Story Structure for Professional Writers

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Concepts

  • Acts

    These are those huge chunks of narrative Aristotle uncovered way back when. Though he said there were only three--beginning, middle, and end--when in reality the structure of the story dictates the number of Acts in a work. Two Acts. Three Acts. Four Acts. It all depends on other dynamic factors and could be different across different Throughlines. Thankfully, Dramatica figures it all out for us so we can concentrate on writing the story our heart tells us to write.

  • Analysis

    While there is an analysis section here on Narrative First, there are times when a deep look into a story's thematics happen elsewhere.

  • The Antagonist

    This is the character who works to Prevent the Protagonist from winning. Couple this motivation with a penchant for getting people to Reconsider and you have the workings of a classic Antagonist. Give them the Influence Character role and suddenly you have the makings of a classic Villain (think the Joker in The Dark Knight). And no, James Bond is NOT the Antagonist no matter what someone tells you, it just doesn't play out.

  • Apps

    This used to be called software. But ever since 2007 and the iPhone and everything else since then, we now call them apps. Reviews and recommendations can be found here.

  • Archetypes

    Everyone thinks Archetypes represent some sort of aspect of the Hero's Journey. The Protagonist, the Sword-Weilder, the Doorstop, and the Gateway Guardian. They don't. Archetypes function as analagoies to forces and drives within our own minds. The Protagonist represents our tendency towards Initiating action. The Antagonist represents Reticence within the mind. Once you see characters as parts of a Story Mind these other names seem silly and made-up.

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  • Backstory

    "Everything before the Forestory--or what most people just call the story. This is where Justifications are built and Problems begin. If you want to know why a character is motivated to do what they do, you'll find the answer in here. There is nothing wrong with Backstory--in fact, you kinda need it. But you need a sophisticated way to present it without someone standing there explaining it all.

  • Brainstorming

    Dramatica is more than a tool for analysis--you can actually use it to come up with all kinds of situations and character motivations to plug those story holes and finally finish that story you have been working on forever. Combine the Brainstorming features in Dramatica with our exclusive Narrative First Genre Gist Collections and you have no excuse for NOT writing five novels during NaNoWriMo this year.

  • Changed Influence Character

    In any awesome story, one of the principal characters will do a complete 180 on what they believe while the other principal will stand their ground. If the Main Character flips their perspective, the Influence Character will remain steadfast. If the Influence Character flips--or has their perspective Changed, then the Main Character will remain steadfast. This concept explores the latter situation wherein the Influence Character adopts the Main Character's point-of-view.

  • Changed Main Character

    In any awesome story, one of the principal characters will do a complete 180 on what they believe while the other principal will stand their ground. If the Main Character flips their perspective, the Influence Character will remain steadfast. If the Influence Character flips--or has their perspective Changed, then the Main Character will remain steadfast. This concept explores the former situation wherein the Main Character adopts the Influence Character's point-of-view.

  • Character

    In Dramatica, Character can be found at the Element level. This is where you will find the Motivations, Methodolgies, Evaluations, and Purposes of the Story Mind. Some characters act as objectified versions of forces and influences while others act as subjective points-of-view held within the mind. Once you stop seeing them as "real" people and start seeing them as individual parts of one whole, you will start to understand how to write better characters.

  • Character Arc

    This is how a character changes over the course of a story, right? Not quite. That is part of it, but Dramatica looks deeper into that change and explains in detail all the components that make up that "change". First you have your Resolve which tells whether or not they grow into their point-of-view or grow out of their point-of-view. And then you have their Growth which explains if they grow by dropping an unwanted characteristic or by grabbing a new one. Combine the two together and you have what most people commonly refer to as Character Arc.

  • Character Elements

    You know the characters in your story, but do you know what they are actually made up of? Who is driven by Faith. By Temptation. By Support or Pursuit or Avoid or driven to Hinder? Who is Proactive? Reactive? Inactive? Who Trusts? Tests? Tries to Prove their point or Expects the worst from others? Who seeks out how things Actually are and who would rather examine their own Perceptions or look for greater Knowledge or Chaos? Do you have any characters who share the same elements? Then you will probably want to change that, otherwise they will come across as redundant and ineffective.

  • Closing Event

    You have likely heard of the Inciting Incident of a story, but have you ever considered the Closing Event? Dramatica really doesn't even refer to the beginning and end of a story in this sort of subjective viewpoint. Instead it looks to the Story Drivers to see what forces begin the inequity of a story, and what bring them to some kind of resolution. You need to know both ends of your story in order for it all to make sense.

  • Complete Stories

    Want to write a story that everyone will love? Want to make sure you don't have any story holes? Then you are going to have to learn how to write a complete story. In Dramatica this is easily done by making sure you cover all the Four Throughlines needed to make a complete argument. Main Character, Influence Character, Relationship Story, and Overall Story. Cover all those bases and you will have a complete and fulfilling story.

