what they want and the … Continue reading →

The Preconscious

Here’s my response to comments from a writer (Tom) regarding the nature of Dramatica story element called the Preconscious. Tom’soriginal comments are quoted in the body of the article as appropriate. I knew going into this that explaining the math … Continue reading →

Dramatica’s Terminology is Too Obscure!

  A Writer Comments… Dramatica’s terminology is too obscure and inaccessible to most writers. Since the differences between such terms as “Conceiving” and “Conceptualizing”, “Preconscious” and “Subconscious”, or “Mind” and “Psychology” is paper thin anyway, can’t you come up with … Continue reading →

Dramatica’s New Language of Story

As co-creator of the Dramatica theory, I’d like to clarify a few things about Dramatica’s “new language” of story. First of all, Dramatica asks you questions like: “By the end of your story, has your Main Character CHANGED or REMAINED … Continue reading →

Z Patterns in the Dramatica Structure

In a recent message I described how the Dramatica structure gets “twisted up” like a Rubik’s cube to throw the Variations out of alignment in a way that represents how a human mind develops a warped view of reality based … Continue reading →

How Scenes Relate to Dramatica’s Story Elements

  How does the construction of scenes relate to Dramatica’s story elements? The concept is that a complete “scene” in structural terms is a “complete dramatic movement.” In other words, there must be a Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome (or … Continue reading →

Dramatica Structure: Elements & Variations

Here’s some info on the arrangements of Elements and Variations. The name, “Elements” gives a clue that it is referring to the basic “particles” of the drama. Therefore, Elements can be said to be an appreciation of a story when … Continue reading →

The Dramatica Structure: Elements

Most of the Dramatica Tips of the Week are very practical and immediately useful. But every once in a while, someone asks a “theory-oriented” question that requires a completely impractical answer. Today someone wondered: Why do the Elements at the …Continue reading →

The Quad: Dramatica’s Steering Wheel?

  A Writer comments: So as I see it, Dynamic Diagonal characteristics conflict with one another, Companion Horizontal characteristics amplify one another, and Dependent Vertical characteristics contrast one another My Reply:Actually, those terms are not quite accurate. When I developed … Continue reading →

Robert McKee

A writer emailed me with the following comments: Your ideas make so much more sense than certain other writing teachers. For example, McKee.  I don’t see any logic to many of his statements.  He says things such as ‘imagine the … Continue reading →

What is Story Structure?

Dramatica theory is not just a bunch of words about writing. It is also a very specific model of the elements that make up all stories and the manner in which they can be arranged to create each unique story. … Continue reading →

Archetypes in Dramatica Pro

Recently this question came my way: So my question is how come this (from the Author’s perspective) is the first set wherein the Archetypes don’t fit in with the Dramatica rules. Specifically I am referring to the Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian, … Continue reading →

Creativity vs. Dramatica

PLEASE keep in mind the difference between Dramatica theory and the process of writing!!! If nothing else, NOTE THAT! The Dramatica theory says that “every complete story” is an analogy to a single human mind trying to deal with an … Continue reading →

Is Dramatica Software Binary?

The Dramatica theory book talks about Binary and Analog aspects of story. Binary means “two” and Analog means “unsegmented,” rather like a spectrum. Although there are some places in the Dramatica software that deal with apparent binaries, there are none …Continue reading →

Z Patterns and the Theme Browser

A word on the difference between the arrangement of Variations in the Theme Browser and that in the Plot Sequence Report: The Theme Browser is nothing more than the “neutral” structural chart stuck into the software. In contrast, the Plot … Continue reading →

What Determines Plot Progression Sequences?

