Author Archives: Sheldon

Dramatica Class: Mental Sex

The following is a transcript from an online class in story structure presented by the co-creator of Dramatica, Melanie Anne Phillips signed on as Dramatica:

Dramatica:  Okay, we move on to Mental Sex…

This question is not about the gender of the main Character. And, it is not about their sexual preferences, AND, it is not about masculine or feminine. It is about problem solving techniques,linear, or holistic. More often than not, if you have a male gender, they are male mental sex, and female gender is female mental sex. Sometimes this is not true. Ripley, in the original Alien, was male mental sex. In fact, the part was written for a man,they just changed the names and gender references, but kept the problem solving techniques intact.

That’s why it is so odd when she goes back for the cat! Not that a man wouldn’t go back, but just that they had not given male reasons to, they just assumed she was a woman, so she would go back,but they had created her as male mental sex.

Now, men or women can easily learn to respond in the opposite sex techniques, but underneath it all is a tendency or bias to adopt either spatial or temporal problem solving techniques.

Clarisse Starling in Silence of the Lambs is another male mental sex character, whereas, Tom Wingo, the Nick Nolte character in Prince of Tides, is Female mental sex. Again, most often, go with what you expect.

PGThomas : Wasn’t Ripey saving the cat meant to build horror suspense, regardless of “mental sex”?

Dramatica : But be aware that it will have an influence on the way your main character goes about solving the problem, not the conclusions they come to.

PGThomas : How could they have established that action for Ripley?

Dramatica : Yes, PG, that is the author’s intent, but if the action is out of place to the established character, even though it may build tension, it rings untrue.

Dan Steele : how do linear/holistic relate to spatial/temporal? not clear.

Dramatica : Well, Dan, female mental sex tries to hold it all together, male tries to pull it all together, female tries to “tune-up” the situation with leverage,male determines steps that lead to the desired outcome. And so on, women look at things holistically, because they think with the time side, men look at things in sequence, because they are using the space side to think with.

PG, all they would have needed to do, is to have Ripley have said to Jonesy, the cat, at some earlier time, that no matter what, she would never leave him.

PGThomas : Gotcha

Dramatica : Then, she would have made a commitment, and that is a male contract.

PGThomas : “Commitment” a male contract? Don’t tell my girlfriend that!

Dan Steele : But there are time sequences ie., do a then b then c; and men do that.

Dramatica : Yes, men stand on space to see time, women stand on time to see space.

William S1 : What?

Dramatica : It all goes back to inside the womb in the 12th to14th week of pregnancy…There is a flush of testosterone or estrogen over the brain of the developing fetus. Testosterone boosts serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is an exciter. Estrogen boosts dopamine, the neurotransmitter that inhibits. This does not affect the body, which is controlled by XX and XY chromosomes, but just the foundation upon which the mind is built.

Dan Steele : hmm, going to run into my resistance on these views of male/female intelligences, but not going to make issue.

PGThomas : Does this flush determine the sex of the baby, or vice versa?

Dan Steele : The stand on space to see time thing versus time to see space is too vague for me without clarification, can’t buy it

Dramatica : One sees easily the arrangement of things, and works to figure out how things are going (paths). That’s seeing logic and figuring the emotions. The other sees emotions clearly, which give meaning, but need to work to see what the mechanism is. Again, its only an influence, and training can counteract it, though not eliminate it.

PGThomas : So a male baby could conceivably get an estrogen flush? And vice versa?

Dramatica : Yes, PG, that is true.

Dan Steele : are you saying that basic difference this theory builds on is that men see objects, logic, order, and women see emotion, reasons?

Dramatica : More precisely, Dan, that is just an aspect of the theory, only one of perhaps 80 questions, and it is not exclusive, it says men see linear logic more clearly, and women see holistic logic more clearly, and they lead to different approaches to problem solving. This is always the controversial question, but we found it in our model and can’t deny it.

Dan Steele : Am still bothered by definition of “holistic logic” and the contrast. Is stereotyping people too much I think. But dropping issue now so we can move along.

William S1 : Relax… for the most part males think in male patterns, and females think in female.

Dramatica : Tell ya what Dan, I’ll email you a whole article I wrote on the subject for our newsletter, that can go into more detail than I can here.

Dan Steele : Sure, helpful.

Dramatica : How about an easy question?

PGThomas : Is it possible to have a character equally male AND female mental sex?

Dramatica : PG, when a character switches between the two, they move from problem solving to justification, And that is, in fact what hides problems from the main character, creates a blind spot, and winds up the engine of potential. Its not a sex issue at that point, just like saying things are rotten now, but the reward is worth it, or I don’t care if this leads anywhere, I’m having fun.

William S1 : Don’t we all think in some parts male and female?

Dan Steele : Ah – men tackle problems head-on, women work around them. Confrontational versus nurturing.

Dramatica : There are four levels of the mind, and this only affects one of them. The other three questions about the Main Character, create dynamics for the other three levels. What’s nice is, once you answer enough questions to determine the shape of the message your working toward, Dramatica, the software, starts to see that pattern, and limit out choices that would no longer be consistent with the direction you have chosen. Eventually, it fills in the rest of the blanks, and tells you things about your story you didn’t tell it, and the things “feel” right! This could be formula,but you can start with any question and take any path through them, so there is no bias built into the software at all.

William S1 : What impact does Dramatica have on the intuitive creative process?

Dramatica : That depends on the particular author, Willam, first of all, some writers like to use it right off the bat, to figure out their dramatics so they know where they are going. But others like to write a draft first, then go to Dramatica to look for leaks and inconsistencies. And for the “chain of consciousness” writer, since they are not consciously trying to convey any overall meaning,but are just exploring a path and leaving a trail, then Dramatica has no value to them at all.

Stories with “Be-er” Main Characters

STORIES that have Approach of Be-er:

A Doll’s House: As a child in her father’s home, and as a wife in her husband’s home, Nora does everything in her power to adapt herself to her environment-even to the detriment of her self-esteem and peace of mind:

“It’s perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with Papa he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you…I was simply transferred from Papa’s hands to yours. You arranged everything according to your taste, and so I got the same tastes as you-or else I pretended to.” (Ibsen, 1879, p. 195)

The Age of Innocence: Newland prefers to internalize his problems instead of resolving them externally. Rather than act to change May into a more enlightened wife, Newland internally acknowledges that she’ll never be an intellectual partner, and resigns himself to living within a boring marriage.