  • Complex Characters

    Everyone wants a fully fleshed-out set of complex characters, don't they? Not necessarily. Some would rather spend their time on settings and entertaining action sequences and for them, we have Archetypal Characters. But for everyone else we have Complex Characters. Take what is the expected set of character elements that work together for a certain aspect within the Story Mind and mix them up. That's a Complex Character.

  • Concern

    The Concern of a Throughline can often be seen as the Goal of that Throughline. In fact, if you look closely enough you will see that the Overall Story Goal and the Overall Story Concern are always one and the same in every storyform. This is because the Concern sits at the Type level of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements, the place where you find the Signposts (or Acts) of each Throughline. Type appreciations are the closest thing you will find to "plot" appreciations within Dramatica.

  • Conflict

    Conflict does not exist without context. One man's problem looks like another man's solution; it all depends on how you look at it. Dramatica is a context machine. By setting the individual Throughlines to the various Domains, an Author determines the context for conflict within each Throughline. Don't kid yourself: if you don't know the context, you don't have conflict. And if you don't have conflict, you don't have a story.

  • Contagonist

    You might see this character pop up from time to time in Dramatica. An Archetypal Character made up of equal parts Temptation and Hinder, the Contagonist screws things up for both the bad guys and good guys alike in a story. Dramatica coined this phrase to describe the character of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars as he clearly didn't operate as the Antagonist.

  • Context

    You really could swap the definitions for Context with Conflict as they both mean the same thing in the world of story. Conflict does not exist without context. One man's problem looks like another man's solution; it all depends on how you look at it. Setting the context determines why something is even seen as a problem in the first place.

  • The Crucial Element

    Sounds pretty important, right? Turns out the Crucial Element isn't as crucial to the formation of a story as you would think. It simply marks the element that exists at the intersection of the Overall Story Throughline and Main Character Throughline. Crucial to the storyform, but not crucial to implementation of that storyform. In other words, don't freak out if you don't get it.

  • Domain

    This is the general area where you will find a problem for a particular Throughline. Our minds classify problems into four different areas: Situations, Fixed Attitudes, Activities, and Manners of Thinking. By lining up the Four Throughlines with each of these Domains, an Author sets the stage for conflict within their story.

  • Dramatica

    The world's most advanced understanding of narrative--the Dramatica theory of story rests on one simple idea: that a functioning narrative acts as a model of a single human mind trying to solve a problem. Have a story hole or an unmotivated character? That's because your story doesn't reflect the kind of thinking process that goes on within the human mind. Get to know Dramatica and get to know the psychology of your story.

  • Dramatica Users Group

    Since 1994, the Dramatica Users Group has met on the second Tuesday of every month to analyze stories--usually a film, but occasionally an episode from a television series. Using the Dramatica theory of story as a baseline for this analysis, the participants develop their understanding of how narrative works as they increase their appreciation of the work in question. All are welcome and the meetings take place at the Write Bros. headquarters in Burbank, CA and are live-streamed.

  • eBooks

    All things digital story. Whether Kindle, iBooks, or plain old ePub, the advent of the digital "electronic"-book made the dreams of those who love fiction a reality. Instant access to every story ever written and the ability to carry them with you wherever you go, the eBook expanded our ability to lose ourselves in a story.

  • Element

    The smallest bit of story we can see without losing sight of the bigger picture. The Element level of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements is where you will find the Problem, Solution, Symptom, and Response of a Throughline. These Elements are the closest thing you will find to "character" in Dramatica as they deal with forces directly at play within the individual players of a story.

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  • Events

    This is by far the smallest amount of resolution one can reach before looping back towards the top of the Dramatica model of story. The model is recursive, which means the bottom looks like the top and here, the Events consist of Situations, Fixed Attitudes, Activities and Manners of Thinking. In a perfectly structured story a Scene consists of four Events--one in each of these Classes. Life is full of chaos, and so should a story if it is to be embraced as expressing the a familiar experience to an Audience.

  • Fountain

    A plain-text format for writing screenplays, Fountain makes it easy to tell your stories on any device. If you are worried about whether or not your screenplays will survive the next generation in technology or the shuttering of yet another proprietary format, choose Fountain. Text files have been with us since the dawn of computers and they will continue to be with us till the end. With Fountain, you can write in the morning on your computer, at work on your iPhone, and at night on your iPad--all on the same file. And if you are geeky enough, you can use something like Git to version control your stories.

  • Four Throughlines

    Every great story consists of four distinct, interwoven Throughlines. Too restrictive? Some stories actually have more than one story in them. Crazy, right? Dramatica refers to each of these self-contained narratives of four Throughlines as a storyform. Main Character, Influence Character, Relationship Story, and Overall Story. Leave one of these four Throughlines out and your story will be incomplete. It will have holes in it. Cover all four and you will have beaten 95% of everything else out there.

  • Gaming

    Everyone loves a video game with a good story. Imagine one mixing it up with Dramatica and you can see the potential for a great story. Engines that modify the storyform on the fly, games that steer player characters down a previously determined epic storyline--several techniques already exist to insert a player deeply into the mind of an Author. And even greater and more sophisticated techniques have yet to be found.

