The following class was hosted on the internet by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator (along with Chris Huntley) of the Dramatica Theory of story.
- Obstacle Character
- Story Engine
- Do-ers and Be-ers
- Problems Having More Than One Main Character.
- Mental Relativity
Tenders500 : Hiya Dram! lookin’ forward ta meetin’ ya!
Dramatica : Okay! Well, any ol’ questions on the theory or software tonight?
Byron123 : ?
Dramatica : You know, you can always talk amongst yourselves and I can take a nap!
Delta Wire : Are you going to do a review of Rob Roy???
Dramatica : I just saw Rob Roy last night, Delta, and didn’t find anything unusual enough to comment on. One of the next editorials in the newsletter will be comparing The Hot Zone to Outbreak.
Delta Wire : That’s what I thought.
Byron123 : Can you use Dramatica to re-invent an existing story…i.e. such as Star Wars? Change the domains.
Dramatica : Byron, the storyform under Star Wars is a very common one, used by many stories, By changing the storyform, especially the Domain, it would give a completely different feeling to the film. For example, in Star Wars, the Objective Story Domain is Physics. This describes the feel of the Objective story as being a chase and a battle. If it had been mind, the focus of the Objective story would have been on the different attitudes between the Empire and Rebels. As you know, all four Domains are in EVERY story, it’s just a matter of which perspectives (Main Character, Obstacle Character, Objective Story, and Subjective story) are assigned to each Domain.
Byron123 : I use the software for creation purposes. I think it would be helpful if you shown how an existing story would be different. What would it have been if it had been Mind or whatever?
Tenders500 : Understand, B….a diehard Scriptor user, and, somewhat disenchanted….called your voice m, Dram, screenplay sys, no response….quite curious..ill shaddup now.
Dramatica : Sorry, Tenders… We get SOOOOO many calls, our voice mail system can’t handle it all! Great for business, but not too good for efficiently handling calls, I’m afraid.
Tenders500 : S’okay, still curious enough to be here…..
Dramatica : Delta, Domains are perspectives…. Perspective is what holds meaning in a story. Perspectives are created by positioning the audience in relationship to the subject matter. We can look a the problem at the heart of any story and see that it impacts four principal areas. It will impact the Situation, the Activities that go on, the Attitudes people have, and the way people try to figure out the solution. In other words, these four areas are Universe (situation), Mind (Attitudes), Physics (Activities) and Psychology (manners of thinking).
Delta Wire : Okay so, in Star Wars what are the four Domains??? Interesting!
Dramatica : Now, these four “classes” of problem areas are all going to be in every story, BUT There are also four points of view through which the audience views the audience will be provided four angles on the battle… First, they will have an Objective view, much like that of a general on a hill, watching all the drama, but not being personally involved in the fray. They will see the soldiers (characters) by their functions, like the foot soldier, the cook, the guy leading the charge, etc. But the audience also gets to zoom down to the battle field and stand in the shoes of one of those characters.
Byron123 : Is the book “Dramatica for Dummies” in the works?.
Dramatica : Soon as I figure it out, Byron.
Tenders500 : Let him/her run, B….
Dramatica : That special character is the Main Character, and that is the second point of view provided an audience. This is where the audience experiences the battle first hand, as if it were happening to them. It is the most personal of views, not as accurate overall as the Objective view, but much more involving and experiential. Now as this Main Character advances through the Dramatic minefield, they come across another “soldier” standing in their path., This soldier is hidden by the smoke of dramatic explosions, so the Main Character can’t tell what uniform they wear. This Obstacle Character might be a foe trying to get the Main Character to change course into an ambush,
Tenders500 : Intention vs. obstacle?
Dramatica : (yes, Tender, much like that!)
Tenders500 : sorry….
Dramatica : Or, they might be a friend, trying to warn the Main Character away from a minefield.
Duchess D : Whew-finally made it!
Dramatica : Hi, Duchess!
Dramatica : That Obstacle Character is the third of the four perspectives the audience is given of a story.
Byron123 : ?
Tenders500 : Pull up a stool, Duchess….
Delta Wire : Unfortunately, I can’t stay for the entire class, thank you again for your wonderful insight, see you next week.
Duchess D : Are you in the middle of something or can I ask…
Dramatica : Just finishing up a thought, Duchess, and then I’ll be open to new questions…Now, the Main Character is the “I” or “me” perspective for the audience, as if the story is happening to them. The Obstacle Character is the “you” perspective, as the audience stands in the shoes of the Main Character, and looks AT the Obstacle Character. The General’s view from the hill, of the battle as a whole is the “they” point of view for the audience, because all the drama is happening to “them” and then we come to the fourth view, that occurs when the Main approaches the Obstacle through the larger battle and they begin their own personal skirmish.
The Main says, “get out of my way” and the Obstacle says, “change course!” In the end, one will bow to the other in approach. This personal skirmish between them, is still seen through the eyes of the Main Character, which is the audience’s personal take on it, and so that fourth view is the “we” perspective. So, the audience sees the story in terms of I, You, We, and They. Each is a complete throughline that must weave from the beginning of the story to the end, in order to provide the audience with a complete understanding of the meaning and ins and outs of all of the drama from every meaningful perspective.