NARRATOR: Archer had gradually reverted to his old inherited ideas about marriage. It was less trouble to conform with tradition. There was no use trying to emancipate a wife who hadn’t the dimmest notion that she was not free.

Amadeus: Salieri prefers to deal with his world indirectly, internally. He manipulates his world. He waits years to get the job of First Kappelmeister. He is willing to flatter; to be self-deprecating. Even with Mozart, in his war with God, he prefers to manipulate those around him rather than challenge Mozart directly. When he has the opportunity to sleep with Constanze, he refuses, preferring to adapt to his new sense of his world. This harkens back to his statements that he always wanted to sleep with his pretty students, but because of his bargain with God, he had to be chaste.

Barefoot in the Park: Paul prefers to adapt himself to his environment:

Mother: I worry about you two. You’re so impulsive. You jump into life. Paul is like me. He looks first.

Corie scathingly remarks to Paul:

Corie: Do you know what you are? You’re a watcher. There are Watchers in this world and there are Do-ers. And the Watchers sit around watching the Do-ers do. Well, tonight you watched and I did.

Being There: Chance accepts any situation he finds himself in; he adapts himself to the environment:

“Chance did what he was told” (Kosinski, 1970, p. 7).

Blade Runner: When Deckard’s picked up by Gaff, he goes along rather than fight; Recruited by Bryant to blade run again, he adapts to the system that walks all over “little people”; When questioning Salome, he pretends to be a petty bureaucrat, fighting and killing her only as a last resort.

Bringing Up Baby: In the opening shot, David is sitting on a scaffold, in perfect imitation of Rodan’s famous “Thinker” sculpture. Although he does quite a bit of protesting, David rarely takes direct action to get what he wants. He quietly accepts Alice’s proclamation that they will have no children. He grudgingly goes along with Susan’s story that his name is David Bone and that he recently suffered a nervous breakdown. When Alice leaves, calling him a butterfly, he simply mutters to himself and lets her go.

Candida: As an example of James Morell’s approach as a be-er, when Eugene Marchbanks announces Candida is better off with himself rather than the clergyman, Morell accepts him as a threat instead of dismissing the poet’s youthful foolishness. He then puts the burden of settling the crisis upon Candida, avoiding handling the matter himself.

Casablanca: Rick allows his club to be an open house for a wide variety of patrons, from refugees to Nazis to Vichy French. Whichever way the political wind blows, Rick will bend with it.

The Client: When there are problems, Reggie prefers to internalize them over trying to resolve them externally. When her husband left, taking the kids, she became an alcoholic; to gain Marcus’ trust, she becomes motherly; when she is verbally attacked and accused of being an alcoholic, she swallows her hurt and doesn’t offer an explanation; when Marcus tries to hitchhike from her house, she waits for him inside; etc.

The Crucible: John would prefer to wait out a problem–hoping it will resolve itself–rather than to take immediate action. An example of this is when he first hears of the young girls in town making accusations of witchcraft:

Proctor: Oh, it is a black mischief.

Elizabeth: I think you must go to Salem, John. I think so. You must tell them it is a fraud.

Proctor: Aye, it is, surely.

Elizabeth: Let you go to Ezekiel Cheever–he knows you well. And tell him what she [Abigail] said to you last week in her uncle’s house. She said it had naught to do with witchcraft, did she not?

Proctor: (in thought) Aye she did, she did.

Elizabeth: God forbid you keep that from the court, John. I think they must be told.

Proctor: (quietly, struggling with his thought) Aye, they must, they must. . . .

Elizabeth: I would go to Salem now, John–let you go tonight.

Proctor: I’ll think on it.

Elizabeth: You cannot keep it, John.

Proctor: I know I cannot keep it. I say I will think on it! (Miller 53)

Four Weddings And A Funeral: Charles prefers to solve problems by changing his mind or adapting to a given situation rather than doing something about it. For example, Charles makes no move to change tables at Lydia and John’s wedding, even after seeing that he will be sitting at a table filled with “Ghosts of girlfriends past;Ó When he is stuck in the closet of Lydia and Bernard’s honeymoon suite, he chooses to quietly adapt to the situation and wait it out, rather than disturb the newlyweds; finally, he almost convinces himself to marry someone he doesn’t love because it is easier for him to pretend it is OK than to tell everybody that the wedding is called off.

The Glass Menagerie: Laura approaches problems by internalizing them. This often paralyzes her–keeping her from being able to do ANYTHING.

The Graduate: Ben is most definitely a ponderer. From the first frame of the film, his preference is clearly to think out situations before taking action.

The Great Gatsby: Nick Carraway deals with personal issues internally — he prefers to adapt himself to his environment:

“I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires…”

Hamlet: Hamlet is a gifted thinker that is incapable of positive action–”the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (3.1.92-93).

Harold and Maude: Harold reacts to his mother’s domineering ways by pretending to be dead, instead of fighting her or leaving home; when Maude steals his hearse, he passively lets her drive him home; he modifies his new sports car into a hearse like his old one; etc.

Heavenly Creatures: Reluctant to be in the school photo, Pauline adapts to the situation by hanging her head down rather than running away; Pauline responds to Juliet’s tuberculosis by wishing illness on herself and refusing to eat; when her mother threatens to not let her see Juliet again, Pauline’s initial response is to wish herself dead; she responds to threatening authority figures internally by having them killed by Diello in the 4th World of Borovnia.

Lolita: Humbert prefers to approach his problem internally and adapt himself to his environment (like a chameleon). “Years of secret suffering have taught me superhuman self control” (Nabokov 28). He puts up a romantic front for Charlotte: “Bland American Charlotte frightened me . . . I dared not do anything to spoil the image of me she had set up to adore” (Nabokov 78), and he internalizes and compartmentalizes his lust for Lolita by keeping a detailed diary.

Romeo and Juliet: Romeo’s first preference in approaching a conflict is to adapt himself to the environment, for example, he lacks interest in the (contentious) ” . . . activities of his gang of friends, whom he accompanies only reluctantly to the Capulet feast: ‘I’ll be a candle holder and look on’” (1.4.38) (Paster 258); After making Juliet his wife, he tries to placate Tybalt rather than fight him; and so forth.

Rosemary’s Baby: Rosemary tries to accommodate everyone before herself. She agrees to the dinner invitation with the Castevets, even though she doesn’t want to go. Then she feels obligated, but tells Guy that it’s all right if he doesn’t want to attend. When Rosemary learns she is pregnant, she lets the Castevets push her into giving up a doctor she likes for one they recommend. Even though she is in great pain, she finds a way to adapt to it rather than confront her doctor:

Tiger: You’ve been in pain since November and he (Dr. Sapirstein) isn’t doing anything for you?

