Objective Story • [Dramatica Definition] • the portion of a story’s argument developed from an Objective point of view • There are four principal points of view which must come into play in all complete stories. They are the Objective, Main Character, Obstacle Character, and Subjective views. In practice, each of the four points of view is like a different camera angle on the same unfolding events. The Objective view of a story is the widest, examining the issues that affect all the characters in the story overall. The Objective view is not unlike that of a general on a hill watching a battle. From that vantage point, the general can observe the larger strategies and see how the forces involved ebb and flow. On the downside, the soldiers cannot be identified as individuals, but only by their functions in the battle as a whole. Similarly, an audience needs to get a sense of the bigger picture – the story-wide view that shows how all of the characters and dramatic forces fit into the grand scheme. From this angle, characters are identified by their dramatic functions, such as Protagonist and Antagonist. The Objective Story, then, is a description of the interactions of the characters and events in a story seen with a wide angle view from the outside looking in. For the audience it provides, scope, context, foundation, and background.
Objective Story Benchmark • [Type] • The standard by which progress is measured in the Objective Story • The Objective Story Benchmark is the gauge that tells people how far along the story has progressed. It can’t say how much longer the story may go, but in regards to seeing how far away the goal is, both the Objective Characters and the audience will look to the Benchmark in order to make any kind of judgment. This Type item describes the nature of the measuring stick which will be used in the story.
Objective Story Catalyst • [Variation] • The kind of item which serves to push the Objective Story forward • The Objective Story Catalyst is what creates breakthroughs and seems to accelerate the development of the Objective Story. In both the Objective and Subjective Stories there occur dramatic “log-jams” when things seem to be approaching a halt. This is when the Catalyst is necessary, for its introduction will either solve the puzzle that’s holding things up or else make the puzzle seem suddenly unimportant so the story can continue.
Objective Story Concern • [Type] • The principal area of concern in the Objective Story • see Concern.
Objective Story Consequence • [Type] • The result of failing to achieve the goal • see Consequence.
Objective Story Costs • [Type] • The price that must be paid while trying to achieve the goal • see Costs.
Objective Story Direction • [Element] • The nature of the Objective Characters’ response to the story’s troubles • see Direction.
Objective Story Dividends • [Type] • The dividends accrued while trying to achieve the goal • see Dividends.
Objective Story Domain • [Domain] • the realm in which the Objective Story takes place; the background against which the overall story is played • Stories are about meaning. Meaning is created from perspective. Perspective is the relationship between what is being examined and the point of view from where it is seen. Simply put, an author determines the subject matter of a story and how he sees it. This is what becomes the message or meaning of the story. There are four principal points of view which must come into play in all complete stories. They are the Objective, Main Character, Obstacle Character, and Subjective views. The Objective view of a story is the widest view, examining the issues that affect all the characters in the story overall. There are four principal categories of subject matter (called Classes). They are Universe, Mind, Physics and Psychology. In more conversational terms we might think of them as (in the same order) Situation, Attitude, Activity, Manner of Thinking. In reality, they represent external and internal states of affairs and external and internal processes. Anything we might consider as subject matter can be broadly categorized as being an external or internal state or process. When a point of view is attached to the subject matter, the Class of subject matter becomes the Domain or realm in which that point of view does its exploring. So, when the Objective view is associated with a Class, that Class becomes the Objective Story Domain. The Objective Story Domain examines the issues that affect all of the characters, story wide. An OS Domain of Universe means that some fixed external situation is causing troubles for the characters, such as being trapped in a cave. An OS Domain of Mind means that fixed attitudes are the problem, such as a town that shares a prejudice. An OS Domain of Physics means that the story’s difficulties arise from an activity, such as a safari into dangerous territory. And OS Domain of Psychology means that the way people think is the overall source of problems, such as a group of people gathered for a reunion who find fault with each other.
Objective Story Focus • [Element] • The principal symptom of the Objective Story’s Problem • If the Objective Story’s Problem is seen as a disease, the Solution would be the cure. The Focus, however, would be the principal symptom. Since the symptoms of a disease are more apparent than the disease itself, the symptom is called the Focus, because the attention of the Objective Characters is focused there. Even if the Objective Characters are aware of the true nature of the Problem itself (which they may or may not be), they will be more riveted to the immediate effects created by the Focus.
