Category Archives: Beyond Dramatica

Beyond Dramatica – a new free eBook by Dramatica co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips

Introducing a new free eBook by Dramatica co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips that explores how insights from the Dramatica Theory of Story can be applied to real world psychology, both for the individual and for society.

Click here to download “Beyond Dramatica” for free in PDF

Click here to download “Beyond Dramatica” Kindle format for $0.99

From the Preface:

In 1994, the book Dramatica: A New Theory of Story was first unveiled to the writing community and almost instantly revolutionized the way authors understood and constructed stories.  Since then, its techniques have been employed by Pulitzer Prize winning authors, academy award winning writers and directors, and producers of some of the most innovative series on television.

Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of the Dramatica theory, has written hundreds of articles describing Dramatica’s concepts and their application to practical story development.  But Dramatica is more than just a writer’s tool to construct fictional stories; by its very nature it has implications in the realm of human psychology at large.  This book gathers together some of the most insightful articles by Melanie on the application of Dramatica to the real world.

Assembled and edited by Dramatica expert Sandy Stone, this collection has been organized to provide useful new perspectives on how human thought functions, both individually and societally.

So, put away your preconceptions and prepare to have your eyes opened to a whole new approach to some of the most intriguing questions of our time.

Featured articles include: Storyforms in the Real World and the Mobius Doughnut, Fractal Psychology in the Real World, Narrative Space in the Real World, Dramatica and the Brain, Dramatica Theory Application on World Problems, al-Awlaki, the “Uncanny Valley” and Writing Empathetic Characters, Watson and Dramatica: Building an Artificial Mind, and more!


Indy… Why does the floor move?

A Dramatica user recently noticed that Elements (the smallest, most detailed story points in Dramatica) are in different arrangements at the bottom of each of the four Dormains.   In other words, he was wondering why the “floor” moved.  (Click here to download a PDF of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements).

Here’s my reply….

Think of each of the four Domains as four different kinds of filters through which to see the story’s problem.  They look at the effects of the problem in terms of Internal and External and divide each of those realms into States and Processes, creating the four Domains – Situation (external state), Attitude (internal state), Activities (external processes), Manipulation (internal processes, psychology or manners of thinking).

By the time you look all the way down to the greatest detail at the element level at the bottom of each Domain, you are seeing the same elements because you are looking at the same central core of the problem – the event horizon of the problem, as it were.  Though they are the same elements, because of the four different filters, they appear distorted.  It doesn’t change their names (the nature of the elements) but the distortion changes the way they appear to group together.  So, while the same elements appear at the bottom of each Domain, the way they are arranged is different due to that distortion.

Always keep in mind that you never actually see the real inequity that is at the heart of the story directly  It does not appear as being any particular story point or arrangement of story points.  Rather, the inequity exists in the relationships among all the story points.  It is the tension created by the gravitational pull of each story point upon all the others (actually the psychological pull, which acts like gravity in a storyform) that describes the effects of that inequity.  When the planets are out of alignment – essentially meaning that there is tension in the storyform map of the story mind’s psychology – then there is inequity.  And it is that inequity that leads to the unwinding of the story, act by act and scene by scene, like a Rubik’s cube being turned, seeking entropy – equity – in a realignment of all the forces into a stable balance once again.

The true inequity that causes the problem sits at the center of the story, in the middle of all the story points, guiding the celestial psychological orbits of the story points not unlike the unseen black hole at the center of our galaxy.  And the elements revolve around it like separate solar systems of mental processes, both logic and passion, wheels within wheels within the space-time of the mind.

Abandoning the Logic

Thought: For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a book entitled “Abandoning the Logic” about the fact that while half of what we are is driven by reason, the other equally important half embodies our purpose and meaning. There is as much understanding and as many conclusions to be gained by one as the other, but of different flavors and varieties.

In our Dramatica theory of story we often say, “You can’t become the same as someone else just by being as they are are; you also have to “not be” as they aren’t.” But our mind’s don’t easily focus on the negative space, and so we strive harder and harder to achieve by adding to the mix, never considering that the recipe may not be achievable that way because it has an ingredient that must not be there.

In Dramatica, we see characters who change by “starting” something new – adding a new trait they previously did not express. We also see characters who change by “stopping” something old – shedding an old trait they previously expressed.

This shows up in stories as characters who could solve their problem if only they would just…. Or, characters whose problem would be solved if only they just wouldn’t…. In the first case, the character needs a catalyst to get going. In the second, it needs an inhibitor to hold it back.

This same dynamic is harmonically reflected in the plot with two Dramatica story points called, not surprisingly, “Catalyst” and “Inhibitor.” The first acts like a gas pedal, accelerating the progress of the story forward. The second acts like a brake pedal, slowing the progress of the story down.

We see these dynamics everywhere in life, and yet, because ours is a culture based on observation, definition and reason, we focus on only one half of this dynamic couple – we explore, map, build our understandings and make our decisions on what we see, never considering that half the time our answers can only be found in what lies between the elements of the delineated world.

Have you ever seen that picture of a vase that turns out to be an optical illusion in which the “negative space” carved out on either side of the shape of the vase presents the silhouettes of two men facing each other? So what is the picture really of, the vase or the faces? Naturally, the answer is “both.”

And herein lies the problem. We look outward and see things – situations and activities (external states and processes) – then we look inside and see the in-betweens – attitudes and cogitations (internal states and processes), BUT we seldom look outward for the in-betweens and inward for the elements.

Dramatica broke new ground in seeking to apply logic to our feelings, to map the mind’s processes in a “Table of Story Elements” by casting each process as an object – a building block of the mental/emotional flow – so that mental equations might be written to describe the manner in which each process is called in a particular order to create the DNA code of each individual consideration.

Of course, this is well hidden under the skirt of story structure since our market was writers not psychologists. But it is there. In fact, we codified it aside from the story use and called it Mental Relativity, for it describes the relationships among Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire (the four essential “bases” from which all mental processes are built) the same way physics describes the relationships among Mass, Energy, Space and Time.

Knowledge is the Mass of the mind. Thought is the Energy. (This is conceptual of course – describing the ways in which they relate, not intended to equate them in substance).

An example of this relationship can be seen in the following… Mass and Energy can relate in two primary ways. First, Energy can be attached to Mass. We see this in the kinetic energy associated with a billiard ball in motion, for example. But, Mass can also be transmuted into energy, as in thermonuclear explosions.

Similarly, Knowledge can be moved around and assembled into large constructs by the expenditure of Thought. In other words, Thought can be attached to Knowledge to put it in motion. But, Knowledge and Thought can also be transmuted one into the other. But, as with E=MC2, it takes a lot of Thought to create a solid piece of Knowledge and, conversely, a single bit of Knowledge can generate an awful lot of Thought. Hence, the reason we named the psychology behind Dramatica “Mental Relativity.”