Rich asks: The one thing that I am having trouble understanding is the plot rotations. Why does choosing the rotation in one Domain sometimes chose them in others and sometimes not? And what relation does one rotation have to the … Continue reading →

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, … Continue reading →

How To Tell If Your Story’s Structure is Right

  A Writer Asks… My question is: how do you know when you’ve got your story’s structure (storyform) right? I Reply… There is no right or wrong storyform. The Dramatica software makes sure that every storyform is a dramatically valid … Continue reading →

What Does Dramatica Mean by the Word “Illustrate”

  A Writer Asks… I have just recently purchased Dramatica Pro and have a question I hope you can answer…. *Define your use of the word ILLUSTRATE in the various stages of story encoding I Reply… “Illustrate” means to come … Continue reading →

The Dangers of Micromanaging Your Story

  A Dramatica user wrote: I love the theory. It works. I want it to help me figure out the ending to my pot-boiler. To do that, I have to figure out more about the relationships between fatal flaw, the … Continue reading →

Does Dramatica Limit Your Story

Sometimes authors run into problems with Dramatica not because of what the software is actually doing, but because of what they THINK it is doing! Used properly, the software can offer a myriad of create opportunities. But used improperly, it … Continue reading →

Do Dramatica’s Specific Questions Limit Story Richness?

  A Writer Asks… Dramatica requires authors to make specific decisions about their story. In contrast, most great artists prefer to keep things ambiguous so that the audience is left with a richer experience. Doesn’t this indicate a limitation of … Continue reading→

Can You Skip Questions in Dramatica?

  A Writer Asks… Can you skip over some of the story encoding questions to answer one’s further down the list that you know or at least understand? Also, do you have to answer all the story encoding questions, or … Continue reading →

Where to Start: Story Engine, Theme Browser or Query System?

Many people are confused about where to go in the Dramatica software to create a story. There are a number of choices from the Main Desktop, but which one should be used FIRST? Actually, it’s just a matter of personal … Continue reading →

What is the Best Way for a New User to Approach Dramatica?

First and foremost, Dramatica is a theory of story. The software serves to implement aspects of the theory in a handy and practical manner. Personally, I feel that a writer using Dramatica solely to create a blueprint for a story … Continue reading →

About Dramatica’s Learning Curve….

  A Writer Asks… I’m finishing up a review of Dramatica Pro and had a quick question I was hoping you could answer for me: What words of wisdom would you have for writers who want to use Dramatica Pro, … Continue reading →

Dramatica for Structural vs. Intuitive Writers

There are structuralist writers and intuitive writers. The Dramatica software can be used by both, but in a completely different way. The software almost insists that you storyform first, then encode. This is fine for a structuralist who wants to … Continue reading →

The Creative Way to Use Dramatica

Many people get discouraged when they first try to create a story structure in Dramatica. This is because the software directs you to work out your structure first, THEN develop it into a real story. But there is a MUCH … Continue reading →

A New Approach to Genre

 A Writer Asks: Can you say a few words about how Dramatica deals with Genre? I Reply… To begin with, Dramatica divides the substance of “Story” into two parst: Story Structure, and Story Telling. When you read a story or … Continue reading →

“Premise” Leads to Lack of Conflict

Many authors have been taught that a meaningful story must have a premise in the form of “Some human quality leads (or does not lead) to a particular inevitable conclusion.” Such a premise might be “Greed (human quality) leads to … Continue reading →

Theme: An Emotional Argument

It is one thing to tell your audience, “Greed leads to self-destruction.” It is another thing to prove it! Using a premise as the basis for your theme provides you with clear idea of what you hope to say, but … Continue reading →

Dramatica’s Plot Sequence Report – Deep Theory

  A Writer Asks: 1) In the plot sequence report, the variations by which the signposts are explored are shifted to a different domain. Is the same true for the variations (theme/sequences) explored in the journeys? The quick answer is: … Continue reading →

Using Dramatica’s Plot Sequence Report

  A Dramatica User Asks… In my Storyform reports in Dramatica Pro, ACT I in the Objective Storyline says: “The Past is explored in terms of Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment, and Responsibility.” So, here’s the question. The Past is a Universe …Continue reading →

“Illegal” Plot Progressions

A Dramatica user recently noticed that certain progressions of the Signposts and Journeys that define a Dramatica plot were “illegal.” That is to say, they never came up, no matter what the storyform structure that was created. Here is the … Continue reading→

A Story’s Limit

  A Writer asks… What changes within the Story’s structure when you switch the Limit from Optionlock – to Timelock or vice versa? My reply… The story’s Limit (Optionlock or Timelock) determines whether your story will draw to a climax … Continue reading →