Rosemary: He says it’ll stop.

Joan: Why don’t you see another doctor?

Rosemary shakes her head.

Rosemary: He’s very good. He was on “Open End.”

Sula: From childhood, Nel copes with problems internally:

“…the girl became obedient and polite. Any enthusiasms that little Nel showed were calmed by the mother until she drove her daughter’s imagination underground” (Morrison, 1973, p. 18).

When Nel finds Jude and Sula naked in her bedroom, she thinks:

They are not doing that. I am just standing here seeing it, but they are not really doing it…I just stood there seeing it and smiling, because maybe there was some explanation, something important that would make it all right. (Morrison, 1973, p. 105)

After Jude leaves Nel, she winds up her anger into an imaginary gray ball so that she may function.

Unforgiven: Munny has lost the hair-trigger response of his youth, preferring to work problems through peaceably: though taunted by Kid Schofield over his reputation, he lets it slide and tries again to solve the hog problem; provoked by Little Bill in the bar, Munny bides his time:

LITTLE BILL: Well, Mister Hendershot, if I was to call you a no good sonofabitch an’ a liar, an’ if I was to say you shit in your pants on account of a cowardly soul… well, I guess then, you would show me your pistol right quick an’ shoot me dead, ain’t that so?

MUNNY: I guess I might… but like I said, I ain’t armed.

(Peoples, p. 76)

After a kicking by Little Bill, Munny doesn’t even seek revenge; this doesn’t happen until Ned is killed.

Washington Square: When faced with a problem, Catherine’s preference is to solve it internally, as illustrated in a conversation between her father and Aunt Almond:

“‘And, meanwhile, how is Catherine taking it?’ ‘As she takes everything–as a matter of course.’ ‘Doesn’t she make a noise? Hasn’t she made a scene?’ ‘She is not scenic.’” (James 69)

Once her father refuses her lovers’ suit, Catherine contemplates:

The idea of a struggle with her father, of setting up her will against his own, was heavy on her soul, and it kept her quiet, as a great physical weight keeps us motionless. It never entered into her mind to throw her lover off; but from the first she tried to assure herself that there would be a peaceful way out of their difficulty. The assurance was vague, for it contained no element of positive conviction that her father would change his mind. She only had the idea that if she should be very good, the situation would in some mysterious manner improve. To be good she must be patient, outwardly submissive, abstain from judging her father too harshly, and from committing any act of open defiance. (James 81)

Witness: Rachel adapts to the situations she finds herself in: she accepts being detained by Book and taken to his sister’s house:

SAMUEL: But do we have to stay here?

RACHEL: No, we do not. Just for the night.

Rachel accommodates Book’s presence on the farm; she remains in the Amish community, even though she has doubts about her faith; etc.

Male vs. Female Problem Solving

All too often in stories, relationships and interchanges between characters of different sexes come off stilted, unbelievable, or contrived. In fact, since the author is writing from the perspective of only one of the two sexes, characters of the opposite sex often play more as one sex’s view of the opposite sex, rather than as truly being a character OF the opposite sex. This is because the author is looking AT the opposite sex, not FROM its point of view.

By exploring the differences in how each sex sees the world, we can more easily create believable characters of both sexes. To that end, I offer the following incident.

I was at lunch with Chris (Co-creator of Dramatica) some time ago. I had ordered some garlic bread and could not finish it. I asked the waitress if she would put it in a box to take home, and she did. On the way past the cashier, I realized that I had forgotten to take the box from the table. I said, “Rats! I forgot the bread!”

Chris said, “Go ahead and get it, we’ll wait.”

I thought for a moment and said, “No, it’s not that important.” and started to walk out.

Chris: “It’ll only take a moment.”

Me: “Yes, but I have to go all the way back, and I probably won’t eat it anyway, and it probably won’t reheat very well, and…”

Chris then said in jest, “Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.”

In fact, they really did sound like excuses to him. But to me, the reasons I had presented to him for not going back for the bread were not rationalizations, but actually legitimate concerns.

At the heart of this difference in perspective is the difference in the way female and male brains are “soft wired”. As a result, neither women nor men can see into the heart of the other without finding a lack of coherence.

Here is a line-by-line comparison of the steps leading from having too much bread to the differing interpretations of my response to forgetting the box.

Melanie thinks:

That’s good bread, but I’m full. I might take it home, but I’m not convinced it will reheat. Also, I’ve really eaten too many calories in the last few days, I’m two pounds over where I want to be and I have a hair appointment on Wednesday and a dinner date on the weekend with a new friend I want to impress, so maybe I shouldn’t eat anymore. The kids won’t want it, but I could give it to the dog, and if I get hungry myself, I’ll have it there (even though I shouldn’t eat it if I want to lose that two pounds!) So, I guess it’s better to take it than to leave it.

Melanie says:

“Waitress, can I have a box to take the bread home?”

Chris understands Melanie to mean:

I want to take the bread home.

The balance sheet:

To me there was only a tendency toward bringing the bread home, and barely enough to justify the effort. To Chris it was a binary decision: I wanted to bring it home or not.

Melanie says:

“Rats! I forgot to bring the bread!”

Chris says:

“Go ahead and get it, we’ll wait.”

The balance sheet:

I’m thinking, “How does this change the way I feel about the situation?” Chris is thinking, “How can she solve this problem.”

Melanie thinks:

Well, I really don’t want to be tempted by it, this unexpected turn makes it easier to lose the weight. If I go back I’ll be tempted or give it to the dog. If I don’t go back I won’t be tempted, which is good because I know I usually give in to such temptations. Of course, the dog loses out, but we just bought some special treats for the dog so she won’t miss what she wasn’t expecting. All in all, the effort of going around two corners while everyone waits just so I can get an extra doggie treat and lead myself into temptation isn’t worth it.

Melanie says:

“No, its not that important.”

Chris says:

“It’ll only take a moment.”

The balance sheet:

I’m thinking that since I was right on the edge of not wanting to take it in the first place, even this little extra necessary effort is enough inconvenience to make it not a positive thing but an irritation, so I’ll just drop it and not pay even the minor price. Chris is thinking that since I made up my mind to take the bread in the first place, how is it that this little inconvenience could change my mind 180 degrees. I must be lazy or embarrassed because I forgot it.

