The Reasoning Behind Dramatica 2

Another installment in my ongoing series explaining why things are the way they are in Dramatica.

The Four Classes: Universe, Physics, Mind, and Psychology

As mentioned in the previous episode of this series, in our efforts to explore how story structure worked, we had early on determined that exploring the psychology of the main character might be the key to unlocking it, for reasons described there.

So, we began looking at many different kinds of stories for anything having to do with the main character’s motivations and manners of thinking, and whenever we found something that described such things, we put it on a post-it note and stuck it to the wall.

Eventually we saw patterns in the notes that had by now absolutely covered the wall in our conference room.  For example, we could see that some of theses psychological attribute seemed to be opposite attitudes such as Faith and Disbelief or to represent two ways of looking at things, such as Hope or Fear, or two approaches such as Pursue or Avoid.

So, we organized as much as we could of the notes we’d already gathered into pairs of opposites.  When we’d done that, we found we had a lot of single items left.  Naturally, we figured that once all the pairs were pulled aside, these remaining single that we had observed in stories probably also had opposites that we just hadn’t noticed or encountered yet.  Rather that go looking for them, which would take quite a while, we thought it would be a lot easier just to calculate what the opposite of a single item should be.

Now this is a pretty important decisions because it marked the first time we built a part of the model not just from observation but by extending patterns we had observed into new patterns never directly observed (at least not then, though all these “predictions” have now been verified in thousands of stories).

The notion was, in pulling together the initial pairs from data, we had developed a “feel” for the relationships between the two items.  Based on that feeling, we could take any of the single words and determine a pair for it so that the semantic relationship between the two words, between their meanings, would be just like the relationship between the pairs we had already observed.

The development of Dramatica is largely a story of seeing relationships in data, then extending the theory/model to fill in other patterns that were only partially complete.

As we continued, we saw that some of the pairs seemed like a counter-point to another pair, such as the pair of Support and Oppose seemed related to the pair of Help and Hinder – the first pair being more about attitude and the second pair more about action.

So, we started gathering as many pairs as we could  into groups of two related pairs.  As it turned out, the pairs from data did best as groups of just two pairs.  Any more pairs seemed unbalanced – again, based on intuition that story structure ought to be symmetrical.  I mean it just made sense, didn’t it?  We didn’t know, but it sure seemed that way so far, so we proceeded under that assumption, and having one pair counter-balance another pair played right into that.

We also found that some items that seemed like they were higher level concepts that were kind of like an umbrella word that described the family of two counter-balanced pairs.  In other words, our simple groups of four were now  beginning to be seen as the children of a parent post-it term.  Conversely, the parent terms might be seen as being made up of the two pairs within it – or even perhaps made up of the four items contained in the two pairs.

And then we found that two parents made a higher level  pair, and two pairs of parents were topped by an even higher level parent and so on.  Now, some of this was from observed data, some was from extending the patterns we found.  But all along, we were developing a sense of some underlying relationship that existed just beneath the surface of the patterns – we couldn’t see it, but we could feel it.

In his book about how they discovered DNA, James Watson (of Crick and Watson) describes how they had a feeling based on all the data that DNA might be some sort of helix, but had no proof and also no idea what kind of helix.  So, they ordered some molecular models, basically industrial tinker toys, and started assembling them into all manner of helices – singles, doubles, left and right handed, and also how many molecular bonds in each twist – stuff like that.

Eventually, they knocked off all the candidates but one because all the others failed to explain all of what little known hard data they had.  And that was the famous double-helix.  They were so sure they’d found it, just on the basis of its elegance and simplicity (and the lack of alternatives) that they announced their findings and, fortunately for their careers, they were soon proven right.

But we didn’t know that yet – hadn’t read the book.  We were just looking for patterns in the data we gathered from real stories, as seen through the notion of the psychology of the main character.

At some point, and I really can’t provide more information on that because we were constantly striking off in all kinds of directions simultaneously, but at some point, we realized the obvious: stories on not built from characters alone.  Duh.

As I recall, we already had some items on post-it notes we’d gathered that seemed more descriptive of plot than of characters or, perhaps, of the material world than of the mental world.

Taking a clue from the hierarchy we were building and expanding for the main character psychology,  we took those more external post-it items and started building a companion hierarchy of them.

At first, we worked the external hierarchy’s parents and children independently of the psychology.  An then, much to our surprise, we started to see that some items in one hierarchy had a  comparative item in the other.  For example, Memory in the psychology set had a counterpart in Past in the external set AND in the same relative position in external as Memory was in internal.

Now that pretty much knocked us on the floor.  It was looking as if each set was the same as the other, just with a different perspective – one looking out and the other looking in.  How?  Why?

Perhaps, we speculated, the relationships in each hierarchy represent what we see when we look at anything – all the available perspectives we have available to us.  When we look at the external world, we see things colored that way, and when we look inside ourselves, we see the very same things colored another.

But, we didn’t spend too much time getting all philosophic about it – not yet, anyway.  We were out to crack the code of story structure and make a name for ourselves – fame and fortune!

Now working with these evolving hierarchies on the wall was getting a bit cumbersome.  Everything was spreading laterally across the room.  So, Chris being (among his many talents) a graphics guy, started modeling our concepts and understandings in a more accessible form.

At first he tried putting each into a 3 D pyramid with Mind at the top of one and Universe at the apex of the other.  We discovered each was a four-sided pyramid because there were always for items in a set of two pairs.  And then their parents made two pairs that also made four items and so on.  Not making it up, just following the patterns inherent in the semantics of the words on the post-ii notes, originally discovered in stories.

And then we had the pair of Memory and Conscious in Mind and the equivalents of Past and Present in Universe.  After some work, we added Subconscious to Mind and Future to Universe.  But how could those be equivalent?  Well, perhaps, it is in the Subconscious from whence come our desires, which might be based on looking at what we want in the future?

Well, that turned out to be just wrong – at least as stated – but we had no time for that.  We were trying to finish the two hierarchies and discover a way to efficiently present them – not to try and  understand any of it yet, unless we couldn’t help it.

So, in time we got two pyramids visualized on paper, but they had a lot of problems, just like Crick’s and Watson’s tinker toy models.  For one thing, it was beginning to look like the bottom level of each hierarchy was using the same words as in the other hierarchy and in the exact same places, which was just weird: How could the external world and the internal world meet at the exact same things?

To help answer that, we attempted to put the two four-sided pyramids together, base to base.  But if things are in the same position at the bottom of each, they can’t possibly meet item to item, because you’ve flipped them over so they are at opposite sides.


