The following class was hosted by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator (along with Chris Huntley) of the Dramatica Theory of story.
- Objective Story Problem
- Change and Steadfast Main Characters
- Focus and Direction
- Start and Stop
- Leap of Faith vs. Non Leap of Faith Stories
Dramatica: Evening, Star!
StarFish76: Hi Dramatica.
Dramatica: Light crowd tonight!
StarFish76: I was Just surfing the Net with little one, otherwise, even I wouldn’t’ve made it!
Dramatica: Ah! Any favorite spots on the Web?
StarFish76: I don’t have anything specific, just working on some projects. No favorite spots.
Dramatica: Have you checked out the Dramatica Home Page?
StarFish76: Not yet. I can’t get there from AOL, can I?
Dramatica: Sure you can. AOL has a browser for both Windows and Mac. Did you download the browser software?
StarFish76: Ya learn something nu every day. No.
Dramatica: Just go to the Internet connection from the Main Menu, and click on World Wide Web. You’ll be taken to a place to download the web browser. Just follow the instructions in the file download message and you can update your software to include a browser. Then, to get to Dramatica’s Home Page, just point your URL at http://www.well.com/user/dramatic/ Note there is no “a” at the end of Dramatic. We have all kinds of theory help, past logs of this class, and all kinds of good stuff for writers.
StarFish76: Gotcha. Will do; I’ve got some Dramatica Questions.
StarFish76: 2 weeks ago, I broke it down and my OS problem was UNcontrol. I
have trouble discerning when its a “lack of thing or a “too much” thing.
Dramatica: Okay, let’s look at the difference between too much and too little control, and too much and too little UNcontrol…
Dramatica: Clearly, control is keeping things on a rigid course or in a rigid
pattern. Firm guidance. Now, if the problem is caused by too MUCH of that, it is not the same thing as too little UNcontrol. The question is, does the audience perceive the problem as something that has to stop, or as a problem that can only be resolved if something starts. It is the start/stop issue that is difference between too much control and not enough UNcontrol.
StarFish76: My fav.
Dramatica: So, the way to read it is to determine how you want your audience to feel -are they supposed to be waiting for something to begin or something to end. Which one causes the dramatic tension?
Dramatica: So as a change Main Character, and being a STOP Main Character as well, They could be described as having a chip on their shoulder, rather than having a hole in their heart.
Dramatica: It is their pro-action or overabundance of something that keeps causing the problem. If they would just STOP, things would be okay.
StarFish76: The MC Prob is Avoid.
Dramatica: Okay, so the MC is avoiding too much.
StarFish76: So is the OS prob.
Dramatica: If they would just stop avoiding, everything would be okay.
They don’t have to pursue anything necessarily, just stop avoiding. Now earlier you said the OS problem was Control or Uncontrol…That would be different that if it is avoid.
StarFish76: Sorry focus is control and dir is UN
Dramatica: Of course, both could come up in different attempts at getting the
final storyform. Okay….Now, in a CHANGE story, the focus and direction are less emphasized… The story will be paying more attention to the MC who is going to
change, and therefore, the real issue of too much or too little will be most intense
there. But, the focus and direction WILL come into play…Now, in a CHANGE story, focus and direction will not have much impact in terms of too much or too little, but the way to read it is this…Focus in the Objective Story can be considered the principal symptom of the real problem. And direction is the treatment for that symptom. So, in a sense, the Objective Problem is the disease, the solution is the cure, focus is the symptom, and direction the treatment for that symptom. In a change story,
StarFish76: What’s the diff between cure & treatment?
Dramatica: Okay, let me answer that first…Let’s use an analogy to the human body…Suppose someone has a disease. Sometimes that body can only be healed by applying a cure. If you treat the symptoms, you just make them more comfortable but they’ll die anyway without the cure. But other times there really IS NO cure! And in fact, the only reason the body is dying is that it is being run down by the disease. If you treat the symptoms, you take the pressure off the body long enough for it to rebuild its reserves and then it can heal itself. So the question in the objective story always is do you spend all your resources and time looking for the cure or trying to treat the symptom. That’s where the characters come to blows, arguing apples and oranges.