Melanie says:

“Yes, but I have to go all the way back, and I probably won’t eat it anyway, and it probably won’t reheat very well, and…”

Chris says:

“Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.”

The balance sheet:

I’m trying to convey about a thousand petty concerns that went into my emotional assessment that it was no longer worth going back for. Chris just hears a bunch of trumped up reasons, none of which are sufficient to change one’s plans.

I operated according to an emotional tendency to bring the bread home that was just barely sufficient to generate even the slightest degree of motivation. Chris doesn’t naturally assume motivation has a degree, thinking that as a rule you’re either motivated or you are not.

The differences between the way women and men evaluate problems lead them to see justifications in the others methods.

Making sense of each other:

Now, what does all this mean? When men look at problems, they see a single item that is a specific irritation and seek to correct it. When they look at inequities, they see a number of problems interrelated. Women look at single problems the same way, but sense inequities from a completely emotional standpoint, measuring them on a sliding scale of tendencies to respond in certain ways.

Imagine an old balance scale – the kind they used to weigh gold. On one side, you put the desire to solve the problem. That has a specific weight. On the other side you have a whole bag of things that taken altogether outweigh the desire to solve the problem. But, you can’t fit the bag on the scale (which is the same as not being able to share your whole mind with a man) so you open the bag and start to haul out the reasons – biggest one’s first.

Well, it turns out the first reason by itself is much lighter that the desire to solve the problem, so it isn’t sufficient. You pull out the next one, which is even smaller, and together they aren’t enough to tip the scales. So, you keep pulling one more reason after another out of the bag until the man stops you saying, “Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.”

To the man, it becomes quickly obvious that there aren’t enough reasonably sized pieces in that bag to make the difference, and anything smaller than a certain point is inconsequential anyway, so what’s holding her back from solving the problem?

But the woman knows that there may be only a few big chunks, but the rest of the bag is full of sand. And all those little pieces together outweigh the desire to solve the problem. If she went ahead and solved it anyway, everything in that bag would suffer to some degree, and the overall result would be less happiness in her consciousness rather than more.

This is why it is so easy for one sex to manipulate the other: each isn’t looking at part of the picture that the other one sees. For a man to manipulate a woman, all he has to do is give her enough sand to keep the balance slightly on her side and then he can weigh her down with all kinds of negative big things because it still comes out positive overall. For a woman to manipulate a man, all she has to do is give him a few positive chunks and then fill his bag full of sand with the things she wants. He’ll never even notice.

Of course if you push too far from either side it tips the balance and all hell breaks loose. So for a more loving and compassionate approach, the key is not to get as much as you can, but to maximize the happiness of both with the smallest cost to each.

All too often, one sex will deny what the other sex once to gain leverage or to use compliance as a bargaining chip. That kind of adversarial relationship is doomed to keep both sides miserable, as long as it lasts.

But if each side gives to the other sex what is important to to the other but unimportant to themselves, they’ll make each other very happy at very little cost.

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 ) you’ll find the “ability” in one of the little squares.  Look in the “Physics” class in the upper left-hand corner.  You’ll find it in a “quad” of four items, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire”.

In this article I’m going to talk about how Dramatica uses the term “ability” and how it applies not only to story structure and characters but to real people, real life and psychology as well.

To begin with, a brief word about the Dramatica chart itself.  The chart is sort of like a Rubik’s Cube.  It holds all the elements which must appear in every complete story to avoide holes.  Conceptually, you can twist it and turn it, just like a Rubik’s Cube, and when you do, it is like winding up a clock – you create dramatic potential.

How is this dramatic potential created?  The chart represents all the categories of things we think about.  Notice that the chart is nested, like wheels within wheels.  That’s the way our mind’s work.  And if we are to make a solid story structure with no holes, we have to make sure all ways of thinking about the story’s central problem or issues are covered.

So, the chart is really a model of the mind.  When you twist it and turn it represents the kinds of stress (and experience) we encounter in everyday life.  Sometimes things get wound up as tight as they can.  And this is where a story always starts.  Anything before that point is backstory, anything after it is story.

The story part is the process of unwinding that tension.  So why does a story feel like tension is building, rather than lessoning?  This is because stories are about the forces that bring a person to chane or, often, to a point of change.

As the story mind unwinds, it puts more and more pressure on the main character (who may be gradually changed by the process or may remain intransigent until he changes all at once).  It’s kind of like the forces that  create earthquakes.  Tectonic plates push against each other driven by a background force (the mantle).  That force is described by the wound up Dramatica chart of the story mind.

Sometimes, in geology, this force gradually raises or lowers land in the two adjacent plate.  Other times it builds up pressure until things snap all at once in an earthquake.  So too in psychology, people (characters) are sometimes slowly changed by the gradual application of pressure as the story mind clock is unwinding; other times that pressure applied by the clock mechanism just builds up until the character snaps in Leap Of Faith – that single “moment of truth” in which a character must decide either to change his ways or stick by his guns believing his current way is stronger than the pressure bought to bear – he believes he just has to outlast the forces against him.

Sometimes he’s right to change, sometimes he’s right to remain steadfast, and sometimes he’s wrong.  But either way, in the end, the clock has unwound and the potential has been balanced.

Hey, what happened to “ability”?  Okay, okay, I’m getting to that….

The chart (here we go again!) is filled with semantic terms – things like Hope and Physics and Learning and Ability.  If you go down to the bottom of the chart in the PDF you’ll see a three-dimensional representation of how all these terms are stacked together.  In the flat chart, they look like wheels within wheels.  In the 3-D version, they look like levels.

These “levels” represent degrees of detail in the way the mind works.  At the most broadstroke level (the top) there are just four items – Universe, Physics, Mind and Psychology.  They are kind of like the Primary Colors of the mind – the Red, Blue, Green and Saturation (effectively the addition of something along the black/white gray scale).

Those for items in additive color theory are four categories describing what can create a continuous spectrum.  In a spectrum is really kind of arbitrary where you draw the line between red and blue.  Similarly, Universe, Mind, Physics and Psychology are specific primary considerations of the mind.

Universe is the external state of things – our situation or envirnoment.  Mind is the internal state – an attitude, fixation or bias.  Physics looks at external activities – processes and mechanisms.  Psychology looks at internal activities – manners of thinking in logic and feeling.

Beneath that top level of the chart are three other levels.  Each one provides a greater degree of detail on how the mind looks at the world and at itself.  It is kind of like adding “Scarlet” and “Cardinal” as subcategories to the overall concept of “Red”.