But having turned the same definitive techniques we employ in the external world upon our own minds, we have still left one final realm of our existence unexplored – to map out our external world in terms of the in-betweens – to see substance as process and time as an object, to document external processes as feelings and external situations as moods.

Now I realize this sounds pretty far out there. And it is. It it in the last place our logic would look – the last place it has looked. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced that logic can work in that world. It may be outside the realm of the set of real numbers and into the realm of the imaginary ones, such as the square root of -1.

Yet that, in and of itself, does not invalidate its importance. Rather, it elevates the value of seeking to understand (or, perhaps that is the wrong word) to “resonate” with the digital in terms of the analog.

This, I believe, is the last frontier of our efforts to understand ourselves and our world. And, quite frankly, I’d love to put some footprints in it in an area where no one has tread before.

Having spent a career employing the logical method, I’ve yearned to explore the passionate and to document it in a language not yet invented. But, time being what it is, and there being precious little of it, I figured I’d just give y’all the title and the concept for now so it will not be an idea wholly unexpressed. And if I ever do get both the time and the motivation, I’ll tackle the book itself.

Dramatica and the Brain

Recently, a Dramatica user asked a question about the relationship of the Left Brain / Right Brain concept to Dramatica’s Story Mind concept.  My reply (which follows) provides the nitty gritty, but is pretty dense and uses “short speak” because the Dramatica user is something of an expert with a lot of depth and pre-knowledge about Dramatica’s psychological underpinnings.  So, this probably isn’t very readable and may even come off as word salad or bull crap to the uninitiate.  Still, it has a lot of good information in a small space for those who are into such things.  So, for the benefit of all you die-hard Dramatica groupies, here’ the durn reply, as is, take it or leave it….


Ganglia are like tiny brains – they share a fractal relationship with the brain at large. Just as they are networks made up of individual neurons, the brain is a network made up of individual ganglia. The brain’s dynamic functioning is more directly connected to the output and more directly inputs to the ganglia than to individual neurons, just as the body, as a whole is more directly affected by the organs than by the individual cells that make them up. And so, we create, in essence, one magnitude of fractal distance between the brain and its tiny, similarly functioning ganglia. The operation of each defines, essentially one fractal dimension, so by considering them both simultaneously, we can see two fractal dimensions. Putting that aside for a moment, let’s just look at the brain in terms of left and right brainedness. Now we have two functions that operate within the same fractal dimension – a structural side (the left brain) and a dynamic side (the right). Jumping down to a ganglia, we see the same division within its fractal dimension – a left hemi-ganglion and a right-hemi ganglion. Now I haven’t kept up with the latest in neurology, but twenty years ago Mental Relativity theory predicted that there would be a structural and dynamic component to the ganglia as well. I original suspected it would be the same as the larger brain, based on left-ness or righted-ness. But then, I learned of L cells and R cells within each ganglion. And I began to wonder if perhaps these cells were what created two dimensions in each ganglia. I speculated that perhaps one of these kinds of cells produced mostly neuro-exciter neurotransmitters, and the other produced mostly neuro-inhibitors, similar to serotonin and dopamine. The influence of one would favor the structural (binary) firing of neurons and the influence of the other would inhibit that, allowing the biochemical environment around the body (axon) of the neuron to have more influence, thereby favoring slightly the more analog effects of the ebb and flow of the biochemistry within each ganglia. It occurred to me that perhaps that is where, physiologically, the differences between male minds and female minds actually resides. Perhaps before birth, the wash of hormones that occurs in the womb around the 12th week, as I recall (being no expert, mind you, and also twenty years out of date in research) – this wash of hormones “sets” the ratio of effectiveness of the L cells to the R cells throughout the brain, thereby making each little neural network any given ganglia a little more leaning-toward structural or dynamic processing. But, I digress. The specific physiology is way out of my pay grade. What I do expect is that the left and right brains work at the same level, but one structurally and the other dynamically. I expect this will be found (functionally) in each ganglion as well, but as one fractal dimension below that of the whole brain. The result is a relationship similar to that of Knowledge and Thought (using Mental Relativity Theory terminology) which are both at the same “fractal level” in concept, just as are Mass and Energy. This can be seen insofar as they can both directly interact such as with kinetic energy transfer in billiard balls, for example, but also they can transmute from one to another, such as in a nuclear bomb. In short, just as with Mass and Energy, it takes a lot of Thought to make a little bit of Knowledge, but a tiny bit of Knowledge can generate a tremendous amount of Thought! But to complete the Mental Relativity Quad of Knowledge and Thought, you also must include the other two elemental components of the mind, Ability and Desire. When you thing of them, they are at a whole different fractal level. They share the same relationship as Space and Time, respectively. Knowledge and Thought (or Mass and Energy) are a “Dynamic Pair” – meaning that they have something of an inverse relationship (the more you come from what you know, the less you think). Ability and Desire (or Space and Time) are also in an inverse relationship (hence, what is perceived as a space-time continuum, though I take some exception to that perspective). Space and Time belong together like Mass and Energy do, but each pair isn’t operating at the same fractal level as the other, just as the two sides of the big brain belong together, just as the two aspects of the little brain (ganglia) do, but big and little aren’t on the same playing field – they are in two separate leagues, operating similarly, but one is the minor league and the other the major. And yet, both leagues are dependent upon one another, one for new talent from below, the other for financial support from above. And so, collectively all four items, Mass, Energy, Space and Time or Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire, or Left Brain, Right Brain, Left hemi-ganglion and right hemi-ganglion all form quads, each a slightly different fractal harmonic of the others, but working internally with virtually the same structure and dynamics. We directly perceive four dimensions because our brains exist in four dimensions. Our brains exist in four dimensions because we perceive them. In fact, no such limitations exist and dimensions may easily extend both up and down the magnitude scale. But when perception becomes locked, dimensionally, to reality – or more poetically put, when mind and matter become dynamically locked in a structural interrelationship, they dance around the ring of reality like two boxers in a bout, covering all the ground in a universe and bound only by the limits of their own unbreakable inter-relationship. Hey – sorry I got carried away, but you asked! 🙂 – Melanie

Fractal Psychology in the Real World

Here is an early article about a new aspect of narrative science I was developing.  It is based on a previous concept from our Dramatica theory of narrative structure called the Storymind.

The Story Mind asserts that every story has a mind of its own, as if it were some sort of mega character with its own psychology and its own personality.  Psychology is the deep structure, just as it is with real people, whereas personality are all the traits and attributes that stand on that foundation and give the story identity, again as with real people.

In the Story Mind theory, characters have two aspects.  First, each represents a facet of the overall mind.  That is their dramatic function, and it is from this function that we derive the archetypes, such as the Protagonist, Antagonist, Reason, and Emotion.

