Dramatica Software: Assigning Character Elements

 This is in response to a Dramatica user who wondered whether he needed to assign all 64 character elements in the “Build Characters” area in Dramatica Pro software to his characters or if the story might not suffer if he only assigned some of the elements.

A good rule of thumb is to at the least assign all of the elements in the set that contains the Objective Story’s Problem Element.

In other words… The sixty-four elements are broken up into four sets. The sets represent character Motivations, Methodologies, Purposes, and means of Evaluation. One of these sets will contain the Problem Element for you Objective Story. Since these are Objective Characters, they should certainly be developed around that particular set so that the Problem at the heart of your story if fully explored.

This means that in some stories, the characters are primarily identified/explored in terms of their motivations, while in others they are noted by their methods. For example, Sherlock Holmes (and the characters who appear with him) are almost always seen in terms of their methods. Sherlock himself is principally identified by the methodology of “Deduction”, right off the Dramatica element chart.

A “Fall-back” position that is a lot simpler is based on the notion that in Western culture, we normally tend to be more concerned with character motivations than anything else. Other cultures favor other sets. So, even if the problem element is not in the motivation set, if you develop the motivation set and just the problem, solution, focus and direction from the other set, the audience will generally buy it and feel quite comfortable doing so.

Also, for writers raised in Western culture, it is probably a lot more comfortable to work with the motivation set than any other.

So, if you illustrate the Objective Problem quad (problem, solution, focus, direction) and then either the rest of that set, or if it is not the motivation set, just the quad and the motivation set, then you have done the minimum for an average length novel or screenplay.

The next most important items would be to fill in the rest of the problem quad set if it is not the motivation set.

Beyond that it is not really necessary to explore the rest of the elements unless you have something artistically to say about them. Your argument to your audience will have been sufficiently made without them, and the audience will “give you” the rest.

You can use the remaining elements to good effect, however, by assigning one or two to incidental characters who may enter your story purely for plot convenience or entertainment purposes. It gives them more of a reason to be and also strengthens your overall argument. Also, assigning some of the remaining elements to those characters you wish to feature can make them more well rounded and help draw audience attention to them.