Category Archives: Dramatica Software

Questions About Dramatica Story Expert

A writer recently asked these questions about Dramatica Story Expert:

1) Will the Dramatica Unplugged video program work for Dramatica Story Expert, as well as for Dramatica Pro – or is there another course I should pursue for DSE?

Dramatica unplugged works fine for any version of Dramatica, as it deals with the dramatic concepts of the theory, not with the software.

2) What’s really the difference between DSE and Dramatica Pro?

The big difference in Story Expert (aside from being updated in look, feel, and operation) are the “gists.” These are subject matter versions of the story points. For example, rather than reading as “obtaining” a goal might read as “stealing the crown jewels.” There are thousands of gists for you to use as story ideas, and you can create your own as well. Plus, you can even access them in the “Spin the model” feature which picks an arbitrary storyform structure, then populates it with randomly chosen subject matter to help you come up with story ideas!

3) Is there anything else I should have to get me ready to use DSE?

There’s nothing you need to do to get ready to use DSE. The main thing is getting used to the new main screen, as we’ve done away with the old button-style desktop and instead open directly to a panel that focuses on the four throughlines. The menus have changed too – easier for new people, but for users of Dpro it may take a while to figure out how to get to all the old favorite features.

The New Dramatica for Macintosh is Finally Here!

Ten years in development since the release of Dramatica Pro 4 comes the next generation of story structuring and story development software for Macintosh: Dramatica Story Expert!

Built around the same patented Story Engine, Dramatica Story Expert is bursting with new tools and features that will once again revolutionize the process of story creation for novelists, screenwriters and playwrights.

Visit the Dramatica Story Expert Product Page to learn all about the new and enhanced features!

Upgrade for just $69.95

Full Version for $169.95

Windows version expected in Spring 2013

Using Dramatica Example Stories

Dramatica Pro ships with 68 complete example stories ranging from “Hamlet” to “Star Wars” and including books, movies, teleplays and stage plays. Each of the Dramatica Story Example files loads up in Dramatica as if you had written it in Dramatica yourself. In other words, each example file is a complete analysis of all the story points and descriptions in that story, in order to illustrate how you should go about creating and illustrating your own story in Dramatica.

One at a time, load story examples that are similar to the kinds of story you want to tell. Once you have viewed all the examples you want to explore at this time, then open a new blank file from the file menu and begin creating your own story, based on what you’ve learned from the examples.

The best way to begin building stories with Dramatica is in the StoryGuide – the upper left icon on the Dramatica desktop. It takes you step by step through the whole process of creating and illustrating a story in Dramatica. It also has three levels of complexity so, for new users or shorter stories, you can use the smaller list of questions to start with. You can always switch to the other levels of complexity at any time in order to add more details or depth to your story.

Later, when you are experienced in the Dramatica process, there are many powerful tools you’ll want to explore directly, outside of the StoryGuide path. They can be used at any time, and you can switch back and forth from the StoryGuide to the other features whenever you like. No matter where you answer questions or manipulate your story in Dramatica, all the information goes to the central Story Engine so a change made anywhere will instantly update throughout the software to every other area.

More Ways to Use Example Files

Dramatica’s story examples also show up throughout the software to help you make choices about your story. One of the most powerful places is in the StoryGuide. Most question screens in the StoryGuid has a HelpView bar running horizontally across the middle of the right side of the screen. I has several different buttons which can provide help and inspiration for how to best answer each question for your story. One of the buttons is labeled “Examples”.

If you select a story structure point for a given question and then click on the Examples button, it will show you all the other stories in the Examples folder that share that story point with your story. By selecting different story point choices on a question, you can see different sets of example stories that share that choice, so it will help you make the proper choice for your story by giving you a feel for the kinds of stories that use each of the available story point choices.

