Dramatica Class 19

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 : Hiya, Skier!

Grn Skier : Evening Dramatica!

Dramatica : Weren’t scared off last week, eh?

Grn Skier : Any dents in the car yet? No, enjoyed the chat!

Dramatica : Actually, my son didn’t pass the drivers’ test!

Dramatica : He hit a cone in the parking test before he even got to try the driving part. He goes back again next week.

Grn Skier : You’re lucky, but I’m sure he was upset.

Dramatica : That is a word that might palely describe it, yes…Well, any Dramatica questions on theory or software?

Grn Skier : Sure. Tell me about multiple stories. I saw that mentioned in a previous session.

Dramatica : Let me tell you a story… a multiple story…. Okay, here is how that works. When you create a finished written “something” you might find that it contains one or more stories. In Dramatica, we call that finished product a “work”. Now, this Work might be a complete story, a part of a story, an experience or mood piece, OR it might have several independent stories, like meatballs in sauce. The audience eats it up all together and gets a flavor from it, but if you analyze what is going on, you might find that each story works all by itself without impacting the course of the others.

In that case, you will need to deal with each one separately and create a separate storyform for each to understand the mechanisms. There simply is no “logic” to why the audience is affected by juxtaposing more than one story, yet there is a very real impact on feelings. Feelings are what guide us in making choices as we write to pick one storyform over another.

Grn Skier : When not connected – is the intent usually to explore same theme, different outcomes?

Dramatica : That is a common form of connection among stories in the same work, but you also might want to explore a single character in different contexts, so it could be the character that is the common factor, even if that character is played by different players or people. For example, you might want to explore how a particular outlook fares in different kinds of scenarios, each a different story unto itself. And you might have different people of different ages, sexes, etc. play the same “character” (defined by having the same characteristics) in multiple stories in the same “Work”.

Grn Skier : e.g. Pursuit, …

Dramatica : By the end of the experience, the audience would know a lot more about that kind of character and have a feeling about them. Evening, T.


Dramatica : Howdy, Mick!

Mickhadick : Hey Mel, et al.

Dramatica : We be here.

Dramatica : Questions?

Mickhadick : Yes.

Dramatica : Oh, did you know that AOL now has a MAC Web browser, by the way?

Grn Skier : What if the two stories interact?

Dramatica : If the two stories interact, it is important to determine if they are connected by storyforming or storytelling. If they have the same people showing up in both stories, but each story is its own argument, then the people may be one type of character in one story and another type of character in the other. You saw this a lot in Hill Street Blues, where many stories were going on with the same people involved but they were a protagonist in one story, an antagonist in another, etc.

Dramatica : But if the storyforms are linked, then one is a “sub-story” of the other. Depending upon how they are linked, you might find them connected only thematically or just in a plot area (making it only a sub-plot) or all down the line where character, plot, theme, and genre ALL impact one story from the other. Determining which is main and which is sub is simply a matter of emphasis by the author, however, even if you balance them it changes nothing except to make the distinction between main and sub obscure, but the point remains that they are two stories connected that impact each other, regardless of what you would call them. The function remains.

Grn Skier : I’m working one with 2 ‘Objective stories’ tied together by the subjective story. I was confuse until I started learning Dramatica.

Dramatica : That is a fine way to go… much more interesting that just a single objective/subjective story. Let me also encourage you all to chat amongst yourselves, if you are so inclined, as I don’t have to hog the show here ya know!

Grn Skier : I need to digest some of you answers – thanks.

Mickhadick : You answered what was going to be my question, as well.

TBUDDHIST : I get mixed up with the four levels; classes, types, etc. Could you help define for me?

Dramatica : Sure, T… If you look at any problem you might see in the real world, and you wanted to classify its nature in the most efficient, broad stroke manner possible, you would find four categories into which the problem and its impact might fall. It might be a situation, It might be an activity, It might be someone’s mind-set (yours included)…or the way someone thinks about something, which is a bit different than mind set because rather than just being a point of view, it is a manner of reacting to things.

TBUDDHIST : More dynamic versus static.

Dramatica : That means that there is an external state and process and an internal state and process. Universe and Physics are the externals. Mind and Psychology are the internals and every problem you can imagine can be classified as either an external or internal state or process. Now, suppose you want to get a little more specific so you want to sub-divide each of these four initial “classes” into four sections each. We call each of those sections a “type” so that there are four types of situations four types of activities four types of mind sets and four types of manners of thinking.

The classes have something of an overview or genre-like impact on your story. The types have more of a methodology or plot like impact on your story. In fact, they describe the types of concerns or activities that your characters will engage in over the course of the story. The way the types work is fractal in nature… One of the types in the Universe (situation) class is “Past”. The type that is in the same position in the Mind class is “Memory”. Memory is to Mind as Past is to Universe. The entire structural side of Dramatica works that way so that Each type is divided into four Variations which are theme-like in nature and each variation is divided into four elements which is where the building blocks of characters come from.

