Category Archives: Beyond Dramatica

What Is Dramatica’s Quad?

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Here are some clues for all you Dramatica theory hounds…

Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic, Gravity

Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma

Mass, Energy, Space, Time

Universe, Physics, Mind, Psychology

Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire

Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb

The same relationships among them, repeated in different subject matter context.

Reflective not of the items but of the way the mind organizes the items.

Therefore reflective of the patterns not of the observed, but of the observer.

This group of interrelationships is the basis of the quad.

It is described by a series of equations.

One of the equations is the psychological equivalent of E=MC2

Each quad is a dramatic circuit in fiction or a psychological circuit in the real world

The items in a quad can be seen as Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power (dynamically).

The items in a quad can be seen as 1,2,3,4 (sequentially).

The items in a quad are not objects but processes.

The Dramatica chart is a periodic table of psychological processes, treated as objects, as in object-oriented programming.

Each quad has a pair that is seen as made  up of discrete items.

Each quad has a pair that is seen as two items blended into one.

There are three kinds of pair relationships in each quad – Dynamic (diagonal), Companion (horizontal), Dependent (Vertical).

The three kinds of pairs correlate to sine, cosine, tangent.

Each kind of pair has two examples – one positive, one negative

There is a fourth relationship in a quad – whether the items are seen as four individual items or as a single family of similar items, such as “This IS the United States” or “These ARE the United States”

This fourth relationship goes beyond the trigonometry functions with a fourth function that moves imaginary numbers into the real number plane since time is part of the equation.

The quad is the core and key to how the mind works and can be used to move beyond artificial intelligence to create artificial self-awareness.

There is much, much, more than this.

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Dramatica Structure “Super” Classes

For you Dramatica Theory Hounds, here are a couple of cryptic illustrations I jotted down as part of the ongoing extension of the Dramatica theory.

What do they mean? They are all part of an attempt to more thoughoughly define the four Super Classes and their smaller components. What are Super Classes? Think of the entire Dramatica model as it currently exists and then imagine that whole model is just one element in a quad of four such similar models. The current version and each of its family members in that overarching quad are all considered “Super Classes” because each contains four Classes.

By way of interest, each Super Class and the quad family that contains all four is aligned in a K-based bias to maintain the consistent bias established in the first Super Class developed – the now familiar Dramatica “Rubik’s Cube.”


Dramatica Super Classes

Dramatica Super Classes

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica

A Method for Locating Personality Types in the General Population


Subject matter alone will not indicate personality type,  as many different kinds of people are interested in the same things and have similar habits.  Narrative psychology alone will not indicate personality type, as any two psychologically identical people may have complete diverse interests and habits.  It is the combination of subject matter and underlying psychology that creates context.  This context provides identifiable fingerprints of specific personality types.


1.  Determine the personality type you wish to be able to locate.

2.  Find similar personality types in the historic record.

3.  Do a storyform narrative analysis of each individual’s underlying psychology in each historic case.

4.  Run comparisons among case studies for correlations between forensic subject matter and the underlying narrative psychology.

5.  Create a cluster map showing the relative incidence of correlation of each individual story point in the analyses of historic cases of the same personality type.

6.  From the correlation cluster, develop a probability template for each personality type to be used as a filter against the target population to identify matched individuals.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator of Dramatica

Birth of a Story Mind

For those of you familiar with Dramatica, you know the term “storyform” means a complete narrative structure – the logical framework that makes a story make sense.

But where do storyforms come from?  How do they begin, how do they form, and for that matter, how do they end, dissolve or die?

A strange thought, to be sure, until you consider what narratives really are.  Simply put, they are rather precise models of the way people actually organize themselves in real life.

How does that work?  Again, very simply, each of us has certain qualities that come in pairs and often play against each other like our initiative vs. our reticence, intellect vs. passion, conscience vs. temptation, skepticism vs. faith.

When we try to solve problems on our own, we bring all of these into play to look for the solution with all the mental tools we have.  When we gather together in groups to solve a common problem, we’ve learned to specialize so that, for example, one person focuses on the intellectual component and becomes the voice of reason for the group.  Another focuses on the passionate aspect of the problem and comes to function as the group’s heart.

Whenever enough people come together with a common purpose, they will automatically self organize into kind of a group mind (we call it a Story Mind) in which each person comes to represent a single facet of all the different perspectives we employ in our own minds.

The end result is that groups naturally evolve into an external projection of our own internal minds.  The relationships among people in such a group function dynamically in a very similar manner to the way each of these perspectives relate in our own minds.

And authors throughout history, seeking to understand the nature and mechanism of human society, established the characters and conventions of story to parallel those very same aspects of the Story Minds we see every day in the real world.

So narratives are not just fictions that have no real bearing on human nature.  On the contrary, narrative structure and dynamics are perhaps the most accurate representation of how actual people organize and interact in the actual world.

While that, in and of itself, is both intriguing and practical, it begs the question, “If authors create structures for stories, how do such narrative Story Minds come to be in the real world?  In other words, can we understand the birth of a Story Mind?

Absolutely we can!  Let me lay it out.  It happens like a solar system forming.  People, in volume, are like the gasses and dust from which a solar system forms – independent units with no pattern to their movements.  When they gather together, they begin to organize, much like the dust collecting into particles.

First they form relationships of two.  And, like the force of gravity, the gregarious nature of human attraction draws other to join them until the gathering, like a collection of particles, forms a growing mass.

Naturally, there isn’t one mass, but a lot of different ones of different shapes and sizes scattered throughout the dust and gas or throughout the population.  From time to time they converge, sometimes changing each other’s course without directly coming into contact, and occasionally (and more rarely), they actually collide.

Depending on the size and shape of the two masses (or two groups of folk), they may combine, have parts stolen by one of the other, lose mass as it is calved off by the force of the encounter, or they might just shatter each other back into the dust, gas, or general population from whence they originally came.