Finally, if you want to write a story that is very much like one of the example stories, but just change it a bit to apply it to your own story concept, you can do the following:

Load the story example you want to use as the basic framework for your story. Go to the “Storytelling” menu and select “Clear Storytelling”. This will remove all the subject matter and specifics of the story example, leaving nothing but the underlying structural dramatic framework for the story. For example, “Romeo and Juliet” has almost exactly the same structural framework as “West Side Story”. The biggest difference is in the setting and specific subject matter, while the underlying dramatic structure is very much the same.

So, by removing all the specifics, you can write your own version of two lovers caught between their warring families without being derivative any more than “West Side Story” is of “Romeo and Juliet”. And, you can always choose to make changes to the structure itself using Dramatica’s Story Engine, in order to put a different spin on the familiar concept. If you choose to do this, Dramatica Story Engine will ensure that your altered version is as structurally sound as the original, even though the dramatic tensions will have been adjusted to a different kind of audience impact.

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.

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

A new Dramatica user recently emailed to say she was stymied when she reached a point in the storyforming procedure and the options she wanted for a particular story point were grayed out and not available, even though she was structuring her already completed book and felt she had a solid “hero’s journey” arc.

My reply:

Here’s some info to set the stage, followed by some steps you can take to solve this problem after you are familiar with the concepts.

First off, story points in a structure are not independent but are interdependent. This means that story points don’t stand alone in a structure but have relationships with other story points. The result of this is that the “options” list only those remaining choices that are consistent with other choices already made that have a collective impact or interconnection down the line. In fact, when you don’t have options you want, this is Dramatica doing the very thing it was created to do: letting you know that the choices you’ve already made in your structure are not truly compatible with the choice you are trying to make now. In short – your structure would be inconsistent. This is the purpose of Dramatica – to alert you when you are drifting in your perspective and therefore undermining the strength of your own message.

You see, most authors come to write a given story because they are interested in the subject matter. But subject matter isn’t structure. Subject matter is the setting, style, background information about your characters and their affectations, for example. In contrast, structure is an argument you are making to your reader or audience that a particular path toward a solution is the best or worst one that might be employed in those particular circumstances that you are exploring. That is your underlying message that gives direction and backbone to everything that happens in your subject matter. But how many different stories – different structures might be created that are all set in the Old West? And just because they share the same subject matter doesn’t mean they belong in the same story.

As writers, we are coming to a story without really knowing how all the pieces will fit together. Even if we have completed a book or a screenplay without Dramatica that seems to work (to us), it may not be actually living up to its potential, or may in fact not really work as well for others as it does for ourselves. This is because people tend to think in terms of topics rather than in terms of structure. So, we look at our subject matter and we discover that a particular topic in that realm dovetails very nicely with another topic in the same subject matter. While this is likely true, that is just the superficial. Beneath that, do they structurally connect as well? It is almost impossible to see if it does with the “naked eye.” But Dramatica puts the structure under the microscope (or into the X-Ray machine) and looks at what’s holding it all together logically. It takes you choices as you make them and instantly calculates how each additional choice impacts all the remaining options – which support what you’ve done already and which work against it, dramatically. It grays out all the options that are not structurally consistent with the other options you’ve chosen.

In short, though your subject matter may be consistent from the opening page to “the end,” and though it make all seem solid and right on the surface, who knows what evil lurks beneath? Dramatica knows.

Now, what to do about it….

Well, the first point is that the StoryGuide (Quick Start) is a way to introduce new users to Dramatica but is not necessarily the best way to use it down the line. If you don’t see the options you want there is usually no single previous choice that can be changed to allow the options you want (as described earlier). But, there are two approaches that will work, one with your existing storyform and one that is a better way to start in the first place.