So, we tried putting them point to point, but that provided no practical use at all.  Finally we just settled on two pyramids, side by side, where the bottom level was exactly the same in each.  Didn’t like it, couldn’t do anything about it, and at least it was easy to see equivalencies from one to the other.

Now how did we get from two classes to four?  Well as I said earlier, it’s hard to establish a clear linearity of evolution here since we were working on a myriads of things all at once, which muddies the water.  But basically, it is as follows:

Within each hierarchy, we had arranged each set of two pairs in what we came to call a “quad.”  This was designed as a visualization by Chris so that the most specific or tangible pair was put on a diagonal from the upper left, and the more ethereal of process-oriented was put on a diagonal from the upper right.  By doing this consistently, the natures of each pair and their relationship from pyramid to pyramid was easily seen.

And somewhere along the line, we realized everything in each pyramid was made of quads of four, but the top level only had two items – one pair – Universe and Mind.  If story structure was indeed symmetrical, there ought to be four.  So what would be the other two?  Well, by looking at the relationships of the pairs in the  hierarchies at all levels, we were able to determine that the pair of Universe and Mind needed a complimentary pair of Physics and Psychology.

As it turned out, we hadn’t been building a model of psychology but of mind – the tangible pieces of our inner world like Conscious, Memory, and Subconscious.  But the processes of the mind, the way it rolled, that would be in a hierarchy of Psychology.  And Universe had a process equivalent of Physics.

So, we realized what we were building were four perspectives on the reality that was the same thing at the bottom of each point of view.  We called them Classes to give a sciency ring to them.

And Chris, Graphic Man Extraordinaire, converted the pyramids to towers and eventually bound them into the 3D projection we all know and love and the flat table of story elements that holds our hearts to this day.

Again, a lot of things were going on at once, but I think this paints a good picture of where we were coming from and a glimpse at the order in which things happened.

Hopefully, this will help you adopt the same intuitive mind set to guide your logic in continuing to refine and expand the theory.

Comment from Irvaxis, a patron:

Since this post talks about the Table of Elements’ origins, there are some theoretical questions i’ve recently been debating with a friend of mine in regards to its construction. Therefore, here is my question: · In the Table of Elements, at rest, unjustified, does every quad there respect the traditional K A D T arrangement for every term/mental process placed in there, or rather, the K A D T arrangement follows a different logic for each quad, and in such case, which one? This is the closest thing i found to explain it, and it quickly became confusing beyond my comprehension. I was unable to map this onto the entire table: Thanks in advance like always.

My response:

Hi, Irvaxis. Though I will be doing a “Reasoning” post specifically about the Table of Elements and several about the quad, let me answer your question with a few brief things to consider, and later I’ll hold forth more expansively.

First, the link you included explains part of the issue in the section entitled the non-linear form. It describes (in text and in the included graphic) how the KTAD equation iterates. Let me here address the salient points, not in a “reasoning behind” approach but, for efficiency and clarity, in a “this is what it is” approach.

First, the entire model is a K based system which means that of all the ways you could look at narrative structure, Dramatica was all built from point of view of definitive elements arranged in rigid relationships.

The “why” of this will be covered later, and there are many other ways to build a structure and an engine than this one that addresses the same thing, just as DNA can been seen as a double-heilx or under X-Ray will appear as a crystal. The Table of Story Element is the crystalline version of Dramatica.

Next – the quad is not a thing, it is a visual representation of a logic equation – even an equation of relativity. The primary equation is K/T = AD, which is from a K-base perspective. But the equation itself is designed to describe the relationships among four processes, each represented by one of the four letters, which are the four “bases” of the DNA of narrative.

When the equation iterates is is not just working like traditional iterative equations where the result is then plugged back into the variables of the equation to create expanding fractals. Rather, the quad represents an iteration in which the result of the equation changes the operations in the structure – essentially, changing the position of the variables in the equation but not the nature of the items nor the nature of the equation’s operations, just where specific variables reside in the operation.

Side note: this describes how the mind goes over the same ground again and again, but in different orders through the variables to understand the role of time (sequence) in affecting the results. i.e. : a slap followed by a scream has a different meaning than a scream followed by a slap.

From the top of the Tower of Dramatica, the K perspective (Spatial perspective) is maintained all the way down to the elements, and so, from that perspective, K is always in the upper left and KTAD maintain their relative positions.

But, laterally within the model, the horizontal levels represent the temporal aspect of the iteration, and so, as in the line you included, each quad iterates until it completes creating set of four states of the equation (or if you prefer four iterated equations of KTAD) .

But once that happens at the Type level, to create 16 types (four quads of four), then the temporal process iterates the entire set of 16 types through the same pattern as in the link to create a “chess set” of 64 variations. And so, the tower view has iterated not only horizontally but vertically as well.

As an aside, this is why we say Dramatica is a quad helix, because it is really two helices, each identical to DNA, but wrapped around each other in a super double helix, which reflects in the dynamics as the two different justifications. But finally, we reach the bottom where it all falls apart. There, Quads are broken apart into their original binary pairs and then recombined into new quads in a final iterative operation that takes into account how all four classes are ultimately looking at the same things, but by the time you get into the greatest depth of detail or granularity, the physics of it breaks down.

And at that place at which all four classes come together with the same items but in arrangements that bread the bonds of the physics of it in each of the other three classes, respectively, you are on the edge of atomic dissolution where it interfaces with the quantum realm, and that is the final step before you leave the K based system and move on to the next master perspective.

And when you have iterated through all four master perspectives down to the bottom, collectively, you have arrived at the point where you are no longer looking at structure and the relationships among items, but at dynamics and the influences that alter them – the mythical dynamic model. That is where I am working currently.


Let’s see if i got this right so far: · There are at least two perspectives we can hold in the static table of elements (with no component of time/sequence): A vertical one (i assume, top down), and a horizontal one (or also named lateral, which would be within the same floor of the towers). · The vertical view keeps the classic KADT arrangement as the equations themselves are represented with the same bias. · The lateral view of a floor is iterating through the equation positions. I assume this refers to each floor independently. The top floor is the base equation, the next floor is 4 iterations, the next floor is 16 iterations and the last floor is 64 iterations, that iterate according to the rules in that article of yours that i still can’t wrap my head around at this time. · The mix/combination of these two factors decides what the mental process in that place is. Or: · The top down view is the towers/Table of Elements. This is the “spatial” component. This also determines KADT arrangement in this perspective. · The lateral view is the result of justification / is basically for the “time” component. This also determines KADT arrangement in this other perspective. · The Dynamics from the algorithms would operate upon this temporal/lateral side in matching accordance to what’s what on the top down/spatial side. Would it be one of these two? Or something else entirely? Still, i might need a bit of a walkthrough to get how these equations iterate, especially as we go down to the element level, unless that’s planned for a dedicated post. Still, thanks in advance like always.