Now, focus is simply the place where the problem has its most manifest irritation in the story: where it cause the most difficulties. That is where everyone will be looking as it garners their attention. Direction is how the characters respond to that irritation. They move in a particular direction, or in other words, they chart a particular course or take a particular response to the focus or symptom which is right in their face, and in the end, depending upon whether or not the MC changes, they will cause the OS story to stick with the focus and direction or jump ship and try for the cure at the last moment. That is how the MC has sway over the eventual outcome of the Objective story, even if they are not the protagonist, or even if they are not a major objective player at all.
So, with a change story, the emphasis is much more on the start/stop nature of the MC than on that of the Objective Story. But you can still make a good guess as to whether the symptom is something that is too much of something or too little. Looking at your MC, we have determined they are having problems because they avoid too much. Now, for that character, which would put more dramatic pressure on them…to be in a situation where the greatest irritant is too much control, not enough control too much laxity or not enough laxity? That’s one you need to determine. The software won’t carry it that far for you at this point.
StarFish76: Too much control.
Dramatica: Okay, so the environment in which this character avoids things too
much, which is what causes all his or her difficulties, is one of great control. In a sense then, it is their overabundance of effort in avoiding this control that is causing the problem, and if they would only accept a little more control and not try to sidestep it quite so much, things just might work out. And if fact, that is either what they must decide at the moment of the leap of faith, or it is what the audience can determine about their character in a final scene in which a similar scenario to an earlier scene in which we first became aware of their problem comes around again and the audience learns if they respond the same way or not. That is called a “non-leap-of-faith” story. Anyway, that’s how those particular dramatics hang together.
StarFish76: Mine IS a leap-of-faith stry. At least I want it to be
Dramatica: In later version of the software, it will incorporate even more of
those connections, so it can offer some suggestions. Leap of faith stories build to a decisive moment of truth.
Dramatica: in which the MC must CONSCIOUSLY make a decision.
Dramatica: NON leap of faith stories build to a moment of truth in which the MC is unaware they have returned to the same situation that their problem centered on, and responds the same way or differently, because they may have been changed by the experiences they had over the course of the story. Both kinds can have major tension or be played lightly.
StarFish76: Mine is L-O-F.
Dramatica: Okay, so your MC will have to make the conscious choice.
StarFish76: For me it’s both. They’ve been changed, but consciously make a
Dramatica: The Obstacle character will have created an alternative paradigm
to the MC’s belief system that the OC has slowly built up over the course of the story.
Dramatica: The MC is faced with choosing between their life-long tried and true approach, which has a great history, but seems to be failing at the moment, or the new, untried, unknown paradigm offered by the OC’s impact, which seems to explain more including this exceptional situation, but has never been put to the test. Apples and Oranges… that’s why it is a leap of faith, rather than a logical decision.
StarFish76: OK I’m with you.
Dramatica: You can’t logically compare the two. Also, the Obstacle character need not even know they have had this impact. They might be totally unaware that their actions and responses have created this alternative understanding that tempts the MC to abandon their long-held views. Or, they may be quite aware and have been doing it all on purpose. As you can see, that is the OC equivalent of a Leap of Faith or NON leap of faith story: are they consciously aware of their IMPACT or not? So, this gives you four kinds of climactic moments…
Dramatica: MC makes a conscious decision based on an OC’s intentional
manipulations, MC makes a conscious decision based on the OC’s unintentional
impact, MC is not aware they are in the same situation, and the OC has intentionally brought them there. Or, MC is not aware they are in the same situation, and the OC brought it about through unintentional impact.
Dramatica: The climax of a story can fall into four categories!
StarFish76: I’m going to dwnld this convers.
Dramatica: Good. We’ll also have it posted on AOL next week some time. And soon on our Web Pages. Any other questions tonight?
StarFish76: You’ve been vry helpful. I have a stry meet w/ a writer to rewrite a project this Sun Morn.
Dramatica: Well, I dare say you’ll have some things to talk about!
StarFish76: And now I’ve got a b better understanding Thnx.
Dramatica: Sure enough. Well, if you haven’t any other questions at the moment, I’ve got tickets to Congo, so I’ll just wrap it up and go see the show.
StarFish76: I’m gonna bail. get back 2 wrk bye. Enjoy.
Dramatica: Niters! And good luck!
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.