Category Archives: Dramatica Unchained

Using Dramatica Theory for Interactive Fiction (IF)

My response to a Dramatica user who had questions about using Dramatica Theory for creating narratives for interactive fiction:

Here’s the gist of using Dramatica for IF (we have made a number of presentations on this to various companies over the years, but never resulting in a contract for consulting, as of yet).

At the most basic level, consider how a story appears to an audience after it is completed. It ceases to be a linear experience and becomes a networked experience in which all dramatic elements of the storyform are appreciated at once, rather than revealed over time. Further, when you separate the storytelling sequence of linearity from the story structural temporal progressions of growth, for example, you can appreciate that growth in all its stages at once, after the story has been experienced.

Once an audience leaves a story, though they may replay certain sequences in their minds, they tend to consider the story as a whole – a world in which things happened rather than a pathway that was followed.

Consider, then, the first-person player perspective in a game is not necessarily to provide experiences in a sequence that will bring the MC to the point of potential change, but rather to explore all corners of the Story World until the nature of how all the elements and dynamics at work in that particular storyform are identified and understood.

Also consider just because the player is in first person in the game does not require that the player be the main character. In many stories there is a narrator. Narrators can be passive or active. The player, by choosing in what order to explore the world is much better put in the position of narrator, the interlocutor who determines for himself or herself the order in which the components of the story world are to be explored – much as one might make multiple trips to a buffet table or select items in dim sum and choose the order in which to consume them.

Sure, if one insisted the player were the MC, then you would be locked into a linear experience of being impacted by events and by the Influence Character in a particular order. But an IF in which the player is actually the narrator, then the MC appears from time to time in the story world, having experienced things in the proper order for him to make a choice, but likely in a different order than the player. For example, the MC in the story world shows up and the player says – “Let’s work together and head up to the badlands.” The MC replies, “Already been there, just before the big explosion. Change me in ways I’d rather not talk about, but it made me realize there may be another way of looking at the morality of this whole conflict.” And then he disappears back into the battle.

In this manner, the MC is separated from the Player and can go about his journey of discovery in the proper order.

So, while eliminating the MC may be a technique (as described in some of the propaganda entries in your message thread), I feel that for IF you simply don’t want your player as the MC but definitely want him in the game with the player as self determining narrator.

But, your questions go beyond this in two specific areas: One, how does one handle multiple narratives (storyforms) within the same narrative space and, Two, what about open-system IF worlds in which there is no fixed narrative, just a fixed subject matter story world in which the narrative is either open-ended (never-ending) or is closed but constantly reorganizing itself into a different form.

As for the first question, narratives are fractal by nature (see my articles and videos on narrative psychology). Even within a single narrative there are two fractal dimensions – that of the group mind and that of the individuals within the group mind. As you know, story structure came to be because storytellers were trying to document what goes on in our heads and hearts and also how we relate to one another. Each of us has certain built-in attributes such as Reason and Skepticism (as seen in the Reason and Skeptic archetypes). We use the full complement of these to solve our individual problems. But when we come together in a group to solve or explore an issue of common interest or concern, we immediately begin to specialize so that the individual best at reasoning becomes the Voice of Reason for the group. The most skeptical becomes the group’s resident Skeptic. In this manner, all the fundamental attributes of any individual mind are replicated and represented by individuals in the group mind. In this manner, group issues are explored from all essential sides and in greater depth by the specialists than could be achieved by a group of general practitioners who are all trying to do all the jobs at the same time.

This tendency to form group minds made up of specialists is what was observed by storytellers and documented in the conventions of story structure and is also what forms the basis for the fabric and framework of social interactions.

So, the first fractal dimension is the mind of the individual that is then replicated in the second fractal dimension of the group mind. But, one is not solely a member of a single group. We have one narrative role in our business, another perhaps as a parent, or in our political party, a proud resident of a state, of the nation, or even just as a fan of a particular television program or of a rock star.

Within the narrative space of our lives, we may belong to more than one group mind and these group minds may occupy completely different areas of the narrative space, may move through the narrative space gradually shifting the subject matter with which they deal, may share a sub set of content that is affected by both, may move through each other like galaxies colliding, may pass each other close enough to alter the storyform of each almost gravitationally (dynamically) even though they never actually share the same space, and some narratives may be satellites of other narratives or may be connected in additional levels of fractal association.

On that last point, for example, one may may be a member of a clique that is part of a club that is part of a movement that is part of political organization within a state that is in a collective effort within a country. Like nested dolls, all of what is at the top is determined by all that is at the lower fractal levels, but the top also defines the largest parameters of the group identity and therefore the personal identity of all individual members at the bottom of the fractal hierarchy, while each lower dimension contributes more refined subordinate traits to the lowest level individuals, defining them but also identifying them as different in some ways than other branches within the same general organization.

And so, people become groups and act as archetypes within them, then several groups band together within a larger group mind in which the smaller groups act as archetypes and so on, in a fractal manner, until the group reaches the maximum membership and number of levels it can sustain before collapsing from beneath due to the intrinsic differences of the lowest level members in which personal needs may outweigh allegiance and conformity to group ideals.

As for your second inferred question, storyforms can alter in an unlimited manner due to forces external to the storyform but in the same narrative space. And so, if you begin with a structure and that defines the nature and extent of the narrative, it provides an initial psychological matrix in which the player of an IF might come to be drawn into a game. But even after exploring a small portion of the initial storyform, you can provide choices to your player that would alter the storyform to create a new complete narrative that invalidates the old one. In the real world, we are always tearing down narratives and replacing them with new ones that better fit changing situations in a chaotic world. We may hold onto certain structural relationships in all of our narratives because we have found by experience that there are truisms worth maintaining. But much of what we hold as the principal driving stories of different aspects of our lives (and with different group minds) can be altered by brute force from the outside by a hostile take over, a powerful sub-group that rises to a position of leverage, or even by a change in circumstances such as an earthquake that destroys the power grid.

By nature, we try to maintain as much of the previous narrative as we can, for that is our experience base, but new rules come into play. And so, we accept the new that cannot be changed, then using that as a seed, go on to build a new narrative beginning with the elements from the old that are still possible within the new reality and that are most important to us. We add in as many of our most important narrative pieces as we can within the constraints of the new elements that have been imposed, and then make the best possible remaining new choices to create a new narrative. For without a narrative, we have no framework by which to evaluate our lives and ourselves or even to measure if things are getting better or worse.

So in conclusion (for now) consider that narratives are constantly creating new fractal dimensions at both the top when they form a new larger group mind and at the bottom when an individual department has grown so large it must cease to be an individual and become a group mind by sub-dividing into smaller departments. In addition, they are constantly affect by other narratives in the same narrative space, even to the point of having some of their elements and relationships altered so that the narrative must reform in a new form. And so, the ongoing expansion and contraction of fractals and cascading reformation through forces outside the limits of the closed system of individual narratives creates a vibrant and energetic dynamic environment in which IF can flourish.

Thanks for asking some interesting questions and pointing to an interesting message thread.


Deciphering Lost Languages with Dramatica

All language is based on narrative.  And since Dramatica maps narrative upon the structure of the Table of Story Elements, each narrative that might hold meaning in a language can be perceived as a pattern of interconnected story points.

Therefore, it is not too far a stretch to imagine that one might apply these narrative templates against previously indecipherable languages or even, perhaps, codes in order to   discover the particular narrative pattern at work in the language sample.

Once the specific narrative has been determined, story points can be associated with groups of words, symbols or pictographs, so has to assign meaning to such groups, and thereby arrive at an understanding of the underlying message therein contained.’

Just an idle speculation as we watch a national geographic special on Easter Island in which their lost written language of rongorongo came up for discussion.  See images of this language here, and consider the possibilities for yourself.

Dramaticapedia – “Ability”

What’s “Ability” have to do with story structure?

If you look in Dramatica’s “Periodic Table of Story Elements” chart (you can download a free PDF of the chart at ) you’ll find the “ability” in one of the little squares.  Look in the “Physics” class in the upper left-hand corner.  You’ll find it in a “quad” of four items, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire”.

In this article I’m going to talk about how Dramatica uses the term “ability” and how it applies not only to story structure and characters but to real people, real life and psychology as well.

To begin with, a brief word about the Dramatica chart itself.  The chart is sort of like a Rubik’s Cube.  It holds all the elements which must appear in every complete story to avoide holes.  Conceptually, you can twist it and turn it, just like a Rubik’s Cube, and when you do, it is like winding up a clock – you create dramatic potential.

How is this dramatic potential created?  The chart represents all the categories of things we think about.  Notice that the chart is nested, like wheels within wheels.  That’s the way our mind’s work.  And if we are to make a solid story structure with no holes, we have to make sure all ways of thinking about the story’s central problem or issues are covered.

So, the chart is really a model of the mind.  When you twist it and turn it represents the kinds of stress (and experience) we encounter in everyday life.  Sometimes things get wound up as tight as they can.  And this is where a story always starts.  Anything before that point is backstory, anything after it is story.

The story part is the process of unwinding that tension.  So why does a story feel like tension is building, rather than lessoning?  This is because stories are about the forces that bring a person to chane or, often, to a point of change.