But characters also have their own personal stories as well in which they are complete human beings, each with his or her own psychology.  And so, when we look at an individual character, we can see that the same attributes they use for problem solving within their own minds are fractally represented in the overall Story Mind, each by a different character.

This led to the notion of Fractal Psychology in which when people come together in a group toward a common purpose, they quickly self-organize so that one character becomes the protagonist in the group, another the antagonist, one emerges as the voice of reason and another as the passionate emotion archetype.

Yet beyond that, groups might come together to form larger organizations in which each group becomes an archetype within the larger organization, like departments in a major corporation, each with an identifiable story of its own.

Over the years, this initial concept has continued to evolve in detail and substance.  But the seeds were first planted some five years ago as of this posting, and one of the first articles I wrote about how that theory was evolving is reprinted here:

Fractal Psychology in the Real World

What characters represent in the Story Mind is not their own psychology but rather just the small fragment of that overall entity. Essentially, in the story at large characters are nothing more than automatons – going about their functions as “intelligent agents” controlled from above (by the structure of the story as a whole).

The reason we do not easily see this is because we endow our characters with human qualities so that we might identify with them. In a sense, we must give each character at least a rudimentary psychology of its own in order for the reader or audience to empathize or sympathize with it.

But, that psychology does not drive what the character does in the story – it merely defines its personality. Personality is like subject matter or storytelling; it is not structure and does not give the character any psychology at all when it comes to its objective function in the overall story.

Another reason we do not easily see characters as objective is because of something I call “fractal psychology” (see my video on my Storymind YouTube channel). The concept is that when we gather in groups, we form a larger Story Mind as the underlying organization of that group and each adopt roles in the group that correspond to the objective characters. For example, one of us will take the role of the voice of Reason and another will be the Skeptic.

Just as characters can be subdivided into their component elements, so too, in larger groups, its members will refine their functions and specialize until all the elemental positions are taken. Then, if the group grows larger, something really intriguing happens. Individuals will form smaller story mind groups within the overall group. So, there will be one “click” or “faction” within the group that collectively act as the voice of Reason and another that functions as the Skeptical voice. Within each sub-group (sub-story) are similarly-minded individuals who all share the same basic attitude. BUT – within each sub-group, the individuals will take on other objective roles so that, for example, someone will become the Skeptic within the group that stands for Reason – essentially he or she will function as the Skeptical voice of Reason.

And finally, as the original large overall group encounters other similarly sized groups, each group will take on a function and collectively all the groups will form an even larger mind.

This is Fractal Psychology – a pet theory of mine. It explains why we are all in a constant complex web of interrelationships with our peers, our superiors and our subordinates, sometimes being driven by our own psychologies, but socially always acting as objective characters.

And so, we expect every character to have a psychology when, in fact, stories are not complex enough for that. Stories are about dealing with a single central issue with a single Story Mind and the agents that make it up. In this level of magnitude, the objective characters have no real psychology, and yet the reader or audience will expect it, for they see the story as a slice of real life in which everyone they know, themselves included, has a psychology. We, as storytellers, then humanize our automatons so that we fool the audience, sugar coat the functions to make it appear as if they are fully developed people when they truly are not.

There are, of course, two exceptions to this – the Main Character and the Influence Character. They are special because in addition to their objective functions, they also represent our sense of self and that small “devil’s advocate” voice within us with whom we argue about whether we should stick with the tried and true, even if it appears to be failing, or adopt the new and promising, even though it has never been tested.

So these two exceptional characters need to be fully developed with their own true internal thought processes. But that, alas, is another story……

Melanie Anne Phillips

Learn more about Narrative Science

Narrative Space in the Real World

In an earlier post I described how the term “narrative space” refers to the breadth and depth of the subject matter from which you will develop a story.  Like a cloud, the subject matter is just the raw material – a nebulous realm in which many story structures might be found.  Think of a story structure as a construct of tinker-toys about the size of a basketball.  And think of a narrative space as your bathtub.  With a tub full of subject matter, you can drop your tinker ball anywhere in it and encircle a different batch of water.  Without changing the structure at all, you can move it just an inch and still change the nature of the particular subject matter you’ll use in making your point.

Now look at it another way.  You have this tub full of subject matter than intrigues you.  You’d love to cram it all into the same story.  But, your ball just isn’t that big.  In other words, you’d need a book the size of an encyclopedia to cover it all, or perhaps a movie 8 days long.  Could it be done, of course!  But should it?  Not if you expect anybody to read it or go see it.

So, you assess your tub.  You’d really like the rubber duck in your story so you put the ball around that.  But, you’d also like that particular lump of suds – it just intrigues you.  You gently push that little bubbly heap into your ball as well.  In fact, you go all over your basin and pull all the water and floating things you’d specifically like into your ball.  Eventually, you can’t get anything new into the ball without pushing something else out.  That is the story equivalent of the speed of light constant.  I call it the size of mind constant, because it describes the maximum size a story can be and still be held at one time in the mind of your reader or audience.

Of course you can always plop another ball into the same tub to gather in a different collection of subject matter.  Thus, by writing a series of books, penning a television series, or hammering out a bunch of movie sequels, you might be able to get almost all the subject matter that interests you covered in one story or another – just not all in the same story!

(Naturally, you could create an over-arcing story structure in which each of the smaller stories becomes just an element in a bigger structure, but then the read or audience won’t be able to see the subject matter detail in the smaller stories at the same time that they appreciate the subject matter in the over-arcing story – just too many degrees of separation or magnitude from the biggest to the smallest to capture in a single glimpse.)

Some of your tinker balls might actually overlap in the tub, like galaxies colliding, in which they each share some elements of story structure.  Others may carve out sections that are completely separated.  And, some may nudge up against each other just close enough to have a topical point of connection.  In the end, though, you need to decide for any given story what subject matter you will include and what you will exclude.  Or, put inversely, you need to determine where in the tub to drop your ball.

Finally, to the point of this particular posting – narrative space in the real world.  By this I do not mean the practical application of story structure in fiction, but the projection of story structure concepts into the actual, physical world of living, breathing people.  Quite a departure, I know.  But recall that Dramatica is a theory of the story mind.  It holds that every story structure is a model of the mind’s problem-solving processes.  Even more, it goes so far as to contend that story structure represents the underlying structure and dynamics of our own minds upon which our unique experiences fashion our singular personalities.

Hey – too talky…  Let me try that a little more conversationally…  What works in story structure works in understanding everyday life as well.  The story mind is the same as our own minds.  It is a fully functional model of how we think – how we organize things in our own heads.  So it should not come as much of a surprise that the way we organize our stories is all the way we organize our lives.

Everything we do in life is represented in stories, at a structural level.  I’m not talking about whether you like red or blue or whether you play football or go bowling – that’s all just subject matter.  (And when I say “just” subject matter, yes I know that is where the passion lies.  We only care intellectually about structure.  In short, our heads are into structure but our hearts are into the subject matter.  Still, we’re talking about the relationship between structure and subject matter here, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter much anyhow.)