Now the top level of the Dramatica chart describe the structural aspects of “Genre”  Genre is the most broadstroke way of looking at a story’s structure.   The next level down has a bit more dramatic detail and describes the Plot of a story.  The third level down maps out Theme, and the bottom level (the one with the most detail) explores the nature of a story’s Characters.

So there you have the chart from the top down, Genre, Plot, Theme and Characters.  And as far as the mind goes, it represents the wheels within wheels and the sprectrum of how we go about considering things.  In fact, we move all around that chart when we try to solve a problem.  But the order is not arbitrary.  The mind has to go through certain “in-betweens” to get from one kind of consideration to another or from one emotion to another.  You see this kind of thing in the stages of grief and even in Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development.

All that being said now, we finally return to Ability – the actual topic of this article.  You’ll find Ability, then, at the very bottom of the chart – in the Characters level – in the upper left hand corner of the Physics class.  In this article I won’t go into why it is in Physics or why it is in the upper left, but rest assured I’ll get to that eventually in some article or other.

Let’s now consider “Ability” in its “quad” of four Character Elements.  The others are Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire.  I really don’t have space in this article to go into detail about them at this time, but suffice it to say that Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire are the internal equivalents of Universe, Mind, Physics and Pyschology.  They are the conceptual equivalents of Mass, Energy, Space and Time.  (Chew on that for awhile!)

So the smallest elements are directly connect (conceptually) to the largest in the chart.  This represents what we call the “size of mind constant” which is what determines the scope of an argument necessary to fill the minds of readers or an audience.  In short, there is a maximum depth of detail one can perceive while still holding the “big picture” in one’s mind at the very same time.

Ability – right….

Ability is not what you can do.  It is what you are “able” to do.  What’s the difference?  What you “can” do is essentially your ability limited by your desire.  Ability describes the maximum potential that might be accomplished.  But people are limited by what they should do, what they feel obligated to do, and what they want to do.  If you take all that into consideration, what’s left is what a person actually “can” do.

In fact,  if we start adding on limitations you  move from Ability to Can and up to even higher levels of “justification” in which the essential qualities of our minds, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire” are held in check by extended considerations about the impact or ramifications of acting to our full potential.

One quad greater in justification you find “Can, Need, Want, and Should” in Dramatica’s story mind chart.  Then it gets even more limited by Responsibility, Obligation, Commitment and Rationalization.  Finally we end up “justifying” so much that we are no longer thinking about Ability (or Knowledge or Thought or Desire) but about our “Situation, Circumstance, Sense of Self and State of Being”.  That’s about as far away as you can get from the basic elements of the human mind and is the starting point of where stories begin when they are fully wound up.  (You’ll find all of these at the Variation Level in the “Psychology” class in the Dramatica chart, for they are the kinds of issues that most directly affect each of our own unique brands of our common human psychology.

A story begins when the Main Character is stuck up in that highest level of justification.  Nobody gets there because they are stupid or mean.  They get there because their unique life experience has brought them repeated exposures to what appear to be real connections between things like, “One bad apple spoils the bunch” or “Where there’s smoke , there’s fire.”

These connections, such things as –  that one needs to adopt a certain attitude to succeed or that a certain kind of person is always lazy or dishonest – these things are not always universally true, but may have been universally true in the Main Character’s experience.  Really, its how we all build up our personalities.  We all share the same basic psychology but how it gets “wound up” by experience determines how we see the world.  When we get wound up all the way, we’ve had enough experience to reach a conclusion that things are always “that way” and to stop considering the issue.  And that is how everything from “winning drive” to “prejudice” is formed – not by ill intents or a dull mind buy by the fact that no two life experiences are the same.

The conclusions we come to, based on our justifications, free out minds to not have to reconsider every connection we see.  If we had to, we’d become bogged down in endlessly reconsidering everything, and that just isn’t a good survival trait if you have to make a quick decision for fight or flight.

So, we come to certain justification and build upon those with others until we have established a series of mental dependencies and assumptions that runs so deep we can’t see the bottom of it – the one bad brick that screwed up the foundation to begin with.  And that’s why psychotherapy takes twenty years to reach the point a Main Character can reach in a two hour movie or a two hundred page book.

Now we see how Ability (and all the other Dramatica terms) fit into story and into psychology.  Each is just another brick in the wall.  And each can be at any level of the mind and at any level of justification.  So, Ability might be the problem in one story (the character has too much or too little of it) or it might be the solution in another (by discovering an ability or coming to accept one lacks a certain ability the story’s problem – or at least the Main Character’s personal problem – can be solved).  Ability might be the thematic topic of one story and the thematic counterpoint of another (more on this in other articles).

Ability might crop up in all kinds of ways, but the important thing to remember is that wherever you find it, however you use it, it represents the maximum potential, not necessarily the practical limit that can be actually applied.

Well, enough of this.  To close things off, here’s the Dramatica Dictionary description of the world Ability that Chris and I worked out some twenty years ago, straight out of the Dramatica diction (available online at :

Ability • Most terms in Dramatica are used to mean only one thing. Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire, however, have two uses each, serving both as Variations and Elements. This is a result of their role as central considerations in both Theme and Character

[Variation] • Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • Ability describes the actual capacity to accomplish something. However, even the greatest Ability may need experience to become practical. Also, Ability may be hindered by limitations placed on a character and/or limitations imposed by the character upon himself. • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherant proficiency

[Element] • Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • An aspect of the Ability element is an innate capacity to do or to be. This means that some Abilities pertain to what what can affect physically and also what one can rearrange mentally. The positive side of Ability is that things can be done or experienced that would otherwise be impossible. The negative side is that just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. And, just because one can be a certain way does not mean it is beneficial to self or others. In other words, sometimes Ability is more a curse than a blessing because it can lead to the exercise of capacities that may be negative • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherant proficiency.

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 early to go to work in the industry and, frustrated by working on the periphery of the industry at that time, I put together a low-budget feature film project and enlisted Chris’ partnership in producing a movie.

The result was a horrible little film that suffered no so much from budgetary restrictions as from our lack of knowledge of sound story structure. So, when we began to consider our next production, we thought we’d first take a stab at trying to determine what a sound story structure ought to be.

We made lists and graphs and assembled everything we knew. And we discovered… that we didn’t know much about story structure! In fact, we put the whole project on hold until we could gather a little more experience from the industry and from life in general.

