Story Structure for Professional Writers

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A Concept of Story You Should Know

  • Overall Story Concern

    Once the Overall Story Problem kicks in and the story begins, the characters in the story will start to become concerned with the Overall Story Concern. Every Throughline exists to offer an opportunity for an Audience to see the Problem of that Throughline in varying degrees of magnification. The Overall Story Concern is a very broad take on the story's Problem and the conflict that arises from it. This Concern will receive so much attention that the Overall Story Goal will be of the same Type as the Overall Story Concern.

Overall Story ConcernMore Concepts

Latest Thoughts on Story

4 days ago

How to Analyze a Narrative with Dramatica

In this episode not only do we cover how to successfully analyze a story with Dramatica, but we also look into four different kinds of scenes found in the psycho-technological thriller Ex Machina. And as a special bonus feature, Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley offers his insights into how to successfully build a storyform.

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

6 days ago

The Dramatica Users Group analysis of Ex Machina is now online. Note the improvement in quality when compared to past Users Group classes. I dug up an old iPhone and decided to use its camera instead of the one on my aged white Macbook. The difference is tremendous and will likely be our approach for future classes.

I also took the liberty of doing some fun editing back and forth at the end between Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley and his monitor. Hopefully that makes the presentation clearer and more beneficial towards your understanding of Dramatica.

As always, if you have any questions about anything presented in this video, don't hesitate to ask.

1 week ago

Melanie Anne Phillips on dramatic tension:

In narrative structure, there are two forces that converge to create a sense of rising tension that culminates at the climax: the quest to achieve a goal and the increasing pressure to change a deeply held conviction. Each of these forces informs the other so that, ultimately, the choice to change one’s nature or remain steadfast in one’s views and potential success in achieving the goal depend upon one another. In some stories, success depends upon the personal choice. In other stories, one’s nature is determined by success or failure. But in all cases, the interrelationship between the outcome of the plot and the culmination of the main character’s growth, builds the potential that drives the story forward to its conclusion.

Defining it as the nexus between the Main Character Throughline and Overall Story Throughline, Melanie defines two key story points:

  • Main Character Resolve: the increasing pressure to change a deeply held conviction
  • Story Goal: the quest to achieve a goal

This is not an If..Then statement beginning with the Main Character's Resolve and ending with the Overall Story Goal. A story doesn't always end in Success as a result of the Main Character's Resolve, but it very often does (Luke in Star Wars, Neo in The Matrix). Sometimes the nature of the Resolve is determined by the story's Success or Failure (Hamlet in Hamlet or Elliot in E.T.). The latter category of Main Characters often find themselves Changed by a story's events, rather than Changing to effect a story's events.

1 week ago

In-between repeated viewings of the new Rogue One trailer, I noticed Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of Dramatica, posted about the fractal nature of the theory:

The structural model you see can be the mind of one person or the collective mind of a group. It is the same structure, interpreted in two different ways. When we look at the four levels of the structure as if it were a single mind, we see (from the bottom up) motivations, evaluations, methods, and purposes. When we look at the same four levels as a group mind we see Characters, Theme, Plot and Genre.1

Fascinating insight, and one I hadn't considered before. By making the connection between a single mind and a group mind within the model, Melanie proves that archetypes are not born of our "collective unconscious."

...that is where archetypes really come from – not the collective unconscious per se, nor from myth nor dreams, but simply from the attributes that are common to us all. In short, the group becomes a model of the individual mind, since that is exactly what we do as individuals, but now each of our attributes has become an archetypal role in a group narrative.

Character Archetypes simply function as group attributes of ourselves.

  1. Note that I actually corrected her original post to show the difference between the two contexts of singular and group mind. 

1 week ago

Ex Machina Mea Culpa

Our original analysis of Ex Machina relied on subjective interpretation and proved faulty. This updated analysis clears up those issues by taking an objective point-of-view of the film's narrative. In addition we cover how Dramatica is a conflict-detection machine and how its unique set of story points identify the source of that conflict.

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

The Dramatica Mentorship Program - our premiere service designed to give you the tools and techniques for applying Dramatica's powerful concepts to your stories.

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

1 week ago

Guess I'm more like Nathan than I thought—my deep thematic analysis of the excellent Ex Machina contains many inaccuracies. The worst part is learning that the mistake I made is the exact same thing I tell my Mentorship students and professional clients each and every day:

Dramatica's story points are indicators of the SOURCE of conflict in a narrative, NOT merely storytelling.

Chris Huntley on *Ex Machina*

Several Dramatica Story Experts engaged in our monthly Dramatica Users Group meeting. Led by Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley, we worked our way through the narrative of Ex Machina. After an hour or so of back and forth--fueled mainly by my misconceptions--we finally arrived at a storyform that is so unbelievably represetative of the film, I don't know how I could have been so wrong.

But then I remembered the above about looking for the source of conflict, instead of using Dramatica's story points as storytelling--and it all made sense.

Once the Dramatica Users Group Video and Podcast are published you will be able to witness my error in judgment in action. Thankfully I'm more interested in getting it right than being right, so I was open enough to eventually reconsider and see the mistakes I made.

In short, Caleb is a Changed Be-er and Ava a Steadfast Influence Character. In hindsight it seems ridiculously obvious, but unfortunately I allowed my own understanding of the Audience Appreciations and my interpretations of them over the past couple of months cloud and alter my thinking.

The problem with Audience Appreciations is that they slip the Author into subjectivity—into opinions and personal takes on the concrete elements of story, rather than what actually is there. Perception, instead of Actuality.

The new analysis will be part of this week's podcast and article.

1 week ago

From Alex Epstein's Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made:

I've only tried one screenwriting plotting program. Dramatica attempts to formalize the process by which a crafty screenwriter creates a story. It boils down story structure to a "branching tree" of thirty-two thousand possible "storyforms". By answering questions like "Does the Main Character succeed or fail?" And "Is this a good thing or a bad thing?" you settle on one storyform. It is supposed to take about a week to learn how to use Dramatica. I have no idea if Dramatica is worth the money, but the company has some happy reviews on their website. If you have trouble figuring out why your stories come out wrong, or just have trouble creating story structure, Dramatica or something similar might help.


A week and twenty years maybe. And even then you might end up completely borking your initial analysis of a great movie like Ex Machina. Dramatica is more than worth the money--if for nothing else than the way it opens up your mind to a greater understanding of story.



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