But to get to Domains… Each of those four points of view will be associated with one of the four classes, Universe (situation) Mind (attitudes) Physics (activities) or Psychology (manners of thinking). When they are all paired up, each point of view paired with the subject it is looking at, creates a perspective or “take” on the story’s problem and each of those pairings is called a Domain. So, for example, If the Main Character is associated with the Physics class, Physics becomes the Main Character’s Domain. Which merely says that the growth of the Main Character will center on Activities. Activities, are the most clear way to define that particular Main Character. Even at this most basic level, with the most broadstroke kinds of appreciations, you can see how the Domain concept can create many different arrangements of stories just by assigning the pairings differently. And each different arrangement will have a different “genre” level feel to the audience.
Tenders500 : You’re good….does the software look for anomalies within these parameters?
Dramatica : Tenders, the software contains a “story engine”. What this does, is to provide kind of a Rubik’s Cube of story elements, that tie in Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre. Just as there are limited pieces in a Rubik’s cube (only 27) there are limited pieces in the story engine but more like 267! Some are concepts like “Goal” or Main Character’s critical flaw or “requirements” or Objective Story Problem”. When you answer questions in Dramatica, you don’t fill in blanks, you choose from multiple choice items, each of which sets a different perspective for the audience.
Tenders500 : Understand!
Angus Glas : Is a log of these meetings available on AOL?
Dramatica : Agnus, yes, the logs are all up in the Writer’s Club area, use Keyword, Writers, then go to the File Libraries, then select Non-fiction and all the logs are there.
Angus Glas : Thank you.
Dramatica : For Dramatica users, we also have a free BBS icon driven, that has all these logs and many other useful files to download.
Angus Glas : I find “free” BBS is relative to the long distance charges. Where are you?
Dramatica : We’re in Burbank, but we are looking into creating a Web Home Page with all the same files.
Duchess D : How did you come up with” everything can be seen as a part of a quad”. Why “four” & not 3 or 7??
Dramatica : Fours and threes… Let’s look at fours and threes in terms of “acts” to get an idea how they relate… Imagine four sign posts… Let’s call them A B C and D. A is at the beginning of a trail. D is at the end and the other two, B and C are in the middle. Now, we wish to take a journey on the trail. We start at A and take our first journey to B then, from B we take a second journey to C — from C we take a third journey to D and we are at the end of the trail.
Four signposts create three journeys. Now, in a story, when we feel an Act Break, we are passing a sign post. Aristotle saw stories as having a beginning a middle and an end. This is actually a blended view… The beginning or set up is A. The end or conclusion is D but this view of Aristotle’s sees the all the distance in between as “the middle” or a single journey. Now, if you try to write from that, you have no idea what should happen in act 2 But if you know what all four signposts are, you can clearly see what each of three trips would be down that trail, from beginning to end.
As a real, Dramatica example, Let’s look at a quad of Types, which are at the “plot level” or “act level” of Dramatica…This quad has four items in it: Learning, understanding, doing, and obtaining. Any order through these would be okay with Dramatica, but, of course, the order will change the meaning of the story. (after all, a scream followed by a slap is different from a slap followed by a scream!) So, let’s just say they occur in the order above… Act one would have the characters start by beginning to learn… they continue learning until they arrive at an understanding… Having reached that understanding, their understanding grows until they are finally able to DO something, and then they do it harder and harder until they Obtain.
Tenders500 : Awright, How do I buy it? –Staring at credit card–gotta scoot.
Dramatica : LOL, Tenders! Such eagerness! Just send E-mail to Dramatica@screenplay.com, or call 1 800 84-STORY. Anyway, in the example above, what happens in act two is quite clear. So, an author must know the signposts in order to create the proper journey to get the audience from where they start to the destination the author wants them to arrive at.
Tenders500 : Thanx Dram, will do…you were really good!
Dramatica : Thanks, Tenders, and BTW, this is Melanie.
Tenders500 : Well done Melanie, good luck in all your endeavors! Nite!
Byron123 : ?
Dramatica : Yes, Byron?
Dramatica : Yes, Byron, a character’s growth line, is not independent of the plot, nor is the plot independent of the characters’ influence. If we look at a truly integrated story, the plot line would not make sense as creating itself. Twists and turns that happen are due to the characters. All the growth doesn’t come from within, much of it is in response to the plot. So, events can conspire to force characters to act differently than they would like, and characters can cause the plot to move in directions differently that its internal inertia.
If you change part of your underlying Dramatic storyform. What if this is the change in character? in mid-stride, B example, I have seen movies that had timelocks within optionlocks.