Chris went into motion control special effects work for Imax movies, and I went into the industry at large as a writer/producer/director and mostly editor of non-features, high budget industrials, and educationals.

Later, Chris become the co-founder of Write Bros. – the company that created the world’s first screenplay formatting software (and won a technical achievement award from the Academy).

One day in 1991, Chris asked me to breakfast and asked if I’d like to start up our old story structure project again. I was thrilled to do so. I was editing a feature film at the time so each morning before I went off to the editing room and before Chris went off to be V.P. of his company, we’d get together over coffee and try to crack the story structure nut.

We were both committed to this project, and it wasn’t long before we started having some insights that made sense to us but that we had never heard in any of our classes at USC.

After six months, we had created a number of understandings about story structure, but lacked a unifying concept that would tie them all together. We tried starting a book about our findings, but got bogged down. Eventually, Chris suggested that we present our work to his partner, Steve Greenfield.

Steve was completely taken with the ideas we offered, and he and Chris determined that rather than a book, perhaps our best approach was to create a new piece of software for writers that would help them employ our concepts in building sound stories.

I was asked to come to their company as a consultant, and as my editing job had just completed, I agreed. Thus began a three year full-time effort to redefine the nature of what stories are and how they work.

Few are those who have the luxury of being paid to spend three years sitting in a room pondering the mechanics of story structure to the exclusion of all else. But that was the situation I was provided.

We began with index cards and post-it notes, sticking every individual concept (and there were hundreds of them) all over all four walls of my office, and later of the entire conference room!

Seeing it all spread out like that made it possible to note certain patterns and connections among some of these notions. We began to see that psychology played a large part in stories.

This came about by Chris asking a crucial question: “If the Main Character (like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol) is actually the cause of the story’s problems, why can’t he see it and just change?”

Of course, this spoke of issues far beyond stories that were essential to our own psychological issues as a species.

We started to gather all the psychological material we had developed into one place on one of the walls. Some of it seemed to fit well with the main character, but other material, though clearly psychological in nature, seemed to pertain more to the story at large, though we had no idea what to make of this. There was no pattern that explained it.

One day, while staring for the nth hour at that wall, it just hit me – maybe the psychological material we had discovered in stories weren’t about just the main character – maybe they were about the story itself. Maybe the story itself had a psychology! In fact, perhaps story structure was a model of the story’s mind!

I ran down the hall to Chris’ office and hit him with the notion. As was his practice, he leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and fell into a meditative state, closing all else from his mind. After a few moments he sat upright and responded, “I believe you are right.”

From that point forward, everything we did was based on the Story Mind concept. We reorganized all of our material assuming that it referred to the psychology of the story’s mind. Suddenly, patterns appeared, relationships were suggested, and the various components we had discovered fell right into place.

Our arrangements became more and more complex until we found ourselves hard-pressed to make them work in a single chart. It was then that we tried putting the cards in levels, placing “smaller” units under larger umbrella units into which they seemed to fall.

But how to depict this nested structure? Chris played around with pyramid shapes, I tried twisting mobius strips around donut-shaped toroids. Eventually, we settled on the four towers – not as the only shape of story structure, but as the most convenient shape with which to appreciate its internal mechanisms and relationships.

Later, I read that Crick and Watson (the two fellows that discovered the double-helix shape of DNA) didn’t find it through observation. At the time, the best imagery available of DNA was made by bombarding DNA’s crystalline form with X-Rays.

But Crick and Watson had a gut feeling that the shape of “live” DNA was more elegant, perhaps some sort of spiral. They decided to play with a number of alternative shapes as candidates that might explain all the properties that had been observed about DNA. To this end, they ordered a set of custom-made industrial “tinker-toys” which were used by chemists to illustrate molecular bonds.

They play around with various combination until, while building a ladder shape, they twisted it to form the now-familiar double-helix. As soon as they actually saw this representation, then new intuitively that it was correct and ran off to share their work with colleagues.

Chris and I unknowingly followed the same process. In the years that followed, we came to the conclusion that the towers are like the crystalline form of DNA – it represents a mind’s psychology at rest. But the mind is a machine made of time – every component, every gear and widget is actually a process.

When you put it into motion to create a “live” model, like DNA it becomes a helix, but in the case of story structure it forms a quad-helix, rather than a double one.

That’s about as deep as I want to go into how the Dramatica Chart developed in the first place. But, as a special treat for those of you who are gluttons for punishment, here’s an explanation of the workings of the structure, conceptually (for now!).

Where to begin without getting all technical-ish… Well, that’s a good start already!

Okay. The Dramatica Chat has four levels. And it has four Towers. What do these represent? The four towers represent the four key elements of our minds. Just as DNA is made up of four bases: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T), the structure of the Story Mind is made up of four bases: knowledge (abbreviated K), thought (T), ability (A) and desire (D).

Knowledge is the Mass of the mind. Thought is the mind’s Energy. Ability is the equivalent of Space and Desire is the counterpart to Time.

Just as mass and energy can relate in a simple way, such as when force slams one billiard ball into another, thought can rearrange knowledge and bring disparate pieces of knowledge together or move them apart.

Mass and energy can also interact in a more complex manner in which, for example, a small amount of mass can release a tremendous amount of energy in a nuclear explosion. Similarly, Knowledge and thought can interact so that a small amount of knowledge can generate an awful lot of thought (and conversely, it take a lot of thought to create a single bit of true knowledge!)

Ability is like space insofar as space defines the edges of what exists from what does not. Ability defines what we know from what we don’t know. It determines how much of anything is known vs. how much is unknown. It is from this that calculation that our minds assess our ability.

Desire is functions in the mind as Time does in the universe. Desire does not exist without a comparative between what was, what is, and what may be, just as time does not exist without an appreciation of past, present, and future.

So, the four towers are Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire. (Which is which and why is for a later discussion. This, after all, is just an introductory section for a conversational book about story structure!)

But, the four levels represent Mass, Energy, Space, and Time directly. The four dimensions of the outer world are reflected by the four dimensions of the inner world. In fact, each set is a reflection of the other with neither being the origin.

Existence cannot be understood wholly from either a material or immaterial perspective. Perception is required to enable existence, and vice versa. Thus, the Dramatica chart isn’t just some stupid cutesy little made-up list of a few dramatic concepts. Nope. Its actually a material/immaterial continuum in which all that exists can be described by its co-ordinates within the construct.

Now, before I start sounding like the “Architect” from the Matrix Trilogy (assuming it is not too late already), we’ll put these topics to rest for a while and return to our happy-go-lucky free-wheelin’ conversational introduction to Dramatica Theory. So there.