  • Genre

    Dramatica's idea of Genre is not your idea of Genre. No Romantic Comedies. Or Westerns. Or Dramas. Or Science Fiction Action/Adventures. No, Dramatica's idea of Genre is more about the personality of a narrative, rather than the particulars of the storytelling. The arrangement of Throughlines will create a different kind of story depending on what Domain they fall into.

  • Gists

    Introduced to the world with the release of Dramatica Story Expert, Gists make life way easier when it comes to working with the theory. Before you might have terms like Conceptualizing or Reduction or Induction to deal with in your story. Now you have Scheming to Steal the Money or Keeping One's Backpack Light or Inferring Something about Someone. Bridging the gap between structure and storytelling, Gists bring Authors closer to their material.

  • Guardian

    The Guardian is an Archetypal Character that represents the drive for Prudence within the Story Mind. One part Conscience and one part Help, this character often acts as a counsel to the Protagonist of a story.

  • Hero

    Probably the worst concept ever to hit the world of narrative, the idea of the Hero wrecks any meaningful discussion of story. Tied to his equally lame "Hero's Journey", this character is supposed to be the most important. But that is an entirely subjective determination. Dramatica's interpretation of a Hero is simple: the character who represents the personal point-of-view of the Main Character and serves the Protagonist function in the Overall Story. You don't have to make them both the same character. But when you do, a Hero is born.

  • The Hero's Journey

    5,892 steps for the Hero's Journey? Really?? How can anyone in their right mind think that is anywhere near helpful for Authors. It might be interesting from a cultural standpoint, but to suggest that it helps Authors craft meaningful stories is misleading. The Hero's Journey suggests that every great story is about a Hero who loses his state of perfection, moves to the city to get a sword, and returns home with the elixir. It is a weak attempt to attach story-like symbology to the problem-solving process of the mind that is really at work within a story. The Hero's Journey, like the cultures it reflects, is a thing of the past.

  • Inciting Incident

    Another nightmare concept of narrative that should go the way of the Dodo, the Inciting Incident is supposed to indicate the start of a story. The tens upon thousands of subjective interpretations of where that start lies require true narratists to ban the concept from their vocabulary. Better to understand Dramatica's concept of the Story Driver and how that works in concert with the inequity that exists at the center of every story.

  • Inequity

    Anytime we sense a difference between us and something else, we are sensing an inequity. Super smart philosophy majors might call this gestalt, but as far as Dramatica is concerned an inequity--or imbalance seen between two things--is the fuel for narrative conflict. Once identified, our minds have to either work to solve that inequity or find an opportunity to balance it away in a process known as Justification.

  • The Influence Character

    This character is responsible for forcing the Main Character to deal with his or her personal issues--regardless if they themselves even realize they are doing it. The Influence Character isn't a character, it's a consistent point of view designed to shine a light on the Main Character's blind spots. This is why the Influence Character role can be handed off to different physical characters, like the Ghosts in A Christmas Carol. Though, just because you can do it, we wouldn't suggest it--we've tried it. Unless your Dickens, you're better off keeping it to one character.

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  • Influence Character Resolve

    In order for a story to work, the Influence Character's Resolve must be the inverse of the Main Character's Resolve. If the Main Character's Resolve is Changed then the Influence Character's Resolve is Steadfast. If the MC Resolve is Steadfast then the IC Resolve is Changed. You cannot write a story where both paradigms shift and hope to have it mean anything. The Audience keys in on this dynamic to make sense of the story you told them.

  • Influence Character Signpost

    Every Main Character sulks around in the shadows of their own psychology. It is only once the Influence Character arrives and starts poking around at their psyche, that the Main Character finally feels enough motivation to grow and develop into something new. These pokes find themselves labeled the Influence Character Signposts within the Dramatica theory of story. They work act-by-act to push or pull the Main Character into moving into their next stage of development.

  • Influence Character Symptom

    Direct or indirect, the Influence Character's focus on their Symptom creates a stirring within the Main Character. That stirring is often enough to help motivate the Main Character to re-examine his or her own preconceptions and perhaps grow in their resolve or eventually grow out of their resolve.

  • Influence Character Throughline

    The Influence Character Throughline is that part of a story that expresses the point-of-view needed to force the Main Character to deal with all their stuff. Separated into four acts (like every other Throughline), the IC Throughline won't stop until the MC sits face-to-face with their own personal blind spot.

  • Influence Character Unique Ability

    This story point represents the Influence Character's unique ability to force the Main Character to change his or her paradigm. In much the same way that the Main Character Unique Ability reflects the quality that allows him or her to effect a resolution in the Overall Story Throughline, the Influence Character Unique Ability reflects the quality that allows the IC to effect a resolution in the Main Character's Throughline. The Unique Abilities tie the individual Throughlines to one another; the IC Unique Ability ties the Influence Character to the Main Character.