Objective Story Forewarnings • [Type] • The kind of items or events which indicate the Consequence may occur before the Goal is achieved • see Forewarnings.
Objective Story Goal • [Type] • The common goal of the Objective Characters • see Goal.
Objective Story Inhibitor • [Variation] • The kind of item which serves to impede the Objective Story’s progress • The Objective Story Inhibitor is what prevents a story from just rushing full speed to the solution. It is like a brake mechanism which can be applied as the author pleases. The introduction of this item will always slow the progress of the story and it works as the antidote to the Objective Story Catalyst.
Objective Story Issue • [Variation] • The central thematic topic of the Objective Story • Each of the four Domains (Objective Story, Main Character, Obstacle Character, and Subjective Story) has its own theme. This occurs because each Domain is really just a different point of view examining the same central inequity at the heart of the story as a whole. Each Domain, then, sees the troubles in a different light and is therefore drawn to a different standard of values by which to measure it. The thematic Issue in each Domain is that standard. The Objective Story Issue is the most wide-ranging of the four. This is because the Objective Story itself is the most all-inclusive of the Domains, representing a distanced view of the story that takes in the bigger picture. So, the thematic Issue of the Objective Story pertains to everyone and everything that happens. An author will use the Objective Story Issue to draw broad value judgments about the overall subject matter of the story as a whole. The audience will get a sense of what the grand scheme of the story is all about, effectively, what the underlying message is.
Objective Story Line • the plot as it concerns the story goal • The Objective Story Line is a distinct act by act sequence of events that involves all of the Objective Story appreciations and none of the Subjective Story appreciations. It represents the dispassionate argument of the story, emphasizing events and relationships in a purely cause and effect way. This is not to say that it has nothing to do with the meaning of a story, only that it is not the WHOLE story. Meaning in stories comes from comparing the Objective view of a story with the Subjective view that comes from within the story.
Objective Story Preconditions • [Type] • The conditions imposed by others on meeting the story’s requirements • see Preconditions.
Objective Story Prerequisites • [Type] • Preliminary accomplishments or materials needed to meet the story requirements • see Prerequisites.
Objective Story Problem • [Element] • The source of the objective story’s troubles • see Problem
Objective Story Requirements • [Type] • A series or collection of accomplishments which must be met to achieve the goal • see Requirements.
Objective Story Solution • [Element] • The quality necessary to resolve the Objective Story’s Problem • If the Objective Story Problem is seen as a disease, the Solution would be the cure. The Solution cannot be directly applied, however, because many obstacles stand in the way. Overcoming the obstacles is the Goal of the story, so that the nature of the Goal reflects the nature of the obstacles. The Requirements of the Goal describe the necessary accomplishments which will overcome the obstacles and thereby allow the Goal to be achieved. There is, however, one hitch. The final Requirement cannot be met unless the Main Character is properly positioned to enable it. Sometime this requires the Main Character to stay where it is (Steadfast) and other times to adopt a new position (Change). The internal conflict within the Main Character will either lead it to a new point of view or entrench it in a new one. Depending on that dynamic, the Main Character will either adopt a new position in the story or stay at the old one, resulting in the eventual Success or Failure of the effort to achieve the Goal. Authors will use the Solution to stress that the story’s Problem can indeed be Resolved if everything falls into place, thereby making it worth the audience’s time to see if it ultimately does. When the potential Solution is not illustrated up front, the characters’ efforts in response to the Problem seem to be futile exercises rather than a message illustrating the most worthwhile approaches.
Objective Story Type Order • [Plot Structure] • the progressive sequence of activites and/or concerns engaged in to arrive at a solution to the story’s objective problem, act by act • As the Objective Story progresses act by act, it covers the Objective Story Perspective (the Perspective created by matching the Objective Story Domain with one of the four Classes) Type by Type around the quad of Types which it contains. These four explorations make up the four acts and describe the kinds of things that will have to happen in order to arrive face to face with the Objective Story Problem.