As the story mind unwinds, it puts more and more pressure on the main character (who may be gradually changed by the process or may remain intransigent until he changes all at once).  It’s kind of like the forces that  create earthquakes.  Tectonic plates push against each other driven by a background force (the mantle).  That force is described by the wound up Dramatica chart of the story mind.

Sometimes, in geology, this force gradually raises or lowers land in the two adjacent plate.  Other times it builds up pressure until things snap all at once in an earthquake.  So too in psychology, people (characters) are sometimes slowly changed by the gradual application of pressure as the story mind clock is unwinding; other times that pressure applied by the clock mechanism just builds up until the character snaps in Leap Of Faith – that single “moment of truth” in which a character must decide either to change his ways or stick by his guns believing his current way is stronger than the pressure bought to bear – he believes he just has to outlast the forces against him.

Sometimes he’s right to change, sometimes he’s right to remain steadfast, and sometimes he’s wrong.  But either way, in the end, the clock has unwound and the potential has been balanced.

Hey, what happened to “ability”?  Okay, okay, I’m getting to that….

The chart (here we go again!) is filled with semantic terms – things like Hope and Physics and Learning and Ability.  If you go down to the bottom of the chart in the PDF you’ll see a three-dimensional representation of how all these terms are stacked together.  In the flat chart, they look like wheels within wheels.  In the 3-D version, they look like levels.

These “levels” represent degrees of detail in the way the mind works.  At the most broadstroke level (the top) there are just four items – Universe, Physics, Mind and Psychology.  They are kind of like the Primary Colors of the mind – the Red, Blue, Green and Saturation (effectively the addition of something along the black/white gray scale).

Those for items in additive color theory are four categories describing what can create a continuous spectrum.  In a spectrum is really kind of arbitrary where you draw the line between red and blue.  Similarly, Universe, Mind, Physics and Psychology are specific primary considerations of the mind.

Universe is the external state of things – our situation or envirnoment.  Mind is the internal state – an attitude, fixation or bias.  Physics looks at external activities – processes and mechanisms.  Psychology looks at internal activities – manners of thinking in logic and feeling.

Beneath that top level of the chart are three other levels.  Each one provides a greater degree of detail on how the mind looks at the world and at itself.  It is kind of like adding “Scarlet” and “Cardinal” as subcategories to the overall concept of “Red”.

Now the top level of the Dramatica chart describe the structural aspects of “Genre”  Genre is the most broadstroke way of looking at a story’s structure.   The next level down has a bit more dramatic detail and describes the Plot of a story.  The third level down maps out Theme, and the bottom level (the one with the most detail) explores the nature of a story’s Characters.

So there you have the chart from the top down, Genre, Plot, Theme and Characters.  And as far as the mind goes, it represents the wheels within wheels and the sprectrum of how we go about considering things.  In fact, we move all around that chart when we try to solve a problem.  But the order is not arbitrary.  The mind has to go through certain “in-betweens” to get from one kind of consideration to another or from one emotion to another.  You see this kind of thing in the stages of grief and even in Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development.

All that being said now, we finally return to Ability – the actual topic of this article.  You’ll find Ability, then, at the very bottom of the chart – in the Characters level – in the upper left hand corner of the Physics class.  In this article I won’t go into why it is in Physics or why it is in the upper left, but rest assured I’ll get to that eventually in some article or other.

Let’s now consider “Ability” in its “quad” of four Character Elements.  The others are Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire.  I really don’t have space in this article to go into detail about them at this time, but suffice it to say that Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire are the internal equivalents of Universe, Mind, Physics and Pyschology.  They are the conceptual equivalents of Mass, Energy, Space and Time.  (Chew on that for awhile!)

So the smallest elements are directly connect (conceptually) to the largest in the chart.  This represents what we call the “size of mind constant” which is what determines the scope of an argument necessary to fill the minds of readers or an audience.  In short, there is a maximum depth of detail one can perceive while still holding the “big picture” in one’s mind at the very same time.

Ability – right….

Ability is not what you can do.  It is what you are “able” to do.  What’s the difference?  What you “can” do is essentially your ability limited by your desire.  Ability describes the maximum potential that might be accomplished.  But people are limited by what they should do, what they feel obligated to do, and what they want to do.  If you take all that into consideration, what’s left is what a person actually “can” do.

In fact,  if we start adding on limitations you  move from Ability to Can and up to even higher levels of “justification” in which the essential qualities of our minds, “Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire” are held in check by extended considerations about the impact or ramifications of acting to our full potential.

One quad greater in justification you find “Can, Need, Want, and Should” in Dramatica’s story mind chart.  Then it gets even more limited by Responsibility, Obligation, Commitment and Rationalization.  Finally we end up “justifying” so much that we are no longer thinking about Ability (or Knowledge or Thought or Desire) but about our “Situation, Circumstance, Sense of Self and State of Being”.  That’s about as far away as you can get from the basic elements of the human mind and is the starting point of where stories begin when they are fully wound up.  (You’ll find all of these at the Variation Level in the “Psychology” class in the Dramatica chart, for they are the kinds of issues that most directly affect each of our own unique brands of our common human psychology.

A story begins when the Main Character is stuck up in that highest level of justification.  Nobody gets there because they are stupid or mean.  They get there because their unique life experience has brought them repeated exposures to what appear to be real connections between things like, “One bad apple spoils the bunch” or “Where there’s smoke , there’s fire.”

These connections, such things as –  that one needs to adopt a certain attitude to succeed or that a certain kind of person is always lazy or dishonest – these things are not always universally true, but may have been universally true in the Main Character’s experience.  Really, its how we all build up our personalities.  We all share the same basic psychology but how it gets “wound up” by experience determines how we see the world.  When we get wound up all the way, we’ve had enough experience to reach a conclusion that things are always “that way” and to stop considering the issue.  And that is how everything from “winning drive” to “prejudice” is formed – not by ill intents or a dull mind buy by the fact that no two life experiences are the same.

The conclusions we come to, based on our justifications, free out minds to not have to reconsider every connection we see.  If we had to, we’d become bogged down in endlessly reconsidering everything, and that just isn’t a good survival trait if you have to make a quick decision for fight or flight.

So, we come to certain justification and build upon those with others until we have established a series of mental dependencies and assumptions that runs so deep we can’t see the bottom of it – the one bad brick that screwed up the foundation to begin with.  And that’s why psychotherapy takes twenty years to reach the point a Main Character can reach in a two hour movie or a two hundred page book.

Now we see how Ability (and all the other Dramatica terms) fit into story and into psychology.  Each is just another brick in the wall.  And each can be at any level of the mind and at any level of justification.  So, Ability might be the problem in one story (the character has too much or too little of it) or it might be the solution in another (by discovering an ability or coming to accept one lacks a certain ability the story’s problem – or at least the Main Character’s personal problem – can be solved).  Ability might be the thematic topic of one story and the thematic counterpoint of another (more on this in other articles).

Ability might crop up in all kinds of ways, but the important thing to remember is that wherever you find it, however you use it, it represents the maximum potential, not necessarily the practical limit that can be actually applied.

Well, enough of this.  To close things off, here’s the Dramatica Dictionary description of the world Ability that Chris and I worked out some twenty years ago, straight out of the Dramatica diction (available online at :

Ability • Most terms in Dramatica are used to mean only one thing. Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire, however, have two uses each, serving both as Variations and Elements. This is a result of their role as central considerations in both Theme and Character

[Variation] • Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • Ability describes the actual capacity to accomplish something. However, even the greatest Ability may need experience to become practical. Also, Ability may be hindered by limitations placed on a character and/or limitations imposed by the character upon himself. • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherant proficiency

[Element] • Desire<–>Ability • being suited to handle a task; the innate capacity to do or be • An aspect of the Ability element is an innate capacity to do or to be. This means that some Abilities pertain to what what can affect physically and also what one can rearrange mentally. The positive side of Ability is that things can be done or experienced that would otherwise be impossible. The negative side is that just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. And, just because one can be a certain way does not mean it is beneficial to self or others. In other words, sometimes Ability is more a curse than a blessing because it can lead to the exercise of capacities that may be negative • syn. talent, knack, capability, innate capacity, faculty, inherant proficiency.

Trigonometry and Dramatica

Here’s another clue for you all….

Though it wasn’t discovered through mathematics, Dramatica’s model of story psychology can, in fact, be described by mathematics – at least to an extent.

Here’s the clue – In the Dramatica quad, there are found kinds of pair relationships among any two items: Dynamic (diagonal), Companion (horizontal), and Dependent (vertical).  There are two of each in every quad and one will possess a positive charge and the other a negative charge.

Dynamic relationships (diagonal) are about direct conflict.  A negative Dynamic relationship is where both parties beat each other into the ground until nothing is left and all potential is lost.  Kinda like the two parties in congress.  A positive Dynamic relationship is where both parties conflict, but as a result a new idea is sparked – synthesis – in which a solution or improvement is created that could not have occurred by the actions of either party separately – only through direct conflict.

Dynamic relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Sine and Cosine.

