The following class was hosted by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator (along with Chris Huntley) of the Dramatica Theory of story.
- Problem element as seen in the 4 Throughlines.
- “Rainman” & “Unforgiven” ; Subjective and Objective story problem.
- Outcome / Judgment
- Difference Between Dramatica & Collaborator
- Premise / Egri
Dramatica : This is Mark Haslett filling in for Melanie Anne Phillips.
Grn Skier : Howdy, Mel.
Dramatica : Hi Grn Skier, This is actually Mark Haslett filling in for Melanie.
Grn Skier : Hi Mark. Hope she’s doing well.
Dramatica : She’s being interviewed for Japanese Network TV and won’t be able to make it. But I should be able to answer questions pretty well. Any questions?
Grn Skier : Hopefully we’ll have a crowd tonight.
Dramatica : I hope so too. We did post a few notices that this would be the last of our 24 course meal. We have actually covered enough theory in these logs to last a long time.
Grn Skier : Tell me about how the Problem element traces through the 4 perspectives (I, You, We, They) I’m still digesting all of it.
Dramatica : O.K. The four perspectives, being the Main Character (I), the Obstacle Character (You) The Subjective Story (We) and the Objective Story (They) make the four throughlines in every story. Dramatica sees a story as an argument about the way ( the only way) to solve a particular problem. These four throughlines explore that problem. One way to see it is to ask: What makes a Main Character “Main?”. Well, in Dramatica the explanation has to do with their relationship over the story’s central problem.
Grn Skier : ?
Dramatica : Question?
Grn Skier : I’m a little deeper in that where you’re starting, so let me rephrase question
Dramatica : O.K.
Grn Skier : If, say Obj story is Physics, Obtaining, Morality vs. Approach
Dramatica : Yes,
Grn Skier : Subjective story is normally in Psych quad
Dramatica : Always. The Subjective Story and Objective Story are a dynamic pair and will always appear opposite on the chart.
Grn Skier : and I look at, say morality: Faith, Disbelief, etc. If Faith is problem in Obj, it must also be in Subj Correct?
Dramatica : Not necessarily.
Grn Skier : So, I’m looking at Wall Chart of Quads.
Dramatica : The relationship between the Obj. and Subj. Story is not as direct as the Main Character’s relationship to the Objective Story. (I hope you’ll pardon my clumsy fingers, they’re really slowing me down.)
Grn Skier : So, Faith would be MC’s Problem, but not necessarily, Subj Problem?
Dramatica : That’s correct. If the Subj. Story problem were also Faith that would be the result of a lot of other dynamic choices being set to say that the outcome of the Obj. Story will be similar to the outcome of the Subjective Story.
Grn Skier : Could you elaborate with your slow fingers.
Dramatica : We know that’s not always the case, look at Rain Man or Unforgiven. There will be a relationship always between the problem in the Objective Story and the problem quad for the Subjective Story, but that relationship has many variations.
There are actually appreciations in the software which we offer to describe the dynamics of the Objective Story which also exist for the subjective story, yet are not available to choose from. This is really due to our developing understanding of the theory and in the future they will be available also.
An example would be Success/Failure (Outcome) There can be success in the Subjective Story as there is in the Obj. Story. People just don’t think in those terms often.
Grn Skier : This is as opposed to the Good/Bad in the Subj we get now?
Dramatica : Right, If the relationship between the Main and Obstacle character turns out “positively” or in a way they would agree was successful that would be something like the SS appreciation for Outcome. Good/Bad is different. This judgment is made solely of the Main Character. Was the MC’s Resolve (Change or Steadfast) good or bad for the Main Character? Did they get rid of their angst?
It’s a little hard to imagine, but in a really twisted subjective story the Main Character might end up in Bad, yet have a “successful” subjective story if their Obstacle Character were trying to make their life bad. (how ‘m I doing?)
Grn Skier : Great. Let me bring up a related topic.
Dramatica : You bet.
Grn Skier : I’ve sensed that Dram is great for stories with heavy emphasis on Obj Story and less on Subj story e.g. (Hi HC) I’ve been reading Literary Novels that I’m trying to interpret with Dram and what you;re hinting at would answer some unresolved questions. The emphasis is almost wholly on a Subj Story, with Obj played down to being ‘setting’
Dramatica : Well, there will always be more to discover but the Subjective Story gets a very thorough treatment in Dramatica theory.