Objective versus Subjective Perspectives • In Dramatica, we can examine a story from the outside as a dispassionate observer, noting the relationship of Character to Plot to theme. We can also examine a story from the inside, by stepping into the shoes of the Main Character to discover how things look to himself. In the first case, we see the story like a general watching a battle from atop a hill. We are concerned with the outcome, but not actually involved. This is the Objective perspective. In the second case, we see the story from the point of view of a Main Character. This is more like the view of a soldier in the trenches. We are watching the same battle, but this time we are personally involved. This is the Subjective perspective. An audience is provided access to both Objective and Subjective views by the author. When the audience is only shown information that the Main Character also receives, it is in the Subjective perspective. When the audience receives additional information that the Main Character does not receive, it is in the Objective perspective. The dramatic potentials of a story are largely created by the differential between the Objective and Subjective perspectives. At appropriate times, Dramatica aids the author in focusing his attention on the perspective that will most effectively support his dramatic intentions.
Obligation • [Variation] • dyn.pr. Rationalization<–>Obligation • accepting a task or situation in exchange for someone’s earlier or potential favors • Obligation is a mental trick we play when we accept a poor situation now in the hopes it will lead to a better one later. If we do not feel Obligated, we know we are really in control of the situation since we can leave at any time. However, we would then lose any chance of a reward at the end and even risk consequences that might befall us as a result of leaving. But by focusing on the hope of a reward and protection from consequences, our current suffering can be tolerated and we feel we have no choice but to stick it out. The problem is that as long as we continue to feel we have no choice, the suffering can increase way beyond any realistic hope of recouping and yet we “must” stay. • syn. agreement, pledge, contract, accepted compulsion, emotional contract
Obstacle Character • [Subjective Character] • The Subjective Character that forces the Main Character to face his personal problem • Every Main Character has a single Obstacle Character that forces him to face his personal problems. From the Main Character’s point of view, the Obstacle Character may seem to be blocking the road to the solution of the Main Character’s personal problem, or he may seem to be trying to knock the Main Character off the road to the solution. In a more objective view, the Obstacle Character functions to block the Main Character from sweeping his personal problem under the carpet, forcing the Main Character to address it directly. In every act, a story problem is introduced that requires the Main Character to expose his personal problem in order to solve the story problem. It is the Obstacle Character that creates the most personal tension for the Main Character. Frequently, the Main Character is chosen by the author to be the Protagonist as well, and often the Obstacle Character function is combined with the Guardian or the Contagonist. In this way, they each do double duty as prime movers of both the objective and subjective concerns of the story. This arrangement is not essential, however, and in many cases it is prudent to assign the Main and Obstacle Character roles to characters other than the Protagonist and Guardian/Contagonist in order to clearly explore the relationship between the Objective and Subjective problems of the story.
Obstacle Character’s Benchmark • [Type] • The standard against which the Obstacle Character’s degree of impact is measured • The way of telling how much the Obstacle Character is affecting the Main Character is seen through this measuring stick. It can be subtle or obvious, illustrated perhaps by the number of empty beer cans next to an alcoholic’s bed, the severity of a facial tick, or the amount of perfume a character puts on. However it is illustrated, it needs to be there to give both the audience and the Obstacle Character some way of judging how effective his impact is and how much energy he has left to employ.
Obstacle Character’s Concern • [Type] • The area of the Obstacle Character’s principal cares, interests, and goals; the area of the Obstacle Character’s greatest impact on the Main Character • The Obstacle Character will be interested in achieving some degree of growth or control over things described by this appreciation. This could be in terms of concrete or abstract things, depending partly on the Obstacle Character’s Domain and partly on the twist the author wants to put on that Domain.
Obstacle Character’s Critical Flaw • [Variation] • The item that undermines the Obstacle Character’s unique ability to impact the Main Character • The Obstacle Character’s Critical Flaw undermines his effectiveness against the Main Character in general, but especially in regards to his Unique Ability. The Obstacle Character in any story has a Unique Ability which makes him uniquely qualified to thwart the Main Character. But in his character as well is a Critical Flaw which prevents him from just totally overwhelming the Main Character. This is again a trait which is unique to this particular character.