Now one person will organize his life in many story structures.  Your life is your tube and you’ll have lots of balls in it – some bigger (up to the size of mind constant, at times) but mostly smaller structures of various sizes.  You’ll have a structure for your parents and one for your kids.  You’ll have a structure for your job and, within that, one for your boss.  You’ll have a structure for your future, one for each hobby, and one for the concept of hobbies in which each smaller structure is an element in the overall concept.

We don’t think about structure, we think in topics and organize in structure.

So, one person will have many nested and isolated structures all bouncing around in his or her head all the time, shifting around the the subject matter of our lives, driven by the passions of our personalities.  But underneath it all, logistically, organizationally, there is sense in the midst of the chaos when you recognize the structures of your life and don’t try to create a “life story” but more like a “life pageant” of the ongoing progression, collision and evolution of all the little stories that make up your pitiful existence.  Oops…  got a little carried away there with the rhetoric….

Point is, one person has many stories.  And within themselves, they can see all the characters you find in stories – the Reason character who represents our intellect, the Emotional archetype who stands for our passion, the Protagonist who is our initiative, the Antagonist (our reticence), the Sidekick (our confidence) the Skeptic (doubt), the Guardian (conscience), and the Contagonist (temptation).

But here’s the fun part – when we get together in groups, us humans take on the role of characters in the group story.  In short, we organize ourselves as part of a a larger group-story because story structure is how we organize.  Sounds recursive, but when you consider that the whole point of stories is to show us how to deal with situations that reflect (at some tiny or grandiose level) our own lives, add to that the notion that story structure evolved because it represents the way we think, and add to that the fact that of course we try to organize our world they way our heads are organized – well then maybe it isn’t so much recursive as it is fractal.  In fact, when I first thought of this concept, I called it “fractal psychology” – that’s my name for it and I’m sticking to it!  (Check out my videos on fractal psychology on YouTube.)

Every time you join a club, participate in a class, get involved in a political party or show up to work, you are taking a role in a bigger story than yourself, but completely like the way your own mind is organized.  So, one of us will be the voice of Reason, another the Emotional (passionate) perspective.  By each taking a role, we cover all the ways we can possibly think about the issues the group faces, we create a “big giant head” a la the old television show Mork and Mindy and populate its roles.

Now if you join an already existing organization, there might not be the position open to which you are best suited.  And, because of seniority (or lack thereof) you have to take a role that isn’t all that natural to you.  But if you don’t, you won’t have a place at the table.  So, you cram yourself into that position as best you can in the hopes that if somebody else leaves or dies or gets kicked out or whatever, when the musical chairs of reorganization occurs you may be able to snag yourself a better seat.

Though these things are always to some degree in flux (like molecules, heated, agitating and vibrating to one extent or another), there is a general inertia to each story system that holds the group together.  In time, like a person, a group may grow old and die, lose its vibrancy, or simply go to pieces.  And then, the pieces will gather together or be sopped up by other groups (again like solar systems forming from the remnants of a super nova) and the process will begin all over.

Now the last notion I’ll lay upon you (hallelujah!) is that even groups gather together in groups.  Cities become States become Nations.  Factions become Movements become Parties.  All of humanity is arranged as nested or separated groups, vibrating and evolving and overlapping as they pass through one another in the great subject matter tub of life.  Seems largely like a mess (if you watch the evening news or try to find a job) but beneath it all, very sound, stable, predictable and consistent patterns are a work, all fractally related to that little bitty brain stuffed into each of our puny heads.  A world within and a world without.

Finally, just to poke the bear one more time, go ahead and write your fictions, shoot your movies, and tell your tales.  But wouldn’t it be interesting to try and apply these same Dramatica principals not only to the realms of your creation but to all creation?  What’s the story with your spouse?  Your job?  Your future?  Which of those countries is the Skeptic in this particular international melee?  How does what happens in my town fit in with what happens in my county, and how does it mesh with the next burg over?

You want to think about it.  You know you do.  (That’s just me falling into the role of Contagonist….)

Narrative in the Real World and the Mobius Doughnut

In the early 1990s we developed a new theory of narrative called Dramatica.  Since it touched on the psychology of story structure, we believed that it might also be applied to the psychologies of real people as well as fictional ones.

As background for this hypothesis, Dramatica theory holds that every story has a mind of its own. This Story Mind is made up of a personality created by the storytelling style and an underlying psychology represented by the story’s structure.

This one concept alone, if projected onto real people might help us understand an individual, be it a friend, stranger, or perhaps ourselves. But Dramatica also contends that fictional characters are not only personalities in their own rights, but also must play a second role as a facet or aspect of the overall Story Mind. In essence, each character is a complete mental system, but collectively they join together to form a larger mental system that is not unlike a fractal of the dynamics of each individual character.

From this notion, we developed the concept of fractal storyforms, meaning that not only would characters create a Story Mind when they came together, but a group of story structures coming together would create an even larger Story Mind in which each individual story functioned as a character.

In the real world, we hypothesized, when people come together in groups, they automatically slip into roles that represent different attributes we all possess. For example, one person might become the voice of reason in a group, assuming the role of the group’s intellect, just as there is a Reason Archetype in a fictional story. Another character might adopt the position of the group’s passion, speaking up whenever human feelings are the issue, essentially fulfilling the same character function as the Emotion Archetype.

What’s more, if a number of groups band together in a larger organization, automatically they will begin to adopt roles within the larger organization as if they were characters in a mind, thereby extending the phenomenon up one more fractal dimension. In the real world we call this “fractal psychology.”

Naturally it follows that if Story Minds exist in the real world as well as the fictional world, then might we not best understand their elements and mechanisms by applying the same Dramatica model that has proven itself in the analysis of fictional stories?

Recently, an opportunity has emerged for us to explore the application of our methods for analysis of storyforms to actual situations and organizations. At first, the task seemed simple – just analyze the situations as if they were stories. But it quickly became evident that there are substantial differences in the two endeavors.

Most notably, while the narrative space of a story is a closed system, i.e. a book, a movie or a stage play, in the real world the narrative space is open, limitless. So unlike analyses of fiction, in the real world one must first find the storyform before one can analyze it.

Alas, this brings forth another difficulty. There is usually only one story in a fiction narrative space. Sometimes there can be a sub-story hinged to the main story that is almost wholly independent, yet touches at one point, such as a character who appears in both stories.

In such a case, the character is driven most strongly by its own story, yet still plays a function in the larger story. An example is the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV) in which Han Solo’s debt story with Jabba is hinged (but not part of) the main story about the empire and the rebels.

In this example, Han’s character would never allow him to march into the detention area to rescue the princess EXCEPT that his need for money for his sub-story provides enough sideways motivation for him to act out of character and do something that puts him at more risk. A useful tool for writers, but a complication for analysts of real-world situations.

