Story Structure for Professional Writers

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A Concept of Story You Should Know

  • Theme

    Want to know something cool about Theme? Get this, if a great story is really just an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem, then Theme is really just the evaluations of that single human mind at work. Awesome, right? Theme is no longer this big imposing intimidating thing--just another aspect of the mind along with Character, Plot, and Genre.

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Latest Thoughts on Story

34 minutes ago

The Crucial Element to Telling a Great Story

In this, our final episode of the 2016 season, we discuss the most important part of any story--the intersection of the objective and subjective points-of-view. We also discuss our analysis of Moana and wrap up our series on using Dramatica to write for Nanowrimo.

Narrative First publishes yearly from March through November. The podcast will continue to run over the holiday season and into the new year. If you have any questions or would like help structuring your story with Dramatica please contact us at http://narrativefirst.com/contact.

Show Notes & Links

Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace

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1 week ago

Finding Your Own Unique Voice When Writing for Nanowrimo

In this episode, we show you how to take that burning desire within your heart to be heard and apply it to a concrete and solid story structure. The Dramatica storyform is a powerful and effective tool for organizing your story's argument. But you still need to know what it is you want to say with your work. By connecting to that inner voice and discovering what is near and dear to you, you will have a better idea of what to actually attach to the storyform to give it passion and heart.

Remember, you can always Ask Us a Question we answer everything, or Leave a Voicemail click the microphone button and leave a message after the beep.

Show Notes & Links

Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace

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1 week ago

Dramatica story expert Mike Wollaeger on what a Dramatica storyform is:

The Storyform is what the author knows, not what the characters in the story know. So if they are trying to avoid intimacy, but you as an author are telling a story about finding intimacy, your goal is probably along those lines.

The original poster wondered what the Story Goal would be if the characters are trying to avoid what they secretly want. This is always the hardest thing for writers new to Dramatica to understand. The Story's Goal, the Story's Concern, the Story's Issue--these are the story's Goal, Concern, and Issue as seen by the Author.

The storyform represents what the Author is trying to communicate to the Audience.

Dramatica sets itself apart from all other paradigms of story by taking an objective look at a narrative. Hero's Journey, Save the Cat!, the Sequence Method, Bob's Twenty Five Ways to Write a Novel--these are all subjective Audience-based interpretations of the dynamics found within a narrative.

The problem with subjective interpretations of story is that they are, by definition, subjective--and open to all sorts of inaccuracies and biases. An objective view of narrative avoids opinion and preconception by telling it like it is--it might be harder to swallow and understand, but it is always accurate.

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1 week ago

Finding Inspiration for Nanowrimo Within a Great Story

In this episode, we learn how to use the storyform from an inspiring narrative to help define the structure of your own. But first, a roundup of this month's Dramatica analysis of Spotlight, and an insight into how to run a story room in order to effectively get everyone to come to a consensus as to the most important story point in a narrative--the Main Character Resolve.

Remember, you can always Ask Us a Question we answer everything, or Leave a Voicemail click the microphone button and leave a message after the beep.

Show Notes & Links

Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace

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2 weeks ago

Researching the Dramatica theory of story and its reception as of late led me to an old post from last year entitled Dramatica and What it Means for Story. In it, I quote a science fiction forum with strange ideas about copyright law and accepted methods of participation.

Time to revisit that post as a writer who briefly stopped by the Discuss Dramatica forum in March of this year, also took time out to leave disinformation and confusion on the sci-fi forum.

Terminology

First this:

The theory is overly complex, its terminology baroque, its rigidity of form a flaw and not a feature, and overblown claims notwithstanding it does NOT offer a complete theoretical approach to solving development of all storyform. Not even close.

A pretty broad sweeping statement with little to back it up. Accusations of "baroque terminology" often indicate a mind not willing to take the time to dig deeper into Dramatica's unique story terminology and perspective on narrative. Dramatica's Definitions Are Not Your Own and Understanding Dramatica's Complex Terminology Made Easier are two places where open-minded individuals begin.