Dramatica Software: Assigning Character Elements

 This is in response to a Dramatica user who wondered whether he needed to assign all 64 character elements in the “Build Characters” area in Dramatica Pro software to his characters or if the story might not suffer if he … Continue reading →

How Male and Female Characters Think

 A Writer Comments… Dear Melanie – I greatly enjoyed the Advanced Dramatica class last night. It is a testament to the power of your ideas that in my sleep-deprived state I could sit still for three hours and be quite … Continue reading →

Do-ers & Be-ers

A Writer Asks… Can a “do-er” change to a “be-er” over the course of the story (and vice versa). Also, I’m having a problem changing one character from be-er to do-er at my particular stage of story encoding (seems I’m … Continue reading →

Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Next Tuesday

The concept of “Mental Sex” is one of my personal favorite parts of the Dramatica Theory. In fact, Chris and I didn’t go looking for it but it came out and bit us during the theory development. Eventually, Mental Sex … Continue reading →

Is “Objective Character” the Same As “Obstacle Character” ?

A Writer Asks… I have a handle on most Dramatica terms but I’m having troubles conceptualizing Objective Character. Is Objective Character the same as Obstacle character? I Reply… No, they are quite different. 1. Objective Characters have structural roles and … Continue reading →

Mental Sex: The Truth About Cats & Dogs

 A Writer Comments… Hi Melanie— Appreciate the time you took clarifying Male & Female perceptions of time and space. Now, if you have time for another question… What is the difference between a female mental sex way of viewing the … Continue reading →

The Love Interest

 A Writer Asks… Is the Emotion Archetype most often the Love Interest and also the Obstacle Character in a story? My Reply… That is perhaps the current convention in action pictures, but has not been the case in the past. … Continue reading →

Conflict Can Limit Your Characters

Many books on writing will tell you that a good story requires character conflict. In fact, this is far too limiting. Just as with real people, character can relate in ways other than by coming into conflict which are just … Continue reading →

Heroes & Villains

If you are writing with only Heroes and Villains, you are limiting yourself. A Hero is a Main Character who is also a Protagonist. A Villain is an Obstacle Character who is also an Antagonist. What’s the difference between a … Continue reading →

Dramatica: Theory of Story or Software Product?

Recently, a Dramatica user commented that Dramatica is an elegant theory, but it is also a product. As a product, it needs to be easy to use, but is bogged down partly by un-needed complexities of the theory and partly … Continue reading →

What is Dramatica?

Dramatica is a new theory describing how stories work. It is also the name of a line of software products that help authors use the theory to design flawless dramatic structures for their stories. The more you know about the … Continue reading →

Structure vs. Passion

  No one reads a book or goes to a movie to enjoy a good structure. No author writes because he is driven to create a sound structure. Audiences and authors come to opposite sides of a story because of … Continue reading →

Coming Apart at the Themes

Even when a story has memorable characters, a riveting plot and a fully developed genre, it may still be coming apart at the themes. Theme is perhaps the most powerful, yet least understood element of story structure. It is powerful … Continue reading →

Both Sides of the Thematic Argument

Every powerful theme pits a “Message Issue” against a “Counterpoint”, such as “Greed vs. Generosity”, or “Holding On To Hope” vs. “Abandoning Hope”. The Message Issue and Counterpoint define the thematic argument of your story. They play both sides of …Continue reading →

Avoiding the Genre Trap

A common misconception sees genre as a fixed list of dramatic requirements or a rigid structural template from which there can be no deviation. Writers laboring under these restrictions often find themselves boxed-in creatively. They become snared in the Genre … Continue reading →

Genre – Act by Act

Many writers have a misconception that genre is something you “write in” – like a box. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Genre is the overall mood of a story, created through structural and storytelling elements and approaches. This … Continue reading →

Genre: Revealing Your Story’s Personality

Your story’s genre is its overall personality. As with the people that you meet, first impressions are very important. In act one, you introduce your story to your reader/audience. The selection of elements you choose to initially employ will set …Continue reading →

Revealing Your Goal

While the structural nature of a story’s goal is crucial to developing a plot that makes sense, the storytelling manner in which the goal is reveals can determine whether a plot seems clever or pedestrian. In this tip, we’ll explore … Continue reading →