In time, the number of conglomerate groups will decline as more and more smaller ones are absorbed into a handful of larger masses.  And meanwhile, most of the gas gathers more and more densely in the center until it reaches a critical ratio of frictional heat and material until it ignites in a ongoing sustainable reaction that generates energy from the center of the solar system outward to the planets.

Societally, this is when a central identity, a sense of common self, forms in the middle of all the society groups so that while each has its own identity, the is a collective identity as well, such as in a political party made of factions or all the states in the United States feeling a national identity as being part of America.

Since societal organization mimics the mind, projected outward, then this sun at the center of the solar system must also have some parallel in the human mind.  And it does.  It is our sense of self – the “I” in “I think, therefore I am.”

That self-wareness that resides in each of us is not a facet like our intellect or passion.  Rather, it is the energy source at the center that holds all of our facets in stable orbits and around which they all revolve.

And, in a Story Mind in the real world, it is the group’s collective identity that functions as its sense of self so that all members feel a commonality as part of the whole.  I am a Virginian, or I am an alumnus of USC, or I am a Sci-Fi fan, are all statements of sharing an umbrella identity with all other members of the same group.

Naturally, a person can be a member of several groups at once.  And so, they shift between one sense of identity and another whenever their activities or involvement move from one realm into another, just as the moon orbits the earth but also revolves around the sun and also around the galactic center.

When these multiple allegiances are nested, it functions rather smoothly.  In terms of the birth of a Story Mind, people from the general population form groups.  And then, these groups come to work together on an even larger issue, each group will eventually specialize so that one group becomes the voice of reason for the confederation while another evolves into the passionate voice of the confederation.  In time, a star will form at the center of the confederation, creating its own identity as well, so that one may be a Virginian and also an American simultaneously.  In this example, each state will have its own Story Mind, its own narrative, and they will also each be part of a larger narrative of the nation and its Story Mind.  We call this phenomenon fractal psychology, as it describes how the dynamic structure of a single mind is replicated in a series of nested psychologies of progressively larger confederate groups.

Sometimes, in the real world, things build from the grass roots up, starting with individuals, then creating associations, factions, movements, parties, local governments, regional governments, and ultimately national governments.  Even the planet as a whole is a Story Mind Narrative with its own global sense of self in which we all share.  And the nations of the world jockey to specialize as the different aspects of a single mind’s problem solving psychology, thereby establishing their own national identities and also contributing its unique spin on the issues that affect all of humanity.

Other times, in chaotic social environments such as after natural disasters, war, or revolution, Story Mind narratives may form at several levels at once.  But in either case, until that critical mass is reached in which the central star ignites in any group, thereby establishing a common sense of self for all its members, there is no organized functional narrative – no Story Mind.

Still, we can see the elements of a potential future mind begin to congeal as individuals and factions form into stable, definable attributes of the mind – the building blocks at an elemental level that will ultimately gather into families of like components that we recognize as the high-level aspects of psychology from faith to temptation.

In simple terms, Dramatica theory includes something of  Periodic Table of Story Elements called, not surprisingly, the Dramatica Table of Story Elements.  It had four levels.  The top level names the largest aspects of our minds into which we tend to categorize our thoughts – essentially, the biggest families of thought that go on in our heads.

Each of these is subdivided in the next level down into the smaller cognitive components that make it up – sub-families within each top-level family of cognitive function.  By the time we get down to the bottom level of the table, we are dealing with the elements – specialized mental functions that are the smallest we can perceive within ourselves as separate definable kinds of thought.  These elements are the tiniest building blocks of a story mind that have any real meaning for us as a comparative to our own internal attributes and processes.

So, in a chaotic social environment, we will first see the formation of elements within any potential Story Mind at whatever level we are exploring (from local to national).  Until all these essential elements are represented by some individual or group, even if the individual or group represents more than one, until they are all present there cannot be a complete narrative.

Yet, we can watch the elements form, and see the larger families form and those above them as well.  As they do, we can begin to get a sketchy sense of what the final nature of any potential Story Mind will be as more and more components gather and firm up into lines of energy that define dynamics that hold all the particles together into a narrative structure that is analogous to our own internal mental system.

But just as we can be member of multiple narrative minds when we are both interested in sci-fi an also Virginians or USC grads, so too in a chaotic social environment proto Story Minds may move through each other like galaxies colliding, disrupting (or perhaps enhancing) the storyforming process in each.

It is not until a Story Mind reaches that point of ignition that the gravity within it is sufficient to keep it stable against only a direct encounter or even a near encounter from another Story Mind, proto or complete.  Then, simple physics come into play to predict the result.  From psychology to physics in one sentence.  Sounds speculative.  And yet, it rings true to our understanding of both.

The specifics of how all this can unfold, the applications of how we might employ it to understand and perhaps even guide the emergence and evolution of narrative storyforms at all scales within our world – these are intriguing and powerful lines of inquiry.

But, for now, my purpose here was no more than to describe the birth of a Story Mind in the real world, and how that process is closely analogous to the formation of solar systems with the planets as characters and the star as the Main Character – the Story Mind’s sense of self with whom the audience identifies, through whom the audience experiences being in the story, and in the real world which provides the force of commonality that binds a narrative together.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator of Dramatica

Narrative Dynamics 4 – The Interface Conundrum

Unlike my usual articles, this piece is not intended to document an existing part of the Dramatica theory nor to reveal a part newly developed.  Rather, I will be sharing my speculations on a life-long thought problem of mine and, toward the end, provide a new way of looking at some old issues.

The subject of this line of inquiry is that “magic moment” when one binary state changes into another.  To illustrate, consider a light switch.  We can tell when it is on and when it is off.  We can recognize when it has changed state from one to the other.  But what happens at that moment between the two when it is neither on nor off, or perhaps both?