Companion relationships (horizontal) are about indirect impact of one party on the other.  In other words, without directly conflicting, the normal actions of one party can have a beneficial (positive) fallout on the other party or a negative one.  In a sense, it is like one party unintentionally bumping into the other party just as a result of doing what it does naturally.  And that bump sends the other party either into a better or worse trajectory.

Companion relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Tangent and Cotangent.

Dependent relationships (vertical) are about dependencies.  You can see this in human behavior with a positive dependency being “I’m okay, you’re okay, together we’re terrific!” – better than the sum of their parts in which each acts as a catalyst to the other.  A negative dependency is “I’m nothing without my other half” in which neither party can function at all without the other.

Dependent relationships, positive and negative, can be described by Secant and Cosecant.

But now we come to the interesting part.  There is a fourth kind of relationship among items in a quad – whether all four items will be evaluated or seen as being independent components or as a collective family, tribe, or classification.  For example, which is correct – “This IS the United States” or “These ARE the United States”?

In the first  case, we see a single county (family) which can be sub-divided into smaller units called states.  In the second case we see a confederation of independent sovereign states (“state” originally meant sovereign, after all).  When the country was formed, it was seen more as a confederation.  This sentiment was carried on into the Civil War when the south became the Confederate States of America, siding on the philosophy that power derived from the individual sovereign states, bound by mutual agreement into a confederacy.  But the north maintained that is was “one nation” as in the pledge of allegiance, and states were more like national counties.

Back to math, specifically trig – what function represents that?  Well, I’m not much of a mathematician, but twenty years ago when we first considered the relationship of trig to the pair relationships by function, it occurred to us that we needed an additional dimension of function to describe that relationship.  We jokingly said that somebody someday was going to have to come up with “quadronometry” as an expansion to trig.

But now I’m not so sure that is far off the mark.  After all, the quad includes all four dimensions – Mass, Energy, Space and Time.  And if we look at it in terms of psychology (the Story Mind) we see the internal equivalents of these – Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire.  I’ve written elsewhere about the correlations between the external and internal dimensions, so I won’t belabor it here.  Point is – trig provides three dimensions and Dramatica’s functions require four.

Here’s an example…

If you plot a sine wave function on the xy coordinate plane it describes a circle as it passes through 90 degrees, 180, 270 and finally 360.  That comprises one complete cycle of a sine wave.  But, as the function continues to operate (as the sine wave progresses through more cycles) you go past 360 another 90 degrees to 450, then 540, then 630, the 920 and on and on, circumscribing the same circle on the plane over and over again.

In Dramatica, we describe our functions somewhat differently, thus:

Think of a slinky toy – that coiled ribbon of metal that “walks” down stairs.  From the end, it looks like a circle, stretched out from the side it looks like a sine wave, but seen from a 3/4 angle you can see its true nature as a helix.  In fact, Dramatica is a quad-helix, unlike the double-helix of DNA.  It includes a helical description not only of the arrangement of story elements and dynamics in a double-helix, but also a second double-helix that describes how these things will unfold over time.  As a side note, we have often wondered that while the double-helix of DNA describes what genes are present and how they are arranged, might there not also be a second conceptual double-helix describing how they will be brought into play in the actual construction of an organism – the physical double-helix providing the blueprint and the conceptual double-helix providing the sequence of construction?  But, that’s another story.

For now, consider what adding a fourth dimension to trig would do.  For one thing, you’d need to plot a sine wave not just on the xy plane but to include the z axis as well to plot its vertical progression.  Further, because one dimension is being added, it would push everything down a rung.  For example, it is my belief that in such a mathematical system imaginary numbers such as the square root of -1 would become incorporated in the real number plane, enabling the solving of equations that are not currently supported.  And philosophically, from a math perspective, it would tie in nicely therefore as a tool for everything from quantum theory to chaos theory.

But, again, I’m not much of a mathematician – I’m just a poor country theorist with some odd ball ideas and a patented story engine that has been accurately predicting story structure and human behavior for twenty years.

Besides, I’m getting too old to want to do all the work necessary to carry things like this any farther.  So, I leave it to the next generation, or at least those better at math than I, to take a crack at this – either to build it or refute it.  Don’t matter to me which.  I’m satisfied just having the chance to say my piece.


Dramatica: Out of Balance

Here’s a note from a Dramatica user and my reply.

(Careful, highly technical discussion follows that bears little connection to stories or writing)

Dramatica user:

Just as an experiement, I cleared the storyform, and opened the plot progression screen. I was struggling with whether my MC’s Signpost 1 was The Present or Contemplation — although I was sure that his Signpost 4 was either The Past or Memories.

When I gave him The Present as Signpost 1, and then The Past as Signpost 4, it reduced the number of possible storyforms to 288.

However, when I assigned Contemplation to his Signpost 1, and Memories to Signpost 4, ZING! Dramatica filled in all the other signposts for all throughlines, and the number of possible storyforms was only 32!

I went back to Signpost 1 being The Present, to see if I could get the same thing to happen with any of the other possible options for Signpost 4, but to no avail.

So, what is unique about the Contemplation and Memories combination? I’m truly interested in knowing what is going on in Dramatica’s feverish mind! 🙂

My reply:

Sorry to say, I can’t answer that one off the top of my head. Not to be impertinent, but that’s why we built the Story Engine. What I’m saying is that the complexities of the engine as to “why” any given combination might come up is a lot like looking at a pattern on a Rubik’s Cube and trying to answer how it got to that state.

Here’s a conceptual clue, though. Not everything in the Story Engine is symmetrical. You’d think it would be, at first blush, but it isn’t (and in a moment I’ll explain why). It is because of the asymmetry that you can think of it as an unbalance tire. Depending on your speed, instead of turning in a consistent manner the tire will develop a wobble under certain conditions – like an off-balanced washing machine in the spin cycle. What you are seeing with the different degrees of constraint is the product of such an intentional, designed-in unbalance.

Now, why would we do that? Or more to the point, why would Dramatica do that? Well, this comes down to the fact that the current implementation of Dramatica is a “K-based” system. As you are likely aware, Dramatica’s model is partially built from permutations of a KTAD quad – Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire. So, each should be treated equally to accurately represent all four “bases” in a story’s DNA.

But, in a four-demensional universe, you can’t monitor a four-dimensional constantly re-balancing model because you have to hold at least one of those items in check in order to use it as the yard-stick against which the movements of the other three are measured. It is kind of like trying to plot the up and down movements of the four corners of a sheet of plywood balancing on rock at the center. All four corners will move up and down so that the plywood maintains its integrity as a flat plane. From the outside, that’s easy to see. But we can’t step outside our own minds, which is what Dramatica is really a model of.

So, we are always in the position of actually standing on the plywood and moving up and down with it. From that point of view, the movement of each corner relative to the ground is no longer a simple predictive wave, but becomes a complex “unbalanced” series of up and down movements and no longer seems even from corner to corner because the corner you are standing on has been removed from the equation.

Therefore, in order to actually see the model work in four dimensions, we have to pick a corner upon which to stand. In the software model, that corner is K (Knowledge) since our Western logic-based mentalities are all geared to the definitive. When you choose to “bias” the model toward K, you can then use the engine to predict, because the bias is consistent from side to side and top to bottom. But, that bias has to show up some-place. And now we return to our unbalanced tire analogy. Most everything in a biased system will appear no different in operation than any other part. But, like the tire, under certain conditions of speed and road, you can see the wobble.

This wobble occurs because the human mind tries to keep things apparently flat and level, regardless of the bias. In a quad, we like to see it as flat. But, in fact, the temporal journey around the quad is a progression, and every time we move (even mentally) from one quadrant to the next, we also get a vertical rise. This is because it is not really a quad, but more like a “Slinky” kids toy (that spiral of coiled wire that walks down stairs). From the end, it looks like a circle. From the side (when stretched out) it looks like a sine wave. But it is really a helix, when seen from a 3/4 angle. So too, the quad form is like looking at the Slinky of our minds from the end, compressing time out of the picture as we seek (in a K-based system) to flatten it out so we can parse and define each piece.

But that vertical rise is still in there. (That’s why the Dramatica table has four levels and is not just a flat chart.) But since we mentally treat each item in the quad as being on the same plane as the next, we get an easier understanding of it, but by the time we get to the fourth item, we’ve been sweeping that vertical rise under the carpet until it has risen up so much that we can’t ignore it any more. So, we do a course-correction and throw all that extra vertical stuff into the fourth and final item in the quad. That, by the way, is why many quads seem to have three items that are quite similar and one that seems kind of “out of left field” – like “Past” Present” “Future” and “Progress” – Progress doesn’t quite fit because it is picking up all that vertical material in one quadrant. (Imagine now, how long it took to create the Dramatica chart so that this “fourth item difference” was consistent in every quad, thereby creating a consistent bias across the whole breadth and depth of the model! – In fact, it took two years for that alone.)

Now, since we elected to employ a K-based system in order to conform as well as possible to our logic-based culture, the farther away you get from K, the more the wobble shows up. But, because we hide it for the first three items, it tends to be invisible (thereby giving similar story points similar effects on the model) until we get to that last quadrant where the inconsistency appears (just appears, not really) to run amok. In a K-based system of logic, the farthest thing away (and home to the greatest wobble) is the Desire Quadrant. And, Desire is the center of female mental sex (now called “holistic” problem solving in the current version of the Dramatica software).