My response:

Interestingly, all of what you said above “or” is correct and some of what you said below “or” but not all.

For the first point below “or” – Yes, the top down view is the spatial perspective of the mind, which manifests itself in a repetitive KTAD pattern from top to bottom with no iteration.

For the second point – No, the lateral view is not the result of justification. Justification has not happened yet in the model. It is the temporal view of KTAD, unjustified, and from that perspective, the KTAD pattern flows through the iterations, seen as static shifts of meaning in the semantic model.

It can help to think of it this way conceptually – In our minds we have a time sense and a space sense. They do not and cannot see eye to eye. It is like trying to put a plastic ruler down on a pencil that has been laid on a table. If you press one side of the ruler to the table, the other side will move up from the table, like a seesaw. If you press the other side down, the first side will move up. There is not way to make it match on with both sides being down at the same time (though they can both be half-way up.

Down on both sides is a solved problem. Up in any balance between the sides is an inequity in the mind. The mind is driven by inequity and will never be balanced. Self awareness is the interference pattern between space and time. It does not exist within the brain but in the differential between our space sense and our time sense. It is that interference pattern that you see between the top down view, which makes total sense spatially, and the horizontal view, which makes total sense temporally.

But when you put them both in the same space/time construct (the tower) they are incompatible and in place contradictory. And yet they both exist in the same space/time.

It helps sometimes to think of the model without any words in it and without KTAD labels stuck on it. For this perspective the framework of the model appears to make total sense from the top down and total sense from the side across. That is the view from inside out minds because our self awareness cannot view things both spatially and temporally at the same time.

And so, we cannot see the paradox within – it looks good from space, then again looks good from time, then back to space and back to time and everything appears compatible, from the inside. But, from the outside, there is that discrepancy you are beginning to visualize.

Simultaneously, the model is consistent from the top and iterating from the side, which cannot be, yet is. This is expressed in the semantics. Each word in the model was chosen to represent simultaneously the best seesaw compromise between the consistent space down view and the progressive sideways across view. That is built into the matrix of the model itself BEFORE justification.

That is the view from outside the mind, as when we are looking at others, leading to why we say, “If I were you, this is what I’d do,” because from the outside their decisions make no sense. But from inside their minds, your advice makes no sense. As my mom put it to me as a teaching moment when I was young, “People say to me, ‘If I were you, I’d do this…” and I tell them, ‘No, if you were me, you’d do exactly what I’m doing, but if you were in you but in my shoes, you’d do the way you suggested.” Smart woman, my mom.

So, as I say, that paradox is built into the model at rest, BEFORE justification. Now, imagine we can only think at all because of that paradox, and it is the best we can get living inside our minds by virtue of how they are constructed, how they MUST be constructed.

And now in that mind at rest, filled with nothing but ready to operate, life experience enters the picture. In a practical world, we see things happen a certain way long enough and we assume givens – if this, then this, and when this, also this. Then the situation changes, but we are stuck with the givens. (We must adopt givens or we would have to refigure everything we know every time we considered anything at all – bad survival trait for the species. So, we establish givens which become the framework of how we see the world.

And then something changes and those givens don’t work any longer. For example, you understand when to use logic and when to use feelings to solve a problem, but now logic isn’t working any longer because of a different environment. So, you eventually give up on it and go with somebody’s advice to stop over thinking it and just go with your feelings and you do.

That’s the moment logic moves to the back burner for this kind of problem and feeling moves to the front. And now you’ve moved a mental process from its original position in the model matrix to another position in a flip. That is the beginning of the justification process, when something is either flipped spatially, or rotated temporally to adjust to experience altering either its position in the model or its sequence.

But, since time and space are interconnected in the model, when you flip or rotate one thing, the other goes with it and is also altered – space alters time and time space simultaneously. And this is how and when the justification process is applied to the model. It is not contained in the model – that is only the paradox of the interference pattern of space and time that creates self awareness in a mind (or model) at rest, carried to the the nth degree as far into the details as we can see within ourselves before we reach the point where if we look deeper, we lose a level of the upper view – the size of mind constant – so that the model is always the same size, no matter what kind of human issue we are looking at.

And it is upon that model of constant size and built-in paradox at rest that first one justification wind up is applied and then the other, in response to the eight dynamic questions. The final four questions of the total of twelve serve to position that effect upon the model in a particular place, but more on that later.

So, that’s why the model is as it is and where and when justification is applied and does not inherently reside within the model at rest and is not involved in the paradox in the vertical and horizontal levels. Good stopping point for now. 🙂


Alright, that is super-clarifying, thanks a lot! I feel like i have the gist of why the algorithm found coded in the patent and the apparent simplicity of “there are only 8 algorithms” seemed to mismatch. I have to ask one more thing, although this may need its own topic sometime: Is there a known representation of the temporal/lateral, unjustified perspective, with the corresponding KADT attachments/iterations? Because if there is, or if it can be created, this might heavily accelerate the process of recovering the algorithms and most especially the theory behind them, i conjecture. Because if these two are implemented as a single piece of code as i suspect, de-coupling them may prove to be crucial to get back the correct understanding of it.

My response:

In fact, I do not know. I was always on the theory side, not on the implementation side, so I’d come up with the concepts and the next thing I know they’d show up working in software. I see what you are saying – that if we could take the iteration “code” out of the software the justification code would remain, sort of. But, as far as I know, the iteration code isn’t in the software at all.

Rather, that’s just the concept that explains why you run into the semantic terms seeming like they don’t follow a strict KTAD pattern in the Table. But there was no need to code that part. All that was needed was the semantic terms that were used and their position in the model at rest, and then to run the two justifications on it.

So, essentially, that whole vertical/horizontal iteration “slip” it encoded in the semantics so that the semantic relationship among the four items in a quad gradually shifts as one moves through the at rest model, indicating the changing nature of KTAD through a gradual change in semantic meaning an the relationships among those altered meanings and relationship due to iterations.

Essentially, I imagine there is a semantic change in nature of the specific words from top to bottom and a change in the semantic distance between the words within quads from side to side across the model. This way, both the alteration in meaning of moving from top to bottom spatially through the four levels KTA and D and the alteration in the nature in the change of the relationships among KTAD within the evolving equations are combined in a single semantic shift, literally word by word. Therefore, both spatial and temporal shifts are unseen in terms of the toward and only contained in the semantic values. As a result, in the program it was not necessary to code either the spatial nor temporal shifts. All that was needed was:

1. Construct the matrix of the table.

2. Assign the semantic terms to their at rest position in the matrix.

3. Twist and turn the model with the two justifications based on the algorithms, including overlaying the PRCO and 1234 with the first and second justifications, which goes first depends on the algorithms.