Further, some fiction narrative spaces can contain more than one complete story, like raisins in rice pudding. For example, in Woody Alan’s movie, “Crimes and Misdemeanors” there is a crime story and a misdemeanor story, each with complete and different structures and different characters that do not affect or interact with the other story. The movie is designed to force the audience to compare the two stories side by side and arrive at a more conundrum.

In the real world, this means that any number of independent stories may co-exist in the same narrative space. One may even conjecture that some real world stories may be sub-sets of others, or perhaps even overlap each other containing some unique and some shared story points.

In short, single storyforms in fiction are idealizations in which there is a single central problem. The unfolding of the story is an argument about the best way to try and solve such a problem. But in real minds and real situations, many problems are constantly emerging, playing themselves out, and passing through each other, like stars in galaxies in collision. Add to this the fractal nature of nested storyforms and you end up with a veritable mess.

And so, the task of identifying and separating a single storyform in the real world, much less the one best suited to answer the questions at hand becomes a daunting proposition.

Decades ago, when we were first trying to model Dramatica’s conceptual structure in some tangible form, we experimented with several physical constructs to represent the elements and their attendant dynamics.

Nowadays, we are all familiar with the recognizable four-tower model representing the four Classes of stories and looking like an odd blending of a three-dimensional chess set and a Rubik’s cube. But how many are actually aware of why Dramatica ended up being presented in this form?

The real story, as it were is that in the very beginning, we began with lists of elements that we observed in story. Then we realized some were higher-level appreciations and others lower-level, like members of a family that all share the same higher-level family name as well as their own. Or, like families of chemical elements in which Fluorine and Chlorine are different elements but have properties similar enough to be in the same chemical family.

But how to build a model of that which satisfied all of the mechanisms that “chemically” connected the elements?

One of the first attempts I made was to get a toroid (a doughnut-shaped piece of Styrofoam about a foot across) and then to wrap a thin metallic foil tape around it in a helix. The foil wrapped around the circumference four times by the time it passed through all four quadrants and returned to the point of origin. This represented one of the four classes.

Three more foil tapes of different colors were added, spaced so that they also wrapped around the toroid in a four-loop spiral without overlapping the others. Each was slightly staggered, so that the beginning of the next color was at the ending of the last color, creating a continuously wrapping “quad-helix” around the toroid until the end of thye very last of the four colored foils connected back to the beginning of the very first, creating, essentially and endless loop.

This was useful because you could see the relationships among elements of different classes when written equally spaced along each of the four colors. But, it was hardly practical to ship a Dramatica Steering Wheel with each software box, it who could use the thing anyway? Besides, this was just an approximation. In fact, to be wholly correct, the toroid would have had to have been wrapped by a mobius strip to include the progressive shift of dynamics in a structure which we came to refer to (in verbal shorthand) as an “inverse with a twist.” Hence, the need for a mobius doughnut.

After that, we shifted to a much more doable visualization of the very same elements and mechanics as a pyramid for each Class of story (for each of the four towers you see today).

To illustrate that each pyramid represented a point of view that the peak that fanned out into a perspective of the “Truth” at the base, we decided to put two pyramids together at the base so they formed a crystal – real new age visualization, that!

This worked much better, but we came to realize that because both points of view were looking not at different sides of the same coin but at the same side from different places, then we ran into problems because the common base that was the interface between them couldn’t be itself and also its mirror image at the same time. And besides, there were four classes, so how could they all share the same interface in a three dimensional model?

We were pretty frustrated. So, we took a clue from Crick and Watson when they were trying to be the first to discover the molecular structure of DNA. At first, they were using X-ray micrographs of DNA to try and see the structure. From that method, DNA appears to be a crystal, just as our model could. And, as we all now know, DNA is a double-helix, while our temporal component is a quad-helix.

We figured with that kind of correlation we were probably on the right track. But, since all that was still too complex for writers, we ended up simply making four towers, sub-divided into smaller and smaller components to illustrate all the familial relationships among the story points. And when we flattened it down to a two-dimensional grid, we presented this alternative view as the Dramatica Table of Story Elements that tens of thousands of writers use today.

And here we were now, twenty years later, looking at an open-system narrative space in the real world, once more trying to visualize a storyform. But not the same as in the closed system of fiction – an inverse version of that. But worse. Because the in fiction, analysis is a closed set and creation is an open set, but in the real world analysis AND creation are BOTH open sets. So, it wasn’t just an inverse, but an inverse with a twist AGAIN! Durn concept keeps coming ‘round to haunt us.

Okay, let’s take that toroid again and stick it in the middle of the real-world narrative space. We have to make it a mobius doughnut in our minds because this doughnut is a very special doughnut because to see the storyform inside, you have to turn the doughnut inside out.

And here, then, is the real problem. You can see the data inside until you turn it inside out, but you can’t turn it inside out because it is genus one with no opening on the surface. You see, if you take an inner tube and take off the valve, you can actually (or at least theoretically) pull the entire inner tube through the valve hole until the inside is on the outside and vice versa. But without a hole, in a true doughnut, there’s no loose thread, no handle, no place to get a grip or begin the process of inversion.

The mobius strip aspect indicates that it would only lay flat upon the toroid if we had one more dimension than three in which to build such a visualization. But, we don’t – not for practical purposes.

And so, we bashed our heads against the wall for some time until after many days of conjecture, we realized that the key was not in finding the best storyform in the real-world narrative space by objective standards, but the best storyform by subjective standards.

In a world of infinite overlapping structures, none is more important than any other until you impose importance upon it. Essentially, as the singer/composer Don MacLean said, “The more you pay, the more its worth.”

As an analog, consider the story creation process in fiction. It is an open system for the subject matter of interest to the author has no limits. Theoretically, this makes it impossible to pick the best story structure because it cannot be objectively determined.

But in practice, who the hell is objective? Rather, authors come to the story creation process because of their subjective interest in the subject matter. Many years ago I used to teach authors that we all get excited by the subject matter, but in truth, all of those bits of information can’t possibly live together in peaceful coexistence in the same story structure. The job of the structuring author is to pick the most important subject matter first, boil it down to story points in the structure and then continuing picking until you hit the point where something you want won’t fit into the structure. This is when the Dramatica Story Engine in the software is doing its job by telling the author, “if you include that extra piece, you’re weakening your own structure – working against yourself.”

So, when Dramatica doesn’t match what you want to do at the lower levels, its not broken. In fact, that what it was designed to do – save you from yourself (save your subjective self from making a big objective mistake!)

Now if we apply that same principal to the open-system real world narrative space, then (using the inverse with a twist) analysis should work the same way. And durned if it doesn’t.