You will have stopped one story and started another, because you are effectively stopping one “argument” part way through, and changing the ground rules on your audience. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, if you want to use if for effect, Just as there are stories in which Be-ers have opportunities to do, Yes, that is consistent, taken in that light. Be-er or Do-er describes a Preference by the Main Character, to do the work of trying to solve their problem internally or externally. They may, however, be faced with many situations in which they cannot accommodate their preference. That doesn’t change the preference, just whether they can enact it or not.
Much dramatic tension can be created when you have a Be-er in an action driven story or a Do-er in a deliberation/decision driven story. In each of those cases, they are fish out of water, rather than being in their element. Look at the Dad in “Beethoven” the dog movie. He is not a do-er at all, he tries to manipulate, tries to cope tries to convince others but when forced to have a slobbering dog in his house, does he take action? No, he just tries to hold up the front for the sake of the family. And that is why when he hits the vet, it is quite exciting and unexpected.
Duchess D : David has tried to explain 4th level justifications to me & I don’t get it. Can you ‘splain?
Dramatica : Ah, that is a complex subject, Duchess, and I can give it a shot, but it is really a bit much for this kind of form.
Duchess D : Can’t do it in 25 words or less, huh? Perhaps, I’ll ask you after class on Tues.
Dramatica : Tuesday would be good, because the concept of justification, is part of the engine that drives dramatics BENEATH character, plot, theme and genre,
Byron123 : I tend to reverse engineer my stories. The story engine has been great for that. and is therefore both unexpected and obscure, yet responsible for the unwinding of the story.
Dramatica : Many authors like to do some storytelling first in the Dramatica Query system, then use their own words to help them choose the specific “dramatic appreciation” that is at the heart of their concepts.
Duchess D : Thanks…
Byron123 : The semantics are a killer.
Dramatica : That’s good to hear, Byron!
Dramatica : Just a reminder that Tuesday, May 2nd is our last free class after almost a year of providing them. We will, however, have a full weekend Dramatica Theory Intensive Weekend seminar on July 8 and 9 here in Burbank. It’s $249.95 and covers everything about Dramatica theory.
Duchess D : What movie will you show on July 8th?
Dramatica : We don’t know yet, Duchess, but will be determining that from what is recently out at the time.
Dramatica : If there are other questions, I’ll jump in, otherwise I can get into justification a bit.
Dramatica : Byron, first, let us define a “work” as opposed to a “story”. A Work might have one or more stories in the same dramatic endeavor. Like Crimes and Misdemeanors, for example, which has two complete stories that don’t affect each other dramatically, yet are both necessary to the work to create a particular effect on the audience. For some “buddy stories”, there are actually two stories intertwined that DO affect each other.
Duchess D : Hark! David has generously prepared dinner while I was chatting, so I must be off. See ya!
Byron123 : Bye Duchess.
Dramatica : (bye Duchess!)
Duchess D : Bye Byron
Dramatica : One is, in effect, an offshoot of the other. The two stories might be so balanced, in how much attention they are given by the author, that it is hard to see which one is the Main just by screen time or page count. But, if one is an offshoot, it is a “sub-story” of the other, and may have its own Main Character. Now it may turn out that Main Character, is a prominent character in the other Main story. But most often, One of the two characters will be the Main, and the other the Obstacle. If the author wants to develop each equally, and wants the audience to relate to both personally, trying to see which is the “I” perspective and which is “you” can sometimes be difficult.
That is a problem in Philadelphia, for example. The most important concept is, that if one is Main, there must be an Obstacle. and that one of them will change their paradigm, and the other will affect that change by sticking with their own paradigm. The decision as to which is Main, is more important as that it positions the audience in relationship to the character that changes and the character that remains steadfastly resolved. Do you want your audience to experience going through a change on an issue, or to muster them in their resolve by associating with the steadfast character. If that issue is not important to you, you can lose the “unique” perspective of a single Main Character, balance the audience empathy between two characters and allow them to see both sides of the issue personally.
Byron123 : ?
Dramatica : Go ahead.
Dramatica : ‘Tis true.
Byron123 : Have you considered other areas?
Dramatica : Well, beneath the Dramatica theory is the model of the Story Mind and the mind’s problem solving processes. That model was discovered in story. And we called the model of psychology and the theory that surrounds it Mental Relativity, because it does for the mind, what Relativity does for the Universe. Just as the Universe has Mass, Energy, Space and Time, the Mind has Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire. And with this engine, one can resolve patterns in what the mind considers, how it gets into problems, and how it can work them out.
Byron123 : I can see other applications (real world). i.e. business… the “rubik’s cube” of thought processes.
Dramatica : This can be applied to business, to systems analysis, to personal problem solving and even to such diverse areas as nuclear physics and quantum theory. The engine itself relies on chaos theory and relativistic equations. But, of course, that is beyond the interest of the working writer!
Byron123 : I agree. I think you got a “winner” on your hands.
Dramatica : Thanks, Byron! We hope to develop other tools based on this model in the near and ongoing future.
Byron123 : You did all the work!!
Dramatica : Well, time to pull in the carpets! I’ll be here next week, same Dramatica time, same Dramatica Channel! Niters!
Byron123 : Goodnight.
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.