The following class was hosted on the internet by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator (along with Chris Huntley) of the Dramatica Theory of story.
Dramatica : Evening, Powerz!
Powerz : Hello.
Dramatica : Got some questions on the Dramatica theory or software?
Powerz : Is there still room in your July class?
Dramatica : Yes, we have room available. It is on the weekend of July 8th and 9th, full day sessions each day.
Powerz : Yes, I recently purchased Dramatica Pro and I’m making my way through the material.
Dramatica : What are your initial thoughts? Good things, bad things, or questions?
Powerz : I guess it’s very complex for me and many new terms to learn.
Dramatica : There IS a horrendous learning curve.
Powerz : Everyday I pick up on a concept and it makes more sense.
Dramatica : The saving grace is that everything you learn opens new doors to understanding stories.
Powerz : Yes I have discovered that. I have also downloaded all the previous chat sessions and I have picked up many things there.
Dramatica : Have you checked out our World Wide Web home page? We have some additional information posted there, as well as these logs (the first one is up on the web).
Powerz : No, but I have logged into your First-class BBS.
Dramatica : Great! That is much the same material sans graphics, which are the advantage of the web. Our address is http://www.well.com/user/dramatic We are working right now on a Character audio tape and a Plot audio tape. They should be ready in mid-June.
Dramatica : Evening, Skier!
Grn Skier : Evening, who’s on?
Powerz : What would really help me would be additional examples of stories analyzed by Dramatica.
Dramatica : D Pro ships with about 20, and there are another 10 that are in Stories Volume III which will be available about the same time as the Character and Plot audio tapes.
Dramatica : Hey, Skier, got some questions about the Dramatica theory or software?
Grn Skier : Lots of questions! I’ve had the package about 6 wks. The easy part is over – I’m into subtleties now.
Dramatica : Ah!
Dramatica : What medium to you write in, Powerz?
Powerz : Novels.
Powerz : If we have time tonight, maybe we could take a look at other familiar stories?
Dramatica : Powerz, alas, my expertise is in the theory. My partner, Chris, focuses on analysis. So, I don’t have a lot of examples up my sleeves.
Powerz : What I really meant is that it helps to understand Dramatica theory by looking at familiar examples.
Dramatica : Skier, men and women indeed think differently.
Grn Skier : I’ve read most of the past lessons. When you discussed before, your audience seemed confused too.
Dramatica : Powerz, I can call up some examples for most of the theory points, but you need to specify the points.
Powerz : How about the movie Rainman?
Dramatica : Confused, Skier? On Mental Sex, you mean? Conditions and Requirements, Skier? You mean Pre-conditions?
Grn Skier : Yeap. Example: Difference between Conditions and Requirements. Finish Rainman example 1st.
Dramatica : Okay, Rainman… We usually use that as an example of an ending that is Failure but Good. As opposed to Remains of the Day which is Success, yet Bad. Success/Failure pertains to the achievement of the goal, but Good/Bad pertains to whether or not the Main Character resolves their angst, regardless of success or failure.
Powerz : I’ll tell you what I think I know about Rainman as it relates to Rainman.
Dramatica : Hi, SPS!
SPSman : Howdy 🙂
Powerz : The main character is Charlie, the obstacle is Raymond, but who is the antagonist?
Dramatica : Powerz, first of all, Antagonist is an Archetypal character, and I’m not sure you will find archetypal characters in Rainman. Complex characters are built from the same motivations, etc, but they are grouped in different ways. For example, A protagonist, as an archetype is made up partially of Pursuit and Consider. They Pursue the external goal, they Consider the story’s problem. They keep reminding everyone to Consider the problem. The Antagonist, as the diametrically opposed character represents the force to Prevent and to Reconsider. So, you would look to see if one single character in Rainman has both those functions of if one character is the force that urges Charlie to Reconsider and another one is trying to prevent him from what he is trying to accomplish. I haven’t viewed the movie since it came out, so I’d have to review it to offer a determination, but that is what you need to look for.
As I mentioned, Chris, the co-creator of the theory focuses on the analysis and examples, whereas I deal in the theory almost exclusively.
Powerz : Thank you … I understand.
Dramatica : The point being that every aspect of character should be in EVERY fully developed story. But how they are grouped into characters is open to many variations When all like traits are grouped into a single “player” that player becomes an archetype. Just like grouping all the elements in a “family” in the periodic table of elements. There are the noble gasses, the rare earths, etc. Mix and match to bring in traits from other families into a single character and the audience cannot “assume” or predict how the character will respond until they see it happen. They must learn about the character trait by trait, but with Archetypes as soon as the audience is aware the character is being drawn as an archetype they will assume they are archetypal in all ways unless shown otherwise.
Dramatica : Since the Archetypes encompass as many traits as complex characters, the advantage to this is that the audience will fill in parts of the characters without the author having to take the screen time or pages to do it. This can open up more time or space to develop other aspects of the story more fully such as plot or theme so, Archetypes are a kind of shorthand for authors who aren’t focused on Characters compared to plot, theme, or genre.