As you are no doubt familiar, “Problem Solving Technique” (previously called “mental sex”) describes the overall operating system of the mind in two flavors – space-based and time-based. A space-based mind is most compatible with Knowledge-based logic. In fact, a K-based model is totally biased to make the most “intuitive sense” to a spatial mind. As such, most of the wobble (though not all) goes into the Dynamics, rather than the structure. So, very often, such a wobble will occur because of a choice made in the dynamic questions, but the reverberations of that wobble will show up structurally, just like a jet flying by might rattle your windows.

One of the most powerful wobbles, then, is created in the Mental Sex (Problem Solving Technique) area. Now, I can’t say that’s where your story’s wobble is coming from, but I can say that it is likely due to some element of your dynamics that tends more toward a temporal view of story than a spatial view.

Here’s a final clue for you – (speaking generally in a bell-curve sort of way) – many men see women as being 180 degrees apart in how they think. Many women see men as being only 90 degrees apart, thereby expecting men to easily get in touch with and express their feelings. But in fact, men and women are 270 degrees apart, meaning that while women have it right (90 degrees of difference) men also have it right because to get there you have to go the other way ’round the quad making the direction to connect 180 degrees of difference.)

So, as you can see, this kind of “apples and oranges” differences in thinking spreads out all over the model. And when the two mental operating systems come into conflict in a K-based model, the wobble develops and manifests itself as a different impact for what seems ought to be the same.

Sorry I couldn’t just give you a quick answer, but the question you asked is one of the most complex.

Hope it at least clarifies the issue.


Definitive Scientific Article on Dramatica Theory

Here is a link to the definitive explanation of the Dramatica theory (in PDF) from 1993, that explains all of the key concepts in text and graphics, including descriptions of non-story uses of the psychological model and the functioning of the model in terms of the dramatic circuit created by Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power (Outcome) and its relationship to the prediction of temporal story progression in terms of a quad-based 1 2 3 4 sequence.

God and Dramatica

Now here’s a touchy subject.  Still, over the years, many have taken a philosophical, even spiritual view of Dramatica.  There are even some who have drawn a comparison between Dramatica’s 64 elements and the 64 trigrams of the I Ching.   In fact, two of them wrote articles on that topic.  Here are the links:

Noa’s Archetypes
by noted ballet coach,
Anthony Noa

The One and the Many
by C.J. Lofting

Some find this comparrison odd, and at first so did we, since neither Chris nor myself had studied the I Ching before creating Dramatica and only after having this brought to our attention did we explore the similarities.  Ultimately, for me, it is just another indicator that we are all looking for the same answers to the same universal questions.  Dramatica is just another lens through which to focus on our own existence.

A new Dramatica user recently sent to me the following:

I’m probably stating the obvious, but have you thought about the Story Mind in terms of God, and human beings in terms of representing different aspects of God?
Well, as you might expect, I do in fact have a few thoughts on that matter.  But before I pen them, a caveat:
In the early days of our development of Dramatica, some twenty years ago, Chris and I encountered legions of fans who were so enraptured with the potential of the theory as a model of the mind that they started applying it to all kinds of areas outside of the realm of the creation of fiction.
For example, one lawyer was using it to help structure his closing arguments in criminal trials.  A student in one of my UCLA classes began exploring how Dramatica might be applied to the patterns he encountered in sub-nuclear physics.  And another student in a Deep Theory class I taught was having her pyschiatrist apply it to help her integrate her multiple personalities.
Due to the comments by users and students and our own awareness of some of the philosophical implications of Dramatica, Chris and I began to worry about the potential abuse of Dramatica as the basis for some new religion.  After all, Dramatica (in its original form) dealt with four Classes – Universe, Mind, Physics, and Psychology – which were already a keystone in Dianetics (something neither of us knew until long after the theory was complete).  Of course, we use the terms differently as meaning the four posible realms of exploration in a story – External or Internal States or Processes.  Every story problem can be identified as being either an External or Internal State or Process.  Universe is an External State, Physics is an External Problem, Mind is an Internal State, Pyschology is an Internal Process.  And so, for us, this was just a story issue.  But, quite naturally, stories are about the way we think and feel and we realized that people would probably try to resolve problems in their own lives by identifying them in the same way, with the same terms.
So, we have always been pretty wary and on guard against any “cult-like” movements that might crop up around the ol’ theory, lest the power of Dramatica from an organizational and self-illuminating aspect might be subverted to lure in and control innocent seekers of truth.
(After all, in my pre-Dramatica days I had written and edited a feature length documentary on Jim Jones and the People’s Temple and the Guyana suicide.  I spent a year on that project, and it has made me ever-watchful for any charismatic leader who isolates his or her flock and professes to be the sole source of God’s Truth.  Again, the Tao that can be spoken is not the Eternal Tao.  In fact, I went on to write a song about what I learned in that year – including interviewing one-on-one a survivor from the massacre.  Here’s a link to a rendition of that song, if you are interested: on mp3 at Guyana Dreamin’ or on video at Guyana Dreamin’)
And so, knowing that the last thing I want to do is encourance any kind of following of my personal philosophies, please take this as just a little sharing of some of my speculations with that new user who asked:
I’m probably stating the obvious, but have you thought about the Story Mind in terms of God, and human beings in terms of representing different aspects of God?
Here’s my reply:

If God is within us and we within God, then the concept of characters within a Story Mind might be a useful perspective in our attempt to better understand our relationship with the Divine.

Consider – suppose that we experience our linear lives like scanning lines on a television. Suppose our souls do not perish at death, but simply reset to the next scanning line, so that we either have been or will at some time be and live the life of every thinking creature that has existed, currently exists, or will exist. In other words, be good to your neighbor and every bug on your wall, for it is you.

Time is irrelevant to God, for it is our one continuous life as a single soul that scans the experience of reality from a Main Character view – I think, therefore I am. But God sees all the scanning lines not as individual linear experiences, but as comprising a bigger picture – the fully scanned image, in motion, as the universal collection of thinking creatures is constantly altering as new hosts are born and old hosts die, frame by frame.

Together, we play out across God’s mind, informing God’s thoughts and, in a sense, continuously creating God as God puts us (who are really one) into play.

God is both author and audience to his own creation in a way no player on the field can ever fully appreciate, for ours is not to watch the movie but to live the role.

I call this concept “co-creation.”

Just idle speculation.  Make of it what you will.


Ideas vs. Theories

One of my pet peeves and personal frustrations is how great ideas – truly revolutionary paradigm shifts – are often lost in the bundled clothing of a larger concept, hypothesis or theory.

A case in point:  In the Dramatica theory of story which I co-created, there are probably several hundred such ground-breaking concepts, but they are all embedded in the overall theory like raisins in rice pudding.

One of these, as an example, is that the Main Character in a story does not have to be a Protagonist.  Main Character is the one the story revolves around passionately, specifically in regard to that character’s point of view on some moral issue (in most uses).  What happens to them, their growth and whether or not they eventually change their world view or point of view is the essence of the Main Character.  The Protagonist, on the other hand, is a functional character in the drama – far more plot-oriented, and does not (as part of their function) have to change or even have a point of view.  Simply, the Protagonist is the guy leading the charge to achieve the overall story goal.

So, you’ve got one person trying to drive toward the goal at all costs and another one trying to work out a personal or moral issue.  Often, these are combined into a single player – a person who does both these jobs at the same time.  That defines a typical “hero”, as in the “hero’s journey.”

While there is nothing wrong with this, the two jobs can also be split into two separate characters, as in To Kill a Mockingbird, wherein the Protagonist is Atticus (the Gregory Peck part in the movie version) but the Main Character (who also, by the way, represents the audience’s position in the story) is his young Daughter, Scout.  It is through her eyes that we explore the meaning of prejudice, and in the end it is she who grows and changes (especially in regard to Boo, to whom she had previously been prejudiced against) whereas Atticus remains the same stalwart upright beacon of moral altruism as when he began.

Now that concept alone – that a hero is really made of two parts – Protagonist and Main Character – is revolutionary.  But its just another drop in the bucket of the Dramatica Theory, which is so damned extensive and detailed and far reaching that people don’t see the trees for the forest.

And that is what truly burns me – all the gems are being overlooked because people are focusing on the ornate treasure box that holds them.

But, this is really just symptomatic of our time.  Sound bites are the new monologues and no one embraces a revolutionary concept unless it can be proven in strict scientific terms and rubber stamped by the scientific community as a whole.

Here’s another one for you:

Dramatica is all about the mind of the story itself, as it the story were a person with its own overall personality and its own overall psychology.  Characters (and plot and theme) are really just aspects or facets of that overall story mind.  And yet, each character must also possess its own complete personality and psychology in order for the audience or reader to identify with it.

Just another drop in the theory bucket, but again, revolutionary.  And SO revolutionary that it has implications far beyond story into the realm of psychology and even physics.  But nobody notices because it is just another part of the explanation of the Dramatica theory, and so it not taken to be worthy of much thought in and of itself.