Obstacle Character’s Direction • [Element] • The direction of the Obstacle Character’s efforts • An Obstacle Character can never be sure if what he believes to be the source of his problem really is the source of his problem. Regardless, based on his way of seeing things, he will determine a potential solution or Direction in which he hopes to find the solution. The dramatic unit that describes what a Subjective Character believes is the path to a solution is his Direction.
Obstacle Character’s Domain • [Domain] • The broadest area of the Obstacle Character’s impact • Everything that emanates from what the Obstacle Character does and represents which primarily relates to his impact alone, as opposed to specific relationships he has with other characters, can be said to be part of the Obstacle Character Domain. There are four different Domains in the structure of any story, represented by the combination of each of the four Classes with each of the four throughlines– the Objective Story Throughline, the Subjective Story Throughline, the Main Character Throughline, and the Obstacle Character Throughline. The Obstacle Character Domain describes, in the broadest single term, what the Obstacle Character represents and the area in which the Obstacle Character operates within the story.
Obstacle Character’s Focus • [Element] • Where the Obstacle Character’s attention is centered • The Obstacle Character concentrates his attention where he thinks his problem lies. Just as in the Main Character, an inequity exists in the Obstacle Character between himself and his environment which is driving him. The actual nature of this inequity is described by the Obstacle Character Problem Element. The nature of what is required to restore balance is described by the Obstacle Character Solution Element. From the Subjective view afforded to the Obstacle Character though, the inequity does not appear to be between himself and the Environment but wholly in one or the other. The Focus Element describes the nature of how the problem appears to the Obstacle Character from his Subjective point of view. Focus really describes the effects of the Obstacle Character Problem element, but because the Problem element is on the level of his own motivations, Subjective Characters can never see his actual problems without solving them.
Obstacle Character’s Issue • [Variation] • the thematic focus, topic, or value standard by which the Obstacle Character’s impact is judged • An Obstacle Character’s Issue captures the essence of what that character will represent in the story. The nature of the things he does, intends to do, and what he means to the passionate argument of the story are all linked in this appreciation.
Obstacle Character’s Problem • [Element] • The source of the Obstacle Character’s drive • In every Obstacle Character there exists some inequity that is driving him. If the Obstacle Character Changes something in himself in response to the Main Character’s Steadfastness, it is this item, his Problem, which he changes by exchanging it for his Solution. If the Obstacle Character is Steadfast, though, then he holds onto his problem, deepening his resolve to keep the same motivations at the end of the story as he had when he began the story.
Obstacle Character’s Solution • [Element] • what is needed to truly satisfy The Obstacle Character’s drive • The Solution Element is the “flip side” of the Problem Element. For the Obstacle Character, it is the element that would alleviate the Obstacle Character’s drive which his Problem Element supplies. It is not necessarily applied during a story, but it exists in every story nevertheless.
Obstacle Character’s Throughline • [Dramatica Definition] • The dramatic progression which builds the Obstacle Character’s pressure on the Main Character to change • The Obstacle Character is defined by its relationship to the Main Character. The Main Character represents the audience position in the story which, in a sense, represents our sense of self within our own minds. When we consider changing our outlook in regard to a particular issue, we entertain an alternative viewpoint which we examine thoroughly before either adopting or rejecting. The Obstacle Character represents that alternative point of view. In stories, as in our own minds, this alternative view is seen from where we are positioned currently. After all, when it comes to changing something about who we are, we don’t just make that change without first trying to understand what kind of person we would become and trying to anticipate how it might affect our situation. Over the course of the story, as the Main Character grows, the Obstacle Character must keep pace to provide alternative perspectives on all the key experiences the Main Character encounters. In this way, the best possible argument for adopting the new viewpoint is made, and the current and alternative paradigms can be judged fully against each other. This is how we arrive within ourselves to a point of change, and how the Obstacle Character drives the Main Character to the same point. For the author, the Obstacle Character Throughline is the progression through all of the issues which come up while providing alternative perspectives to the Main Character’s currently held views. For an audience, the Obstacle Character Throughline simply describes the kinds of activities and concerns addressed by the Obstacle Character as he or she moves through the plot.