Dramatica : Evening, WMcR!
WMcR 2 : Hi Dramatica!
Dramatica : More questions? Theory or software?
SPSman : ?
Dramatica : Yes, SPS?
Dramatica : There can be more than one Obstacle Character, but not more that one Obstacle argument. The Obstacle argument is the alternative paradigm that the Main Character is forced to consider that would change their essential nature if they adopted it. So, there can be a “hand off” from one character to another in presenting that message, but there will be only one message.
Grn Skier : In your audio tape to said Women set conditions, Men set Requirements – examples of definitions might help.
SPSman : So the Obstacle Argument can be “carried out” by more than one character?
Dramatica : Yes, SPS, like in Line of Fire where Clint’s “girlfriend” at first is the Obstacle until the villain takes over that role. That happens at the moment Clint is hanging from the building with the gun in his mouth. After that hand off, the girlfriend becomes nothing more than a sidekick having shed her role as obstacle. Also, you might have a group of characters all representing the same point of view at the same
time who would be a “collective” obstacle character.
SPSman : In Dramatica Lite (which I have), how can one use the “obstacle character” development section for more than one character?
Dramatica : Skier, on Mental Sex…
Dramatica : Yes, SPS, such as a mob, a committee, etc. They can act as a single character D because they have a single dramatic impact that is identical among them.
SPSman : Thanks, that makes sense.
WMcR 2 : <–also interested to know examples in “mental sex.”
Dramatica : Okay, wait about 30 seconds while I get some material to refer to on Mental Sex….
Grn Skier : Just to pass the 30 sec.-I really like Dramatica – answered more Ques than shelf full of WD books.
WMcR 2 : <–singing jeopardy theme to self.
Dramatica : Okay, first I’ll give you some of the quotes from the article that appeared in our first edition of Storyforming, the Dramatica Journal… We all can feel a difference between the way men and women think. There has raged a great argument as to whether it was due to nature or nurture. Of late, scientists have been running brain scans that indicate a difference in the way men and women process data, but it still has not answered the nature or nurture issue… I’ll give you Dramatica’s take on that, right after I give some examples of male and female Mental Sex characters
Dramatica : and a description of how they differ.
Dramatica : First of all, Ripley, the Sigourney Weaver character in the original Alien was Male mental sex. The part was originally written for a man, and they simply changed the gender references. BUT she uses the same problem solving techniques which have a distinctive male quality to them. That is why it seems so out of place near the end when she goes back for the cat, Jonesey. A man might go back but it would be because he had made a commitment previously, or because he had expressed a SPECIFIC emotional attachment. Without the attachment being expressed, there is nothing to indicate that she is THAT attached.
Grn Skier : I understand cat reference, but I would have tried too. Not like it was a dog or anything.
Dramatica : For a woman, this kind of expression comes from her body English, but since the character was male mental sex, it seemed inappropriate without a set up. In the X files agent Mulder is Female Mental sex Scully is male mental sex Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Ryan in Red October is female mental sex as can clearly be seen in the scene with the generals in the war room. They are all making logical assessments and he is connecting unconnected information intuitively.
WMcR 2 : Politics aside, can you give examples of diff between motivation (“female”) vs. purposes (“male”) etc? Also diff between fulfillment and satisfaction?
Dramatica : Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) in Prince of Tides is also Female Mental sex which is why many men had trouble relating to him but women just said, “I know what he’s going through!” Female mental sex looks at motivations… Male looks at purposes… Where male tries to gather evidence, female tries to see connections. Female concentrates on Why and When male on How and What. Okay, I’ll pause for a moment, because there are some side questions to address…
Grn Skier : Those examples help, I never thought intuition was purely female or logic purely male. thought I understand them as stereotypes.
WMcR 2 : What is the diff between motivation and purpose in this theory?
Dramatica : First of all, Dramatica sees these as Tendencies, NOT binary black and white differences. The way we become male and female at a mental sex level happens before birth. In the 12th to 14th week of pregnancy, there is a wash of hormones over the brain of the developing fetus if the was is testosterone, it triggers the seratonin family of neurotransmitters. There is a direct connection between the two. Seratonin transmitters are exciters which causes the neurology to be more stimulated for about a two week period in relation to the biochemistry. If estrogen is the principal hormone wash, it triggers an increase in the Dopamine family of neurotransmitters Dopamines are inhibitors on the neurology which suppresses it a bit, allowing the biochemistry to come more to the forefront. The biochemistry is where out emotional sense grows from and the neurology is where our analytical skill comes from.