Why only four levels? Because by the time you get down four levels of resolution in a three dimensional consideration you can’t go any farther without losing sight of the top level. Here’s a little exercise to demonstrate that… Imagine some twine. Put a spiral on the twine as you twist it into a piece of twine rope. That is three dimensions (the twist) seen at one level. Now, in your mind, imagine coiling the twine so that you see the spiral along the twine and also at the same time the spiral around the coil.. Now, coil the coil. You can BARELY keep that much in your mind if you try hard. But now, try coiling the coiled coil without losing sight of the twisted twine and you lose it.
That’s the black out point, Three dimensions plus four dimensions, the magic number of 7 which is why the short term memory has been discovered by psychologists: to be 7 + or – 2, (depending on ancillary links) which is also why phone number are 7 digits long.

TBUDDHIST : Right about that.

Dramatica : That is also why a story has only Character, plot, theme, and genre no more. Because they all have to do three dimensional things. And that is why Dramatica does a magic trick, because it deals with all four dimensions AND four dimensions of story because the element of TIME is included, not just the mass, energy, and space of story. Mass, energy and space describe the dramatic potentials, but they don’t say anything about how a story unfolds. To add the unfolding you need to keep track of time, because a slap followed by a scream means something different from a scream followed by a slap. The potentials and the unfolding of a story are intimately inter TWINED to make a bad pun.

Dramatica : How’s that?

Mickhadick : ? for group: anyone worked thru the Dramatica cycle? Story forming–encoding–weaving?

TBUDDHIST : Is a “class” the same as a “domain” ?.

Dramatica : T, no they are different…

Dramatica : The audience observes the story from four points of view I, You, We, and They. I is the view through the eyes of a Main Character, You is the Obstacle Character. We is the passionate personal story between them. They is the Objective Big Picture. The classes are what the audience is looking at the points of view are where they are looking from. When a point of view is matched to what is being looked at it creates a perspective that perspective is the Domain so, when Universe is the Main Character Domain it means the Main Character (I) point of view emanates from a situation or in other words the Main Character is defined by their situation such as they are second in command or black or female or the elephant man whatever, as long as it is an external state that primarily defines where they are coming from. Okay, any comments on that earlier question about using Dramatica?

Mickhadick : I’m curious about a successful approach to doing it. I’m letting the tail wag the dog, I think.

TBUDDHIST : Love it. Keep going. What’s the class for that guy

Grn Skier : I’ve been through forming and telling a couple of times.

TBUDDHIST : Me too, but I’m learning while doing as you can tell.

Mickhadick : I am too, but I’m concerned that I’m looking for a silver bullet with this wonderful tool.

Grn Skier : I think the only silver bullet would be to steal someone else’s work

Grn Skier : I’m learning while learning!

Mickhadick : Did you revisit the form as you wrote the story or just let it go until later?

TBUDDHIST : I have wanted to go back and look at it, especially as my characters take shape.

Grn Skier : I’ve found multiple interactions necessary to get to the write combination for the story in my mind. I do lots of technical writing, but fiction is very difficult. I’m learning lots from Dramatica that is not in the MANY books I’ve studied.

TBUDDHIST : How do you use it for technical writing.

Grn Skier : I don’t. That pays the bills.


Mickhadick : I’ve been wondering if it couldn’t be used to develop marketing campaigns.

TBUDDHIST : If they’re creative in nature, like ads, then probably.

Mickhadick : Present a grand argument for a product.

TBUDDHIST : It’s a short story I guess.

Mickhadick : It certainly does wonders for giving concrete terms for the vague ideas in one’s mind. Mel: do you find Dramatica a boon to your writing?

Dramatica : I think Dramatica should be used to tune up your instincts, because we all develop blind spots and fail to see problems with our own work, And if we use it a while, we begin to open our eyes to our natural blind areas. Once we see in there, we can write, it is the seeing that is hard. So, once we are tuned up, I think Dramatica should be put away, until the normal daily experiences create new blind spots and we need to tune up our writer’s instincts again.

Dramatica : Any more topics or questions?

Grn Skier : The documentation talks about using for writing songs – ballads I assume, the idea is logical argument.

Dramatica : Yes, any time communication is attached to a point of view, you are making a statement or an argument.

Dramatica : Statements are “tales”, arguments are “stories” So a ballad is just as good a form for a tale or an argument as any other, and Dramatica would equally apply.

Grn Skier : Dramatica – I E-mailed last week for info. on getting updated Theory manual – no response yet! Help?

Dramatica : Hmmmm… You should have gotten a response. Send E-mail to Mark@screenplay.com He handles that end.

Grn Skier : Thanks

TBUDDHIST : Could you help me with the dif between variations and ranges?