Dramatica : This is Mark Haslett filling in for Melanie Anne tonight.
Grn Skier : HC, I love Dramatica. Best study tool, I’ve found anywhere
Dramatica : Well, me too. I can compare it to Collaborator a little based on what I’ve seen. I have never used Collaborator, yet over the past year and a half I have been studying the theory in Dramatica. I graduated in film Critical Studies at USC the year before I came here and had never seen anything like it.
HConnor : I am mystified that you would not test a competitors product before working on one yourself.
Dramatica : It’s not that we haven’t, it’s that I, personally, haven’t.
Grn Skier : HC, the comparison is superficial to my mind. I have both, there is some overlap.
Dramatica : The thing is that their emphasis is storytelling and ours is story forming, or deep-structure.
HConnor : By the way, I already own Dramatica, so no need to sell it to me.
Dramatica : I’m not trying to sell, I actually have an enthusiasm which is hard to get across in a way that doesn’t sound phony.
Grn Skier : 2 weeks ago, Melanie and I spent evening here discussing Premise as in Lojos Egri – used as the basis for some of collaborator.
Dramatica : Premise, yes. Egri. It’s valuable stuff, for analysis.
Grn Skier : Dramatica lets you explore it, Collaborator only lets you state it.
Dramatica : That’s the difference I’m drawn to also. What is a blended concept in “premise” theory becomes many pieces which you have complete control over in Dramatica– the theory and the software. Theme is a tough thing to explain. Yet in Dramatica, there are many places to adjust it and see that it is working for you. It is also reassuring, (I find) to have a storyform reassuring you that it’s all working together.
HConnor : There has been some argument about how choices made in storyforming result in only one possible story care to comment?
Dramatica : Absolutely, The process of analyzing many stories has led to a
lot of discussions over competing storyforms for the same story.
HConnor : Assuming that you accept that if you get such a storyform in dramatica, it IS actually working together. That’s the premise, right?
Dramatica : Right. When you take a few appreciations from a storyform and see them working in your story you might assume that this must be the one storyform that Dramatica means for you to have. But you really need to challenge your storyforms. Take a peek at choices which you could have made differently. It’s when you have ALL of the appreciations working that you have the best storyform for your story. Hi One Daisy.
Grn Skier : Howdy daisy.
One Daisy : Hello Grn Skier. Hello Dramatica. I’m one of your avid students.
Dramatica : Great! This is Mark Haslett, filling in for Melanie Anne this evening. I was just suggesting how one might agree with any particular storyform Dramatica arrives at. The appreciations which are listed in a completed storyform are appreciations which appear in one way or another in all stories. Coming to the conclusion that you have arrived at the set of appreciations which describes what’s going on in your story emotionally and logically is the result of checking out what all the pieces of that storyform are supposed to mean.
A great place to look for more understanding of appreciations is in the story examples which are shipped with the program.
HConnor : Tell me how the work is coming along on the Windows version of Scriptor?
Dramatica : Windows Scriptor is on hold until after we can finish our current work of updating Movie Magic to Windows. It will probably be at least another year.
Grn Skier : Switch to Mac, you’ll never go Back.
Dramatica : Here here.
One Daisy : Too much invested in IBM compatible.
HConnor : Yes, but will MAC be the IBM-MAC company a year from now? It was fun to talk drama. Ciao for now.
Grn Skier : Mark, Could you give us an overview of advanced classes, What are they and describe what they cover?
Dramatica : Sure. This July, 8 & 9th there will be the Dramatica Intensive Weekend Workshop.
One Daisy : It’s all going to come together one way or another. It has to.
Dramatica : Daisy, this weekend will pull it all together and light it on fire. Bye HConner.
Grn Skier : Windows 95 looks more like Mac Sys 7.1 than previous Windows.
Dramatica : I don’t mean to push the seminar so much, it’s more that in two days, Melanie and Chris are going to cover EVERYTHING. And probably blow some people’s minds.
One Daisy : Give me the particulars, please.