That’s all that really happens with the model. Then the story point relationship table is overlaid so the engine can narrow the number of storyforms remaining by making choices, thereby providing more information about the structure than the author entered. And then you derive the PRCO and 1234 information and provide that to the author as well.

You know, when I stop to think about it, perhaps my greatest frustration is that to most folks, the elegance of the model is invisible. Of course, for writers, why would they want to bother with that anyway, as long as it works.

But there’s such a hidden beauty there, yet with many people, they perceive the Dramatica quad structure of the tower view as just a bunch of nested cubby holes that are just handy for holding dramatic topics that might show up in stories and have been grouped in quads of similar words.

Of course, as described above, the quads in the tower represent nested iterative equations at four different fractal levels as their variable are altered. And the iteration of the actual operations within each equation, not the variable values but the operations of the equation itself across the horizontal axis of the model CANNOT be included in the tower itself because they cannot co-exist with the top-down fractal approach – those two view are incompatible in the same space-time, must like real and imaginary numbers.

So the words in the model do the job of illustrating the gradual shift of temporal iterations (frictals) in the lateral plane, and in that way they transcend the limitations of the three dimensional representation of space-time in the model to separate out the fourth dimension of time into the semantics. And so, the model is space from the top down, but time in the iterations of semantic meanings laterally.

Now that’s pretty freaking elegant. But the real clincher is that the whole model with the space of the quads and the time of the semantics, both locked together is that they are twisted and turned through the process of justification to represent not the at-rest state of the mind, but the the potential of the mind’s experience-derived inequities, which are manifest in the potentials created through justification.

And then, of course, there is a second justification. One of the justifications occurs in the overall story mind. The other in the mind of the main character.

The main character is our self-awareness that exists without our mind. But our mind is so much more. Self-awareness is our Conscious mind, but there is also our Memory, our Subconscious, and our Pre-conscious.

And so, there is a fractal relationship between the main character and the overall mind, for the main character resides within it, but as an exact structural fractal – one tower of the complete four, a fractal of the totality.

But what’s more is that one justification is a frictal of the other – temporal fractals of one another that operate identically but one before the other. And so they are temporal fractals (frictals).

Finally, have you as of yet seen the quad that is made up of the two fractal structures (main character and overarching mind) and the two frictal dynamics (the first wind up and the second wind up)?

The structural fractals fall into the K and T positions within this master quad and the dynamic ones exist in the A and D positions. Armed with the understandings denoted above, anything within or without ourselves can be described and understood in the most accurate perspective available to us in our existence as the interference pattern between the mental world and the material world.

Perhaps “elegance” is too tame a word for this?

The Reasoning Behind Dramatica 1

I’m starting this new series of posts to provide a glimpse into our thought processes as we developed the Dramatica theory and the software implementation of the story engine.  It is my hope that sharing the reasoning behind key theory concepts will help provide perspectives others can employ to refine and expand the theory further.

Keep in mind the posts in this series are not intended to explain the concepts but to describe how we came to them.

The Story Mind

How and why did we come to the belief that the underlying structure of every story is the psychology of a single mind, that of the story itself, as if every story is something of a super character of which all the other characters are facets?

Here’s the quick version of how our thinking evolved, and below that a more detailed description of the pathway that got us there.


Chris and I had been discussing story structure every morning over coffee for months before we each went off to our respective jobs. One day, Chris asked a question that would directly lead, years later, to the discovery of the story mind.  He asked, “If a characters, such as Scrooge, are the cause of a story’s problems, how come they can’t see it?”

We pondered that a bit and concluded that characters like Scrooge must have some sort of blind spot – a psychological filter that actually prevents them from seeing the real problem and in fact, causes him to believe the problem comes from somewhere else.  If that was true, how would something like that come to be, and more, how is that remedied by the end of a story?

At this point in our discussions we shifted gears from looking for structural patterns in stories to trying to understand the psychology of the main character, and when I eventually joined Chris at his company to work on the problem, that is where we focused.

So, we started looking at all manner of movies, books, plays, etc. to find anything in those stories that pertained to the main character’s psychology.  As we found them, we put each on on a post-it note and stuck it to the wall in the conference room.

Eventually that wall was plastered with these individual points.  But, as we mulled them over, we began to realize that some of them seemed like they belonged together, as if they belonged to the same family.  And so we grouped them as best we could, chipping away at all the remaining post-it notes that hadn’t been yet assigned to a group of similar items.

In time, it became clear that some of these psychological attributes of the main character were more like an umbrella under which a family of similar items resided.  We thought of them as parents and children.

We arranged and rearranged the notes, groupings, parents, and children, until we’d used up most of original notes on the wall.  But there was this one collection of all the remaining psychological aspects that just didn’t seem to be part of the psychology of the main character, though they were certainly psychological attributes within the story.

Our next thought was that perhaps these other points were part of one of the other kinds of characters than the main character – but which one, and how were they related.  I spent days staring at the notes on the wall, looking for a pattern that might explain what these orphan notes were and how they fit into stories.

And then, one day (and I actually recall this moment so very clearly) I was looking at all those loose notes and reading them over when I thought, no, those aren’t part of the main character’s psychology, and they really don’t fit with any of the other characters either.  So what are they?

And as I examined them more closely, reading the names of each attribute, I suddenly realized that what tied them all together as a group were that they were “higher-level” concepts than the ones in the main character group.  They were more broad stroke, more expansive.

And at that moment I said to myself, I wonder if these aren’t about the characters at all, but about the psychology going on in the story itself.  And then the next thought was the Eureka moment, it popped into may head that, “maybe the story has a psychology of its own.”

I snapped out of my thought as if out of a trance and ran down the hall to Chris’ office blurting out, “Maybe those extra post-its aren’t about the characters, maybe they are about the psychology of the story itself!”

As he often did when confronted with a wholly new concept, Chris said “Wait a minute…” got up from his desk, lay down on his back on the carpet, folded his hands on his chest and closed his eyes to let his subconscious wander around the new idea and take stock.

After what seemed five minutes (though was probably shorter) he opened his eyes saying simply, “I think you’re right.”  And from that moment forward we re-approached all the work we had previously done, dividing it into the psychology of the main character and the psychology of the story at large, which we came to refer to as the story mind.