You can’t find a story form in the real world, you have to impose one, just like an author does in creating a fiction. Essentially, what is it you want to know? What question do you want to answer, what process do you want to explore?

In practice, you simply look at the narrative space and decide what you want to know first. Then you turn a data point into a story point that will explore that for you. Then you pick the next piece and the next. You continue picking pieces until you’ve fully populated a storyform.

Of course, in the real world, you’ll never get to a complete storyform before you run out of visible data points. But thanks to the Story Engine, by the time you’ve run out of data that belongs in your subjectively defined story structure, Dramatica will suggest the kinds of data that “should” be out there in the gaps.

If you are writing a fictional story about real events, these gaps will be filled by your own creation. But in an analysis of real world data, these gaps are already filled – you just haven’t observed that data yet, but its out there somewhere, hiding for now.

Therefore, Dramatica is able to tell you more about the real world than you can see for yourself.

In summary then, in both fiction and the real world, no storyform is better than any other until you have a preference for one. In either case, you need to look to the subject matter and build a storyform that best represents the subject matter you’d like to explore.

In short, when building storyforms in the real world, forget all the pyramids and towers and mobius doughnuts – all you have to do is make the one you want.

And in conclusion, it took us weeks of work and took me six pages to describe find and describe logically something every writer worth his or her salt knows intuitively:

Build the story you want to tell.

And Dramatica? It just keeps you honest when your own preference for the subject matter gets the better of making sense.

Melanie Anne Phillips

Originally published in 2011

Learn more about Narrative Science

al Awlaki, the “Uncanny Valley” and Writing Empathetic Characters

Recently, al Awlaki (the infamous “American” Al Qaeda) was killed by American forces. He was viewed as a great threat because of his ability to speak to the domestic population of the United States in their own language and culture and to inspire terrorist acts by those susceptible to his message of jihad.

While these allegations are certainly true, they alone do not explain the intensity with which Awlaki was both feared and despised. In fact, there is another quality he possessed that amplified the trepidation and derision he precipitated: he fell into the “Uncanny Valley.”

“Uncanny Valley” is a term generally used to define any non-human entity whose attributes are just human enough to be disturbing. For example psychological test have been run that chart an empathy line against robots whose features range from fully mechanical to completely human in appearance. At first, the results were predictable: the more human the robot appeared, the more empathetic people were to it.

But, as the human qualities reached a point where they became “almost human” there was a sudden drop-off in empathy as steep as a cliff. In fact, the reaction to such an entity reached a point where it plummeted below zero empathy into the realm of negative empathy, documented as “revulsion.”

The same test was also run using stuffed animals and the results were essentially the same – our empathy increases as human likeness increases until a sharp break point is reached where additional increases quickly reverse the trend. Once the line hits bottom and as human similarity continue to increase, eventually empathy rises again into the positive, and ultimately reaches maximum when the non-human entity appears absolutely identical to a human, even though one knows it really is not.

Now this aspect of human psychology has tremendous implication for writers, especially in the creation and development of characters. While it has been explored directly in such works as the I, Robot novels by Asimov (and especially well handled in the movie, Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams) it is always at work in the relationship between an audience and the fictional entities that populate the stories it reads and watches.

Let me propose that the Uncanny Valley not only pertains to the visual qualities of non-human entities, but to how we intuitively sense their humanity, almost as if we were automatically and subconsciously performing a Turing Test on every person we meet.

I believe we are. I believe we are prepared to accept something totally alien as a risk of unknown potential, while any creature we can identify as of human essence is a known quantity and, therefore, a predictable risk at worst. But some one or some thing that is just off-kilter enough is loose-canon when it comes to threat. We might find ourselves lulled into complacency only to be set-upon when our guard is down.

For example, we are afraid of an earthquake or tornado because it is random and chaotic. We are afraid of bears in a different way because they share our emotions and we understand what they might do. But a Terminator or a demonic spirit is far more terrifying for while we are able to frame it as an entity in our minds, we are unable to fathom its motivations or to predict its behavior, which are often contrary to humanity.

In contrast, consider animated cartoons in which cars, cattle, or cantaloupes may all engender empathy from an audience because they are carefully (albeit intuitively) crafted to fall far enough from human-looking to avoid the Uncanny Valley on one side, and close enough to human in spirit to avoid the Uncanny Valley on the other.

Many of the disfigured humans of fiction are often drawn to revolt us in appearance while connecting to us in their humanity. And, of course, many characters are written to illustrate that even the most beautiful can have revolting souls.

Now for the sake of a mental exercise, consider how this holds true in real life. For example, most of us find the Elephant Man uncomfortable to look at, yet empathize deeply with his heart. But what of those in our own live who have been badly burned or born with physical defects? What must that life be like when you are constantly reminded, subliminally, that others shun you as non-human? There are lessons here for our spiritual growth and stories to be told.

Let’s shift gears, for a moment, and go to the opposite extreme – the science of mind, the neurology of psychology. If you go to Wikipedia and look up Uncanny Valley you’ll find graph that shows the sudden dip and re-rise of the empathy line.

I was immediately struck by how similar that line is to the “action potential” of a neuron in the brain. After a neuron fires, it is chemically inhibited from firing again immediately. Rather, the “action potential” goes from maximum, down a steep cliff during the actual firing to a negative action potential until the forces that lead to the ability to fire recharge.

I’m going to make a leap here and share with you an aspect of the psychology behind Dramatica – a theory we call Mental Relativity. As part of the theory we propose (because of what we have observed in our model of story structure) that dynamics in the electro-chemical operations of the brain are reflected, almost as fractals, in the high-level dynamics of psychological processes. Simply put, psychology exhibits sympathetic vibrations of the patterns of physical brain function.

Now, I realize there are no studies (to my knowledge) that explore this, but is absolutely is a prediction of the Mental Relativity theory. But why would this be? Consider one potential explanation…

It is one of our most essential survival tools to be able to recognize objects, patterns, edges, what is part of something and what is not. The same curve we see in neurons or in the Uncanny Valley actually is just a reflection of our ability to define the limit of things.

We use this to see a rock in our path or to determine if figure coming through the mist is a friend or foe. It is what allows us to describe the nature of an object or a person and the scope of an argument or a story.

And so, with an aspect of our minds that is so foundational and all pervasive, a wise author would give it heed when building characters to be attractive or off-putting, a wise person would think twice about from whom they turn away (and why), and as for al Awlaki, well, he was American enough to connect with those who felt isolated, but just a little bit too non-American to avoid our ire.

Applying Dramatica to the Real World

Analyzing and Predicting the
Activities of Groups & Organizations


By Melanie Anne Phillips


Based on theories developed by
Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley

Introduction to Dramatica Theory and Applications

The Dramatica Theory of Story is a model of the mind’s problem solving processes which has been successfully employed for seventeen years in the analysis and construction of fictional stories ranging from major Hollywood productions to novels, stage plays, and television programs.

