Last week, I ran the Dramatica Users Group analysis of the 2008 drama Doubt starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. The class ran exceedingly well and provided a mountain of insight into a particular kind of storyform not often seen in American cinema.
When Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley first asked me to cover for him last month, my first thought was But there isn’t even a storyform for that movie. In my estimation, Doubt was nothing like The Shawshank Redemption or Pinocchio. Like next month’s Moonlight, the film would prove to be one of those analysis sessions where we can’t find a consistent narrative (like City Lights or Leviathan). In fact, I was so confident in my original analysis of Doubt from 2011 where I said:
A wonderfully acted film that falls two notches shy of telling a complete story.
that I even asked Chris to check in with me before the class.
Imagine my surprise when I watched the movie again last Monday and thought, Well, that was one of the easiest storyforms to figure out!
All Four Throughlines were clearly there. The Story Outcome and Story Judgment were clearly stated. Hoffman and Streep’s classic “You and I are Both Alike” scene clearly defined their Relationship Story Throughline. Even the Main Character’s Growth–an often elusive and subjective story point to discover-was clearly presented.
One of the most interesting things we discovered as a group was that the Overall Story Issue for the film was not Doubt, but rather Investigation. While not covered in the above class, we did upload an addendum video on Identifying the Overall Story Issue of Doubt that we’re sure you’ll find compelling.
A Lifetime of Study
Dramatica is not something you learn and put aside. The theory takes years and years to understand and even more years to master. A writer new to the theory said this about his experience Tuesday night:
very fun and humbling evening last night. I feel like this is a life long adventure. every time I think I understand it I find a new layer that breaks my brain. thanks again.
While there are methods for accelerating that process, like our Dramatica® Mentorship Program, it is a lifelong pursuit. That excites me. It means I’ll always be learning something new. It means I’ll always be growing. It means that I will always have a solid touchpoint to keep me on track as I develop the art and craft of what it means to tell a story.
The study of Dramatica improves your writing like nothing else. Personally, I’m grateful to experience that growth every day and to play a role in helping others experience the same.