  • Issue

    Closest to Theme in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements, the Issue acts a touchpoint for conflict within a particular Throughline. Situated between the Plot-like Concern appreciation and the Character-like Problem appreciation, the Issue works in tandem with the Counterpoint to offer Author's commentary on the efforts to resolve the Throughline's inequity. To be honest though, the Issue is simply another way to say "problem" in Dramatica.

  • Justification

    Justification is Dramatica's sophisticated way of explaining how characters manage to hide problems away deep inside their psyche. Rather than Problem-Solve, a character who justifies buries the inequity deep within the recesses of their mind...only to have it resurface through the prodding and poking of an Influence Character.

  • The Main Character

    The most important part of a complete and effective narrative, the Main Character gives the Audience a way into the story. Leave this perspective out and you will find yourself faced with a cold and lifeless narrative. Embue them with personal baggage that they would take into any story and the Audience will latch onto them.

  • Main Character Approach

    Main Characters have a preference for either trying to solve problems by changing the world around them, or by changing themselves first. If they try to change the world, Dramatica sees them as a Do-er. If they prefer to change themselves first, then we label them a Be-er. Cool fun fact: whatever Approach you choose for the Main Character, the Influence Character will have the opposite one. Boom!

  • Main Character Concern

    The Main Character Concern can sometimes act as an indicator of the Main Character's personal Goal--but it doesn't have to be. Because we find the Concern on the Type level along with all the other Plot elements, it can sometimes feel like it is a Goal. Really, Concern is just a bigger way of saying Problem.

  • Main Character Growth

    Two parts to a Main Character's arc: the MC Resolve and the MC Growth. This is the second part, the part that has more to do with the process of arcing from where they are at the beginning of a story to where they are at the end. Main Characters will grow by either dropping an element or gaining a new one. If they drop, they are a Stop character; if they gain, then they are a Start character.

  • Main Character Problem

    Every character is driven by something. That something is an inequity--a separateness between things--and is inidicated in the narrative by this story point. If the Main Character ends up changing their Resolve and adopting the Influence Character's paradigm then the Solution to this Problem will be the thing they move towards. If instead they stay true to their paradigm and steadfast in their Resolve, then this Problem will actually seem more like source of drive and will be an exceelent way to describe the Main Character.

  • Main Character Problem-Solving Style

    Not enough that we have to determine whether or not the Main Character prefers to solve problems externally or internally through the Main Character Approach, we also have to figure out whether or not the Main Character solves problems linearly like most men, or holistically like most women. Usually this is as simple as selecting the one that most resembles how you yourself solve problems, but you can switch it up to make things more interesting. Setting this does all kinds of things in terms of determining the Act order of different Throughlines.

  • Main Character Resolve

    Every Main Character comes to a story with some kind of baggage, some kind of personal problem that gives them grief. Encountering the Influence Character they grow to a point where they have to decide if they were always on the right path and the Influence Character is wrong--or if the IC is right and they need to change their approach. If they decide the latter and shift their paradigm, then their Resolve is said to be Changed. If instead they maintain their paradigm, then their Resolve is said to be Steadfast.

  • Main Character Response

    This story point works hand-in-hand with the Main Character Symptom. Whatever the MC thinks their problem is, their Response is what they try and do about it. It is like treating the symptoms of a disease rather than attacking the disease directly--only this disease exists in the mind of the Main Character.

  • Main Character Solution

    This story point demotivates the Main Character by resolving his or her Main Character Problem. Usually only encountered towards the end of a Changed Main Character's journey, the Solution can show up from time-to-time in a Steadfast Main Character's journey. When this happens it only temporarily lessens the motivation or drive of the Main Character. Eventually the Problem kicks back in and motivation resumes.

  • Main Character Symptom

    All Main Characters have a Problem. This Problem motivates them and drives them to do all kinds of different things that create problems for themselves. But they don't do anything about this Problem, because they don't see it--they are too busy focusing their attention on the Symptom of the problem instead. It is only towards the end of a narrative that they can finally see the difference between the two. At that point they will make the decision to continue treating the symptoms, or attack the problem directly.

  • Main Character Throughline

    The Main Character is that part of a story that reveals an intimate personal look at problem-solving. Covering the personal baggage that exists within the Main Character and the Main Character alone, this Throughline gives an Audience the opportunity to experience act-by-act, the process by which one goes about resolving their personal differences.

  • Main Character Unique Ability

    This story point reflects that unique quality of character that makes it possible for the Main Character to resolve any of the issues within the Overall Story Throughline. Whether an intergral part or attributed to, this Unique Ability ties the Main Charater into the Overall Story and answers the question why he or she needs to be in the story at all.

  • Meaningful Endings

    Stories don't just end--they end with purpose and meaning. The Main Character gets into it with the Influence Character and eventually makes a decision whether or not to change his or her paradigm and remain steadfast to it. The fallout of that decision determines what it all means. Was it a Success and a Good thing for everyone to make that choice? Or was it a Failure and Bad all around. What about a mixture between the two? Answering this part of your story makes all the difference between a story worth experiencing and a story.