Here’s why it should be:

The concept basically infers that when people get together in groups, the group will self-organize into a human psychology but one magnitude larger.  And, it even infers that several of those larger harmonic psychologies might cluster together so that they function as an even larger psychology one more magnitude up, with no upward limit.

What a concept!  Nobody ever said that before, at least not to my knowledge. I call it Fractal Pyschology, and you can learn more about it on my you-tube channel for story structure (user name, Storymind) or on my web site for story structure at

But the point is, to suggest that when people group together, the group itself becomes a viable virtual psychology that can have motivations, neuroses, memories, and aversions – well, that just spits in the face of science, doesn’t it?  Or does it?

And yet, there’s one more inference that comes from this – a question really: If this works in making larger psychologies, might we ourselves be made up of smaller ones?  In essence, does the dynamic fractal relationship hold true in both directions?

Again, I say yes (another revolutionary concept).  In fact, I believe that the functioning of the neurons of the brain, the ganglia, or a plexus – the biochemistry (neurotransmitters), the action potential, the synapse, the boutons and dendrites, all of these items and the functions all operate in a dynamic system that is exactly replicated (dynamically) in the elements and functions of high-level psychology.


Yep, that’s what I said – that if you look at the structure and dynamics of the process of the mind and how they interrelate, you will find that there is an EXACT parallel of that system and the structure and dynamics of lower-level neurobiology.  In other words, each is a dynamic fractal (a systemic harmonic) of the other.

It is my contention that any system generates organizational waves into the ether (for want of a better term).  Essentially, as a system operates, its ripples run through whatever medium surrounds it, and creates harmonic copies of itself by automatically organizing whatever it encounters in that medium by the flow of energy from the ripples.

In short, the mind works the way it does because the brain works the way it does.  And, they systems of the brain, structure and dynamics are identical to the systems of the mind in terms of structure an dynamics.

Lastly – if you take a mental process and treat it as an object, then it becomes a part of the mental structure I’m talking about – a building block like a tinker toy, but it is really a process – just like object-oriented programming.

Now, if you see how those process-objects fit together, how they interrelate and how they function as a machine, you will see that it perfectly matches the objects of the brain (be they physical objects or process objects (such as the firing of the synapse and the period of time after a firing where it cannot fire again even if stimulated, for example) and the way they interrelate and function as a machine.

In other words, you could create a flow chart of the parts and functions of the brain and you could replace every item, ever term, with one pertaining to psychology and you would see the systems would be identical, carbon copies in terms of the elements and their dynamic relationships.

Well, them’s fighting words in science – of this I am sure.  But I am equally sure I am correct, based on twenty years of study of the Dramatica theory and its implications.

But the real point is, Dramatica is just filled with those kinds of insights (as I like to think of them, though I’m sure others may have less complimentary terms for them), yet they are almost completely ignored because everyone keeps focusing on Dramatica as a mechanical imposition on the organic and magical nature of storytelling.

Pisses me off.

Watson and Dramatica: Building an Artificial Mind

Watson and Dramatica: Building an Artificial Mind

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Some twenty years ago, upon realizing that the structure of stories was actually a model of the mind itself, Chris and I began to wonder if that model could serve as a blueprint and instructions for creating a truly artificial mind.

Today, with the debut of IBM’s Watson and its attendant interest and enthusiasm, it seems the perfect time to revisit those considerations and the conclusions at which we arrived.

What follows is a complete description of Dramatica’s plan for building a thinking and feeling machine that is not only aware, but self-aware as well and how that model is only partially realized by Watson.

To begin with, minds are not exclusively engines of logic.  Rather, they are generators of passion as well.  Awareness requires only logic.  Self-awareness requires emotion as well.

Logic is based on discrete points connected by causal relationships.  Emotion is a continually evolving condition that ebbs and flows.  In more technical terms, think of logic as made up of particles and emotion as comprised of waves.  It is the interaction of the particle and wave natures of the functions of the physical brain and its biochemistry that create the particle/wave nature of the resultant mind that is engendered yet does not reside within the brain.

Simply put, to function as a complete mind a system must include both binary and analog components.

In other words, what we are proposing is that the neural networks of the brain are only half the story.  It is the influence of the brain’s biochemistry on the functioning of the neural networks (and vice versa) that creates self-awareness.

Before we proceed, let’s take a moment to define awareness and self-awareness as we will be using them.

Awareness, by Dramatica’s definition in regard to mental functioning, means a system that is affected by and responds to its environment.  This response is automatic and completely predictable if the nature of the stimulus and the organization and potentials of the neural network are known.

There is nothing magical about an aware system.  Rather, it can fully be explained as a series (or several concurrent parallel series) of causal processes that, once triggered by a stimulus (or simultaneous or progressive stimuli) responds in an absolute manner with no variance other than that interjected by chaotic influences from outside the system.

More conversationally, barring chaos, the same stimuli applied in the same manner and with the same timing will invariably generate the same result.

Self-Awareness (again, by Dramatica’s definition) is a much more complex notion and far more complicated system, first and foremost because it requires an Aware system to already be in place.  Self-Awareness is then overlayed upon (or added to as a better descriptor for some purposes) that essential foundation to which is must refer and through which it must translate its functions between itself and the external world at large.

A Self-Aware system is, in contrast, very nearly magical in its properties, which is not to say that the mechanism of its operation is unknowable.  In fact, that is the heart and substance of this article.

Essentially, due to the nature of the physical brain’s neurons and neural networks, all activity of a binary nature is driven by the so-called “action potential” between the inside and outside of each neuron’s membrane.  Only when the action potential reaches a certain size does it trigger the irrevocable firing of the neuron as a charge is sent down its body to chemical containing boutons which burst, releasing neurotransmitters across a synapse to be received by the awaiting dendrites of a nearby neuron (or neurons).

Simplistically, the biochemical nature of the brain interferes with the binary functioning of the neural networks, adding the element of apparent (though not actual) serendipity to the system, all of which is really based on the mean average of the functions of many nearby neurons converging on each individual neuron to alter the external environment, and thereby contributing to (or removing from) the local action potential of each neuron.

Again, more conversationally, no neuron is an island, and direct communication from one to another is continuously moderated by the local weather that surrounds it.

This, then, is the opening salvo in an assault on the nature of the mind itself.  So far, as it is no more than a rough sketch of the concept so as to illuminate the scope of what we are actually professing, it has offered no details, no proofs, and is, therefore, hardly convincing.

It is in the material that follows in which I hope to provide a thorough enough exploration of the topic so as to at least suspend disbelief enough to warrant further investigation and inquiry.

To that end, let us now turn our attention to the inner workings of the Dramatica model, how they ultimately represent the functioning of the mind even unto the physicality of the brain and then sum up with a description of which portions of this model have been implemented in Waston, what remains to be done to create a truly artificial mind, and how that can be brought about through both hardware and software approaches.

As our point of departure to this journey of exploration, let us note that the Dramatica model is a system comprised of two principal parts: a structure (represented in the multi-level Dramatica Chart  – download the Original Dramatica Story Structure Chart in PDF) and dynamics (represented in the forces that twist and turn the chart to rearrange its components much as one might alter the patterns of a Rubik’s Cube).

The structural aspect of the model represents the neural networks, binary components, and logical causalities of the mind as made manifest by the biology of the brain.  The dynamic aspect of the model represents the varying action potentials, analog components, and emotional progressions of the mind as made manifest by the biochemistry of the brain.

Collectively, the structure and dynamics of the Dramatica model illustrate a complete functional model of a mental system incorporating both Awareness and Self-Awareness.

Though other models are possible and may ultimately better represent this system, it is the theory concepts behind this particular representation that are the core issue of import in this discussion, and the model itself is simply a means to visualize the relationships described .

(In fact, in the early days of Dramatica development, the same data was organized in a number of different models ranging from pyramids to a toroid wrapped in a mobius strip, all of which worked but were ultimately abandoned in favor of the graphic simplicity of the current Dramatic chart and its operations.)

Let us examine first the structural portion of the model as it applies to hierarchies of neural networks and later define the dynamic forces at work upon and in conjunction with it.

The structure, independent of its complementary dynamics, has two parts: the matrix or framework and the items or units held within and organized by that framework.

The units (i.e. Classes, Types, Variations and Elements – each on a different level of the model) represent processes of the human mind.  The framework represents the relationships among these mental processes and the manner in which their individual operations bring like processes together into conceptual families, much as the Periodic Table of Elements organizes its components into families such as the Rare Earths or Noble Gases.

The members of each family share certain common traits and relate to one another in distinct, definable, and predictable manners.  This is true with the physical elements and, as we shall later see, with the elements of the mind as well.

For now, however, let us concentrate on the elements (units) themselves.

In the Dramatica model, each unit, regardless of its level or position, is not an object per se but represents a distinct and unique process of the mind, in fact, common to all minds.

For example, the Dramatica element “proaction” is not a thing or a state but describe the process by which the mind instigates an action of initiative, as opposed to one of reaction.  “Reaction” is in there too, and represents the mental process that leads one to respond (or not) to a stimulus. 

(Unlike a simple “Aware” system, a “Self-Aware” system may choose not to respond or react to a direct stimulus – for reasons driven by the action potential-altering variations imposed on the neural network by the local biochemistry as described above and as will be fully explored later in the section on Dynamics.)