Four Essential Plot Points

1. Goal We are all familiar with the need for a central unifying goal to drive the plot forward. This goal can be a shared objective, such as the desire to rob a casino in Ocean’s 11, or it can … Continue reading →

 

Subplots

There are two types of subplots: Those that run parallel and don’t really affect each other dramatically, and those that are dramatically hinged together. An example of parallel subplots can be found in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” in which … Continue reading →

The Collective Goal

Some writers become so wrapped up in interesting events and bits of action that they forget to have a central unifying goal that gives purpose to all the other events that take place. This creates a plot without a core. … Continue reading →

Plot vs. Exposition

A common misconception is that Plot is the order of events in a story. In fact, the order in which events are unfolded for the reader or audience can be quite different from the order in which they happen to … Continue reading →

Yes, But Is It A Plot?

Recently, a writer presented me with the following comparison: Dear Melanie: Please help me by telling me if the following A & B: 1. Are they each plots? 2. Is there a difference between the plots? 3. Is there a … Continue reading →

Character Arc 101

Does your Main Character Change or Remain Steadfast? A lot of writers think a character must Change in order to grow. This is simply not true. Characters can also grow in their Resolve. In that case, they Remain Steadfast as … Continue reading →

Dramaticapedia – The Number 64

It has been suggested that the fact there are 64 dramatic Elements in the Dramatica Theory of Story is mighty suspicious.  After all, that’s a real convenient number if you are going to be creating a software program, such as … Continue reading →

The Hero Breaks Down

Groucho Marx once said, “You’re headed for a nervous breakdown. Why don’t you pull yourself to pieces?” That, in fact, is what we’re going to do to our hero. Now many writers focus on a Hero and a Villain as … Continue reading →

Characters – The Attributes of Age

Introduction Writers tend to create characters that are more or less the same age as themselves. On the one hand, this follows the old adage that one should write about what one knows. But in real life, we encounter people … Continue reading →

Creating Characters from Plot

  Introduction If you already have a story idea, it is a simple matter to create a whole cast of characters that will grow out of your plot. In this lesson we’re going to lay out a method of developing … Continue reading →

Creating Characters from Scratch

  Where Do Characters Come From? When we speak of characters from a structural standpoint, there are very specific guidelines that determine what is a character and what is not. But when we think of characters in every day life, … Continue reading →

Protagonist & Antagonist

Protagonist drives the plot forward. Antagonist tries to stop him. The Protagonist is the Prime Mover of the effort to achieve the Story’s Goal. The Antagonist is the Chief Obstacle to that effort. In a sense, Protagonist is the irresistible … Continue reading →

Fire Your Protagonist

Many authors start with a Protagonist and then build a cast of characters around him or her. But as a story develops, it may turn out that one of the other characters becomes more suited for that role. Sticking with … Continue reading →

The Main Character

Of all four attributes of the hero, his role as the Main Character is perhaps the most intriguing. As described in an earlier writing tip, the Main Character represents the audience position in the story, and is the character with … Continue reading →

The Villain

A villain is the dramatic antithesis of a hero, and therefore has the following four attributes: He is the Antagonist He is the Influence Character He is second in prominence to the Central Character He is a Bad Guy By … Continue reading →

The Narrative Archetype

A writer recently asked: Hi Melanie!R.T. I had a question. Have you ever heard of the term Narrative Archetype? What does it mean to you in theory and to all of us who use your products “Dramatica” and last but … Continue reading →

The Narrative Archetype

A writer recently asked: Hi Melanie!R.T. I had a question. Have you ever heard of the term Narrative Archetype? What does it mean to you in theory and to all of us who use your products “Dramatica” and last but … Continue reading →

Creating Characters: “My Hero!”

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the hero’s journey.” Much has been written about the steps in this journey and the nature of the hero himself. What is usually assumed is that the “hero” is an elemental character who possesses certain … Continue reading →

Character Development Tricks!

As trite as it might seem, ask yourself “What would a story be without characters?” The answer can help you get a grip on exactly what characters really do in a story, and therefore how to build them effectively. Although … Continue reading →

Antagonist vs. Obstacle Character

 Recently a writer asked: As I strive to understand the main character/obstacle character dynamics, I am left wondering where does the antagonist fit into this new theory of story? I believe I understand what you are getting at with the … Continue reading →

“Things” as Characters

 A writer asks: “My favorite creative writing book is ‘Setting’ by Jack Bickham. Use of setting as primary with characters, plot, theme, mood, etc derived from it and interacting with it seems of particular value in science fiction. Where would … Continue reading →

Quick Tip: The Big Picture

Although it is important to work on the particulars of your story you can lose track of the big picture in doing so exclusively. Step back from time to time to take in your story as a whole.  See it … Continue reading →

Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex

Perhaps the most fundamental error made by authors, whether novice or experienced, is that all their characters, male and female, tend to reflect the gender of the author. This is hardly surprising, since recent research finally proves that men and … Continue reading→

Psychoanalyze Your Story

  Does your story suffer from “Multiple Personality Disorder”? In psychology, Multiple Personality Disorder describes a person who has more than one complete personality. Typically, only one of those personalities will be active at any given time. This is because … Continue reading →

Love Interests and the Dramatic Triangle

A lot of books about writing describe the importance of a “Love Interest.” Other books see a Love Interest as unnecessary and cliché. What does Dramatica Say? As with most dramatic concepts, Dramatica pulls away the storytelling to take a … Continue reading →

Writing from a Character’s Point of View

Perhaps the best way to instill real feelings in a character is to stand in his or her shoes and write from the character’s point of view. Unfortunately, this method also holds the greatest danger of undermining the meaning of … Continue reading →

Graphic Novel Themes & Dramatica

A writer asks: Hello.  I’ve been using Dramatica Pro for about a year now.  I’m developing a script for a graphic novel. (It may in fact be a series of three)  I used [Dramatica’s] query engine in the early stages … Continue reading →

The 8 Archetypal Characters

There are 8 essential archetypal characters, each of which represents a different aspect of our own minds. The Protagonist portrays our initiative, Antagonist our reticence to change.  Reason is our intellect, Emotion our passion.  Skeptic is our self-doubt, Sidekick our … Continue reading →

Novel Writing Tips: Don’t Hold Back

Unlike screenplays, there are no budget constraints in a book. You can write, “The entire solar system exploded, planet at a time,” as easily as you can write, “a leaf fell from the tree.” Let you imagination run wild. You … Continue reading →

Novel Writing Tips: Keep A Log

Keep a daily log of creative notions and tid bits. One of the biggest differences between a pedestrian novel and a riveting one are the clever little quips, concepts, snippets of dialog, and fresh metaphors. But coming up with this … Continue reading →

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Novel Writing Tips: Get Into Your Characters’ Heads

One of the most powerful opportunities of the novel format is the ability to describe what a character is thinking. In movies or stage plays (with exceptions) you must show what the character is thinking through action and/or dialog. But … Continue reading →

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Novel Writing Tips: Novels Aren’t Stories

 A novel can be extremely free form. Some are simply narratives about a fictional experience. Others are a collection of several stories that may or may not be intertwined. Jerzy N. Kosinski (the author of “Being There,” wrote another novel … Continue reading→

A Novelist’s Bag of Tricks

  Novels Aren’t Stories A novel can be extremely free form. Some are simply narratives about a fictional experience. Others are a collection of several stories that may or may not be intertwined. Jerzy N. Kosinski (the author of “Being … Continue reading →

A Screenwriter’s Bag of Tricks

Most of our writing tips focus on the creation of a sound story, regardless of the medium in which you are working. But since the writing of screenplays has its own unique restrictions, requirements, and opportunities, we thought it might … Continue reading →

Blowing the Story Bubble

Remember blowing bubbles with that solution in the little bottles and the plastic wand? The craft of writing is a bit like blowing bubbles (life is like a box of chocolates!) This holds true not only for your dramatic approach, … Continue reading →

Screenwriting 101

Screenplays are blueprints for movies. As such, they are not art, but instructions for creating art. Therefore, there are two things every great screenplay must have: A good story, and a clear and understandable description of how it should be … Continue reading→