Dramatica : But after two weeks, regardless of which wash you get, it recedes, leaving a different “dynamic” in the mind one that favors analysis FIRST, the other that favors intuition FIRST. We all have both, but one will be called on first, even before our consciousness gets involved, and the other will get the data second hand which leads men to have TENDENCY to be more clear on logic with less effort,
WMcR 2 : I think I’m looking for more of a definitional diff between some of the terms…
Dramatica : and women more clear on emotions with less effort. But that is just the “pre-conscious” and there are three other levels of the mind: sub-conscious, memory, and consciousness. They are influenced by (respectively) the sum total of one’s experience, specific training, and conscious choice. So, a woman may be female mental sex, but through her upbringing, training, and choice, may think 3/4 analytically, and the reverse for men is true. As a result, although 1/4 of what we are is an influence we can’t get rid of the other 3/4 can lead us to be more like the opposite sex
Dramatica : All in all, you can’t cut open a brain and see it, or even check it in the biochemistry, because it is just a dynamic set up before birth in a two week period as the foundation of self-awareness and then it recedes like an ocean wave leaving nothing but its influence in how we approach problem solving.
Dramatica : Now there was a question on the difference between Motivation and Purpose… Suppose we have a character and someone asks us, “what is his motivation? We might say “He wants to be President!” Actually, being president is a Purpose! His motivation is that he had no power as a child or any one of a number of things that drive him to be president. So, many motivations might lead to the same purpose, just as many purposes might fulfill a single motivation. So men have a tendency to look at what somebody is after, whereas women have a tendency to look first at why they are trying to get what they are after.
TBUDDHIST : So is motivation sub-conscious and purpose conscious?
Dramatica : That too differs between men and women, TBUD. Which are in the conscious mind and which are subconscious depends on the Mental Sex of the thinker.
TBUDDHIST : Interesting.
Grn Skier : Sorry to ask for the basics. Us Male mental sex types are like the old dog and new tricks.
Dramatica : No prob, Skier, this is my favorite part of the theory.
WMcR 2 : Same q regarding conditions/requirements, fulfillment/satisfaction, hold/pull it all together.
Dramatica : WM… When men and women look at the same thing, they will be seeing it from a different direction, but if they look in the same direction they will see different things. So, when we pick words like fulfillment and satisfaction we can run into that problem in our definitions… But what we mean is, that women will FIRST seek what makes them feel at one with their situation whereas men will first seek what makes their situation properly arranged. One focuses on the appraisal the other on what is appraised. If a woman works all her life to try and find satisfaction, at the end of her career she will feel like she has achieved nothing if there is no fulfillment. But if a man seeks fulfillment and does not achieve satisfaction he will feel he has not completed his work. Tendencies only, remember! 3/4 of what we are might be trained to the opposite.
Dramatica : Hi Ben!
Wolfman188 : Hi
Dramatica : Another question before out time runs out?
Wolfman188 : Sorry, I’m (habitually) late!
Grn Skier : Before we break, tell how to get newsletter and access to BBS Info not in my pkg.
Dramatica : Okay, you have the Dramatica or Dramatica Pro, Skier?
Grn Skier : I’ve order upgrade to Pro. Will it include updated Theory manual? Have 1.0.
Dramatica : No, Skier, the update is just the software, the revised manual is separate at $29.95. For the newsletter or the First Class BBS software, either call Mark at 818 843-6557, EXT 532, or E-mail Dramatica@screenplay.com.
TBUDDHIST : Can a character approach some situations via female and some via a male approach?
Dramatica : Yes, TBUD, but when it comes to the story’s problem that sits in their heart of hearts, they will only resolve THAT one if they take the approach appropriate to their mental sex.
TBUDDHIST : Thanks
WMcR 2 : So many questions, so little time! –studying book and newsletter even as we type!
Dramatica : Yes, WM! We developed 24 hours of class material, which we presented here for about a year, and are hoping to soon do for the UCLA extension program. We also have our July 8 and 9 all weekend seminar, here in Burbank CA.
WMcR 2 : How about a NYC program?
Dramatica : Down the line we’ll get to NYC, WM,: but we are still growing our road show. A reminder to check out our World Wide Web page at http://www.well.com/user/dramatic (no A on dramatic)
WMcR 2 : You’ll be welcomed here with opened lap-tops!
Dramatica : Quite an offer, WM!
WMcR 2 : LOL!
Dramatica : And also look for all these AOL class logs in the Writer’s Club area, file library, non-fiction. there are about 15 up there now!
WMcR 2 : When will most recent logs be posted?
Dramatica : We will post the last couple early next week, and that will get us up to date. We clean them up first so they read in paragraphs, MUCH easier to use! Okay, time for me to go home to my son, the birthday boy (he’s sixteen tomorrow) Monday he gets his license!!!!
Grn Skier : Thanks, Glad to join session, hope to keep at it. Lots more ques.
SPSman : Thanks, Melanie.
Dramatica : So, I’ll see you all next week, same Dramatica time, same Dramatica channel!
Grn Skier : Good Luck and say nite to the cats. Nite all.
SPSman : Youet! :
WMcR 2 : Happy B-day to your son!
Powerz : Thanks ….
Dramatica : Niters!
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.