Hopefully, that short (ish) description of how the story mind concept first emerged can help any of you who want to grok the wholeness of the theory.  It’s not so much about what’s i the theory but about how to have to see things to perceive the theory – the truth of it – to know when something is accurate to it and working as it should.  For in the end, the ability to almost intuit the structure and dynamics is what drives new concepts, rather than building them from extensions to a chain of logic alone.


Now, here’s how the evolution in our thinking that led to the story mind happened, step by step:

1.  In the early 1980s Chris and I had just finished producing a feature length horror movie and we about to start another script.  We recognized problems in our last story and decided to investigate if there were any truisms we might employ to solve those problems and prevent others.  So basically, we had no idea why problems in stories happened or how we might avoid them – no understanding of story at all – that’s where we were coming from.

2.  Our instructors at the USC Cinema Department didn’t seem to have a clue either.  Oh, they had some tips, but no system, no overview that hung together.  So, we weren’t sure if anybody anywhere really understood how stories work or even, for that matter, if there was any rhyme or reason to it.  We speculated that either no one had found the answer yet or maybe there was no answer and stories were just result of unfathomable intuition.

3.  We decided to cast a wider net and see what had been written about story structure throughout history.  We encountered Aristotle, of course, and his seminal work, Poetics, and we also ran into Jung and Joseph Campbell.  But we never went too deep before we became dissatisfied with inconsistencies, incomplete reasoning, and contradictions.  So, we figured we should either drop the who thing or strike out on our own to understand what was going on in stories a little better.  We were in our twenties, so of course we were filled with hubris and arrogance and decided to chase after the prize on our own.

4.  We were so full of ourselves that we decided not to read anything about story structure by anybody else, except for the little bit of skimming we’d done.  We reasoned that maybe we’d end up reinventing the wheel, but we might just go off in a direction everyone else knew would not be productive and actually find answers they never had because they had blinders on.  Yes, we actually had that conversation and then put our own blinders on to not look elsewhere while we worked on our own quest for understanding.

5.  We actually came up with a few good ideas (such as “the rule of threes” that you’ll hear about in a later post) by looking at stories that we knew worked (you could feel which stories worked or didn’t work without an inkling why).  We got lots of little original bit and pieces, but in the end, we stalled out and without any kind of an overview about structure.  We spent a few weeks stalled and then Chris wisely said we probably hadn’t had enough life experience, and perhaps we should put it all on hold until we later.  That made sense, so that is what we did, agreeing we wouldn’t pollute our virgin thinking in the meantime with other people’s ideas about story structure until we reconvened some time in the future.

6. About ten years later, Chris called me up and said, You know that old story structure project we were working on?  I think we’re ready.”  And so we met for breakfast at a booth near the door in the Coral Cafe near my home, and from that point we were off to the races and never looked back.

7. Our first order of business was to decide to meet over coffee at my home for about an hour every day before we went to our respective jobs.  Then, we went over all our old material from ten years ago, reorganizing it to suit our more experienced point of view, and beginning to ask new questions.

And that is where this long version of the story connects to the short version at the top.

Next time, we can dispense with a lot of this background material as we look into the thought processes behind the next Dramatica concept.

The Dramatica Book | Preface

What follows is from an early unpublished draft of the book that ultimately became, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story. This excerpt is a note from me to Chris explaining the layout of the material in the draft to be considered for inclusion in the final relase version.

CHRIS:  This material is divided into seven sections.  Each is described briefly below:

Section One:      The existing book

This is the most complete and updated version I wrote.  I have edited in additional essays to fill holes, and changed and updated terms.  Aside from the Exploratorial, this approx 200K document contains all our best shots at explaining the whole damn thing.

Section Two:      The Storyforming Exploratorial

Much of this material is culled from the book in section one.  Still, there are important updates and changes in perspective and terms in this version.  In fact, if you choose to use the book material, look to this part of the tutorial for slightly different and sometimes better versions of the same material.  There is also much new material here.  This section was designed to describe what Dramatica is.

Section Three:    The Storytelling Exploratorial

You’ve already read through this one and shared your comments.  I have not yet incorporated any changes, pending what your decisions are about what ought to be used of all this material in the book.  This section was designed to tell an author how Dramatica will affect their audience.

Section Four:      The Dramatica and the Creative Writer Exploratorial

This section describes the relationship between Dramatica and the author in a conceptual, philosphic sense.

Section Five:       The Putting it in Motion Exploratorial

This section describes what it feels like when writing from the appreciations, so that an author can tap into their emotional experience of creating.

Section Six:         The Scientific American Article

‘Nuf said on this one!  I do feel this should be in the book in the back somewhere to give the tenacious reader something to dig into and to document the extent of our work.

Section Seven:         Various appendices

I’m sure you have updated versions of these, but I just threw in the Help, DQS and Definition stuff to have my most recent versions all in one place, since these need to be at the back of the book anyway.

Read the free online edition of Dramatica – A New Theory of Story in its final form.

Have Your Characters Write Their Own Autobiographies

When fleshing out your characters, have each one write a short autobiography in their own voice about their lives prior to the beginning of the story, touching on key turning points, memories of special events – both cheerful and tragic, and of the people who meant/mean the most to them.

What are their biggest disappointments, narrowest escapes, greatest triumphs, deepest regrets?

Have them tell you, the author, about their hobbies, religious and political views, hopes, and dreams.

And finally, have your character each write about how the people and events in your story appear to and affect them, from their unique point of view and position in your story.

In this way, your character development will become more organic and more informed.

Keep in mind, however, that our sense of our own selves is usually quite different from how others see us. So, it is a good idea to make sure each character writes about the others in terms of whether they trust them, what they think is their greatest strength, most detrimental weakness, and must fun/frustrating trait. This will not only illuminate how each character sees the others, but how the others see them.

And finally, when you actually sit down to write your characters, don’t just approach them from your author’s view as to what you need/want them to do in the plot, but stand in their shoes and try to understand why they do these things. Is it easy or hard for them to do what they do, compatible or contrary to their nature, and what personal costs or benefits will their actions bring them?

In the end, never forget that we are each the main character or our own personal story, even when we are playing a subordinate role in a larger story involving many others.

Read more writing tips at, the Creative Writing Tips web site.

Story Structure is Based on Fours, Not Twos

Story structure is built on fours, not on twos.  Though it may seem like conflict is created between two opposing forces, there are two other forces at play as well.

Consider a dramatic circuit consisting of four elements: Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power – just like an electrical circuit.

Every scene has all four elements and if one is missing, the circuit is incomplete and the story won’t flow.