Software based on the Dramatica Theory is built around an interactive Story Engine which implements the problem-solving model as a method of determining the meaning and impact of data sets and of predicting motivations and actions based on potentials inherent in the data.

This is achieved by creating a Storyform – essentially, a schematic of the problem solving processes at work, their interactions, their outcomes, and the future course they will take.

The Dramatica system and its problem-solving algorithms can be applied with equal success to the analysis of real-world situations as well, specifically in determining the motivations behind the actions of a target group and in the prediction of their future actions and potentials for action.

Scalability and the Story Mind

To illustrate this methodology let us consider a generic target group. This might be a clique, club, movement, political faction, tribe, or nation. This highlights an important benefit of the system: Dramatica is scalable. It works equally well on individuals or groups of any size.

This kind of scalability is described by a Dramatica concept referred to as the Story Mind. In fiction, characters are not only individuals but also interact in stories as if they are aspects of a larger, overall mind set belonging to the structure of the story itself.

If, for example, one character may emerge in group actions and discussions as the voice of reason while another character, driven primarily by passion, becomes defined as the heart of the group.

Stories reflect the way people react and behave in the real world, and when individuals band together as a larger unit, they fall into roles where the unit itself takes on an identity with its own personality and its own psychology, almost as if it were an individual itself, in essence, a Story Mind.

Fractal Storyforms in the Real World

Similarly, if several groups become bound, as when factions join as members of a larger movement, the movement begins to take on an identity and the factions fall into roles representing aspects of individual problem solving processes.

Dramatica can move up and down the scale of magnitude from the individual to the national and even international level, while retaining an equally effective ability to analyze and predict based on its underlying model. This phenomenon is referred to the Fractal Storyform.

In actual practice, many groups of interest are ill defined, have blurry edges and indistinct leadership. Still, the core motivations of the target group can be determined, and from this the edges of the group can be refined sufficiently to create a storyform of the appropriate magnitude to suit the task at hand.

Memes and Story Points

Dramatica makes a key distinction between the underlying structure of a story and the subject matter that is explored by that structure. For example, every story has a goal but the specific nature of the goal is different from story to story. Elements such as a goal which are common to every story and, hence, every problem solving process, are referred to as Story Points.

Similarly a culture, ethnic group, religion, political movement, or faction will employ the same underlying story points but will clothe them in unique subject matter in order to define the organization as being distinct and to provide a sense of identity to its members.

Once a story point has been generally accepted in a specific subject matter form it becomes a cultural meme. Efforts to analyze and predict a culture based on memes alone have largely been unsuccessful.

Dramatica’s system of analysis is able to strip away the subject matter from cultural memes to reveal the underlying story points and thereby determine the specific storyform that describes that group’s story mind.

Essentially, Dramatica is able to distill critical story points from raw data and assemble them into a map of the target group’s motivations and intentions.

Passive Participation and Active Participation

One of Dramatica’s greatest strengths is that it works equally well in constructing stories as in analyzing them. We refer to analysis as Passive Participation and construction as Active Participation.

When dealing with a target group of interest, these two approaches translate into the ability to passively understand the target group and anticipate its behavior, and also to actively create courses of action by which to intervene in and/or influence the group’s future activities and attitudes.

To understand, we determine motivations and purposes.

To anticipate, we project actions and intent.

To intervene, we define leverage points for targeted action.

To influence, we determine nexus points for focused pressure.


The passive approach is comprised of Analysis and Prediction. Analysis is achieved by first identifying independent story points and then determining which ones belong together in a single storyform.

Identifying Story Points 

In addition to cultural memes, story points can also be derived from the target group’s public and private communications, in news publications and vehicles of propaganda, in works of art (both authorized and spontaneous), in popular music and entertainment, in the allocation of resources, and in the movements and gatherings of individuals. In short, any data can directly or indirectly provide valid story points.

Identifying a Storyform

Once a collection of story points has been assembled, it must be determined which ones belong together in the same storyform. Each storyform represents a different state of mind, but there may be many states of mind in a single target group. These are not different mind sets of individuals, but different mind sets of the group itself:. And just as stories often have subplots or multiple stories in the same novel, target groups may have a number of different agendas, each with its own personality traits and outlook.

This can be illustrated with an example from everyday life: a single individual may respond as a banker at his job, a father and husband at home, a teammate in a league and a son when he visits his own parents. Similarly, a target group may have one storyform that best describes its relationship to its allies and another that describes its relationship to its enemies.

It is crucial to determine which storyform is to be analyzed so that an appropriate subset can be selected from all derived story points.

Results from Limited Data

The Story Engine at the heart of the Dramatica software cross-references the impact and influence of different kinds of story points as they interact with one another, both  for individual story pointsand for groups of story points.

Once the scope of the storyform is outlined, the software can actually determine additional story points within that closed system that had not been directly observed as part of the original data set. This creates a more detailed and complete picture of the situation under study than is evident from the limited data.

Spatial Data vs. Temporal Data

Unique to Dramatica’s software, the Story Engine is able to determine the kinds of events that must transpire and the order in which they will likely occur, based on the static picture of the situation provided by the complete storyform.

In stories, the order in which events occur determines their meaning. For example, a slap followed by a scream would have a different meaning that a scream followed by a slap. Similarly, if one understands the potentials at work in a storyform derived from story points pertaining to the target group, the Story Engine is capable of predicting what kinds of events will likely follow and in what order they will likely occur.

Conversely, if the originally observed data set includes sequential information, such as a timeline of a person’s travels or of the evolution of a sponsored program, the Story Engine can convert that temporal data into a fixed storyform that will indicate the motivations and purposes of the group that led them to engage in that sequence of events.


The Dramatica theory and Story Engine (when properly used by experts) is able to translate the spatial layout of a situation into a temporal prediction of how things will unfold from that point forward.

Signposts and Journeys

The Dramatica storyform breaks events into Signposts and Journeys. These concepts are similar to the way one might look at a road and consider both the milestones and the progress being made along the path.

In stories, this data is described by Acts, Sequences, and Scenes, concepts which represent different magnitudes of time. Acts are the largest segments of a story, sequences one magnitude smaller, and scenes are even smaller dramatic movements.

Wheels within Wheels

It is commonplace to think of story events as simply being driven by cause and effect. A more accurate model may be roughly visualized as wheels within wheels, where a character sometimes may act in ways against its own best interest. For example, larger forces may have been brought to bear and might carry greater weight.

The outside pressures that are brought to bear on the target group build up these potentials as if one were winding a clock. In stories, this creates potentials that make each wheel (such as an act of a scene) operate as if it were a dramatic circuit.

Each story point within a given dramatic circuit is assigned a function as a Potential, Resistance, Current, or Power. Determining which of these functions is associated with each story point is essential to accurately predicting the nature and order of a target group’s future activities based on an understanding of the different magnitudes of motivation at work.