Obstacle Character’s Unique Ability • [Variation] • The item that makes the Obstacle Character uniquely able to pressure the Main Character to change • The reason the Obstacle Character is able to carry half of the Subjective Story is his unique suitability to take the opposite position to the Main Character in regard to the Crucial Element of the story. The Obstacle Character’s Unique Ability gives the Obstacle Character a power which no one else in the story has: to be able to pressure the Main Character to change his very nature.
Obtaining • [Type] • dyn.pr. Doing<–>Obtaining • possessing or achieving something • Obtaining includes not only that which is possessed but also that which is achieved. For example, one might obtain a law degree or the love of a parent. One can also obtain a condition, such as obtaining a smoothly operating political system. Whether it refers to a mental or physical state or process, obtaining describes the concept of attaining • syn. controlling for oneself, possessing, having, keeping.
Openness • [Variation] • dyn.pr. Preconception<–>Openness • willingness to re-evaluate • Openness simply means entertaining alternatives. When a character’s pre-conceptions come into conflict with new information, if he is open, he will not be biased or blind to it. He puts openness above holding on to a point of view. Of course, this can easily be carried to extremes, when someone seems to have no opinion at all and just goes with whatever anyone else says. Some degree of pre-conception is necessary to benefit from the value of one’s own experience. • syn. broad mindedness, tolerancy, willingness to reevaluate, receptiveness
Oppose • [Element] • dyn.pr. Support<–>Oppose • an indirect detraction from another’s effort • The Oppose characteristic causes a character to speak out against any effort, although he does not actively engage in preventing it. As in “the Loyal Opposition,” an opposing view can be useful in seeing the negative side of an endeavor. However it can also wear thin really fast with the constant nag, nag, nag. • syn. object to, speak out against, argue against, protest, dispute, show disapproval of, detract from
Optionlock • [Plot Dynamic] • the story climax occurs because all options have been exhausted • If not for the story being forced to a climax, it might continue forever. When a story is brought to a conclusion because the characters run out of options, it is said to contain a Optionlock. As an analogy, one might think of a story as the process of examining rooms in a mansion to find a solution to the story’s problem. Each room in the mansion will contain a clue to the actual location of the solution. In an optionlock, the Objective Characters might be told they can examine any five rooms they want, but only five. They must pick the five rooms ahead of time. They can take as long as they like to search each one and go thoroughly examine four of the rooms. After getting through their fourth pick they are given a choice: based on the clues they have found so far, do they wish to stick with their original fifth room or pick another room instead out of all that remain? Either choice may lead to success or failure, but because running out of options forced the choice it is an Optionlock story. This choice represents the Optionlock which brings the story to a close and forces such appreciations as Main Character Resolve (Change or Steadfast), Outcome (Success or Failure), and Judgment (Good or Bad).
Order • [Element] • dyn.pr. Chaos<–>Order • a patterned arrangment • The character containing the Order characteristic is concerned with keeping things organized. Change is not a problem as long as it is orderly. However, sometimes you can’t get there from here and the whole system has to be blown apart to rebuild from the ground up. Sometimes a little chaos needs to reign so that a log jam can be broken or a process speeded up. The character representing Order is an organization fiend. • syn. structure, patterned arrangement, organization, patterned formation, formation, configuration, patterned sequence
Outcome • [Plot Dynamic] • a logistic assessment of how things ended up • When one is creating a story, one must consider how it all comes out. This will not just be a description of the situation but also of what potentials remain and how they have changed over the course of the story. Often, an author may wish to show the Outcome of a dramatic movement at the beginning or middle rather than the end. In this way the audience will focus more on how that eventuality came to be rather than trying to figure out what is going to happen.
Overview Appreciations • Story points relating to the widest dramatic interpretations of your entire story, including the Character and Plot Dynamics which describe its dramatic mechanism and basic feel are called Overview Appreciations. For example, Essence, Nature, Reach, Apparent or Actual Dilemma stories, etc.