But there’s more to it than that.  These four elements have a relationship that we see in many areas of life.

Here are some other sets of four that create the same kind of internal mechanism:

  • Earth, Water, Wind, Fire
  • Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb
  • Red, Blue, Green, Brightness
  • Universe, Physics, Mind, Psychology
  • Mass, Energy, Space, Time
  • Characters, Plot, Theme, Genre
  • Motivation, Method, Evaluation, Purpose

As you can see, each group of four has a very similar feel.  And the last item in each set seems a little out of place compared to the other three.

There’s an important psychological reason for that, but it would require going way too deep for this post.  For now, just know that stories reflect how we think, and we think in four dimensions because we perceive four dimensions.  So, it is no surprise that story structure is also based on fours, because that is the way we fully explore a topic in fiction or in life.

The Structure of Plot

Story Structure | The Structure of Plot

Most authors think of plot as what their story is about. And beyond that, they recognize key events and turning points in the story that are part of plot as well. That’s a good place to start, because it is how plot appears from the creative perspective as you are developing and writing your story.

But plot is quite a bit more than that. Structurally, a plot needs specific story points such as a goal, requirements that need to be met to achieve that goal, and even the price that will be paid if the goal is not met.

In this installment of our series on story structure, we’re going to reveal the key story points of plot and lay out the structural timeline as well.

By the time we’re done, you’ll have a much more refined understanding of what plot structure is, and how to manipulate it to create just the kind of story you want.

Let’s begin with the four most important plot points: Goal, Requirements, Consequences, and Forewarnings. All four of these work together to define what your story is about, what needs to be done, and what happens if the protagonist fails. Taken all together, these are the control knobs that adjust your plot’s dramatic tension.

Let’s investigate each of these four primary plot points:

Goal is really about as straight-forward as it seems: what the characters of your story are trying to achieve. Now, keep in mind that the protagonist is leader of the effort to achieve the goal. And, as we all know, there’s also going to be an antagonist who is working against the protagonist, either to prevent the goal from being achieved, or to achieve it for himself instead.

Without a goal, there is no clear cut destination your characters are trying to reach. So, you’ll need to describe that goal in no uncertain terms of your story will come off as unfocused and without a defined purpose. To your readers (or audience) it will seem to meander.

What kinds of things can be a goal? Just about anything: To escape from something or someone, to complete a task, to obtain something (could be a treasure, a diploma, or someone’s love), to discover something, to become a better person, to come to terms with the past. Really, almost anything can be a goal. It just needs to be something you don’t currently have, and can’t get just by snapping your fingers – you have to work for it.

Requirements describe the specific steps that must be taken or the necessary conditions that must be met for the goal to be achieved. If any step or condition is not completed, the goal will not be achieved.

Why are requirements important? Without them, your characters (and readers) have no idea what is needed to arrive at the goal. So, everything that happens seems arbitrary. And if they are ultimately successful, it comes off as if the characters just magically achieved the goal – it just happened, not because they worked to make it happen, but just because after running around in all kinds of directions, eventually the goal just plopped down in their lap for no apparent reason.

Like goals, requirements can be all kinds of things: getting the approval of all the members of the board of directors to stop an immoral project, gathering all the ingredients for the secret formula to saving the dying princess, searching the rooms in a haunted house to find an close the portal to hell, meeting the conditions necessary to prove you are worthy of someone’s love.

The key point in regard to requirements is that they be a limited set – a specific number of items or steps, well-delineated right up front, so the reader knows exactly what conditions must be met and can, therefore, track progress toward the goal.

Consequences are the bad things that will happen if the goal is not achieved. Why are consequences necessary? Because they double the motivation to achieve the goal. Without consequences, characters, just like real people, are likely at some point to say, “Hey, that goal would’ve been nice, but geesh, these requirements are just too darn hard. That goal ain’t worth it!”

But, with consequences in place, there is a price to pay if you just give up on the goal. If the goal isn’t achieved, you (and/or those you care about) will suffer. Achieving the goal not only obtains a good thing, but also prevents a bad one. And that is why your characters will push on to the end.

Forewarnings are the indicators that the consequences are gaining on you. They could be cracks in the dam that show it is getting closer to the consequence of it breaking and flooding the town if the goal of diverting the water upstream isn’t achieved or some unknown individual buying up more and more shares of stock until the consequence of him gaining control of the company prevents you from the goal of stopping an evil project.

As with requirements, forewarnings need to be clearly specified, but they don’t have to be a specific number of them. For example, how many cracks does it take before the dam breaks? With forewarnings, additional cracks, small pieces of concrete popping out, shuddering do to increasing instability, all these things can indicate the dam is getting closer to breaking, and collectively they ratchet up the motivation for the characters to push harder and faster because time and/or options are running out.

You can easily see how Goal, Requirements, Consequences, and Forewarnings work together as the master controllers of any plot’s structure.

These are the four power-drivers of the plot. However, there are many other plot points that fine tune how the dramatic tension of the Big Four is channeled through your story. But that is a subject for a future installment in our ongoing series on story structure.

This entire story structure series is referenced from our book on the subject that we published way back in 1991, Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story.  Just click on the link to read it for free in a downloadable PDF.

Also, you may wish to try our Dramatica Story Structure Software with the world’s only patented interactive Story Engine. The Story Engine cross-references your answers to questions about your story to generate a structure that perfectly supports your intent, free of holes or inconsistencies.

Until next time, May the Muse be with you!

Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator, StoryWeaver
Co-creator, Dramatica

What is Your Novel About?

What’s Your Novel About?

This might seem an easy question to answer because you’ve been thinking about your story quite a bit and know the essence of what you want it to be pretty well.

Yet if a friend asks you, “What’s your novel about?” it can often be difficult to give them a short answer that does justice to all you have in mind. You might start by explaining about all the key elements of your story – the character and their problems and their quests. Or, you might relate a sequential timeline of all the major things that happen, essentially telling them the plot.

At some point, their eyes begin to glaze over and you know that not only have they lost interest, but you never actually explained the core of your story so that they really know what your novel is about.

This is a symptom of a larger problem for novelists: If you can’t describe the essence of your story in a single sentence, your story really has no core.

Sure, you may have done all kinds of work, have scores of compelling ideas, and a real sense of how it is shaping up. But without identifying the central spine of your story, your tale is likely to meander around aimlessly without a central spine to give it purpose and structure.

To solve this problem, both for you and your friend, you should create a log line for your story. A log line is a short (preferably one-sentence) description of what it’s all about.

The remainder of this article will provide some examples of log lines, methods for creating your own, and a discussion of how to use it, once you’ve got it

From our StoryWeaver story development system:

A log line sums up the essence of what your story is about in a concise little nugget.

For example, a log line for Hamlet might read:

A prince of Denmark seeks revenge against his uncle for murdering his father and feigns insanity to buy time to plan the best method, but ultimately fails to achieve his goal.

Now clearly everything that makes Hamlet amazing is missing from the log line. But it does serve to capture the gist of what is going on and most important answers the question “What’s Hamlet about?”

For a longer example, here’s a log line for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

At Christmas time, an unhappy and miserly man has isolated himself from emotional attachments as a shield against his own childhood pain of loss and rejections, but through the intervention of three ghosts who force him to confront his past, present and future, he ultimately sees how he has victimized both himself and others, repents, seeks to make amends and rediscovers the joy of Christmas.

Though this log line meets the requirement of being a single sentence, it’s a run-on sentence. That defeats the purpose of refining your story concept until it’s sharp as a tack.

A better attempt would be:

A wealthy but stingy businessman who has become bitter due to great personal losses in his youth learns the value of giving after being visited by three ghosts on Christmas eve.

In this shorter version there’s a lot of important and meaningful material that wasn’t covered, but the longer the log line, the less focused your story concept becomes. Of course, the Log Line Police are not going to bust down your door and confiscate your keyboard if you exceed one tight sentence, but the point here is to boil down the heart of your story to its essence in the least number of words you can manage.

Now it’s your turn to write a log line. After you do, make sure it is only one sentence. And no cheating by trying to cram more information into it by writing a big long convoluted James Joyce sentence. Seriously – you’d be surprised how many writers hate leaving anything out. They hate it so much they would rather bloat their log line to the point it is unusable rather than lose a single thing, which completely defeats the purpose!

Don’t do this! The whole point of this exercise is to get your wonderful, passionate, inventive, compelling story boiled down to one dull, boring (but informative) line.

An example from StoryWeaver:

The example log line we’ll be using for the next few steps is:

“A sheriff is trying to stop a gang of cutthroats from repeatedly robbing his town.”

Sound like dozens of cliché stories you’ve read or seen before, right? Your story’s log line might seem the same way at this stage. Not to worry… As we progress through the next few steps, you’ll see this simple example expand and refine until it becomes a truly rich story world, just as yours will.

And finally, some additional information from StoryWeaver about the log line concept:

Creating a log line centers your story, provides it with an identity, and ensures that all your story development work will be guided by this beacon so your story becomes sharply focused and every element is clearly connected to the hub. It is like when a huge cloud of dust and gas condenses into a solar system and ignites into a sun around which all your story concepts orbit.

Without a log line, a story often remains just a cloud and the telling of such a story tends to meander aimlessly. Rather than forging ahead with a clear direction, it stumbles forward, tripping over its own unfocused feet and landing in the lap of your readers or audience with a dull thud as an amorphous lump with no form, no purpose, and no meaning. Now isn’t that sad, perhaps even pathetic? So let’s avoid that.

As you write your log line, think about the story notes and any initial material you may have written into the Notes and Story windows. Think about the reason you want to write this particular story in the first place, and then enter your log line in the Story Development box below.

Once you have your log line, it becomes the seed from which your story can grow with focus and purpose. In the steps that follow we’ll draw on your Notes and also develop new material to expand your log line into a full-blown story concept called a synopsis that includes all your major plot events, your principal characters, your thematic topic and message, and the elements of genre that give your story its personality.

In future steps we’ll explore how you can pull loose threads on your log line to weave a detailed synopsis that will provide a solid foundation for your novel, but you can keep going right now with the interactive online StoryWeaver App.  Check out the 14 day free trial at

Where Does Story Structure Come From?

Story Structure | Where Does Story Structure Come From?

In previous installments of this series, we’ve determined that stories do, in fact have structure.  And, we explored how each story’s structure is something of a map that shows us how to go about solving a particular kind of problem or how to improve something our lives.  This could be by achieving a goal, learning how to cope, learning a new way of looking at life, etc.

But that’s all pretty nebulous.  So, if stories have structure, it has to be something more tangible.  And yet, it also has to be flexible enough to account for all the different kinds of stories that have been told.

That’s a pretty tall order!  And yet, here we are: with an innate sense that some sort of structure does exist, yet a frustrating inability to see it clearly, though we can almost make it out, moving around in the dark waters beneath our subject matter and storytelling style.

In this installment, we’re going to strip all that away and take a good look at the beast.  And to do that, we’re going to explore where story structure comes from in the first place.

Story structure begins with us.  Not surprising since stories are about people, after all.  But more specifically, story structure begins with how each of us, as individuals, go about solving problems and trying to improve our lives.

When confronted by something we’d like to change or something new we’d like to attain, we look at from all sides: with our logic, how we feel about, or with a skeptical eye, for example.

We consider the issue through each of these perspectives (or filters) and see how things look.  Do any of these suggest a course of action? Which ones look promising, and which ones set up a red flag: “Best to not do anything at all!”

Then, our mind takes over and collates all those assessments, “This feels right, but it makes not sense at all,” or, “I know it’s the right thing to do, but I just can’t tolerate it.”

At some point, we’ve thought about it enough, and we determine our plan for what we’re going to do and/or how we are going to respond.

That’s pretty much how problem solving works for you (at a greatly simplified level) and for your main character too!

Story structure for your main character (excluding the rest of the story) boils down to this: It shows the timeline of how your main character examines the central issue at the heart of their personal journey and then makes a decision about the best path to take.

But what about the rest of the story?  What about all those other characters beside the main character – the ones who are in all kinds of relationships struggling with each other over the goal at the center of the plot?  Where does that story structure come from?

Actually, the same place – just bigger.

Here’s how it works…

When people get together around a common issue (like a goal or a cause), after a while that group begins to self-organize.  One person will emerge as the Voice Of Reason for the group, another as Passionate Heart, and yet another as the Resident Skeptic.

You see, when we work together to resolve something of common interest, we still use the same tools and perspectives we do as individuals.  The difference is, that for ourselves we do all of those jobs like general practitioners because there’s just us to do them.

But in a group, if each individual tried to do all the jobs, it would be a mess!  Everyone would be overlapping their effort, and since each one would be doing many jobs, they couldn’t devote all their time to any one job.

So socially, we understand that intuitively.  And that’s why in a group, people begin to specialize.  One looks at the issue solely through the eyes of Reason.  Another is the Skeptic who questions everything.  Both are essential perspectives to take, but by specializing, each one can devote all their time to a single perspective and go for a deep dive.  They can work their way down into the details that no one person could do if they were trying to do a lot of other jobs too.

