StoryWeaving, Space & Time

By now, you should be familiar with the concept that part of a story’s structure is made up of Static Appreciations and part consists of Progressive Appreciations. It is here in Storyweaving that we must find a way to blend the two together so all aspects of our story can unfold in concert.

In the Plot section of Storyencoding, we learned how the four structural and three dynamic acts of each throughline could be seen as four signposts that defined three journeys. Although there are many ways we might weave all of this into a story, there is one very straightforward method that is useful to illustrate the basic concepts.

First of all, think of each signpost and each journey not as an act, but as a Storyweaving scene. From this perspective, we can see that there will be twenty-eight scenes in our story (four signposts and three journeys in each of four throughlines). If we were to write the Type of each signpost on a card and then write the Types that describe the beginning and ending of each journey on a card, we would end up with twenty-eight cards, each of which would represent a Storyweaving scene. (It would be a good idea to put all the signposts and journeys from each throughline on a different color card so we could easily tell them apart.)

Now, we have in front of us twenty-eight scenes. Each one has a job to do, from a structural point of view. Each one must express to an audience the appreciation it represents. This is the process of encoding the signposts and journeys as we did in the Plot section of Storyencoding. We might write that encoding right on each card so that we can tell at a glance what is going to be happening in that scene.

It is at this point we can begin to Storyweave. What we want to determine is the order in which those twenty-eight scenes will be played out for our audience. A good rule of thumb for a straightforward story is that the scenes in each throughline ought to be kept in order. So, Signpost 1 will be followed by Journey 1 which is in turn followed by Signpost 2 and Journey 2, etc.

Now we run into a bit of a sticky wicket: because all four throughlines are actually happening simultaneously from a structural point of view, we would have to have all four Signposts 1 from all four throughlines occur at the same time! Of course, this might be difficult unless we were making a movie and used a four-way split screen. Still, some of our most sophisticated authors find ways use a single event to represent more than one dramatic point at a time. This technique requires experience and inspiration.

A much more practical approach for those using Dramatica for the first time is to put one of the Signposts 1 first, then another, a third, and finally the last. Which of the four Signposts 1 goes first is completely up to our personal tastes, no limitations whatsoever. Although this is not as complex as describing all four throughlines at once, it is a much easier pattern to weave and has the added advantage of providing better clarity of communication to our audience.

Next, we will want to Storyweave all four Journeys 1. We might decide to move through them in the same order as the Signposts or to choose a completely different sequence. Again, that has no structural impact at all, and is wholly up to our creative whims.

Just because we have absolute freedom, however, does not mean our decision will have no effect on our audience. In fact, the order in which each scene crops up determines which information is a first impression and which is a modifier. It is a fact of human psychology that first impressions usually carry more weight than anything that follows. It takes a lot of undoing to change that initial impact. This is why it is usually better to introduce the Main Character’s Signpost 1 before the Obstacle Character Signpost 1. Otherwise, the audience will latch onto the Obstacle Character and won’t switch allegiance until much farther into the story. Clearly, if our weaving has brought the audience to think the Obstacle Character is the Main Character, we have failed to convey the real structure and meaning of our story. So, just because we have freedom here doesn’t mean we won’t be held accountable.

Using the technique described above, we could order all of the Signposts and Journeys for all four throughlines until we have established a Storyweaving sequence for all twenty-eight scenes.

Before we move on to the next step of this introduction to building Storyweaving scenes, we can loosen up our constraints even a bit further. We don’t have to present all four Signposts and then all four Journeys. Together, each Signpost and Journey pair moves a throughline from where it starts right up to the edge of the next act break. Each pair feels to an audience as if they belong in the first act for that throughline. Therefore, as long as the Signposts precede their corresponding Journeys, the order of exposition can stick with one throughline for both Signpost and Journey or jump from a Signpost to another throughline before returning to the corresponding Journey.

Taking this more liberal approach, we might begin with Main Character Signpost 1 and Journey 1 (as illustrated below), then show Objective Story Signpost 1, then Obstacle Character Signpost 1, Objective Story Journey 1, Subjective Story Signpost 1 and Journey 1, and end with Obstacle Character Journey 1. In this manner, the Signposts and Journeys in each throughline stay in order, but we have much more latitude in blending the four throughlines together.

From the Dramatica Theory Book