Closed Systems and Chaos

Storyforms are closed systems. They are snapshots of a moment in time in the mindset of a target group. But just as an individual or a character in a story is constantly influenced by outside events, new information, and the impact of others, so too is the target group. To the ordered world of a storyform, such outside influence is seen as chaotic interference.

The accuracy of a storyform analysis and its predictions has a short shelf life. The more volatile the environment in which the target group operates, the more quickly the accuracy of the storyform degrades.

Fortunately, storyforms can quickly incorporate new data to be updated in real time to give a constantly refreshed accuracy to the analysis.

In addition, just because a target group’s motivations and agenda is continually being altered by outside events does not mean the effects upon it are completely chaotic.

Some influences, such as an earthquake, an unexpected death, or a surprise attack are truly chaotic, while other influences only appear to be chaotic because they are not part of the closed storyform. Rather, they are part of a larger story.

Applying the concept of the fractal storyform, it is possible to create additional storyforms of both larger and smaller magnitudes to surround the target group so that it is seen not only by itself, but also as a player in a larger story or in terms of individual players within it. In this manner many events which previously appeared chaotic can be predicted and the accuracy of the target group storyform is enhanced.

Movie Frames

Another method for minimizing inaccuracy in prediction is to create a series of storyforms for the target group over a given period. These are then assembled in sequence, like frames in a movie, to determine the arc of change over time.

Truly chaotic events will largely cancel out, but ongoing influence from larger and smaller storyforms with their own individual agendas will create a predictable curve to the manner in which the target group’s storyform is changing, thereby allowing us to anticipate not only what the target group might do on its own, but what it is likely to do as the situation in which it operates continues to evolve.

Direct Intervention

In contrast to Passive methods, with Active methods we consider altering the actions and attitudes of a target group by either direct intervention or indirect influence.

Identifying a Problem

Once a storyform has been created and analysis and prediction have been employed, an assessment must be made to determine if the target group is currently of a mindset contrary to our interests and/or if it will be in the future.

Before a response can be developed, the specific nature of the problem must be fully defined. Again, the storyform and its component story points offer an accurate mechanism for determining the specific nature of the problem: the story point or story point arrangements that are in conflict with our interests.

Identifying a Solution

Some solutions simply require the alteration of a single story point to a different orientation within the storyform (corresponding to a slight shift in attitude, motivation, or actions by the target group). Often, once the specific nature of the problem is understood, a direct surgical impact on that story point may alter the direction of the story. Modifications to the storyform must be approached with caution, because a single small ill-advised move can sometimes do far more damage than the original problem. More complex problems may require replacing the current storyform with a completely different one.

“What If” Scenarios

Fortunately, Dramatica’s Story Engine allows for altering one or more story points to see the nature of the new storyform that will be created as a result. A large number of alternatives exist by simply altering a few story points, resulting in the ability to game out “what if” scenarios in real time to determine a wide variety of alternatives that would accomplish the same end.

Risk Analysis

By comparing the effectiveness, ramifications, and projected timelines of each alternative storyform solution, it is possible to create an effective risk analysis of each available option to ensure maximum impact with minimum risk.

These alternative storyforms can indicate the kinds of risks involved in each potential response to the problem, as well as the magnitude and likelihood of each risk.

Indirect Influence

Direct intervention may be inadvisable for any number of reasons. Also, if the problem with the target group is its overall attitude, the strength of its motivation, or its unity of purpose, any overt action might prove ineffective or even counter-productive, resulting in a response opposite to that intended.

In such cases, it may be more prudent to exert a gradual influence or series of influences over an extended time. Here again, Dramatica is able to provide tools to know when and for how long to apply specific kinds of visible and/or invisible influence to ultimately obtain the desired changes in the target group’s mindset.

Identifying Problem Qualities and Directions

At times, there may currently be no problem, but the storyform may reveal that, if left unaltered, the course of events will lead the target group into an undesired orientation. This allows for the allocation of our own resources in advance so that we might prevent the Target group from taking that particular course and opting instead for one more consistent with our interests.

Again, the first step is to create a storyform from available data and then determine the qualities of the target group’s story mind that are contrary to desired attributes.

Determining Desired Qualities and Directions

Once the problem qualities and/or directions have been defined, alternative storyforms can be created using “what if” scenarios and risk analysis to determine the best choice for a new storyform we would like to see in place.

This storyform may represent a new state of mind for the target group as a unit, or a different path that will take it through an alternative series of actions than it would otherwise instigate.

Context and the Larger Story

One method of manipulating a target group into a new outlook or attitude is through the subtle placement of the psychological equivalent of shaped charges. Rather that the direct impact of intervention, a number of small, seemingly unconnected exposures to information or manipulated environments can combine to create a single and powerful influence that will provide an immediate course correction to the undesired qualities and directions of the target group.

To effect such a subtle and undetectable influence is possible due to the depth and detail of the Story Engine’s ability to calculate the collective influence of many small magnitude story points on the overall storyform.

Movie Frames

Returning to the “movie frame” concept in a proactive, rather than analytical manner, it is possible to create a series of storyforms, each of which is slightly different that the previous one. As with individuals, the mind of a target group is more open to accepting small changes and establishing a new normal than to larger immediate changes which raise resistance.

Over time, subtle influences can follow a planned arc of change that leads the target to a new mindset, perhaps even diametrically opposed to its original viewpoint.

It is important to recognize that any long-term arc must be constantly updated and adjusted so that new influences are brought to bear to limit or leverage the impact of chaotic influence on the chosen alternative course.

Potential Future Implementations

Currently, the story engine requires manual operators versed in the Dramatica theory for processing and creating storyforms for purposes of Analysis, Prediction, Intervention, and Influence.

In the future, natural language processing can be coupled with the story engine’s operations to bring a degree of automation to the identification of story points using hub theory to locate them in large quantities of raw data.

Influence networks can be employed to determine which story points are likely to belong to the same storyform and to assemble them into alternative storyforms which may co-exist in the same raw data.

Employing a real-time version of Dramatica’s Story Engine could allow for real time analysis of ongoing data flow and indicate new storyforms as soon as they manifest in the mindsets of target groups, alerting operators when existing storyforms have dissolved or altered due to ongoing influences.

Natural language output can provide continuously updated options in time-crucial situations with a series of live “what if” scenario suggestions.

In Summary

The Dramatica Theory of Story and the software that implements the theory in an interactive story engine has, for the last seventeen years, successfully enabled accurate analysis and creation of story structures in motion pictures, novels, stage plays, and all forms of narrative communication.

By identifying the crucial story points in the mindsets of target groups of any size, the Story Engine is equally effective in analyzing and altering a target group’s current and future attitudes and behavior in the real world.

Written June 5, 2011 – Revised June 6, 2011 – Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips