Narrative Dynamics (Part 1)

Excerpted from the book, Narrative Dynamics

by Melanie Anne Phillips

Introduction

When Chris Huntley and I originally developed the Dramatica Theory of Story back in the early 1990s, we opted to implement our model of narrative as a structure, driven by dynamics.

In such a manifestation, the structure takes center stage, and its components are rearranged according to dynamic rules that reflect the unique potentials of any given narrative.

In this book I present a series of articles I’ve developed 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 an alternative, to the existing structural model with which you may be familiar.

As an illustration of the difference between the two, if you think of the structural model as being made of particles, the dynamic model is made of waves.  If the structural model is seen as digital, the dynamic model is analog.  If the structural model describes a neural network, the dynamic model describes the biochemistry, If the structural defines the elements of a story (or psychology) and how they relate, the dynamic model defines how the elements transmute or decay into other elements and how relationships among elements are changing.

In usage, the structural model can tell you, for example, that a main character is driven by logic; the dynamic model can tell you how strongly they are driven and how the intensity of that drive changes over time.  The structural model can predict if a story will end in success or failure; the dynamic model can tell you the degree of success or failure.

In a nutshell, the structural model documents the fixed logic of a story’s structure, the dynamic model charts the ebb and flow of its passions.  Cognitive and Affective, Yin and Yang, Space and Time.  Head and heart.

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