  • Mental Sex

    This is what the Main Character Problem-Solving Style used to be called back when Dramatica was first discovered. A Male setting indcated Linear, a Female setting indicated Holistic. The story point still functions the same--it sets the order of Signposts and other niceties--but it comes in a more easily digestable package now.

  • Methodologies

    This is a fancy way of saying how characters do the things they do. One of the four parts of a full developed character (along with Motivations, Evaluations, and Purposes), the Methodology elements of the Overall Story Characters cover things like Proaction, Reaction, Acceptance and Non-Acceptance.

  • Monomyth

    Why, oh why won't this go away? Once you understand Dramatica and its concept of the Story Mind, you see the Monomyth and its cousin The Hero's Journey as a failed attempt to codify the problem-solving process of the human mind. They attach words like Swords and Elixirs and Gateway Guardians because that is what they have seen repeated time and time again in stories. Understanding why they keep reappearing in different cultures requires looking to psychology and Dramatica.

  • Motivations

    The easiest and first thing anyone learns when they first arrive at Dramatica, the Motivations of the Overall Story Characters indicate what drives them to do the things they do. Motivations like Pursuit and Avoid and Conscience and Temptation tell an Audience what they can expect from that character. The Motivations work in concert with three other aspects of character--Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes to help round out the characters in a story.

  • Objective Characters

    Who wants to write an objective character? Characters are fun and lively and emotive and interesting--why stifle them with objectivity? The answer is: characters function as parts of a larger whole, as a part of the Story Mind. Sure, you have Subjective Characters in the Main and Influence Character, but the objective Overall Story Throughline demands objecctive characters. Here, characters are seen less as people, and more as functions within the narrative.

  • 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 Issue

    The Overall Story Throughline explores the efforts to resolve the story's problem at varying degrees of magnification. At the Theme level of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements, the Problem appears as a thematic Issue that measures the relative value of the efforts to resolve that very same Problem. Every Issue comes complete with a matching Counterpoint in order to measure both sides of the argument.

  • Overall Story Problem

    This is it. The whole reason why all the characters in a story come into conflict with another. The Overall Story Problem begins with the initial Story Driver and continues until someone resolves it with the Overall Story Solution. Discover this Problem and your story will never falter for a lack of drive. Overall Story points are boring to describe because they're objective and devoid of emotion. That's a good thing--no place for feelings in objectivity.

  • Overall Story Solution

    The Protagonist works for the Overall Story Solution in an effort to resolve the problems created by the Overall Story Problem. Once in place, the story can end with a Story Outcome of Success. Fail to reach it, and the story ends with a Story Outcome of Failure. Overall Story points are lifeless and logical--as they should be. They showcase the objective elements of a narrative. Feeling has no place in objectivity.

  • Overall Story Throughline

    When you step outside of a story and look at all the characters as "Them", you are looking at the Overall Story Throughline. From here the characters look more like functions rather than actual people. Protagonist. Antagonist. Guardian and Skeptic. Their roles within the story take center stage from this perspective. When you think of a story, you're thinking of the Overall Story Throughline.

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  • Personal Tragedy

    The good guys lose and the Main Character goes home happy. That is the basic definition of a Personal Tragedy story. Mix a Story Outcome of Failure with a Story Judgment of Good and you get this bittersweet ending that falls more towards the sweeter side of things.

  • Personal Triumph

    You know that feeling when you finally succeed at something, but you still feel miserable about yourself? That's a Personal Triumph story. The good guys win, but the Main Character goes home sad and angst-ridden. Mix a Story Outcome of Success with a Story Judgment of Bad and you get this bittersweet ending that falls more towards the bitter side of things.

  • The Playground Exercises

    An original Narrative First creation, these exercises are built to help a writer free themselves from their own preconceptions. By using the Gists feature found in Dramatica Story Expert, writers build and develop characters and situations completely foreign from the one they're working on--yet characters and situations that maintain the same thematic integrity from their original story. By taking a detour away from their precious story, writers discover untold avenues of creative expression.

  • Plot

    Is there a difference between Plot-oriented stories and Character-driven stories? No, that's a silly idea. Both Plot and Character work together in unison to help support and develop the story's central argument. Plot Dynamics like the Story Driver, the Story Limit, the Story Outcome, and the Story Judgment help set the stage for the events to come.

  • Plot Points

    A Plot Point in Dramatica is essentially one of the Story Drivers that helps turn the story from one Act to the next. You need one to start the story and one to end the story. One to break it up in the middle and one in each of the halves to break the story down into four movements, four Acts. You can have more, but you need to have at least these five to define the edges of the story for your Audience.

  • Plot Progression

    How does a Throughline develop from one Act to the next? By progression through the four Signposts that define the context of the conflict of that Throughline. Once a story explores all four Signposts, the Audience will know the location of the story problem and how best to solve it.

  • Plot Sequence

    Dramatica features a crazy advanced report that actually shows an Author what the structure of the story looks like to the characters. That is insane. It is one thing to present an objective view of story dynamics and how they all work together, but then to also show what the narrative looks like subjectively is almost too much to handle. Stay away from this report unless you want to cheat.

  • PRCO

    The dramatic circuit of narrative consists of four components: Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome (or Power). Outcome sits in for Power to avoid doubling up the use of 'P' in the anachronym. While not a strict translation of an electric circuit, the analogy exists as a means of communicating the spatial relationship between these components. Combine them together and you create a unit of narrative.

  • Problem

    Each Throughline exists to provide an Audience an alternative way of looking at the story's central problem. While this problem can be seen at varying degrees of magnification, the absolute smallest finest resolution at which we can determine this problem is the Problem of that Throughline. Every Problem features its own Solution and a key towards the efforts of the characters in that story to resolve that problem.

  • Problem-Solving

    Problem-Solving is what we do when we aren't involved in Justification--that is, when we're trying to actually resolve the differences in our lives, rather than trying to hide from them. Interesting fun fact: a linear-thinker's approach to problem-solving is seen as justification from a holistic-thinker's point-of-view and vice versa. If that doesn't make sense, substitute "man" for linear and "woman" for holistic and you'll see why we can so easily see into each other's blind spots.

  • Problem-Solving Style

    When Dramatica first came out, Problem-Solving Style was called Mental Sex--the idea being that men and women solved problems differently. Males approach problems from a Linear point-of-view, while females approach things from a Holistic perspective. Since then, the theory adjusted the Story Point to the less controversial Problem-Solving Style while maintaining the core concept of the idea. Setting this Story Point dictates the order of Signposts within a Throughline.

  • Protagonist

    No, this isn't who the story is about. It's also not the person we care the most about. And it certainly isn't interchangeable with Main Character or Hero. In Dramatica the Protagonist is very clearly defined: that objective character that both Pursues and Considers the Story Goal. Now, sometimes this character can also be the Main Character (in which case he or she is considered a Hero), but it doesn't always have to be that way.

  • Quad Theory

    Everything in Dramatica is based on the quad. Work long enough with the theory and you will begin to notice that everything is broken down into 4s. Four Throughlines, four Signposts, four Character Dynamics, four Plot Dynamics, four Domains, and so on and so fourth (!). This is because this is how our minds differentiate the external and internal worlds. Know the quad and you will know Dramatica.

  • Real World Storytelling

    If the Dramatica theory of story claims to model the mind's problem-solving process, it only follows that this model can be applied to real world interactions between individuals and groups of individuals. Determine the context for these real world problems and set the Throughlines accordingly in Dramatica. Then watch as the same ability predict what will happen in a narrative translates with scary accuracy to our very own lives.

  • Relationship Story Issue

    Elsewhere you will read that this Story Point represents the philosophical argument between Main and Influence Character. Wrong. The Relationship Story Issue of a story is less concerned with an argument between the Main Character and Influence Character and more concerned with the issue that exists in the relationship between these two. If their Issue is Commitment, it doesn't mean they will be arguing about Commitment; it means their relationship will have Commitment issues.

  • Relationship Story Problem

    Less the source of a problem between them and more a motivator towards engaging in the relationship, the Relationship Story Problem brings Main and Influence Character together. Whether or growing or dissolving relationship, this Problem continues to motivate interaction until the story ends or until their relationship resolves with the Relationship Story Solution.

  • Relationship Story Throughline

    The heart of every story. Without this Throughline, a story feels emotionless and concerned more with satisfaction than any real fulfillment. Covering the relationship between the Main Character and the Influence Character, the Relationship Story Throughline is where true emotion happens and where we as an Audience can visit the conflict and attempts to resolve that conflict that exist in the space between us. Once erroneously referred to as the "Main vs. Impact" Throughline, this part of the story is all about the conflict that arises in our relationships with others.

  • Response

    In every Throughline there is a Problem that motivates everything. However, the Problem is obscured because the attention is focused on the Symptom of that Problem, not the Problem itself. In an effort to alleviate perceived conflict arising from the Symptom, the Response is taken.

  • Scenes

    These are the smallest chunks of narrative people usually think of when writing a story. Technically, a smaller resolution exists--the Events within a scene--but for most writers, the Scene is enough. In a theoretically perfect structure, four Scenes exist within a Sequence. But the world is not perfect, and neither should a story. Understanding the purpose behind a Scene within the greater argument makes it easier to decide which Scenes to leave in, and which ones to blend into others.

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  • Short Stories

    Structure is structure regardless of medium, and regardless of size. A short story functions the same way as a "tall" story, only there isn't enough time to explore everything. Take any quad in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements and you have yourself a story. Audiences want to see the entirety of a quad explored.

  • Signposts

    Four Signposts per Throughline, four Acts per storyline. Acts, or Signposts as Dramatica calls them, exist to offer an Audience that chance to see how conflict could possible be resolved within different contexts. Each Throughline breaks down into four different ways to resolve the problems in that storyline. Once all four ways have been explored, the story is over, and the Audience can determine what it was the story was trying to say.

  • Skeptic

    The Debbie-downer of the group, the Skeptic represents both the motivation to Oppose everything and to proclaim Disbelief towards any action taken towards the contrary. An Archetypal Character found often in films that play down the importance of characters, the Skeptic is always there to chime in with "Game over, man!"

  • Solution

    In every Throughline there exists a Problem. The Solution resolves that problem and restores equity. Unfortunately, there is a certain amount of unawareness to the 'Problem' in each Throughline as well. Instead, attention focuses on the Symptom of that Problem, and the Response taken to alleviate those symptoms. Eventually both Problem and Symptom are seen for what they really are and a choice is made to continue engaging in the Response or try something new with the Solution. Regardless of the choice made, only the Solution resolves the Problem.

  • SRCA

    SRCA stands for Setup, Revelation, Conflict, and Aftermath. The numbers 1234 can be substituted for SRCA as they both reflect the order in which a dramatic circuit is revealed to an Audience. Note that SRCA is NOT a Storyweaving time-shifting technique found in films like Memento or Pulp Fiction. The order is determined by the storyform and carries with it a unique signature that helps define the story's dynamics.

  • Start

    When you hear that a character "arcs", the growth of that character's development is either away from something, or towards something. Believe it or not, those are two very different ways of telling a story. If the character is growing towards something, then their Main Character Growth is Start.

  • Steadfast Main Character

    In any awesome story, one of the principal characters will stand their ground and stay true to their belief system while the other principal will do a complete 180. If the Main Character stands their ground, the Influence Character will flip their perspective. If the Influence Character stands their ground, then the Main Character flips--or has their perspective Changed by the Influence Character. This concept explores the former situation wherein the Influence Character adopts the Main Character's point-of-view.

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  • Story Consequence

    You cannot have a Story Goal without a Story Consequence; one does not exist without the other. Sometimes referred to as the "stakes" of a story, the Consequence motivates the drive towards a successful resolution in the Overall Story Throughline If you are looking to increase the conflict in your story, the Story Consequence is the first place to look.

  • Story Consulting

    Someone once told me that a story consultant was like a painting consultant--you can't have someone give advice and make suggestions about a subjective practice of art. But applying Dramatica's core principles is not subjective. By definition it is objective. There is a form to effective storytelling and it is based on the human mind's process of solving problems. Communicating that process and helping writers align their stories to it is our primary mission.

  • Story Driver

    What starts, stops, and moves a story forward--this is the realm of the Story Driver. Do Actions drive Decisions or do Decisions drive Actions? The answer is yes. And like the conundrum of the chicken and the egg and which one comes first, an author dealing with narrative has to determine which came first. Cool pro tip: all your major plot point will be of the same type--either all Actions or all Decisions.

  • Story Goal

    This is the Goal everyone is focused on. Some are for it. Some are for against it. Once the initial Story Driver creates the story's central inequity and Overall Story Problem, the Overall Story Solution becomes apparent. The Story Goal is an attempt to reach that Solution.

  • Story Judgment

    The Audience wants to know the emotional state of the Main Character at the end of the story. Were the events of the narrative worth it, or are they still troubled and angst-ridden about their personal baggage? Theoretically speaking this story point reflects the emotional state of the narrative as a whole--meaning, does the Author feel like the efforts to solve the problem were a Good thing or a Bad thing?

  • Story Limit

    You know those films, novels, and plays that seem to go on and on and on with no end in sight? That's because they don't have in place a strong and consistent Story Limit. Set up whether the story is limited by Options or Time in the very first Act, remind us in the subsequent Acts, and have the final Option or Second tick away in the last Act. That is how the Audience will know a story is over. Oh. Break the Story Limit by changing it or disrespecting it and the Audience will not forgive you.

  • Story Nature

    The nature of a story is either a Work or a Dilemma. On top of this you apply either Actual or Apparent to create a quad of options for this Story Point. Either the characters were right to participate in the Work or the Dilemma, or they were wrong and it only seemed like a Work or a Dilemma. The latter is Apparent, the former Actual. This Story Point is a part of Dramatica's four Audience Appreciations and is a combination of the Main Character Resolve and the Story Outcome.

  • Story Outcome

    Usually this is as simple as asking, Do the good guys win or lose? But sometimes you can run into narratives where the "bad guys" actually function as the Protagonist, in which case a Success Outcome would feature the bad guys winning. Confusing? Here's an easier way. Did the efforts to reach the Story Goal end in Success or Failure? Answer that and you will know the Story Outcome.

  • Story Points

    Both Author and Audience share a common ground--a thin veil of communication wherein they can see through to each other's respective point-of-view. These points of commonality are referred to as Story Points and can be found delineated within Dramatica's concept of the storyform. The clearer your Story Points the more your message will get through to the other side.

  • Story Theory

    The only theory worthy of your time at this point in time is Dramatica. Built on a model of the psychology of the human min and not built on the experience of watching hundreds of films, the Dramatica theory of story sees a great story as representing a model of our minds at work. Story holes and weak or unmotivated characters show up because the Author failed to follow the mind's process of problem-solving. Dramatica helps an Author mold their story into that familiar and ever-lasting process.

  • StoryEncoding

    This is the second stage of the process whereby an Author tries to communicate something of import to an Audience. The first stage is Storyforming where the Author chooses individual Story Points to carry the message out into the world. In this second stage, the Author crafts the Story Points into points unique and personal to his or her own message. In this way, no two stories can be the same even if they maintain the same storyform at the base.

  • The Storyform

    The storyform is a collection of 75 story points that form a holistic image of a story's intended meaning. What does that mean in plain English? The storyform is a bunch of story points that make up the structure of your story. We say holistic because they all work together--they're not independent. The current version of Dramatica sees at least 32,767 unique storyforms. There are more, but they require further development and it's hard enough teaching everyone the current model.

  • Storyforming

    Storyforming? Is that anything like terraforming? I guess so--if building a story was like building a planet. The Storyforming stage is where an author begins to predict how their story will turn out and what kind of effect it might have on their intended audience. In short, it's where the Author structures their story. There are three more subsequent phases--Storytelling, Storyweaving, and Story Reception.

  • Storymind

    The Storymind concept rests at the heart of everything that is Dramatica. In short, Dramatica sees every story as a model of a single human mind trying to solve a problem--and any deviation from this model results in story holes or inconsistent and schizophrenic stories. This is one of the givens for the Dramatica theory--if you can't buy into this concept then everything that follows is not worth your time.

  • Story Reception

    This is the last stage in the process that communicates a message from Author to Audience. Storyforming is the first, Storyencoding and Storyweaving the next two, and finally Story Reception. Authors can work themselves to the bone and still produce a masterpiece that is not received well either due to marketing, poor casting choices, an incompetent director, a lazy editor, or a corrupt publishing house. All an Author can do is predict as best they can how an Audience will receive their work, but in the end the reception of the message is out of his or her hands.

  • Storytelling

    Less about how to tell a story and more about how a story is told, Storytelling in Dramatica is everything that is unique and special to the Author's creative muse. It is where an Author brings life to lifeless terms like Prerequisites and Preconditions and where the story takes on a life of its own.

  • Symptom

    Every Throughline finds its conflict motivated by a Problem. The only reason this Problem continues to wreck havoc is because the attention of those in the Throughline is focused on the Symptoms of the problem, not the Problem itself. In essence, the Throughline is blind to the Problem because of this focus on the Symptom.

  • Tale

    Nothing wrong with a tale. Especially if you don't care about Audience members remembering your tale 48 hours later or you don't mind them not recommending your work to anyone else. Tales are great in the moment, but are soon forgotten as they don't add up to anything more than what they are. A Complete Story offers so much more than a Tale, and Audiences nowadays are wise to them.

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  • 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.

  • Throughline Thursdays

    Every week we post a quick analysis of a great story, focusing on the individual Throughlines. For a story to be considered great and complete it must have all four Throughlines: Main Character, Influence Character, Relationship Story, and Overall Story. If a film leaves even one of these out, the story will feel like it has a hole in it.

  • Throughlines

    Great stories--and we mean the really great ones--share one thing in common: they cover all four Throughlines. That means they have a Main Character Throughline, an Influence Character Throughline, a Relationship Story Throughline between the two of them, and an Overall Story Throughline that covers everyone in the story--even the Main and Influence Characters. Put all four of these in a story and you will be lightyears ahead of anyone else (Except, of course, those who already have).

  • TKAD

    Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire function as the base for everything in Dramatica. And when we say everything, we mean everything. From top to bottom, left to right, and everywhere in-between take a quad of four items within the Dramatica Table of Story Elements and you will find equivalents to Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire. Think of these as the building blocks of the storymind. Because they are.

  • Tragedy

    Want to make everyone in the Audience miserable? Write a Tragedy. The good guys lose and the Main Characters goes home sad (assuming he or she actually survives). Put a Story Outcome of Failure alongside the equally depressing Story Judgment of Bad and you have yourself a Tragedy. Worked for Shakespeare more than once; might work for you.

  • Triumph

    Everyone loves a happy ending, right? Put a Story Outcome of Success alongside the equally chipper Story Judgment of Good and you have yourself the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, if everyone is making Triumphs who is serving the remaining 75% of storytelling?

  • Villain

    Ugh. Who really wastes their time thinking of who the Villain is in there story? Better to leave that kind of subjective interpretation to the Audience and concentrate on writing a great story. Dramatica's interpretation of a Villain is simple: the character who represents the alternative point-of-view to the Main Character (the Influence Character) and serves the Antagonist function in the Overall Story Throughline. You don't have to make them both the same character. But when you do, you have a Villain.

Rid yourself of writer's block. Forever.

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