Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story
By Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley
Storytelling & Encoding Genre
As previously discussed, Genre is only slightly influenced by a storyform. This is because only four appreciations have a structural influence on Genre: the four Domains. Once each Domain has been encoded, all the rest of the nebulous realm called Genre consists of storytelling preferences.
We have already explored the meaning of each Domain appreciation in the Genre portion of The Elements of Structure. In the next section on Storyweaving, we will touch on many writing techniques that help to fashion Genre.
For now, let us simply recall that a story’s Genre does not spring forth full-grown from the very first word. Rather, it begins as a generalization and gradually evolves into a more and more refined overall feel and tone until it becomes a unique Genre represented only the this single story.
As a caution, keep in mind that trying to be completely unique up front often alienates an audience. Conversely, failing to develop enough unique refinements over the course of a story makes it less than memorable. A safer approach is to start with the same general nature as any one of thousands of other stories and then slowly mold a new realm. This is much more audience-friendly and will still create a one-of-a-kind experience.
Medium and Format
Up to this point, we have explored the encoding process as if storyform and storytelling were the only concerns. This is only true in a theoretical sense. In practice, a story cannot be transmitted from author to audience except across a medium. The medium in which a story is presented both limits the tools available to the author, and provides uniquely useful tools. For example, motion pictures are not known for the capacity to present stories told in taste or touch or smell. Stage productions, however, have made effective use of all three. Also, a novel allows a reader to jump ahead if he desires, and examine aspects of the story out of order, something one cannot do in a movie.
Stories in many media are recorded to play back directly to the audience. Others are recorded as cues to performers and translated through them to the audience. Still others are not recorded at all and simply told. There can be as many media as there are means of conveying information.
Even within a single medium there may exist several formats. For example, in television there are half-hour three-camera formats, half-hour single-camera formats, one-hour and two-hour and mini-series formats. Also, time is not the only quality that defines a format. Soap operas, episodic series, and multi-storyline episodic series are but a few variations. Each of these formats offers dramatic opportunities and each operates under constraints. By exploring their demands and benefits, the process of encoding can be related to best advantage in each.