Players vs. Characters

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 Progagonist is an example of an Objecitve Character whose function is to be the prime mover in the effort to achieve the story’s goal.  The Main Character is an example of a Subjective Character as it represents the audicence position in a story – a point of view.

Authors frequently assign the roles of both Protagonist AND Main Character to the same player in the story, creating the stereotypical “Hero”.  (Note that a Hero is a stereotype, not an archetype.  The function of a Protagonist is archetypal, but combining that function into the same player as the one assigned as the audience position in the story – the Main Character – is a convention of storytelling, not a necessity of dramatic structure.  This makes a Hero a stereotype, rather than an archetype.

The concept of “player” is found throughout Dramatica and differs from what we mean by “character.” Dramatica defines a character as a set of dramatic functions that must be portrayed in order to make the complete argument of a story. Several functions may be grouped together and assigned to a person, place, or thing who will represent them in the story. The group of functions defines the nature of the character. The personage representing the functions is a player.

In other words, a player is like a vessel into which a character (and therefore a set of character functions) is placed. If more than one Objective Character is placed into a single player, the player will appear to have multiple personalities. This is clearly seen in the dual characters contained in player, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, or the many personalities of Sybil.

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 craftsperson pulling together a fluffy pile into a single unbroken thread. An appropriate analogy for the process of telling a tale. A tale is a simple, linear progression – a series of events and emotional experiences that leads from point A to point B, makes sense along the way, and leaves no gaps.

A tale is, perhaps, the simplest form of storytelling structure. The keyword here is “structure.” Certainly, if one is not concerned with structure, one can still relate a conglomeration of intermingled scenarios, each with its own meaning and emotional impact. Many power works of this ilk are considered classics, especially as novels or experimental films.

Nonetheless, if one wants to make a point, you need to create a line that leads from one point to another. A tale, then, is a throughline, leading from the point of departure to the destination on a single path.

A story, on the other hand, is a more complex form of structure. Essentially, a number of different throughlines are layered, one upon another, much as a craftsperson might weave a tapestry. Each individual thread is a tale that is spun, making it complete, unbroken, and possessing its own sequence. But collectively, the linear pattern of colors in all the throughlines form a single, overall pattern in the tapestry, much as the scanning lines on a television come together to create the image of a single frame.

In story structure, then, the sequence of events in each individual throughline cannot be random, but must be designed to do double-duty – both making sense as an unbroken progression and also as pieces of a greater purpose.

You won’t find the word, “throughline” in the dictionary. In fact, as I type this in my word processor, it lists the word as misspelled. Chris Huntley and I coined the word when we developed the concept as part of our work creating the Dramatica theory (and software). Since then, we have found it quite the useful moniker to describe an essential component of story structure.

Throughlines then, are any elements of a story that have their own beginnings, middles, and ends. For example, every character’s growth has its own throughline. Typically, this is referred to as a character arc, especially when in reference to the main character. But an “arc” has nothing to do with the growth of a character. Rather, each character’s emotional journey is a personal tale that describe his or her feelings at the beginning of the story, at every key juncture, and at the final reckoning.

Some characters may come to change their natures, others may grow in their resolve. But their mood swings, attitudes, and outlook must follow an unbroken path that is consistent with a series of emotions that a real human being might experience. For example, a person will not instantly snap from a deep depression into joyous elation without some intervening impact, be it unexpected news, a personal epiphany, or even the ingestion of great quantities of chocolate. In short, each character throughline must be true to itself, and also must take into consideration the effect of outside influences.

Now that we know what a throughline is, how can we use it? Well, right off the bat, it helps us break even the most complex story structures down into a collection of much simpler elements. Using the throughline concept, we can far more easily create a story structure, and can also ensure that every element is complete and that our story has no gaps or inconsistencies.

Before the throughline concept, writers traditionally would haul out the old index cards (or their equivalent) and try to create a single sequential progression for their stories from Act I, Scene I to the climax and final denouement.

An unfortunate byproduct of this “single throughline” approach is that it tended to make stories far more simplistic than they actually needed to be since the author would think of the sequential structure as being essentially a simple tale, rather than a layered story.

In addition, by separating the throughlines it is far easier to see if there are any gaps in the chain. Using a single thread approach to a story runs the risk of having a powerful event in one throughline carry enough dramatic weight to pull the story along, masking missing pieces in other throughlines that never get filled. This, in fact, is part of what makes some stories seem disconnected from the real world, trite, or melodramatic.

By using throughlines it is far easier to create complex themes and layered messages. Many authors think of stories as having only one theme (if that). A theme is just a comparison between two human qualities to see which is better in the given situations of the story.

For example, a story might wish to deal with greed. But, greed by itself is just a topic. It doesn’t become a theme until you weigh it against its counterpoint, generosity, and then “prove” which is the better quality of spirit to possess by showing how they each fare over the course of the story. One story’s message might be that generosity is better, but another story might wish to put forth that in a particular circumstance, greed is actually better.

By seeing the exploration of greed as one throughline and the exploration of generosity as another, each can be presented in its own progression. In so doing, the author avoids directly comparing one to the other (as this leads to a ham-handed and preachy message), but instead can balance one against the other so that the evidence builds as to which is better, but you still allow the audience to come to its own conclusion, thereby involving them in the message and making it their own. Certainly, a more powerful approach.

Plot, too, is assisted by multiple throughlines. Subplots are often hard to create and hard to follow. By dealing with each independently and side by side, you can easily see how they interrelate and can spot and holes or inconsistencies.

Subplots usually revolve around different characters. By placing a character’s growth throughline alongside his or her subplot throughline, you can make sure their mental state is always reflective of their inner state, and that they are never called upon to act in a way that is inconsistent with their mood or attitude at the time.

There are many other advantages to the use of throughlines as well. So many, that the Dramatica theory (and software) incorporate throughlines into the whole approach. Years later, when I developed StoryWeaver at my own company, throughlines became an integral part of the step-by-step story development approach it offers.

How do you begin to use throughlines for your stories? The first step is to get yourself some index cards, either 3×5 or 5×7. As you develop your story, rather than simply lining them all up in order, you take each sequential element of your story and create its own independent series of cards showing every step along the way.

Identify each separate kind of throughline with a different color. For example, you could make character-related throughlines blue (or use blue ink, or a blue dot) and make plot related throughlines green. This way, when you assemble them all together into your overall story structure, you can tell at a glance which elements are which, and even get a sense of which points in your story are character heavy or plot or theme heavy.