To recap then, each of the 148 individually named units in the Dramatica Structural Chart represents an independent, definable, process of the mind and their position in the framework, both laterally and vertically, represents their close or distant association and interaction with all the others.

The structural portion of the model (at the most simplistic appreciation) represents a single, large neural network comprised of 148 different processes.  But, as we shall now see, that not only over-simplifies the true nature of the model, but the true nature of the mind as well.

Originally, computers were single network processors.  In recent years, consumer-level computers advanced to dual processors (co-processors) and even quad-processors.  Watson, as I understand the system (based on a general description) employs many concurrent processors or neural networks, all functioning together to parse different aspects of a problem or purpose.

This sort of relationship among neural networks is described by any one of the four levels of Dramatica model, as each level lays out the necessary kinds of processes required to fully parse a problem or purpose at that level of detail and consideration.

So, for example, the top Class level has only four units and represents the computational power of a standard quad-processor.  The next level down, the Type level, has sixteen individual processes and proposes that to completely and most efficiently parse down to the next level of detail (next magnitude of consideration) beyond quad-processing requires sixteen individual neural networks operating in conjunction on various aspects of the task at hand.

The third level of the model (an additional magnitude of detail) requires sixty-four unique units, and by the time we get to the lowest most detailed level it requires sixty-four other unique units, each represented four times in different conjunctions with its neighbors for a total of two hundred and fifty six units representing sixty-four different processes.

(Why the fourth level does not present 256 individual processes will be fully explored later, and actually represents another higher-order overseeing process of the mind.  It is intriguing, but too divergent to explore at this early stage of our discussion).

As you may already have suspected, each of the four levels does not operate independently in a planar sense, but also interacts with the levels above and below.

Now this is a truly illuminating concept when applied to computer models of the mind.  What the model predicts is not only that co-processors work best in multiples of four and that to completely and efficiently build such a system requires that the processes in each magnitude of four must fulfill very specific functions and relate to one another in very specific ways.

But even beyond that, in order to expand the detail and power of a processing system, larger processes, such as the Classes, must be comprised of smaller sub-processes, such as the Types, which are in turn comprised of even smaller processes, such as the Variations, which in turn are comprised of still smaller processes, the elements themselves.

To get a grip on the significance of this, let us consider Object Oriented Programming.  In this system of developing software (such as C++), one does not design all operations as a single overall program.  Rather, sub-routines are created (called objects) which can be called by the overall program at any time and assigned to a given task.

This creates an efficiency of effort as processes that are needed more than once do not have to be individually written or even individually included at their appropriate place in the overall program, but merely called into play when needed.  This is the computer equivalent of “measure twice, cut once.”

Similarly, the units of Dramatica (at any level) are processes that are treated as objects in the model so we might observe, replicate, and predict how and when the program at large (the combination of our Awareness and Self-Awareness) calls on the processes, in what order, in what frequency, and in what pattern.

Now a program written in an object-oriented language is still a linear proposition on a single processor platform.  In a dual-processor environment, the overall program, operating on one processor, can call a second object (process) into play on the second processor while it simultaneous engages in the next process required on its own initial processor.  A quad-processor increases the speed and efficiency exponentially, and both the Dual and Quad arrangements move out of the linear realm and even offer the opportunity to engage in some basic pseudo-non-linear operations.

(Why they are “pseudo” non-linear is because they are all still controlled by the overlord program, rather than interacting as equal members of a more democratic lateral hierarchy.)

Rather than having just a single overseeing program, imagine that the top Class level of the Dramatica chart proposes four equal master programs, each affecting and being affected by the other three.

Picture each of the units in the Class level as a non-linear equation.  In and of itself, it will progressively alter its output as that output is re-channeled as the value of the variables in the body of the equation itself.  In essence, each unit in the Class level is a non-linear process, represented as an object.

Now, imagine that the results of each of the four processes not only feed back to its own unit, but are also added or applied to the results of each of the other three.  In such a scenario, the output of each of the non-linear processes now changes and progresses in ways that begin to feel much more organic (not analog yet by any means, but less obviously predictable yet still discernable as meaningful patterns).

Pause for a moment to consider the implications of this intermediary step on our way to a full appreciation of the Dramatica model of the mind.  We are proposing that the mind is not a single process but (at the highest or most broad-stroke level) can be best understood as four equally influential non-linear processes affecting each other in an almost relativistic self-regulating manner to create an overall system.

And yet, that is just the top level.  We must now consider that the results of each of the four iterative processes are directly and continuously broadcast to the sub-processes beneath it in the second level down.  What’s more, because the parent process in any Class is also affected by the output of the other three Classes, their output is indirectly broadcast to the sub-processes beneath the original Class in its altered results.

And so, what alters the functioning of the underlying sub-processes is partly the direct input from above, and also the indirect input from the parents neighbors.

Now, we are going to take some leaps here (rather than belaboring our points), but I feel sufficient groundwork has been so far laid as to provide a solid landing.

The system described does not just apply between two level, but among all four.  So, what happens in the processing of any one of the four Classes (of itself and as it is affected by the other three) is ultimately broadcast down all four level of the other three to the very roots of the entire structure.

Conversationally, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  Rather, as a trickle-down theory, all parts of the roots are fed by what happens in all of the leaves.

But wait, as with trees (or branch-trees for that matter), what happens in the roots also nourishes and informs what will be occurring in the leaves.

In other words, this flow of relativistically altered iterative output is not just from the top down, but from the bottom up as well.

Every one of the object units in the Dramatica model represents an independently functioning non-linear process of the mind at one magnitude or another.  So, even the tiniest, lowliest process at the very bottom of the model in the most obscure corner is still generating iterative output on its own.  And the output of the four units in the family under each parent unit is in fact what defines the operation and function of the parent unit by nature.

Again, conversationally, the children Units define the operations performed by the parent unit, while the output of the parent unit alters the variables of the child units.

And so, the Dramatica model represents a system wherein iterative processes affect one another directly laterally, and directly vertically, but also affect one other indirectly both laterally and vertically, altering not only the values of the variables but the functions of the operations in each independent iterative process.

All of this energy flow crosses over and through itself within the system, creating what might be loosely thought of as an ever evolving interference pattern in which standing waves and troughs rise up, hold their positions for a time, and even migrate through the matrix while maintaining their identities as peaks and troughs but moving on to affect other operations in the system as the action potential of the peak or trough comes into conjunction with other processes.

All of which brings us back to the functioning of neurons, the action potential, and how firing of the neuron occurs not only because of direct or even collective stimulation, but also because of the more analog affect of these migrating peaks and troughs of potential that increase or decrease the opportunity to fire at the local level and then move on through the system to apply their impact elsewhere – all a function of the biochemical side of the system.

And that, quite naturally reaches a point at which to conclude our initial exploration of the structural units of Dramatica and to move on to the remaining half of our structural model – the matrix framework: what it is and how it works.  (Keeping in mind that both parts of structure comprise only half of the Dramatica model of the mind – the other half being the dynamics and the forces that alter the dynamics).

The Dramatica structural framework is all based on the quad.  The quad is not just a convenient group of boxes into which the process-units of the structure can be placed and organized, but in fact, each quad also represents the nature of each unit and the relationships and interrelationships among all four units.

Each of these relationships can be represented as simple equations, in a truly mathematical sense, and taken together they comprise an exceedingly complex web of iterative interactions.  While interesting, the mathematical side is really tangent ( no pun intended) to the task at hand, though I will include some web links at the bottom of this article directly those interested in further self-punishment to some previous articles specifically addressing those topics.

To begin with, the four spaces in each quad represent the following:

In the upper left hand corner is the “K” position, which stands for Knowledge, one of the four principal components of the mind (more on this later).

In the lower right is the “T” position, which stands for Thought.  Thought and Knowledge share a relationship not unlike Energy and Mass.

As energy can move mass around, so too can thought move distinct elements of knowledge around.  In this way, complex massive objects can be created and complex systems of knowledge as well (not unlike the very model we are proposing in something of a self-incursive twist).

In the upper right is Ability, which (for reasons explained elsewhere – again, look for the links at the bottom of this article) is the mental equivalent of Space.  A quick explanation in lay, inaccurate “Science Channel” terms would state that just as Mass is in space, but also defines the reaches of space, Knowledge is in Ability and defines its reaches as well.  Ability, in short, is an assessment of what we know compared to what we don’t know, just as Space is an assessment of what is there compared to what isn’t. (Told, you – “Science Channel”.)

The fourth space in the lower left is Desire, which is the equivalent of Time – in short, Desire can only be felt by comparing what was to what is or what might be; moderated by the speed of progress toward or away from the preferable state.

Though these four items have been described in almost child-like terms, the equivalent of describing painting by Leonardo using only the primary colors, they serve to get us in the ball park.  Again, there are several much deeper articles on the internet that are far more elegant and compelling.

But for our overview understanding of the Dramatica model of the mind, all that is important to know that the relationships among these four items can be set down as T/K = AD.  In other, even more obnoxiously simple words, Thought acted upon by Knowledge maintains an equilibrium with the product of Ability and Desire.