Structure & Entertainment

The writer continues:

One of the indicators that this MUST be so can be found at Jim Hull's web site. He sells his skills as a Dramataica expert, particularly in screenplay form. I expect he's actually good at that. But if one digs into his published film analyses, there are several 'scratch your head' moments in the division between his "Story Score" and "Entertainment Score".

I am, actually, really good at it. I'm also really good at helping build television series, novels, and plays. Story is story regardless of medium, but I realize some feel screenplays are more "structured" than other forms of storytelling.

However, the attempt to misguide people with lies about how I present my analyses is inexcusable. I don't divide up my critiques into a "Story Score" and "Entertainment Score". How the Hell woud anyone give a rating in regards to story? People have a hard enough time differentiating between a story and a tale, why would I rate on a differential in semantics?

Instead, the analyses on Narrative First offer two ratings: Entertainment and Structure. I do this because I recognize that there are some films that offer amazing experiences, yet don't come close to providing a meaningful narrative to go along with it. I love Terence Malick's The Tree of Life and I really enjoyed the recent animated film Trolls—but both are functionally broken in terms of narrative.

By narrative I refer, of course, to what Dramatica calls a Grand Argument Story. Four Throughlines—Main Character, Influence Character, Relationship Story, and Overall Story—all in service of providing an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem. The closer a film approaches an accurate representation of a functional storyform the higher the Structure rating.

As it turns out—and this should be no surprise to anyone who has spent any time actually investigating Dramatica—the closer a film approaches an accurate storyform, the better and more critically acclaimed the film. Check out our showcase of Narrative First analyses:

Showcase of Great Narrative

her. Whiplash. Zootopia. These are all films universally lauded for their artistry and great storytelling. They also happen to all score 5/5 for Structure and a 4/5 or 5/5 for Entertainment here on Narrative First. A complete storyform, or high Structure rating, guarantees critical acclaim and universal praise. The converse is not true: a high Entertainment rating guarantees nothing except popularity—a quality that is both temporary and fleeting.

The writer on the forum refers to our analysis of Guardians of the Galaxy, taking umbrage at our "story" score of 1/5 (again, this is a rating of its narrative structure) yet failing to mention our 5/5 rating for Entertainment. Guardians is a really fun movie—hilarious, well-acted, and exciting. Unfortunately the lack of a proper story structure makes it something that is easily forgotten. Who here remembers what happened in Guardians of the Galaxy? I recall some gem and funny moments with the big muscle-bound guy. Now who here remembers what happend in To Kill a Mockingbird or Whiplash?

Exactly.

It's not 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it's not a terrible movie either. In fact, audiences loved it. And the fact that Jim Hull rated it so poorly in Story terms should say something about Dramatica Theory. Because if the theory can't predict which stories will emotionally impact audiences, it's not a useful theory for crafting story. By definition. Right?

Structure and Entertainment. Please think about and understand the difference. I believe and recognize that Guardians entertained audiences…I'm not quite sure it emotionally impacted them on the level of her or Zootopia or Inside Out.

The Dangers of Multiple Personality Disorder in Story

The writer moves on with more disinformation and misunderstanding:

So what attracted me to spend the time digging through Dramatica theory? At its core is one insight that authors should consider seriously. That story characters and events symbolically represents divergent and competing psychological states within the author. Much like multiple personality disorder. That the process of reading evokes the same in the audience. And from this insight one can learn something useful about successful craftsmanship.

Ugh. Not even close. Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre represent different aspects of a singular mind trying to solve a problem. One mind, one personality.1 Multiple personalities suggests multiple storyforms and is a huge problem when collaborating with several different Authors with several different ideas of what a story should be about. A Dramatica storyform keeps everyone on track with the purpose and original intent of a narrative.


  1. In fact, Dramatica sees Genre as the personality of the mind. ↩︎

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