Then, identify each throughline within a group by its own mark, such as the character’s name, or some catch-phrase that describes a particular sub-plot, such as, “Joe’s attempt to fool Sally (or more simply, the “Sally Caper.”). That way, even when you weave them all together into a single storyline, you can easily find and work with the components of any given throughline. Be sure also to number the cards in each throughline in sequence, so if you accidentally mix them up or decide to present them out of order for storytelling purposes, such as in a flashback or flash forward, you will know the order in which they actually need to occur in the “real time” of the story.

Once you get started, its easy to see the value of the throughline approach, and just as easy to come up with all kinds of uses for it.

The Reason and Emotion Archetypes

The Reason Archetypal Character is calm, collected, and cool, perhaps even cold. It makes decisions and takes action wholly on the basis of logic. (Remember, we say wholly because we are describing an Archetypal Character. As we shall see later, Complex Characters are much more diverse and dimensional.)

The Reason character is the organized, logical type. The Emotion character who is frenetic, disorganized, and driven by feelings.

It is important to note that as in real life, Reason is not inherently better than Emotion, nor does Emotion have the edge on Reason. They just have different areas of strength and weakness which may make one more appropriate than the other in a given context.

Functionally, the Emotion Character has its heart on its sleeve; it is quick to anger, but also quick to empathize. Because it is frenetic and disorganized, however, most of its energy is uncontrolled and gets wasted by lashing out in so many directions that it ends up running in circles and getting nowhere. In contrast, the Reason Character seems to lack “humanity” and has apparently no ability to think from the heart. As a result, the Reason Character often fails to find support for its well-laid plans and ends up wasting its effort because it has unknowingly violated the personal concerns of others.

In terms of the Story Mind, Reason and Emotion describe the conflict between our purely practical conclusions and considerations of our human side. Throughout a story, the Reason and Emotion Archetypal Characters will conflict over the proper course of action and decision, illustrating the Story Mind’s deliberation between intellect and heart.

Work Stories vs. Dilemma Stories


Without a problem, a story is at rest or Neutral. All of the dramatic pieces are balanced and no potential exists. But when a problem is introduced, that equilibrium becomes unbalanced. We call that imbalance an Inequity. An inequity provides the impetus to drive the story forward and causes the Story Mind to start the problem solving process.

Work Stories and Dilemma Stories

It is important to differentiate between solvable and unsolvable problems. The solvable problem is, simply, a problem, whereas an unsolvable problem is called a Dilemma. In stories, as in life, we cannot tell at the beginning whether a problem is solvable or not because we cannot know the future. Only by going through the process of problem solving can we discover if the problem can be solved at all.

If the problem CAN be solved, though the effort may be difficult or dangerous, and in the end we DO succeed by working at it, we have a Work Story. But if the Problem CAN’T be solved, in the case of a Dilemma, once everything possible has been tried and the Problem still remains, we have a Dilemma Story.

Mind and Universe

At the most basic level, all problems are the result of inequities between Mind (ourselves) and Universe (the environment). When Mind and Universe are in balance, they are in Equity and there is neither a problem nor a story. When the Mind and Universe are out of balance, and Inequity exists between them, there is a problem and a story to be told about solving that problem.

Example: Jane wants a new leather jacket that costs $300.00. She does not have $300.00 to buy the jacket. We can see the Inequity by comparing the state of Jane’s Mind (her desire for the new jacket) to the state of the Universe (not having the jacket).

Note that the problem is not caused solely by Jane’s desire for a jacket, nor by the physical situation of not having one, but only because Mind and Universe are unbalanced. In truth, the problem is not with one or the other, but between the two.

There are two ways to remove the Inequity and resolve the problem. If we change Jane’s Mind and remove her desire for the new jacket — no more problem. If we change the Universe and supply Jane with the new jacket by either giving her the jacket or the money to buy it — no more problem. Both solutions balance the Inequity.

Subjective and Objective Views

From an outside or objective point of view, one solution is as good as another. Objectively, it doesn’t matter if Jane changes her Mind or the Universe changes its configuration so long as the inequity is removed.

However, from an inside or subjective point of view, it may matter a great deal to Jane if she has to change her Mind or the Universe around her to remove the Inequity. Therefore, the subjective point of view differs from the objective point of view in that personal biases affect the evaluation of the problem and the solution. Though objectively the solutions have equal weight, subjectively one solution may appear to be better than another.

Stories are useful to us as an audience because they provide both the Subjective view of the problem and the Objective view of the solution that we cannot see in real life. It is this Objective view that shows us important information outside our own limited perspective, providing a sense of the big picture and thereby helping us to learn how to handle similar problems in our own lives.

If the Subjective view is seen as the perspective of the soldier in the trenches, the Objective view would be the perspective of the General watching the engagement from a hill above the field of battle. When we see things Objectively, we are looking at the Characters as various people doing various things. When we are watching the story Subjectively, we actually stand in the shoes of a Character as if the story were happening to us.

A story provides both of these views interwoven throughout its unfolding. This is accomplished by having a cast of Objective Characters, and also special Subjective Characters. The Objective Characters serve as metaphors for specific methods of dealing with problems. The Subjective Characters serve as metaphors for THE specific method of dealing with problems that is crucial to the particular problem of that story.

Sidekick & Skeptic Archetypes

The Sidekick and the Skeptic represent the conflict between confidence and doubt in the Story Mind. The Sidekick is the faithful supporter. Usually, a Sidekick is attached to the Protagonist. Sometimes, however, they may be supporters of the Antagonist such as Renfield to Dracula.

This gives a good clue to the way Dramatica sees Objective Characters: The purpose of the Sidekick is to show faithful support. That does not determine who or what it supports, but just that it must loyally support someone or something. Other dynamics of a story will determine who the Sidekick needs to be attached to in order to make the story’s argument, but from the standpoint of just describing the Archetypal Characters by themselves, the Sidekick faithfully supports.

The Sidekick is balanced by the Skeptic. Where the Sidekick has faith, the Skeptic disbelieves; where the Sidekick supports, the Skeptic opposes. The nature of the Skeptic is nicely described in the line of a song… “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” In the Story Mind, it is the function of the Skeptic to note the indicators that portend failure. In contrast, the Sidekick notes the indicators that point to success. The interactions between Sidekick and Skeptic describe the Story Mind’s consideration of the likelihood of success.