The following class was hosted on the internet by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator (along with Chris Huntley) of the Dramatica Theory of story.
- Main Character Focus and Direction
- Objective Characters and Characteristics
- The “Rule of threes”
- An Author’s Thematic Bias
- Storyweaving Tips.
- Differences between Dramatica Lite and Pro.
StephenHR : Yeah.
Dramatica : Whatcha got?
Dramatica : I think there is a confusion of some terms…. First of all, when building characters, you can choose any elements you want for the Main Character. So, the desire element must have been available to you.
StephenHR : Yes.
Dramatica : It that accurate so far?
StephenHR : Yes.
Dramatica : Now, you use the term focus or direction, by saying that was what your Main Character was. How did you determine what was focus and what was direction?
StephenHR : Well, I was reaching with that one.
Dramatica : Well, are you talking about the MC focus and direction or the Objective story? And for that matter, are you talking about the MC or Objective problem?
StephenHR : All good questions.
Dramatica : Well, there is a relationship between the problem that drives the Main Character, and their role in the Objective story. Just because the Main Character has a problem, does not mean it is a problem in the story as a whole, though it could be. In fact, if you have a “change” Main Character, all you know so far is that in the objective story, the Main or Obstacle will contain the Objective problem element and the other character will contain the solution.
Which has which is determined by success and failure. When you have a steadfast Main Character, the Main and Obstacle will have either the focus or direction elements in the objective story. This is because the steadfast character shares a focus with the objective story, the changing character shares a problem. But whether they sit on problem or solution for change, or focus or direction for steadfast, depends on whether they are doing the right thing, which has to do with success or failure.
Main Character is really a point of view. It just means the player through whom the audience experiences the story first hand, as if it were happening to them. That “player” that contains the Main Character could also contain the Protagonist, or the Antagonist, Sidekick, or any archetypal or non-archetypal objective character. Keep in mind that while MC is just a point of view, a position of the audience, as it were, the objective characters are defined by their dramatic function in the plot. Just like looking at a battle from a hill, you see the soldiers not by looking through their eyes, but by the job they are doing.
So, the MC may or may not be the one leading the charge. But one thing is sure, the MC and the OC will both be involved in the central or crucial issues that will allow success or bring failure. The MC holds the key, even though another objective character may be the one who will ultimately use it. So, the MC and OC are each in a “player” and each of these “players” will have an objective function in them, sitting in the same “body” that the audience uses as its point of view, or in the case of the Obstacle character, in that body that is most in their face from the Main Character’s point of view.
That objective function will either be the problem or solution element in a change story, or the focus or direction element in a change story. In that manner, if the Main Character part of that “player” makes a leap of faith, it will have an “influence” on whether they keep that objective trait, or swap it for its opposite. In a sense, it’s kind of like magnetic poles, what happens in the MC’s choice at the leap of faith, will have an impact on that player’s objective function, which will open the door to success or failure.
Similarly, the objective player might be forced into a situation, in which it must trade its function for the opposite, and as a result, the influence causes the MC part of that player to have to change. Which way it goes depends on the story. In “Jaws”, the objective trait is swapped through Brody’s necessity of shooting at the shark. Behind the scenes, as it were, his MC part loses its fear of water. It was the objective part that caused the MC change. This is unlike “A Christmas Carol” where Scrooge must consciously make a decision to change, and as a result swaps miserliness for generosity, in the objective story. Does that give you some scope on the issue?
Dramatica : I’m not sure what you mean by “play”…
StephenHR : Show up
Dramatica : Ah, the way it works, is that the objective characters represent the traits they contain for the entire duration of the story. They are constantly coming into play. The most important number of times, is enough to interact with the other three elements in the same “quad”. That is how the relative value of each of the four approaches in a quad can be determined, by seeing how well they fare against each other. But at this level the detail is so small, that it is apt to get lost in the storytelling.
Dramatica : As a result, you can have more interactions than that for plot purposes without really hurting your story. Yes, there is a rule of thumb called “The Rule of Threes”. Basically, it states that although the author will always be aware of four items that stake out the corners of each dramatic interaction, the audience will be positioned on one corner, and “feel” three interactions. This is what creates the feel of a “three act structure” for an audience, among other things. So, with characters, if they are archetypes, each archetype must have three interactions with the other archetypes in their quad. But since they also have more than just motivations, since they also have methodologies, purposes, and means of evaluation, the audience will also stand on one of those levels, and expect to see three interactions per archetype with each of the other archetypes.