First, for the storyform you already have partially developed: Go to the Story Engine feature and see all the items that are chosen in your storyform. Find the story point you want to open up to more options. Click on the little lock boxes to the right of each story point you want to keep as is, leaving all the other story points that don’t matter so much to you with the lock box open. Then hit “clear.” This will wipe out all the constrictions other than those imposed by the story points you’ve locked. In this way, you can get rid of any previous choices that aren’t important, keeping only the ones that are essential to you. This should open up more choices on the story point for which you wanted more options. If it doesn’t open up more options, it means that some combination of the story points you locked are still inconsistent (structurally – dramatically) with that story point. Which means you’ll have to uncheck the least important remaining story point and hit clear again and repeat until those options open up.

Now, this is a bit of a pain in the neck, and also can be frustrating because Dramatica 4 doesn’t show all the story points in the Story Engine – just the most commonly addressed ones. So, if your story point isn’t there, or if you have made choices for other story points in the story guide that don’t show up in the Story Engine, then you’ll have to open those up by unchecking them in Story Guide – as described, a pain in the neck. Fortunately, Dramatica 5 (in programming) has an improved Story Engine that includes all the story points for a one-stop job.

And here is where I explain how you can go about structuring your story much more efficiently from the get go. To begin, start with a new story file with no choices made. Then, go directly to the Story Engine OR to the Query System and find the single most important story point to you as author of the story. It might be the Main Character’s Problem (that drives him or her). It might be the Overall Story Domain (that determines if it will be an action story or one about soul-searching, for example). Naturally, this requires an understanding of what the story points are and how they show up in a story (which is why it wasn’t set up for new users). In the Story Guide you can read about each story point and use the helpview buttons to learn about the dramatic theory behind them, see them in context of real stories, learn about their usage in storytelling, and even call up examples of other well-known stories that share that same single story point.

The idea is, to begin with the single most important story point to you. Since it is the first one chosen, all options will be open. Next, you choose the second most important story point to you. Most authors don’t get into structural inconsistencies at this level, but only later when they get down to the less important dramatic choices. Since everyone has a different opinion about which story point is most important to them, there’s no way to set up a single pathway for everyone. Fortunately, Dramatica is nonlinear, so you can start with any story point and then go to any other next and so on.

As you go, story point by story point in order of importance, you’ve likely eventually run up against one in which the options don’t match what you want. That is Dramatica working again, telling you that what you wanted to do at that point is not consistent with what you’ve done already. At that point, you have a few directions to go:

1. Just ignore what Dramatica is saying. Often the passion of an author’s words is enough to carry readers or audience over structural flaws as long as they aren’t glaring. And, in fact, it is sometimes impossible to get excited about writing things in a way you don’t want that is perfect structurally, while it is inspiring to write about a particular part of your story the way you want it, even if it is structurally flawed. And this will translate into heightened involvement for your readers and audience. So, try to see why you are being inconsistent and why the options actually remaining would be structurally better, and then decide to chance your story or ignore that particular structural flaw because it isn’t a particularly critical story point.

2. Go back a ways, undoing choices, and try a slightly different path that may avoid closing down those options.

3. Recognize that structure is important to you at this point in your story, and that it is really shining a light on your structural flaws. Therefore, you change your story to whatever degree is needed to bring it into line dramatically.

In summary, however you decide to approach it, when the options you want are no longer available, that is in fact exactly why Dramatica was created and what it was designed to do: not to force you to conform to structure but to simply alert you to structural flaws and to show you the structurally sound options so that you can choose to fix the problem or let it slide for the sake of the Muse. But, at least you won’t be doing it unknowing and in the dark.

Hope this helps.


Using Dramatica for a How-To Book

A Dramatica user recently asked:

I bought your Dramatica Pro software a couple of weeks ago and am finding it difficult to figure out how to use it for writing a how-to type of book. I’ve developed a few imaginary characters just so that I could work through your software and learn how it works, but now I’d like to drop these imaginary characters so I can better focus on all the topics I’d like to cover in my book and the sequence they need to have so that the audience can understand what I want to show them. Essentially I’m writing about the mind and behavior and happiness and destiny which is all very abstract, so I’m trying to make it concrete and understandable by linking cause and effect.

Any suggestions of how I can use your software to help me write this type of book?


My reply:

Hi, Sharon

One of the best places to explore those kinds of topics are in the Theme Browser, which shows you sort of a Period Table of Thematic Topics. In the Theme Browser, you can zoom in from a generalized topic to progressively detailed topics. You can also see how the concepts relate by their position in the grid, relative to one another.

Then, in the Dramatica Dictionary, you can find extended definitions and descriptions of each of these thematic items including synonyms and antonyms.

Another place to look is in the StoryGuide question paths. There, along the middle of the window from left to right is a “HelpView” bar with several buttons on it. These allow you to see all the thematic terms used in context as well as real-world examples of how they might come into play in life (or in stories).

Essentially, I would skip working with characters at the beginning and focus on building theme first. Then go to plot. then genre, then theme.

Now if you click on the Start Here tile on the main Dramatica desktop when you open the program, select the longer of the paths. Then, follow the instructions and make heavy use of the HelpView buttons which provide so much context and exploration of how these topics work with the mind and with inter-socialization. Skip anything that has to do with Characters the first time through. Then, after completing the path go to the Reports area and read some of the thematic reports to get a feel for the topics you’ve selected.

Finally, go back to the StoryGuide and create a Main Character to represent your own views of the information you’ve selected. Your Impact Character will be your audience that you hope to convince of your views. Answer the questions for the Main Character describing how you feel about the material, and for the Impact Character about how you want to focus them. Then check the reports for both characters and for the plot lines that have been laid out. These plot lines will provide a sequential guide that describes the progression of topics and sub-topics you will want to use to explore your subjects.

It is often handy to then reverse the process and adopt the role of the Obstacle Character and answering how you want to impact your reader who is now cast as the Main Character. In this way, you can see what things look at from your readers’ point of view and how you are coming across to them, topic-wise.

In the end, though the reports and structures are tremendous guides, the greatest value of this approach is that you have come to know your material in great detail, including contextual information about the perspectives of each topic you wish to explore and the order you’d like to approach it, as well as the impact you’d like to have.

That’s probably enough to get you started. Let me know if you have any further questions along the way.


Questions About Dramatica’s Features

A teacher of writers recently asked:

  • Does Dramatica include a database structure for building character files? Too me it seems this would be an important story building concept that a computer could offer with great advantage; the ability to collect character names, traits, histories, personalities etc.
  • Are there other database structures for collections of titles, dialog, story starters, first line hooks, etc? 
  •  Is there an outline structure regarding acts or scenes and the order of events?
  •  From my experience in writing classes two important difficulties always seem to come to light. Point of view and order of events (plotting the story with Beginning, Middle, & End). Does Dramatica help with these trouble areas?

My reply:

In answer to your questions, though Dramatica is all about the Story Engine, it does have a data base of character names and information and a few pre-built stereotypes to start from.

While it doesn’t have story starters per se, it ships with about 70 example files of notable movies, books, teleplays and stage plays.  Each can be used for ideas, and there’s even a feature that lets you strip out all the identifiable storytelling and subject matter leaving nothing but the bare bones structure.  You can then use that to build your own story since structure is just the blueprint and the storytelling makes it your own.

There are also built-in scene by scene and chapter by chapter templates for a novel or a screenplay to give you some timeline guidance if you wish.

As for the “trouble points” you list, point of view and timeline issues are the center and purpose of Dramatica.  Each story point is defined not just by what the subject matter is, but how you want to position your readers or audience in relation to each issue.  And characters are all defined by their points of view as well.  Plus, Dramatica can actually predict what should happen in act two, based on other information you’ve provided about your story’s underlying message argument.

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

A Dramatica Writer’s DreamKit user recently contacted me to say that she had encountered a bug in the software.  First, when she created a character and assigned it a role as a particular archetype (such as Reason), and then reassigned that role to another character and saved the file, when she re-oped the file the character was labeled as “complex” rather than as the archetype that had been chosen.

Secondly, when giving up on that software problem and trying to identify the character’s archetypal role in the character’s name, she ran of of space and the software cut off her text.

Finally, the reports showing information about the characters listed here characters all as complex, even though she chose them as archetypes.

I investigated  (along with Write Brothers, the manufacturer of DreamKit and Dramatica) and here is my reply to the DreamKit user as to what we found so far:

Hi, again!

This may help you.

Dramatica Pro and DreamKit are run by the same story engine. DreamKit just presents a portion of the story points that Pro does.

When it comes to characters, DreamKit only shows motivations. Pro has three other areas of character elements: methodologies, purposes, and motivations. Archetypes have 8 elements each, two from each of the four areas.

In DreamKit, you only see the two motivations. So, if you choose to make a character an archetype the story engine automatically assigns the other six elements for that archetype so the engine will be properly balanced. But, if you choose to make another character that archetype instead, the story engine “reads” your choice as just the two elements that you gave it in DreamKit and does not move the other six in the engine already. That results in the character appearing to be “complex” because it only has two elements since the other six are still assigned to the first character, behind the scenes in the story engine where you can’t see.

Now, that is a real bug (not a theory bug, but a programming mistake). In fact, if you choose to take the role of an archetype away from a character and give it to another character, it should reassign all eight elements, not just the two that you see.

Interestingly, DreamKit has been out for about 15 years, and no one ever reported that mistake before in all those years. (Truth is, it doesn’t matter if you call a character an archetype or complex – the real important information is what elements does that character have). Still, the software should be consistent in whether it labels a character an archetype or complex.

But, to be perfectly honest, you can’t really create archetypes in DreamKit (speaking from a theory point of view) because, by definition, archetypes must have a full complement of all eight elements and you simply can’t build that in DreamKit – intentionally! Many stories create characters with only motivations – the simplest way to build characters. That’s why DreamKit only offers those, which makes it a properly balanced product for simpler stories. We still call them “archetypes” in DreamKit because that is the way writers casually think of those characters, even though they don’t have all four levels of elements, just the motivations.

So, nothing is wrong with the story engine or the theory, the DreamKit software just handles the labels incorrectly when it comes to reassigning the label of archetype from one character to another. The elements in the character are correct, nonetheless.

On another issue, as I wrote before, Dramatica (both Pro and DreamKit) are designed to allow only one character at a time to be an archetype. This is because, according to Dramatica theory, there should never be two characters trying to represent the same point of view or characteristic at the same time – it confuses the readers or audience.

But, in very, very rare stories, the role of character as an archetypes may be “handed off” to another character instead, such as when one character dies and another takes his place and continues the same dramatic impact. It is kind of like when a soldier carries a flag into battle, is killed, and another soldier picks up the flag and carries it. The role of flag carries has shifted from one soldier to another – the role is the same, the position on the field of battle continues to advance, but it is a different person carrying that standard.

So, if your story is one of the very rare ones that requires having one archetype drop out of the story and another one take its place, there is no “direct” way to show that in DreamKit (or Dramatica) but there is an indirect way, as I described in my earlier email. You simply give the archetype the names of both characters so YOU know that each will play that role at some point in the story. For example, if John is the first Reason character and later it is played by Sam instead, you could name the Reason character John-Sam.

As you pointed out, character names have a limited length, just as on twitter a message can’t be more than 140 “characters” long. But that isn’t a bug so much as a limitation. The idea is not to have extremely long character names, but to provide enough space so you can identify the character to yourself while you are working on it and in your reports. Again, in fifteen years, you are the only one (to my knowledge) who has ever mentioned that length of name limitation since hardly anyone has character names that long (they are hard for readers or audience to remember). I’m sure that limitation has been reached before by others, but they probably just use a nickname instead to stay within the limit, since the purpose is simply to identify the character to you in the software, not to identify it to your readers or audience, which only happens when you finally write your story in your word processor. (Remember, DreamKit and Dramatica are not where you write – they are where you work out your story BEFORE you write!)

As for the reports you provided, they appear to be working properly – they just reflect that same bug about how the software labels characters as archetypes when they really should only have the two elements you assigned in DreamKit.

I hope this helps put it all in perspective.

Remember – nothing is wrong with the character elements, which is what it is all about. The only problem is in whether or not the software labels a character consistently as an archetype or as complex. In DreamKit, there really are no archetypes, as that requires 8 elements, not just 2. But, since most writer’s want to deal with archetypes, we keep the labeling rules loose and allow them to choose characters as archetypes, even if they only have two of those elements. The problem is just a bug in how the software handles that pseudo label, but does not change the sound dramatic composition of each character.

So, as you indicated, until such time as the next version comes out, the easiest thing is just to note the archetype name in the character name and if that makes it too because you want to include two or more characters as “hand-off” characters in the same name-space, just use nicknames, as the whole purpose is to identify the characters to you as the author so you can work with them.


Enough Theory! How Does Dramatica Work on Real Stories?

From a Dramaticapedia reader:

Your blogs seem to be always in the abstract. Let’s see something about a successful story in the real world.    I would love to see a Dramatica setup for real stories that have been successful.

My reply:

Here’s a link to more than 70 complete analyses of novels, movies, stage plays, and television programs:

Now here’s a link to almost 200 additional “raw” storyforms (just the 80+ Story Engine settings) for a number of popular stories in various media:

Here’s another link to an ongoing series of podcasts, each analyzing a different story in various media:

And finally, here’s a link to some analysis videos as well:

As for my posts being abstract, yep, you’re right – I’m the abstract one. Chris, the other co-creator of Dramatica is the more practical-minded of the two of us. (All the above links come from his company’s web site, which is far more focused on application.)

The way we work is, I advance the edges of the theory and he figures out how to put it to work. When he turns one of my concepts into something tangible, I used that as a platform to reach for the next concept. That is why we have worked so well together for over 20 years, and why Dramatica has become both so extensive in theory and useful as well.

Melanie Anne Phillips

Does Dramatica Edit Your Story?

A writer asks:

Does Dramatica software edit and give better solutions for certain parts of a story as a editor may do?

My reply:

Dramatica doesn’t read or process what you write in it. Rather, it asks a series of multiple-choice questions about your dramatic intent. As you answer them, Dramatica’s interactive Story Engine cross-references the dramatic impact of your answers to start building the underlying logistic structure of your story. The more choices you make, the more options are ruled out because of the combined influence of what you’ve already chosen. Eventually, you answer enough questions for Dramatica to go ahead and finish the rest of the structure for you.

This structure is called a Storyform, and it is essentially a map of all your story points and how they relate together in your story. But, this is just the basic bare-bones structural points – it doesn’t include your subject matter or any of your storytelling style. For example, every story has a goal. As a result of your answers, Dramatica may determine that the goal in your story is about Obtaining something. For another story you might develop, the goal might turn out to be Becoming a different kind of person. Clearly those are two different kinds of goals, and each one would be the dramatically sound goal for each particular story.

But, if your goal were Obtaining, Dramatica won’t tell you what is to be obtained. Or, if you have a goal of Becoming, it won’t tell you what kind of person the character is trying to become. That part is up to you. But if you know your goal is Obtaining and NOT becoming, then you understand that underlying structural story point and then need to fill it in with your own subject matter.

You can answer the questions about something you’ve already written, or something you are going to write. Either way, Dramatica will provide that kind of help for over eighty different story points from the Main Character’s personal problem to the overall concern that everyone is worried about in the story at large. Armed with this information, you have a sound dramatic framework from which to write.

Melanie Anne Phillips

Learn more about Dramatica