Dramatica : Sure, T…

Dramatica : A variation is just the topic of consideration, such as morality or instinct. As such, it has no context and one variation is as good as another. But in a story, one of those topics will be THE topic of consideration that the story is all about and that will be the “range”. Why do we call it a range? Well, if you look at Domain as a perspective on the problem then Concern is the specific area of concern about the problem and Range is the part of that area of concern in which considerations range. Also, because there are four throughlines each, one of the four points of view each one will have it’s own Domain, Concern, Range, and even Problem. In fact, the four points of view are like four people standing around a bowl of water in which a stick has been partially submerged. The stick appears bent from some angles and straight from others because of refraction but only when all four views are “quadrangulated” can we tell if the stick is really bent or really straight. It is the old three blind men and an elephant only with an objective four views instead of the subjective three. So, each view will see the point of entry the angle above water and the direction relative to the bowl from a different angle.

TBUDDHIST : Better to have three blind man than one.

But what if we had three elephants? Or one elephant one horse and one snake? Only having that fourth view the Objective view the seeing man could you pull it all together. Come to think of it, what would you get if you pulled together an elephant, a horse and a snake? Congress, probably!

TBUDDHIST : We don’t need a snake party!

Grn Skier : Like that was a joke – we already have that combination.


Mickhadick : You’d get a sexy, talkative person that sleeps any place they want!

Dramatica : LOL!


Mickhadick : And craps up a storm.

Dramatica : Now, now…

Mickhadick : Newt Gingrich in a negligee.

Grn Skier : Sick.

Dramatica : Hmmmm… stagnates the imagination…. Okay, back to story… any last questions?

Mickhadick : Technical question…

Dramatica : Okay, shoot!

Mickhadick : Somewhere it’s mentioned about locking option in the engine. Is there a feature for this in D-pro? or does this just refer to selecting an option.

Dramatica : Yes, there is in D Pro.. which do you have Pro or lite?

Mickhadick : …Lite…

Dramatica : Well in Pro, when you go into the story engine you can click on a little lock symbol next to any term you like and then hit the “clear” button and it will open up all the unlocked choices to as many options as are available, constrained only by the impact of the items you have locked.

Mickhadick : That would be handy…

Dramatica : And if you don’t like the results just hit “revert” and it will go back to what it was then you can try locking different combinations and see what comes up. This way you can play with the storyform and see the impact of character changes on theme, for example, even as you make them. Immediate “what-ifs” for your story’s dramatics.

Grn Skier : When will updates to PRO (from 1.0) be shipped?

Mickhadick : Do you plan any more sales for D Pro?

Dramatica : We have sales here about 2 or 3 times a year, but you can always get the best price in the mail order catalogs such as Mac Zone and PC Zone and Mac Mall and PC Mall. There is also a new product coming out in June… It is called “The Writers Dream Kit” which is very pretentious, but that’s marketing for you, but it has a new Character tape and a plot tape and the revised theory book and a subscription to the newsletter and new storyforms and a bunch of other stuff that is quite a good deal and lots of fun and lots of information. Also, if you are in or coming to L.A. don’t forget to stop by our booth at Showbiz West convention. I believe the second weekend in June. AND we are having our full-weekend seminar here in Burbank on July 8 and 9

Mickhadick : Suggested retail on the Dream Kit? (for my budget).

Dramatica : I’m not sure yet, Mick, but the best sale price is probably around $99, and more when not on sale. But that isn’t my department, and they don’t tell me anything! (wisely!)

Grn Skier : I’m still waiting for my upgrade from 1.0 to PRO, any idea on shipping dates/delays?

Dramatica : Since we put all of our effort into Showbiz West (the big trade show for the year) right after that we will be manufacturing and mailing the updates which should start going out about June 15 or so. And that is an update, not an upgrade.

Grn Skier : Great. Good luck at the show.

Mickhadick : Break a leg.

Dramatica : We are just beginning work on an upgrade which hopefully will include story weaving features so that you can write the actual story while remaining in Dramatica. And make sure all the story appreciations get in where and when they need to. It should include some sort of timeline, using Dramatica’s act order progressions.

TBUDDHIST : That’s a plus.

Grn Skier : Have you thought about adding a scheduling subroutine (e.g. calendar) for planning time sequence event.

Dramatica : Yes, Skier, we have LOADS of wonderful features and its just a matter of how long it takes to implement them, but they will be added as quick as we can make them happen, there is LOTS of demand, and lots of desire here to keep upgrading the product as the theory continues to develop into new areas. And also to provide as useful and friendly a writing environment as we can.

Grn Skier : I’m looking forward to the upgrades. It’s a great learning tool for me!

Dramatica : We are too!

Dramatica : Well, time to run…. I’ll see you next week, and have a great holiday weekend!

TBUDDHIST : Thanks for the class. Really appreciate it.

Mickhadick : Thank you all for your patience, and good night.

Grn Skier : Have a great week!

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.

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