In this way, by specializing, the group can see deeper into every issue it encounters, and that serves every member of the group.

But here’s the cool thing…  Because all those jobs in the group are the same ones we use as individuals, the structure of the group is nearly identical to the structure we use in our own minds.  In a sense, it becomes a map of our own minds’ problem solving processes, but something external to ourselves – visible in the way the group is organized.  In short, we can see the workings of our own minds in the workings of any organized group. Whoa…

Just as the structure of the main character is based on the structure of our own internal problem solving processes, the structure of the overall story is based on the structure of how a group goes about solving problems.

So you have two identical maps of the problem solving process in a story:  1.  The individual trying to work out what’s best for him or her.  2.  The group trying to figure what’s best for it (and all its members).

But here’s the clincher:

What’s best for an individual is not always what’s best for the group he belongs in.  In other words, the needs of the one are often in conflict with the needs of the many.  And the truth of the matter is, all dramatic tension is created by that conflict between what the individual wants to achieve for himself or herself and what their group’s agenda demands of them as a member of the group.  Again, whoa.

Think about that.  Story structure is like a wheel within a wheel.  The individual is struggling to navigate their life to resolve their issues, all the why trying to negotiate their participation the the group effort.

Kinda feels like everything from A Christmas Carol to Hamlet and touches on genres from Romance to Action to Buddy Stories, Comedies, Westerns, Spy Thrillers, you name it.

And that is why story structure was so hard to see:  Since stories unfold over time, everyone was looking for a timeline kind of structure.  But the truth is, stories are only timelines from the perspective of the reader or audience, because that is how they are exposed to it.

From an author’s point of view, the story is a done deal.  They see it complete – beginning, middle, and end all at once.  An author stands outside of time and works out his or her structure as if it were a framework for the story – scaffolding that supports their message or intent.

A tweak here, and adjustment there, and the dramatic forces that represent the kinds of things we encounter in everyday life are fine-tuned to provide just the point of view the author wants the reader or audience to arrive at, once the storytelling is over and they look back at everything they experienced to understand what it meant.

Well that’s quite a journey we’ve taken here ourselves.  But it led to a new way of looking at story structure that brings brings it into greater focus by seeing where it came from in the first place.

In other installments in this series we’ll talk about the specific dramatic elements and components that make up structure, and how you can use them together to create just the impact you want to have.

This entire series is drawn from our book on the subject that we published way back in 1991, Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story.  Just click on the link to read it for free in a downloadable PDF.

Until next time, May the Muse be with you!

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica

Writing from the Subconscious

Here’s a short poem I finished up at 4 a.m. this morning, followed by some creative notes that you might find valuable in developing your own stories:


Can I find some peace of mind,
to dull the horrid daily grind,
or should I taste the bitter rind,
whose poison quells all pain?

Will I fight another day,
am I the one my Id will slay,
and what will be the price to pay,
to end this sad refrain.

From time to time I am compelled,
to neuter what I cannot geld,
that which never can be held,
melting in the rain.

Driven by the summer breeze,
to dash against the leafless trees,
then thrust to ground on brittle knees,
and never walk again.

Lifeless dreams through sightless eyes,
dance across the heartless skies,
and sing a ghastly last reprise,
that burns into my brain.

Empty husk of parasites,
humbled by a thousand bites,
drained of self and filled with mites,
resistance is in vain.

Flaccid with my stuffing gone,
darkness now defies the dawn,
time stands still, then marches on,
a pointless trackless train.

Into earth my substance crumbles,
while the time train clacks and rumbles,
all I was is lost to mumbles,
neither sharp nor sane.

Now as if I wasn’t there,
self is shadow, breath is air,
nothing left to be aware,
a terminal moraine.


So, you see, it is about the death of a glacier. But the weird part is, I didn’t know that until after I wrote it.

All through the creative process I thought I was describing a despondent burned-out person, though I, myself, am in quite a positive mood of late.

It felt strange writing this – different than usual. Each stanza came together organically, and though each was about the same issue of loss of self, each was also centered around a completely different kind of imagery.

The stanzas really didn’t seem connected by a central spine or theme, just that sense of loss of self. In fact, taken together, I felt they were just chaotic glimpses into the storyteller’s psyche.

In terms of the creative process, all went smoothly until I arrived at the very last line. After every previous rhyme falling easily into place, I couldn’t (for the life of me) figure out how I wanted it to end.

So, for the first time on this project, I opened the rhyming dictionary and scanned through hundreds of multi-syllable words that rhymed with “pain.”

Nothing jumped out at me until I stumbled across “terminal moraine.” That was it! Perfect ending – terminal having the double meaning of mortality, which seemed to fit with this poor narrators description of his life experiences.

So, I plopped in that last line, re-read it a few times and published it on my blog under the title “A Way Out,” still believing it to be about this person.

Didn’t like the title though. Seemed mamby pamby. I decided to re-read the poem a few more times and after perhaps half a dozen readings, going from the end back to the beginning, I read “terminal moraine” immediately followed by “daily grind.” And that’s when it hit me – those two phrases sound like they are describing a glacier!

“No….” I thought. “It can’t be….” So I read it once more with “death of a glacier” in mind and holy crap! Every stanza – every WORD rang true to that theme, as if it had been intentionally written all along to describe the last days of a glacier’s life.

Now that has never happened to me before, and I’m kind of blown away by it. The poem is good and the imagery works with any title, but “Glacier” is that missing thread that elevates the poem from a collection of images to a single topic, explored.

I’d say at least half of the artistic impact of the poem derives from seeing it as the end of a glacier. And so, I really don’t feel right taking credit for that since that didn’t happen until the poem was already completed. Hence, this “apology” for the quality of the work.

Still, this brings up an interesting aspect of the writing craft. I’ pretty sure my subconscious knew full well what it was writing about from the get-go. It just didn’t fill me in on it until the end.

I’e read many accounts where readers find so much meaning in a poem, a story, or a song that was never intended by the author, who denies that meaning intently.

And yet, as creators, we all know we have over-active imaginations, and a lot of what goes on with that comes from the subconscious. That’s where inspirations come from and it is the source of those moment of epiphany that pop up in Eureka moments.

It is my belief that the truly great writers are those whose subconscious works to instill far more meaning in their stories than that of which the author is ever consciously aware. THAT is the quality that infuses depth and complexity into the piece and draws the readers into a multi-level multi-faceted experience.

This latest effort has driven that home to me yet again – that the best way to construct a story is to let your mind set the destination and your heart chart the course.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator, StoryWeaver