Origins of Story Structure

Imagine the very first storytellers. Actually, what they told would certainly not be considered a story by today’s standards. Rather, they probably began with simple communications with but a single meaning at a time. Even animals recognize a cry of …Continue reading →

The Dramatica Theory of Story Structure

  Introduction Everything you are about to read is wrong. Why is it wrong? Partly due to my own preconceptions, and partly due to pure ignorance. Of course, I can’t see my own preconceptions and I know nothing about my … Continue reading →

Slicing and Dicing Stories

A writer asks: On the FAQ’s of the dramatica website, it explains short stories as (condensed): Short stories typically do not go to the depth of a full story and epics usually have one “main” story embellished with lots of … Continue reading →

Throughlines (and how to use them!)

Some time ago I described the difference between the two basic forms of story structure with the following phrase: You spin a tale, but you weave a story. The common expression “spinning a yarn” conjures up the image of a … Continue reading →

Writing from the Passionate Self

Who are you, really? Do you even know? Or do you just think you know? At the center of our beings, at the heart of our souls, can be found the truth of our identity: our compassion, our anger, the … Continue reading →

How to Beat Writer’s Block

Ever find yourself in a creative log jam? Try the following technique excerpted from the StoryWeaver story development software to help regain your inspiration: 1. Inspiration Inspiration can come from many sources: a conversation overheard at a coffee shop, a …Continue reading →

Your Story as a Person

Is your story a good enough conversationalist, or does it need to go back to finishing school with another draft before it is ready for prime time? You have days, months, perhaps even years to prepare your story to exude … Continue reading →

Finding Inspiration

We all know that writing is not just about assembling words, but also about assembling ideas. When we actually sit down to write, we may have our ideas all worked out in advance or we may have no idea what … Continue reading →

Finding Your Creative Time

You sit in your favorite writing chair, by the window, on the porch, or in the study. You wear your favorite tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, or your blue jeans, or your “creative shoes.” You look around at … Continue reading →

What’s in Your Story’s Mind?

As with people, your story’s mind has different aspects. These are represented in your Genre, Theme, Plot, and Characters. Genre is the overall personality of the Story Mind. Theme represents its troubled value standards. Plot describes the methods the Story …Continue reading →

Why a “Story Mind” ?

Before asking any writer to invest his or her time in a concept as different as the Story Mind, it is only fair to provide an explanation of why such a thing should exist. To do this, let us look … Continue reading →

Inside the Story Mind

The Story Mind is a way of looking at a story as if all the characters were facets of a larger personality, the mind of the Story itself. To illustrate, imagine that you stepped back from your story far enough … Continue reading →

Tricking the Muse: The Creativity “Two-Step”

The concept behind this method of finding inspiration is quite simple, really: It is easier to come up with many ideas than it is to come up with one idea. Now that may sound counter-intuitive, but consider this… When you … Continue reading →

Story Structure for Passionate Writers

We all know that a story needs a sound structure. But no one reads a book or goes to a movie to enjoy a good structure. And no author writes because he or she is driven to create a great … Continue reading →

The Story Mind

One of the unique concepts that sets Dramatica apart from all other theories is the assertion that every complete story is a model of the mind’s problem solving process. This Story Mind does not work like a computer, performing one … Continue reading →

Be a StoryWeaver – NOT a Story Mechanic!

Too many writers fall into the trap of making Structure their Story God. There’s no denying that structure is important, but paying too much attention to structure can destroy your story. We have all seen movies and read novels that … Continue reading →

How StoryWeaver Came to Be

(Excerpted from the “StoryWeaving Tips” book) When Chris Huntley and I created the Dramatica Theory back in the early 90’s, we originally envisioned it as the end-all of story models – the one single paradigm that explained it all. In … Continue reading →

Dramaticapedia – “Ability”

What’s “Ability” have to do with story structure? If you look in Dramatica’s “Periodic Table of Story Elements” chart (you can download a free PDF of the chart at http://storymind.com/free-downloads/ddomain.pdf ) you’ll find the “ability” in one of the little squares.  … Continue reading →

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