Dramatica Theory Book: Prologue

Dramatica: A New Theory of Story

By Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley

How This Book Is Arranged

Part of what makes a story great is its underlying dramatic structure and part is the manner in which that structure is related to an audience, often called “storytelling”. Therefore, this book is divided into two principal sections: The Elements of Structure and The Art of Storytelling.

In The Elements of Structure you will explore the essential components that occur in all complete stories as they appear in Character, Theme, Plot, and Genre. In the Art of Storytelling you will examine the Four Stages of Communication that occur between an author and an audience: Storyforming, Storyencoding, Storyweaving, and Reception.
By the time you have finished, you will have gained a whole new understanding of what stories are and a whole new set of tools for creating them. For a glimpse of how some of Dramatica’s basic concepts can be employed to improve a story, you might want to take a look at a constructive criticism of the motion picture Jurassic Park appearing in the Epilogue section.

You will note that the majority of examples provided in this book are drawn from motion pictures. This stems from the authors’ personal backgrounds in the motion picture industry. Dramatica, however, is a theory of story — not a theory of screenplay. All of the dramatic concepts presented here are equally applicable to any medium of story expression.

Note about Pronoun Usage: Some characters are best looked at by their dramatic functions. To help keep this perspective, we use the impersonal pronoun “it” when referring to such characters. Other characters are best explored in terms of their growth. To help draw the reader into a closer relationship with such a character, we use the personal pronoun, “he”. Earlier editions of this book used “she” as the personal pronoun. Because of this uncommon usage, readers were jarred out of a relationship with personal characters, rather than being drawn in, defeating our purpose. As a result, this edition employs masculine pronouns.