Dramatica : As an example, a protagonist will have three run-ins with the antagonist. The first will introduce the nature of the conflict, or the dramatic potential that exists. The second will be the actual interaction between them, the third will be the resolution to their conflict. Clearly, any of these three stages might be short or very long in how much time or how many pages you devote to it. That is a matter of storytelling. But for complex characters, it is much more of a mix-up, because the relationships occur in different quads, and therefore require more set up, which makes that part of the story more structured causing character-heavy pieces to have less space or screen time for plot issues.
Dramatica : The author’s thematic bias. The theme of the story, is going to be explored by the characters. When the author has determined their point of view on the story’s issues,
StephenHR : Is there a pointer?
Dramatica : the character that represents the author’s view is the one that would be the “anchor point”. No pointer at this time that happens automatically. As you know, Dramatica is a theory in ongoing development.
StephenHR : OK, just checking.
Dramatica : Although it does things for writers no other theory of story has been able to do, it is far from complete. The pointer you would like is just one of the future applications we hope to work out in theory so we can implement that extra functionality into the software.
StephenHR : OK, so I am launching out again into storyweaving…into the unknown…
StephenHR : yeah, but I’m all thumbs. Walk me through a logical progression…
Dramatica : Well, storyweaving is the part most author’s are already doing pretty well. Logic isn’t really the issue in this stage of the process.
StephenHR : That could explain a lot.
Dramatica : It’s all a matter of author’s interests and preferences. By the time you have a storyform and have encoded it, by illustrating the points in the software, they you have a really complete idea of all the things that are going to have to show up in your story. You have “developed” your concept, until it is a complete idea. At that point, it is not nearly so important what order you do things in, as long as you remain true and consistent to the message you have decided to send. I truly think that over “logic”ing or over structuring the storyweaving process takes all the heart and creativity out of it. As a checklist, you can look in some of the “progression” reports in the software, and create 3×5 cards with all the items that need to be explored.
Then, you can rearrange the order of the cards into the order you’d like to unfold those dramatic points to your audience. Its really as simple as that. The hard part is making sure the idea is complete to begin with, and that is what Dramatica was built to do. The rest is up to your natural abilities as a storytelling, so trust your feelings, Luke! Any other points you’d like to touch on?
StephenHR : I’m redoing the 3 X 5’s and checking them twice.
Dramatica : A good way to make the cards, is to look at the six thematic conflicts that will occur in each of the four throughlines. This comes to a total of 24 conflicts, which is just about the number of scenes you will find in a single, complete story. So, you can build your scenes around those thematic conflicts, which allows you to use the “feel” of the scene thematically, as the foundation for the dramatic points that will be played out against that background.
StephenHR : Got that.
Dramatica : Any other questions, answers, or whatevers?
Dramatica : We are testing in-house, even as we speak. AND we have a release date for the finished version of April 3rd! In fact, “Dramatica” is now being split into two separate products. Dramatica Pro and Dramatica Lite. The reasons were that for beginning to intermediate writers, D Pro was MUCH too intimidating. As you know, it has so much in it, that it can be overwhelming.
StephenHR : I am proof.
Dramatica : So, D Lite was created to be a fully-functional version of Dramatica, with the exact same story engine, but that stays away from the more complex reports and dramatic points. Dramatica per se, is being replaced with D Pro, which will continue to add functionality and complexity. So, D Pro is definitely not for the novice. But if the novice wants to upgrade, they can buy D Lite, and then buy D Pro from Screenplay Systems directly, and deduct the full purchase price of D Lite from the cost of D Pro! We made D- Lite just to help new writers ease into this new concept.
StephenHR : Cute and a good marketing move for product introduction.
Dramatica : We didn’t realize just how much we had crammed into Dramatica, until we started creating Dramatica Lite. Then it became clear we had an industrial strength writing tool, and needed something for the novice!
StephenHR : I think I got what I wanted from Dramatica for my rewriting… a very tough but objective writing partner of sorts.
Dramatica : I hope so. There is still so much we are looking forward to adding that will support the actual writing process all the way to finished product. But, for now, we’ll have to settle for being a story development tool, where you work out your story’s dramatics, not a place where you write the story.
StephenHR : Now that I’ve paid the price of using it, I’m looking forward to having it along as I dive back into writing. All for me now. Thanks.
Dramatica : Okay. Well, let’s call it a night! Good writing!
StephenHR : Done. Good night.
The Dramatica Theory of story was developed by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, and was implemented into software by Chief Software Architect, Stephen Greenfield.