This is really a restating of the uncertainty principal or even of Zeno’s Paradox or Schrodinger’s Cat, for that matter.  It touches on the potential for faster than light travel, black holes, and synchronicity.  But for me, personally, it is at the heart of the issue that has driven me since childhood with a specific curiosity that led to the development of Dramatica and still propels me today into my ongoing work on narrative dynamics.

For me, the quest began at age four or five – sometime before kindergarten – while I was on my swing set in the backyard of our home in Burbank.  This would be, perhaps, 1957 or early 1958.

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday, for it has motivated (plagued) me since it occurred.  It was a seamlessly gray overcast, that day, and as I was swinging I wondered if I could get high enough so that my entire field of vision was filled by nothing but that flat gray sky – no trees, no birds, not the neighbor’s houses nor the edges of my swing or its suspending chains.

So, I set about rocking myself higher and higher to the point I became fearful the whole contraption would collapse upon me, assuming I didn’t just fly off into space from the force.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and finally (fortunately) I rose high enough at the apex of the arc and for just one glorious instant I achieved my seamless gray experience.  As the swing set was by that time wobbling menacingly, I quickly brought myself back to rest.

And I sat there for a bit when a question arose in my young mind: If nothing existed at all, would it look black because there was no light or gray because there also no dark?  This is, of course, just another version of “if a tree falls in the forest,” but I had never heard that one, so this was news to me.

I pondered the question for a long time (for a child with a short attention span), thinking about it from both sides.  And then I had the thought that has haunted me and pretty much cast the cut of my jib for the remainder of my days (so far).  This unbidden query rose into my conscious mind: “Why can’t I figure out which it would be?”

Now that’s an awful thing for the universe to do to such an innocent kid –  a carefree (until then) child who might have just breezed through live with a 9 to 5 and weekends to play.  But once that thought was there, it would not leave.

I kept thinking about it, for days on end.  My first assessments were along the lines of, “Well it must be either black or gray.  Okay.  But why can’t I figure it out?”  You see it wasn’t the paradox itself that bothered me but the very concept of paradox – that my mind was not capable of discerning the answer, for I was sure there must be one.

In later years, I began to speculate whether God knew the answer to whether it would be black or gray.  Surely he must; He’s God, after all!  But if he does, then why did He make me in a limited sort of way, unable to see the truth of it.  And if that is the state of affairs, then how can I be sure of anything, for I’m not graced with the whole picture!  What good is it, then, to try and know anything, to try and find any meaning at all, for it is all based on a partial access to the capacity to understand the universe and therefore any conclusions are inherently suspect and likely to be overturned if we are given full access to reality when we die and go to heaven.  (Which was where my young mind took me at the time.)

Seeing the truth after death was my only hope, because if that was not the case, then I was by nature locked in a limited mind incapable of truly understanding the universe in which it existed.  Obviously, I paraphrase, but those exact lines of reasoning were coursing through my brain to me continual dissatisfaction.

So, being rather enamored of my own cognitive abilities at the time (a trait I’ve seen no reason to alter over the years), rather than imagining myself as a hero with super powers, I imagined myself as a hero with mental powers – the one individual in the history of the planet with the capacity to answer that blasted question: “Why is it that our minds are not capable of resolving paradoxical questions?”  Which later evolved into “What is the difference between observation and perception,” “How do logic and emotion affect one another,” “What is that magic moment between one binary state and another,” and, currently, “What are the physics of the interface between structure and dynamics?”

And so, you see, the same insidious line of inquiry vexes me yet today in my attempts to develop the dynamic side of the Dramatica theory and to describe how the two sides impact one another and work together – an analog of our reason and emotion, and the holy grail (as I see it) of both universe and mind and, quite naturally by extension, of the relationship between universe and mind.

Sorry.  I hadn’t intended to go into such a detailed back story, but my decades long frustration with this pesky query oft gets the better of me.

Having set the stage, let’s get down to the heart of the matter.  What can we know about this limit line or interface between structure and dynamics beyond which neither can venture yet which also connects them both so that they influence one other across that great divide?

peaks and troughs

Let’s visualize the interface.  Imagine one of those 3D computer images that shows a flat plane with peaks and troughs on it, like mountains and gravity wells – essentially round-topped cones like stalagmites and stalactites, above and below the plane.

Structure takes a horizontal cross section of the cones, as if a pane of glass were placed above or below the plane.

This cross section results in a flat image with a number of circles on it.  Each circle is seen as a separate object and its edges define its extent.  Taken together, the circles form a pattern, and it is that arrangement by which structure seeks understanding.

Dynamics takes a vertical cross section of the cones as if a pane of glass were placed perpendicular to the plane.

This cross section results in a flat image with linear wave forms on it.  Each curve is seen as a separate force with its line defining its frequency.  Taken together, the wave forms create harmonics, and it is that arrangement by which dynamics seeks understanding.

So on the structural side we have patterns made of particles and on the dynamic side we have patterns made of waves. Particle or wave, digital or analog, on or off, gray or black.  Between the two sides of any paradox is an interface that generates both and created by both.  Yet neither side can see the whole of it.

Just as if you look at a scene with one eye and then the other, you now have all the information you need to create 3D, but neither eye can see it alone.  In fact, only if both eyes are looking at the same moment at the same thing (space and time in synchronicity) can the  whole of the thing be appreciated.  But even then, it is only an approximation of the true three dimensional nature of what is being viewed, made up of a left and right slice merged together.

And herein lies the essence of the paradox of mind that has hung over my head for all of these years: structure gives us one partial view of a larger Truth and dynamics give us another.  Neither view is wrong; each is incomplete.

So what are we to do?  Or, more personally, how am I ever going to resolve this durn conundrum?  The answer is to create a model of the interface itself, incorporating both structure and dynamics not as a synthesis between alternative views but as full-bodied model of the true critter, inclusive but not limited to structure and dynamics.

Fine.  So how do we do that?

Well, you’ll just have to wait for “Narrative Dynamics – the Interface Solution,” coming soon….

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica

Learn more about Narrative Science

Narrative Dynamics 3 – The Dramatica Model

In this series of articles, I’m documenting the development of a whole new side of the Dramatica theory of narrative: Story Dynamics.

Dramatica is a model of story structure, but unlike any previous model, the structure is flexible like a Rubik’s Cube crossed with a Periodic Table of Story Elements.  If you paste a story element name on each face of each little cube that makes up the Rubik’s Cube, you get an idea of how flexible the Dramatica model is.

That’s what sets Dramatica apart from other systems of story development and also what gives it form without formula.  Now, imagine that while the elements on each little cube already remain on that cube, they don’t have to stay on the same face.  In other words, though there will be an element on each face, which ones it is next to may change, in fact will change from story to story.

What makes the elements rearrange themselves within the structure?  Narrative Dynamics.  Think of each story point as a kind of topic that needs to be explored to fully understand the problem or issue at the heart of a story.  That’s how an author makes a complete story argument.  But, just as in real life, the order in which we explore issues is almost as important as the issues themselves.  At the very least, that sequence tells us a lot about the person doing the exploring.  In the case of the story, this is most clearly seen in the Main Character.  So, the order of exploration of the issues by the Main Character illuminate what is driving him personally.

The Dramatica model already includes a number of dynamics that describe the forces at work in the heart and mind of the Main Character, as well as of the overall story, the character philosophically opposed to the Main Character and of the course of their relationship as well.  But, in a structural model – one in which the focus is on the topics and their sequence, there are a lot of dynamics that simply aren’t easily seen.

For example, you might know that in the second act, the Main Character is going to be dealing with issues pertaining to his memories.  But how intensely will he focus on that?  How long will he linger?  Will his interest wane, grow, or remain consistent over the course of his examination of these issues.  From a structural point of view, you just can’t tell.

And that is why after all these years I’m developing the dynamic model – to chart, predict and manipulate those “in-between” forces that drive the elements of structure, unseen.  Part of that effort is to chart the areas in which dynamics already exist in the current structural projection of the model.

Two of these are Dramatica’s concept of the dramatic circuit coupled with the existing sequential plotting of the order in which issues are explored in every quad of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements.

Beginning with the dramatic circuit, Dramatica divides all the families of elements into groups of four.  Why?  Simply put, because our minds operate in four dimensions (mass, energy, space and time) our mental systems organize themselves in the same way (knowledge, thought, ability and desire).  Now how those internal dimensions reflect or relate to the external ones is thoroughly covered in many other articles.  But the point here is that all that we observe and all the processes we use to consider it naturally fall into families of four, which are continually subdividing into smaller families of four, each of which is called a quad.

Now quads have a lot of different aspects and relationships among the elements they contain.  For example, each element of a quad will function in one of the following for ways: as a potential, resistance, current, or power.  In other words, any functional family into which we might organize what we observe, and any family of mental processes the work together to find solutions or come to understanding will function as a circuit, not just as elements in a bag.

Which element functions as which kind of force is determine by the dynamics that act upon them.   Almost amazingly, I can say with some pride, the patented Dramatica Story Engine actually calculates which element is which part of the circuit based on the existing dynamics tracked by the model.  But, we’ve suppressed that output ever since Dramatica was first released nearly twenty years ago because it was just SO much information that it confused authors and also because we really didn’t know how to use that information in  those days.

The important thing is that the current model can provide this information.  And, since Dramatica is a model of the Story Mind (every story has a mind of its own in which the characters are but facets), it accurately reflects the structure and dynamics of our own minds.  And so, since the PRCP forces of all the quads taken together form a schematic of the mental circuitry of the mind itself, I decided to call the storyform (map) of each arrangement a psycho-schematic.  Pretty clever, huh?  But also quite useful!

The PRCP circuits of each storyform describe spatial aspect of a story or of a mind set.  But, it does nothing to illuminate the sizes of the potential or resistance or whether that force is increasing, decreasing or holding steady, and for how long.  And that is why I’m developing the dynamic model as described in the beginning of this tome.

But, if the PRCP psycho-schematic is the spatial projection of the mind, what about its temporal footprint?  That part you can actually see a tip of in the current Dramatica Story Engine: the plot sequence of the signposts.

Signposts are act-resolution appreciations of some of the larger elements in a Dramatica storyform.  Each represents sort of an overview topic – an overarching area of exploration that defines the subject matter and principal perspective of each act.  There are four signposts, each one being an element in one of the larger quad-families in the model.

Since all four items in a quad must be explored in order to fully understand the issues it covers, the question then becomes in what order will they be explored?  Fortunately, we were able to determine a conversion algorithm that became part of the Dramatica Story Engine that takes into account the spatial meaning of how the elements come into conjunction and use that to determine the order in which those elements will come into play.

While the specific are pretty darn complicated, the concept isn’t.  Just consider that meaning is not only dependent on what happens but also on the order in which it happens.  For example, a slap followed by a scream likely has a completely different meaning than a scream followed by a slap.  In the first case, the scream is because the slap hurt.  In the second case the slap was to stop the scream.  Different order; different meaning.

So, if you can calculate the meaning, which the Dramatica Story Engine can and does, then you can determine the order in which events must have transpired in order to create that meaning.  And that is why the plot sequence order is so important to a story making sense.  You can cover all the right bases, but if you hit them in the wrong order, the game is lost.

Now when we were first trying to figure out how the sequences were related to meaning, before we wrote the algorithm and built the engine, we started by plotting on our Table of Story Elements the sequence through each quad that we observed in functional stories that seemed to work.

We found that all possible patterns showed up.  There might be a circular path around the quad that could start at any element and progress in either direction.  There might be a Z or N pattern that zig-zagged through the elements, starting on any and going in either direction.  And finally, there might be a hairpin sequence that doubled back over itself in passing through all four elements of a quad.

But predicting which pattern would show up for any given quad, which element it would start on and which direction it would go – well, that drove us crazy.  We couldn’t make head or tail of it.

Then, we realized the plotting the sequence on the fixed Table of Story Elements was the problem.  We realized that the Table was more like a Rubik’s Cube as I mentioned earlier.  And what we discovered was the you could twist and turn the elements within each quad, like wheels within wheels, in such a way that these mixed up patterns all suddenly became straight lines.  And when we hit that arrangement of forces, we were able to create the algorithm that describes how outside forces work on a story (or mind) to wind it up, wheel by wheel, creating tension and thereby motivation, and directly tying sequence into the creation and existence of potential, resistance, current and power – how time is related to space.

Yet, here is where we ran into a limit.  Though this conversion of meaning into sequence and vice versa turned the model into something of a space-time continuum of the mind, we realized that from this structural perspective we could never calculate how much force or how fast a sequence.  And that, again, is why I’m finally breaking down and throwing myself into developing a dynamic model.

Still, a dynamic model, even if fully developed, would also run into the same limit from the other side, and therefore, just as in the uncertainty principle, you could know the structure or you could know the forces, but you could never connect them and know both the structure and the forces at work in it at the same time.

However (and I shudder to think about the other non-story scientific ramifications of this next part), we are beginning to see a means of operating both systems, structural and dynamic, simultaneously and in conjunction (in sync) so that we can observe both at the same time.  In other words, if you can’t see the dynamics from the structure nor the structure from the dynamics, then perhaps you can step back and put one eye on each at the same time.  Kind of a word-around to the uncertainty principle.

To do this, we first need to find the footprint of the dynamics on the structure, and a few weeks ago my partner, Chris, did just that.  He called me up to report that in the shower it had suddenly struck him that the three kinds of patterns we had originally charted on the table actually represented three kinds of waveforms.  Essentially, each point on an element is a high or low point in the cycle of a wave.  Pretty cool eureka moment!

So, as we often do in considering each other’s breakthrough ideas, I began to ponder whether those three waveforms were sine, square, and sawtooth (which is what they kind of look like) or whether they were the key point in the flow of sine, tangent and secant.  Direction through the quad would be indicative of sine or cosine, tangent or cotangent, secant or cosecant.  Or, it could determine whether the sine square and sawtooth started at the apex or nadir of their cycle.

Still haven’t made up my mind on that, and I’m half wondering if those two sets of three are really the same thing, just seen a different way.  After all, we already know that trig functions show up in many places in the Dramatica theory and model.  One place, for example, is that there are three kinds of relationships among the four elements of a quad.  The diagonal ones are called dynamic pairs, the horizontal are companion pairs and the vertical are dependent pairs.  Dynamic relationships among elements or characters are driven by sine waves, companion by tangents and dependent by secants.

You can understand the functioning of each kind of pair by their names – dynamic relationships are based on conflict, companion based on tangential impact (non-direct influence) and dependent are based on reliance.

Each kind of relationship has a positive and negative version.  That’s why there are two of each kind in each quad – one positive and one negative.  Positive dynamic pairs conflict but this leads to synthesis and new understanding, Negative dynamic pairs beat each other into the ground and cancel out their potential.  Positive companion relationships have good influence upon each other, like friends or, literally, companions.  But negative companion relationships create negative fallout on each other, not as a result of direct intent, but just as a byproduct of doing what one does.  And finally, positive dependent relationships are “I’m okay, you’re okay, together we’re terrific!”  While negative dependent relationships are “I’m nothing without my other half.”

That’s sine, tangent and secant.  And the direction or phase of of each wave form determine (and is determined by) whether the relationship is positive or negative within each quad.

But there is one final relationship in a quad that isn’t easily seen.  Are the elements of the quad seen as (and functioning as) independent units or are they functioning as a team, a family?

We see this kind of relationship in our ongoing argument about states’ rights.  Do we say, “These are the United States” or “This is the United States.”  Depending on your view on states’ rights, you’ll gravitate to one or the other.

Another example is when two brothers are always fighting until someone other person threatens one of them, in which case they suddenly bond into a family.  As the saying goes, an external enemy tends to unify a population.

So which of the trig functions describes this?  Well, since the Dramatica model uses all four dimensions of mass, energy, space and time we rather arrogantly figure that to describe the true relativistic nature of how all four relationships interact we’re going to need something one dimension higher than trig to describe it.  Twenty years ago at the height of our hubris we even named this new math quadronometry.

Regardless of what we call it, the effect would be to move imaginary numbers back into the real number plane so that when plotting a sine wave, on a cartesian plane, for example, you would no longer simply go ’round in circles as you continued past 360 degrees to 540 or 720.  Rather, additional revolutions would move up the z axis in a helix.        In other words, the Dramatica model is neither a sine wave nor a circle.  It is more like a “Slinky” toy – seen from the top is is a circle revolving around.  Seen from the side stretched out it is a sine wave.  But seen from a 3/4 angle you can perceive the actual helical nature of the spiral.  One more dimension, but a very important one.

And here is where chris contributed another new understanding to the theory that occurred to him in the same eureka moment in the shower that day.  He realized that this fourth kind of relationship in a quad was not about how the two elements in a pair interrelated.  Rather, it described how one of the three relationships became (transmuted or evolved) into another.  Simply put, how a dynamic relationship could become a companion or dependent one.  And in terms of math, how a sine wave could evolve into a tangent or secant.

Well, as you can see there’s not only one footprint of dynamics upon the structure but a whole slew of them – as if a whole herd or army of dynamics was stomping all over the structural ground.

And herein lies the key to connecting the coming dynamic model to the existing structural one.  These footprints are like the in interference pattern on a hologram as seen from the structural side.  When we develop the dynamic model, the same interference pattern will appear as standing waves with peaks and valleys determined by the interfering forces.  The material of the hologram itself, the actual interface, is the space-time environment created in the Dramatica model, and the mind, by its ability to perceive both space and time simultaneously, projects the light of self-awarenss through the interface to observe the resultant virtual image that emerges from the other side.

In this manner, the uncertainty principle is abrogated, at least within the closed system of structural dynamic narratives, and allow use to both fully observe and accurately predict the course of human behavior, in stories and in life.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica

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Originally published October 10, 2012

Predicting Human Behavior with Narrative

By Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure

Human behavior cannot be predicted by observation alone.  No matter how deep the statistical database, no matter how sophisticated the algorithms, accuracy derived from observation falls short because it is unable to see the inner mechanism of the mind itself.  All that can be catalogued is simply the external impact of internal mental processes, and therefore observation can only chart the progress of ripples in the pond and speculate as to the nature of the pebble that produced them.

Human behavior cannot be predicted solely by internal self-examination.  No matter how deep we focus our inner eye, no matter how extensive our thoughts, accuracy derived from self-examination falls short because it is unable to see the mechanism of its own sentience.  All that can be grasped is simply the results of inner mental processes, and therefore self-examination can only map our attitudes and speculate as to the nature of the feelings that produced them.

To predict human behavior, a true model of the mind is required – one not derived from external observation nor internal self-examination.  The question arises as to how such a model can be created.  The answer is that such a model already exists.  It is called Dramatica and it was discovered in the structure of narrative.

The creation of narratives – both as stories and in the real world – is a uniquely human endeavor with two primary purposes:  one, to move an audience to adopt an attitude or point of view and, two, to describe human truth as best we can, so that we might better know ourselves and understand our relationships with others.  The first purpose is directed toward subject matter – the real world issues about which an author might wish to move an audience.  But the second purpose is accomplished below the level of subject matter for it documents human nature itself.

When you strip away the subject matter, the structure is laid bare and reveals itself as a model of the mind.  Why should this be?  Because when humans gather in groups to address a common issue, they tend to self-organize into specialties that represent different attributes of the human mind.   For example, one will emerge as the voice of reason while another will express skepticism and yet another might express the considerations of conscience.  In this way, each specialist is able to bring greater depth to the collective discussion than if each individual was a general practitioner, all trying to do the same job – a shallow exploration of every perspective.  It is a simple societal survival technique.

Simple stories, the first stories, addressed this and established the archetypal characters and how the fundamental human attributes they represented interrelated.  In fact, the interaction of one character with another is analogous to the way these attributes interact in the mind of an individual, as if our own mental processes had been projected outward and made tangible in a macroscopic manner.

When groups grow even larger, the fundamental attributes attract additional followers so that they become sub-groups within the larger group.  In this manner, each perspective on the problem is represented by many individuals.  And, when a sub-group grows to a critical mass, it will itself self-organize, just as did the original master group.  One member of the specialty group will emerge as the leader with the others falling into the roles of the other human attributes.   And, similarly, if a number of master groups come together to address and even larger issue of common interest, each master group will shift off center as they all self-organize into specialty roles as well.

As thousands of generations of storytellers documented what they saw in the way people and groups of people organized themselves, though trial and error they gradually refined the conventions of story structure until it accurately represented the functioning of the mind itself.  Recognizing the correlation of structure to the mind, Dramatica further refined the structural elements and the dynamics that drive them.  Conceptually, this model of the mind is the substance of the Dramatica theory and, practically, it is re-created in the Dramatica software.

Dramatica’s model of the mind is comprised of two principal components.  The first is a periodic table of narrative elements in which the nested nature of human attribute self-organization is presented as families within families, much as the periodic table in physics gathers elements into families such as the rare earth elements or the noble gasses.  The second is a set of algorithms that describe the manner in which these mental attributes interact and interrelate.

In combination, the algorithms describe mental dependencies in which the action of every human dynamic has impact or influence upon other closely related dynamics.  The dynamics form a web that can be interpreted to reveal the tensions and forces at work in the mind and how they warp the shape of the mind and focus motivation in predictable directions.

In conjunction with the table of narrative elements, these algorithms of dynamics can pinpoint the sources of motivation and, conversely the location of blind spots into which one’s own consciousness, or that of a group, cannot see.

The model as whole is able to determine the relationship between a state of mind and the sequential progression of considerations, both conscious and subliminal, which must follow from such an arrangement.  This process is commutative, for if one knows the order in which a sequence of considerations occurred one can regressively ascertain in great detail the mental arrangement that must have existed to drive such a progression.

In theory, if one identifies in the real world an individual or group mind of any number of nested levels of sub-groups, one can accurately determine the drives, areas of focus, purposes and methods of that mind.  By applying the sequential algorithms, one can also predict the progressive behavior of the mind under study.

In practice, both individual and group minds are constantly coming into conjunction, in conflict or collusion.  Since they are not joining in a common purpose for a sufficient period of time, they do not reach the flash point at which they would self-organize into a single predictable system.  Rather, their interactions are only partial facets of a mental model and operate more according to the procession of chaos than an orderly progression.  Nonetheless, the impact of such encounters leaves an identifiable impact upon both parties that enables a revised accurate assessment of each altered mind and its future behavior.

The domain of chaos can be somewhat reduced by the application of those same standard statistical and algorithmic approaches that have been unable to predict human behavior, for they take into account environmental considerations, essentially the subject matter of medium in which the minds encounter one another.

In conclusion, human behavior can be predicted with significant accuracy through narrative modeling.  But when narratives are only partially present in volatile scenarios, statistical modeling can be used in conjunction with narrative to achieve the best possible predictive algorithm.

Contact me about Narrative Science

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Narrative Dynamics 2 – Transmutation of Particles and Waves

In this second article in the Dynamic Model series, I’m going to explore really intriguing problem – how particles can be transmuted into waves and vice versa.

Why this important to writers and even more important to psychologists and social scientists may not be immediately apparent, so first I’ll outline its potential usefulness and also how it is essential to the expansion of the Dramatica theory into a whole new realm.

Stories might end in success or failure of the effort to achieve the goal.  But how big a success, or how great a failure.  Now you are talking a matter of degree.  What’s more, is it a permanent success/failure or a temporary one?  And if temporary, does it always remain at the same level or does it vary, getting bigger, smaller, or oscillating in a symmetrical cyclic or complex manner?

Now, apply this to a character’s motivation.  It may be motivated by one particular kind of thing, but is that motivation increasing or decreasing?  It is accelerating or decelerating?  Is it cyclic or complex, is it transmuting from one nature of motivation to another?  And for that matter, how does a character actually change from one nature to another in a leap of faith?  Up the magnification and ask, “can I see the exact moment a character’s mind changes from one way of looking at the world to another?”

When is that magic moment at which Scrooge changes?  How long does it last?  Can we find the spot at which he is one way now and another way a moment later?  Is the change a process or an immediate timeless shift from one state to another?  What exactly is the mechanism – not the mechanism that leads him to the point of change, but the exact time at which that change occurs?

When can we say that a light switch is off versus being on?  Is it how many electrons are crossing the gap, is it the position of the switch at a visual resolution?  Is it the light getting brighter?  How bright?  How fast?  How about a mercury light that fades on and off at 60 Hz?  When it is on the nadir of the down cycle is it off?  And therefore, does the exact moment of a character’s change depend upon momentum?  Inertia?  Zeno’s paradox?

If writers could follow the rise and fall, the ebb and flow of dramatic potentials, resistances, currents, and powers discreetly for every element, every particle in a story’s structure, one could predict the cognitive and affective impact on the readers or audience as a constantly changing bundle of waveforms, each one thread or throughline in the undulating unbroken progression of experience.

Now project this into psychology, societal concerns, stock market analysis, weather prediction – such a dynamic model would enable incredibly accurate projections as well as far more detailed and complete snap analyses.


In order for these applications to be realized, we need not only a dynamic model, but also the means of connecting it to the structural model.  In other words, we need to develop a particle/wave continuum in which particles can become waves can become particles in an endless flow of cascading shifts and transmutations.

So how does this interface work?  What stands between particle and wave that alters one to another?

In the next installment of the Dynamic Model series, I’ll offer some conjectures.

Melanie Anne Phillips

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Narrative Dynamics 1 – Introduction

This is the first in a series of articles I’ll be writing about a whole different way of looking at the Dramatica theory of narrative structure – in terms of dynamics, rather than structure.  In fact, the dynamic model is a counterpart, not an alternative, to the existing structural model with which you may be familiar.

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

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

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

If you are familiar with deep Dramatica theory, you know that all the output of the Story Engine is not made available in the Dramatica software.  In fact, the Story Engine generate quite a bit more information about a story’s structure than it makes available to a user.  What information, and why suppress it?  I’ll answer the second question first.

We suppressed information that was so detailed and dramatically “tiny” that it was beyond the scope or magnification in which authors work.  And, even if someone wanted to work with structure to that microscopic micromanaged level, that information had such little impact that it would almost certainly be lost in the background noise of the storytelling.  In other words, the granularity of that suppressed information was smaller than the resolution of an audience’s understanding.  In short – it would be lost in the translation from structure to finished story.  So, to keep from overcomplicating the story structuring process and having the author do work that would never have a practical impact, we decided this kind of material should not be provided by the Story Engine.

Still, just because authors can’t really apply this suppressed information in a useful manner doesn’t mean the information isn’t accurate, especially when using the Story Engine for psychological analysis rather than just for fictional constructs.  So, here’s a brief description of this information, shared here for the purpose of illustrating the limits of the current structural model at its farthest edges, and then being able to further describe what the developing dynamic model can bring to the table.

What is suppressed: PRCO and 1234.  What the hell does that mean?  PRCO stands for Potential, Resistance, Current and Outcome (or Power).  1234 is the sequential order in which the four items in a quad will come into play.  You see this last part in the sequence of the Signposts and Journeys for each of the four throughlines in Dramatica, but the engine only shows you the output for the “type” level or plot level of a story’s structure – the equivalent of the topics each act will cover in each of the four throughlines.  It is suppressed for all the other levels and all the other quads.  (Though some additional sequential information is also available in the Plot Sequence Report in Dramatica.)

In truth, EVERY quad in the structure appears in every story structure, but some, like the Signposts, are the focus of the story.  And yet, if you watch a story unfold, you’ll see that EVERY SINGLE QUAD in a completely structured story will unfold in a predictable sequential manner.  As a side note, the manner in which we discovered this is an intriguing story I may write about someday, but for the purposes of this article, suffice it to say that every quad in a structure at every level will have a 1234 sequence attached to it, and those sequences will differ from one storyform to another.

But what about the PRCO?  Well, consider ever quad as a little dramatic circuit – not a static thing except in the sense  that an electronic circuit is static – a battery, a resistor, a light bulb and some wire – but the electrons flow through it and the bulb generates light.  Similarly, in a dramatic circuit – a quad – the four items will act as Potential, Resistance, Current and Outcome (Power) and form a flow that moves one moment into the next and generates energy that sparks the next scene or sequence or act.

Now I could go into great detail about how all this works (it is built into the Story Engine after all) – BUT, that’s not the point  All you need to know for this article is that in the process of “winding up” the dramatic potential of the story at large, the model is (conceptually) twisted and turned like a Rubik’s cube so that quads are misaligned in a way that creates the tension that drives the story forward.  Or, in terms of psychology, it describes the conflicting forces that are at work in the mind.

And so, every item in every quad will be assigned a 1234 and also a PRCO.  This means that sometimes a scene will begin with a Potential and other scenes will open with a Resistance or Current or Power.  In other words, 1234 and PRCO are independently assigned because they are not tied together psychologically, nor in terms of fiction.

Back to the dynamic model.  The structural model can only tell you if something is a potential or resistance and the order in which it will come into play.  But, only a dynamic model could tell you how MUCH potential or resistance was present and how long its span of time in the sequence will last: its duration.  Plus, the dynamic model could tell you how the intensity of that potential might be changing and how fast it is changing and whether that speed of change is accelerating.

Stepping back then, it is pretty easy to see the usefulness of this both in charting the collective dramatic intensity of an unfolding story upon an audience’s head and heart, and also the manner in which motivations and decisions, effort and activities reach a flash point or recede in real world individual and group psychology.

Enough for this introductory article.  More soon….



Trigonometry and Dramatica

Here’s another clue for you all….

Though it wasn’t discovered through mathematics, Dramatica’s model of story psychology can, in fact, be described by mathematics – at least to an extent.

Here’s the clue – In the Dramatica quad, there are found kinds of pair relationships among any two items: Dynamic (diagonal), Companion (horizontal), and Dependent (vertical).  There are two of each in every quad and one will possess a positive charge and the other a negative charge.

Dynamic relationships (diagonal) are about direct conflict.  A negative Dynamic relationship is where both parties beat each other into the ground until nothing is left and all potential is lost.  Kinda like the two parties in congress.  A positive Dynamic relationship is where both parties conflict, but as a result a new idea is sparked – synthesis – in which a solution or improvement is created that could not have occurred by the actions of either party separately – only through direct conflict.

Dynamic relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Sine and Cosine.

Companion relationships (horizontal) are about indirect impact of one party on the other.  In other words, without directly conflicting, the normal actions of one party can have a beneficial (positive) fallout on the other party or a negative one.  In a sense, it is like one party unintentionally bumping into the other party just as a result of doing what it does naturally.  And that bump sends the other party either into a better or worse trajectory.

Companion relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Tangent and Cotangent.

Dependent relationships (vertical) are about dependencies.  You can see this in human behavior with a positive dependency being “I’m okay, you’re okay, together we’re terrific!” – better than the sum of their parts in which each acts as a catalyst to the other.  A negative dependency is “I’m nothing without my other half” in which neither party can function at all without the other.

Dependent relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Secant and Cosecant.

But now we come to the interesting part.  There is a fourth kind of relationship among items in a quad – whether all four items will be evaluated or seen as being independent components or as a collective family, tribe, or classification.  For example, which is correct – “This IS the United States” or “These ARE the United States”?

In the first  case, we see a single county (family) which can be sub-divided into smaller units called states.  In the second case we see a confederation of independent sovereign states (“state” originally meant sovereign, after all).  When the country was formed, it was seen more as a confederation.  This sentiment was carried on into the Civil War when the south became the Confederate States of America, siding on the philosophy that power derived from the individual sovereign states, bound by mutual agreement into a confederacy.  But the north maintained that is was “one nation” as in the pledge of allegiance, and states were more like national counties.

Back to math, specifically trig – what function represents that?  Well, I’m not much of a mathematician, but twenty years ago when we first considered the relationship of trig to the pair relationships by function, it occurred to us that we needed an additional dimension of function to describe that relationship.  We jokingly said that somebody someday was going to have to come up with “quadronometry” as an expansion to trig.

But now I’m not so sure that is far off the mark.  After all, the quad includes all four dimensions – Mass, Energy, Space and Time.  And if we look at it in terms of psychology (the Story Mind) we see the internal equivalents of these – Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire.  I’ve written elsewhere about the correlations between the external and internal dimensions, so I won’t belabor it here.  Point is – trig provides three dimensions and Dramatica’s functions require four.

Here’s an example…

If you plot a sine wave function on the xy coordinate plane it describes a circle as it passes through 90 degrees, 180, 270 and finally 360.  That comprises one complete cycle of a sine wave.  But, as the function continues to operate (as the sine wave progresses through more cycles) you go past 360 another 90 degrees to 450, then 540, then 630, the 920 and on and on, circumscribing the same circle on the plane over and over again.

In Dramatica, we describe our functions somewhat differently, thus:

Think of a slinky toy – that coiled ribbon of metal that “walks” down stairs.  From the end, it looks like a circle, stretched out from the side it looks like a sine wave, but seen from a 3/4 angle you can see its true nature as a helix.  In fact, Dramatica is a quad-helix, unlike the double-helix of DNA.  It includes a helical description not only of the arrangement of story elements and dynamics in a double-helix, but also a second double-helix that describes how these things will unfold over time.  As a side note, we have often wondered that while the double-helix of DNA describes what genes are present and how they are arranged, might there not also be a second conceptual double-helix describing how they will be brought into play in the actual construction of an organism – the physical double-helix providing the blueprint and the conceptual double-helix providing the sequence of construction?  But, that’s another story.

For now, consider what adding a fourth dimension to trig would do.  For one thing, you’d need to plot a sine wave not just on the xy plane but to include the z axis as well to plot its vertical progression.  Further, because one dimension is being added, it would push everything down a rung.  For example, it is my belief that in such a mathematical system imaginary numbers such as the square root of -1 would become incorporated in the real number plane, enabling the solving of equations that are not currently supported.  And philosophically, from a math perspective, it would tie in nicely therefore as a tool for everything from quantum theory to chaos theory.

But, again, I’m not much of a mathematician – I’m just a poor country theorist with some odd ball ideas and a patented story engine that has been accurately predicting story structure and human behavior for twenty years.

Besides, I’m getting too old to want to do all the work necessary to carry things like this any farther.  So, I leave it to the next generation, or at least those better at math than I, to take a crack at this – either to build it or refute it.  Don’t matter to me which.  I’m satisfied just having the chance to say my piece.