Dramatica : July 8 & 9, here at Screenplay Systems in Burbank. The topics will be Basics, Character, Theme, Plot, Genre, Storyforming, Storyweaving, Story encoding, and Reception. We will screen “Witness” and analyze the storyform all for the price of $249.95.
Grn Skier : Tell Mel to make videos of the Classes, add graphic images, etc. Easier to absorb than audio tapes. Sell the videos for 50-80 bucks for the set
Dramatica : We are currently planning a CD-ROM of some kind which will be very much like you say.
Grn Skier : Great. I digest slowly.
Dramatica : We do sell audio cassettes on Basics, Plot and Character. and Dramatica is very meaty.
One Daisy : I like that idea. I’ve not been all that pleased with my CD-ROM selection so far.
Dramatica : We’ll count your vote. It’s something I’m personally hoping for too. But development is a rough business.
I have an interesting observation about the movie Die Hard 3, if your interested. I know it’s not “high art,” but this is the kind of story that could so easily be made 100 percent better with a little Dramatica. O.K. The interesting thing is that the film has a very strong Main Character in John McClaine, the embittered and veteran NYPD cop; and a very strong Obstacle Character in Sam Jackson.
One Daisy : Excuse me, but I haven’t had a chance to see Die Hard 3. Only recent film I’ve seen is Species.
Dramatica : (ooo, how is it?)
One Daisy : Run of the mill. Special effects are great, but basically it is an Alien come to Earth make over.
Dramatica : (oh, too bad.) If you see Die Hard, maybe, this observation will make sense. The point is that it also has a working Objective Story. So, anyway, Die Hard has these three really strong throughlines, but is lacking the Subjective story to tie them all together emotionally. There is plenty of material that should have been the subjective issue between these two characters, but they didn’t develop it.
One Daisy : Put Alien in quotes please. They needed Dramatica and a different ending. My observation at the end “Species II, the return of Ben”.
Dramatica : Ben the Rat?
One Daisy : Correct.
Dramatica : To sum up about Die Hard, it would have simply taken the notion that a Subjective argument exists solely between the Main and Obstacle Characters in order for the screenwriters to have been able to follow through on the dynamics they set in place and have a really entertaining and emotionally satisfying thriller.
Grn Skier : I’ll catch it on video.
Dramatica : Good idea.
Grn Skier : This genre usually is not satisfying in other than roller coaster fashion like that silly dinosaur movie.
Dramatica : I tend to agree, except for the kinds of exceptions which can successfully bury a good social commentary in their action.
Grn Skier : e.g. True Lies?
One Daisy : It was free: I was sent a free ticket. Some people paid $35. to see it.
Dramatica : I am a big fan of this new submarine movie.
Grn Skier : Oh, yeah, Crimson Tide. I live in Alabama – I haven’t seen it and that is sacrilege here just because of the University.
Dramatica : Please do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. lol.
One Daisy : How was it? I mean have you had any feedback on it?
Dramatica : There’s a very tight emotional and logical argument going on in this thriller which happens to deal with the kind of dormant cultural issue of the Russian and US nuclear arms which are still very real.
I just got the signal that I’m going to have to wind this up. Probably just in time.
One Daisy : Hey, I have to run. Promised my daughter, I’d go on line with her at 7. See you next week if I can make it.
Grn Skier : Thanks for filling in Mark, Tell Mel, we all really appreciated her time and answers.
Dramatica : Nite daisy! You bet, Skier. She’ll be glad to hear it.
Grn Skier : Oh, this isn’t last night?
Dramatica : Yes, actually, this is the final class.
Grn Skier : Nite all.
Dramatica : Thanks for joining me. Nite!
One Daisy : Dramatica won’t be on next week?
Dramatica : No, I’m sorry. We have gone through 24 classes, completely covering the
theory in the process. The chat logs are available in the Writer’s Club, Non-Fiction Library on AOL and will continue to be.
One Daisy : Well, take care. I plan to get back to the work shops on Wednesdays, if they’re still available.
Dramatica : Users’ Groups will be. Take care.
One Daisy : Good nite!
The Dramatica Theory of story was developed by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, and was implemented into software by Chief Software Architect, Stephen Greenfield.