So what does that mean?  First, consider Ability and Desire.  Their product is Desirability.  If Ability is zero, no matter how much Desire there is, motivation is zero.  If Desire is zero, no matter how much Ability there is, motivation is zero.  But for any positive values of Ability and Desire, there will be a certain degree of Desirability.

On the left hand side, Thought is divided by Knowledge – in other words, this equation describes inductive reasoning.  Thought, which might go anywhere, is broken up into pieces, parceled out in closed processes as determined by what we know.

So, this particular equation (and there are many) denotes that our inductive reasoning, which drives our assessment of probabilities maintains itself in equilibrium with the Desirability of the subject under consideration.  In short speak, our motivation is equal to the possibilities and, conversely, we consider possibilities in proportion to our motivation.

That sounds quite touchy-feely until you consider that with a little algebraic re-arrangement T/K = AD becomes T = KAD, which looks suspiciously like E=MC2.  That is why I alluded to Knowledge being like Mass and Thought like energy in the beginning of this section.  It is also why Chris and I named the theories pertaining to the mind, rather than to story, Mental Relativity, for they pertain to the relativistic nature of the iterative processes of the mind.

Though these kinds of contentions practically demand proof (or at least serious and detailed explanation), that is really beyond the scope and purpose of this particular article, and is best addressed by the web links at the bottom.

The point at hand is that there are many equations, each relatively simple in itself, but each having a unique nature determined not only by the equation de facto, but also by its relative position in relationship to the other equations represented in the matrix.

In a nutshell, why are there all these terms like proaction or reaction in the structural chart, and why are they positioned where they are?  The answer is that the units do not exist independently of the structural matrix but because of it.

Each unit is really the very same process, but because of its position in relation to the other three units in its quad, and those above and below and laterally to it, the relativistic effect of the interacting iterative processes at different magnitudes of parents and children result in a specific systems of balance between internal functioning and external influence that are represented by position in the matrix.

So, the names of the units are arbitrary, in a sense, because it is really the matrix that defines each unit.  But, for the model to be understood, other than in a mathematical manner, each unit is named for the nature of the system that unit represents.

And so we find Past in one quad under Universe and we find Memory in another quad under Mind.  Because Past and Mind are in the same relative position in their respective quads beneath their parents, it holds true that Past is to Universe as Memory is to Mind.

This startling aspect of the semantics held by the structure is that the entire chart is a complex web of analogies by which any vector between two units on any levels anywhere in the structure share the same semantic relationship as any other two units that can be connected by the same vector.

What’s more, putting the words themselves aside, this means that any two processes of the mind that are connected by specific direct and indirect relationships to any other process share an exactly identical mathematical (relativistic) relationship with any other two mental processes that are connected by exactly the same direct and indirect relationships – regardless of position overall position with the model (the mind) and regardless of the magnitude of one set compared with the other.

This is the heart of the Fractal Psychology concept in Dramatica that states that as individual processes of the mind come together to create an overall process, so too individual minds in the real world come together to create overall psychologies that function identically to the system of the individuals.

As a corollary, it infers that we all share the same underlying psychology – being defined as a system of mind – and that is what makes Dramatica’s model culturally independent, just as the semantics in the structural chart could be replaced with words or symbols from any language, so long as the relationships among their meanings is identical to the relationships among the processes they represent, as dictated by their position in the matrix and the equations which drive it.

Well, it’s all enough to give you a headache.  But the final word on the structural side of the model as it pertains to creating a functioning artificial mind is that such a machine must be based on not on an arbitrary number of co-processors, but in groups of four neural networks which share specific relationships among themselves (which can be expressed in mathematical terms) and affect and are affect by each other and by other such families of four that are their parents and their children in a four level hierarchy of sub-processes.

Now, while I have not yet addressed such issues as why four levels, and why do the elements of the bottom level have only sixty-four unique names, each appearing four times in different conjunctions, that is for the wrap up at the end of this entire article.

At this time, we will suspend our discussion of the units and matrix and shift from exploring the structure to examining the dynamics that drive it.

As structure is divided into the units and the matrix, so too are the dynamics divided into two parts: those that rearrange the structure (a la the Rubik’s Cube analogy earlier) and those that rearrange the dynamics themselves.

I’ll begin with the former.

The Dramatica structure appears to be fixed affair – more like a 3D chess set in four levels than a “twist and turn” Rubik’s cube.  But that is just because the structural chart simply depicts an untwisted cube in which each side is a single color.  In short, it depicts a mind at rest: a mind without an inequity.

There is no such balanced mind.  The mind is a machine made of time.  Every gear and pulley is a process within a process, like nested Russian dolls.  But, if we froze a mind in mid-thought, it would look like the Dramatica chart if it also hadn’t a care in the world.

Without unbalance there is no potential.  Without potential there is no motivation.  Without motivation there is neither inner consideration nor external activity.

So what is it that creates imbalance so as to propel the mind, and how does that mechanism work, exactly.

Dramatica Dynamics describe the forces that shift the balanced mind out of alignment, creating potential and therefore motivation and activity.  This process is called Justification.

Justification is neither a good nor a bad thing.  It is just a thing – a process that rearranges processes.  Essentially, if we look within ourselves for a solution to a problem and find none, we then look outside ourselves to see if the solution lies there.

In truth, we may actually be the cause of the problem and not see it.  This is what eventually leads to such things as the psychological phenomenon of projection in which we attribute qualities to people and things outside ourselves, rather than to ourselves where they belong.

The opposite of this is to attribute qualities to ourselves that really don’t belong to us but to others or to other things.  A belief in controlling the world through magic might be considered a projection form of justification.  It can also appear as someone blaming themselves for something that isn’t their fault.

The reasons for such manners of thought are quite complex and are again beyond the scope of this article describing how the Dramatica model might be employed to create an artificial mind.  But suffice it to say that when we project, we shift the relative positions of where we perceive forces at work from inside to outside or vice versa.

This function (among many others) is represented in the Dramatica model by a dynamic that actually exchanges the positions of an internal unit with an external one.  For example, at the top of the Dramatica chart are the four familiar units Universe, Physics, Mind and Psychology.  In some stories, Universe and Mind may change positions on their diagonal or Physics and Psychology might along theirs.

When two units shift to each others position along a diagonal line, it is called a “flip” for want of a more psychologically savvy term.

But that isn’t the only way in which units may change places.  They might also shift around the quad as if it were a clock, ninety degrees to the right or to the left.  This is called a “rotate” again, for want of something less mundane.

It is the combination of flips and rotates at different levels that determine how the model twists and turns from its neutral position into a potential that describes a particular mental state ready to be propelled forward by having wound up the spring of inner potential (a macroscopic fractal of the action potential way back down at the level of the individual neuron).

In Dramatica as it is applied to stories, there are eight dynamic questions which we call the eight essential questions, for it is they that determine all that needs be known to arrive at a complete storyform, save what the subject matter centers is.

Whereas the units in the structure may be thought of as processes driven by Awareness, the dynamics are the forces that act upon the processes driven by Self-Awareness.

Some questions determine whether a given quad will flip, rotate, do both or do neither.  Others determine the axis of the flip or the direction of rotate.  Still others determine if the flip or rotate will “take the children” from a lower level, or leave them behind when they move.  (This represents the nature of cross-level justifications wherein some potentials are isolated to smaller lateral issues only whereas others affect whole quadrants of the mind in many levels at once.)

It is the necessity of nature of the dynamics that no truly human artificial mind might be built without an overlying system that, in fact, breaks an accurate balance among logical relationships and rearranges them in another stable but warped organization.

If we were only Aware, our minds would simply adapt or react to the momentary environment around us.  When the environment changed, so would we.  But with Self-Awareness, a mechanism exists by which we refuse to adapt and choose not to react, but rather warp ourselves to maintain the potential (motivation) to return to our original form at a later time.

In this manner we “hope” to outlast or create situations that are more in line with our inner arrangement than to simple match ourselves to whatever is.

Because of this delay factor in responding to stimuli in our environment, and because our individual experiences are all different (from the microscopic to the macroscopic) we are all twisted and turned into different configurations, yet share a common psychological system of Self-Awareness that even allows conditions such as neuroses to be diagnosed and treated, even though they may have been caused by complete different events.

There is far more to the dynamic side of the model than this, but to fully understand its functioning beyond being the driver of mental potential would require far too much time and many diagrams that, again, would divert from the purpose at large of this article.

And so, to the point, we leave behind our brief discussion of the Dynamics that drive the structure and turn our attention to the fourth and final aspect of the model, the other half of the Dynamic side, the forces that alter the Dynamics.

Earlier I mentioned the dynamic questions that determined flip, rotate, both or neither.  Other questions determine which axis to flip and/or which direction to rotate.  And the final group determined whether or not to take the children.

But there is a forth sort of question that alters the way the dynamics function.  For example, if the dynamics have determined that a given quad is going to flip one way and rotate in a particular direction, this other manner of question might determine whether the flip or the rotate will be applied first.

Such a question might be the mental sex of the mind under study.  Independent of physical gender is the gender of the mind – not as being masculine or feminine but as being spatially oriented or temporally oriented.

All Self-Aware minds explore their world in terms of Space and Time.  (Aware minds only respond to Mass and Energy)  It is the nature of Self-Awareness to justify, and thereby to create a delay factor in which the mind is able to recall an earlier situation and compare it to the current situation as our temporal thinking.  Seeing patterns as opposed to just responding to substance is the spatial equivalent, born of the justification delay.

In spatial thinking we not only observe X, but can recall X while observing Y and thereby learn something of the relationship between X and Y – in essence, discerning a pattern.

In temporal thinking we not only experience situation W but also recall situation Z and thereby can cast a value judgment between the two – in essence, determining a preference.  This is one illustration of why Desire is tied to Time, from a previous discussion.

Spatial thinkers first see the spatial patterns and then consider the temporal progression.  Temporal thinkers first grasp the progression, then see the patterns.

Our Spatial sense is represented in our logic, or temporal sense in our feelings.  We all have logic and feelings, but which one is our initial filter on our environment and which is the secondary filter is divided very nearly along gender lines.

It should be noted that male logic is not superior to female logic for they are both the same things.  And female feelings are not superior to male feelings because they are the same.  But women shade their logic with feeling and men temper their feelings with logic, creating two different systems at a foundational level, making each kind of mind adept at primary observation of space or time and secondary observation of the others.

Still, in the Dramatica model, this has nothing to do with the units in the structure.  It has nothing to do with the construction of the matrix framework.  It has nothing to do with the dynamics.  It only affects one fourth of the forces that work on the structure to twist and turn it.

And yet, because every twist and turn is multiplied in its impact by the forces that work from quad to quad and level to level, a simple yet powerful difference emerges in the male mind model and the female mind model.   In essence, where women see men as being very similar – say out of phase, men see women as being quite different, say 270 degrees out of phase.  As a visual, place a man in a quad and a woman in the space next to him.  They are both 90 and 270 degrees out of phase, depending on which way around the circle of the quad you rotate.

That is the essence of Mental Sex.  There are very sound reasons to support mental sex based on neurology and also reasons why a mind must have a temporal or spatial bias or risk grid-locking in certain calculations.  But again, that is beyond the scope of this article, and you will find links to early works on this topic at the bottom.

Finally, to sum up and simplify all that has been stated so far, no single processor or single neural network will every support a truly self-aware mind.  No combination parallel processors or lateral neural networks, no matter how plentiful, will engender true self-awareness.

It is only through nested levels of iterative processes arranged in relationships as described by the quads (that mirror Mass, Energy, Space, and Time and their mental equivalents, Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire) that affect an are affect by the output of each other, both laterally and vertically that a true relativistic self-aware entity might artificially be created.

Simplified, as promised, man (or woman) does not think by logic alone.  It is the blending of logic and feeling, space and time, binary and analog, particle and wave, both in opposition and combination that creates all the shades and splendor of the minds we call our own and the minds we may build.


An Introduction to Quad Structure

Indicators of Justification

Problem Solving and Justification

Human Sexuality 101

Where Mental Sex is Headed

Original Mental Relativity Booklet (pdf)


Behind the Quad – Part 1

Behind the Quad – Part 2

Behind the Quad – Part 3

Dynamics Operations Quads, Part 1

Dynamics Operations Quads, Part 2

Dramatica & Non-linear Game Theory

In regard to non-linear video game story structuring, in fact, that is where Dramatica excels in ways no other system has been able to achieve.  To illustrate how, we need to take a few steps back and then work our way forward again to iterative gaming theory.

In the beginning, there was the tale – a simple logical step-by-step progression that described a journey from a point of inception to a destination, documenting the key events along the way.

This evolved into a more complex form that included not only the logical progression, but the passionate progression as well – a heart-line in addition to a head-line.

A head-line says, “This leads to this leads to that.”  A heart-line says, “This feeling evolved into this feeling resulting in that feeling.”

Either of these linear progressions is referred to as a simple “tale” in Dramatica theory.  There is also a complex tale form in which these two linear progressions interact and alter the course either would have taken on its own.  Such a complex tale would say, “Beginning here and feeling thus, we progressed here which made us feel thus, and based on that feeling we ended up going there.”

In other words, a complex tale is the intertwining of two causal linearities in which they do not run in parallel but alter the progression of each other.  Such a complex tale can have situations driving emotions, in which case the passionate side is derivative and reactive, or it can have emotions driving activities, in which case events are slaves to passion.  This establishes a causal hierarchy between our intellect and our feelings.

But, the most complex of all tales shifts between the two drivers to alternate which one is driving the other.  For example, starting at a given logistic and emotional state, it may be the logic that determines the first event, which then leads to a change in feelings which then determine the next course of action.

It is just such an arrangement that constitutes the essence of the “hero’s journey”.

All of these possibilities are still tales, and thus constitute what Dramatica considers to be the first order of storyform.

At the next level of magnitude, we encounter the linear story, as opposed to the linear tales I’ve just described.  As a quick and loose analogy, imagine a television picture on an old tube set.  A single complete frame of video is constructed by a series of scanning lines creating a horizontal stack of lines.  Each line in the stack varies in luminosity and color, much as an individual tale varies in logic and feeling over the course of its linear progression.

Stacked together, however, they collectively take on a greater meaning.  What appears to be almost arbitrary progressions in each individual tale are assembled like pieces in a mosaic until an overall image is formed that is more of a tapestry than a thread in degree of complexity.  That is why, in Dramatica, we say “You spin a tale but you weave a story.”

A story, therefore, is a far more demanding form, requiring every beat, scene, sequence, chapter and act to be part of a larger overall message.  Each piece must do double-duty, making sense in its own internal linear progression over time, and also filling in its proper place in the overall spatial understanding when the unfolding of the story is complete and the message made manifest.

This is the equivalent of a single storyform in Dramatica, and why the Dramatica Story Engine is able to translate and predict between what linear progressions are required to arrive at a given overall meaning, and, conversely, starting with a given overall meaning, to determine the order in which dramatic progressions of characters, plot, theme and even genre must occur.

In Dramatica, this is considered a second order storyform, as its complexity is one magnitude beyond the tale.

Now, we finally arrive at non-linear video game theory, which is yet one more increase in magnitude of complexity.

Referring to my earlier analogy to a television frame being loosely equivalent to a story, whilst it is comprised of individual tales described by scenes and sequences, picture now the progression of television frames that constitutes a broadcast program.  In Dramatica terms, this is equivalent to a series of fixed storyforms progressing from one to the next as if they were frames in a movie.

Each storyform represents a mind set – a flash photograph of all of the elements and vector dynamics of the intellect and passion of a mind at a frozen moment of time.  This is what we all commonly think of as a story in a novel, screenplay, or stage play.  It is the exploration of a mind set and the author’s judgment as to whether that state of mind should be maintained or abandoned in order to arrive at the best possible outcome, taking into account both logic (success or failure) and feeling (good or bad).

In interactive non-linear gaming, the goal is to create an experience in which each moment seems as ordered as a single storyform but is not bound by such an intractable arrangement.  Hence, by creating a series of storyforms, one is able to construct an ever-changing environment, driven by the user yet guided by the designer.

More specifically, the human mind (both intellectually and passionately) cannot jump willy nilly from any given mind set to any other directly – i.e. the stages of grief in which one will eventually experience all of the stages, but must pass through them in a specific, rather than random, order.  Conversationally put, we can eventually get to any logical or emotional point, but from any given point, you can’t necessarily get there from here.

Fortunately, the existing Dramatica Story Engine is designed to allow for the creation of such appropriate progressions that do not violate logical order nor emotional progression.  Here is how it works.  First, you create a storyform that represents the logical and passionate situation in which you want your non-linear story to begin.  In the Story Engine feature, Dramatica allows alteration of a storyform in order to game out “what-if” scenarios and to test the appropriateness and voracity of a given storyform against another.

This is accomplished by picking any given dramatic element in the Story Engine and “unchoosing” it by un-selecting a previously chosen item.  Since a storyform is fixed by having enough cross-referenced story point (dramatic elements) that all other points are determined, by “opening-up” the storyform through the removal of the constraints of a single dramatic element only, then other previously fixed dramatic elements now revert to having several available options once more.

You now create a second storyform by making specific selections among one or more of these newly opened-up story points until you once more arrive at a single fixed storyform.  This new storyform will be complete compatible with both logic and emotion as a next mind set in the ongoing progression of the game.

In actual play, the designer would choose in advance which story point to “open-up” by removing the previously chosen selection but the end-user would then choose from the available options to determine the next storyform scenario.  In simple systems, this choice would be a direct on from an options screen, but in more complex non-linear gaming, the choice of the next appropriate storyform in the progression would be determined by the manner in which the end-user had already progressed through the initial storyform, as the user has had the opportunity to select the order in which he or she has explored the elements of the initial storyform, and thus data can be gathered that indicates areas of lesser interest and therefore the best candidates to alter through opening up of the initial setting.

Well, there is certainly far more detail and specific development involved in such an undertaking, but hopefully this indicates the capability and usefulness of Dramatica, both as a theory and of the software tool in its current incarnation, for non-linear storyforms as well as traditional linear stores and even simple or complex tales.