Addressing the Recursive Nature of Dramatica

Down the endless rabbit hole of a narrative model

The attempt to unravel a complex psychological model without the key is a fool's errand. Guessing at relationships and substituting placeholders for concepts remains the only alternative for one given to such an adventure. The best thing to do when faced with the situation is to find a competent and knowledgable guide.

Throughout this series of articles on The Science of Dramatica, one limiting trend prevails: the rationalist's penchant for classification:

How does Dramatica code the relationships of recursive quads into vocabulary words with specific definitions? How exactly do the four Types’ definitions, for example, logically or mathematically exist in a Class?

As explained in the previous article, The Bias of the Current Dramatica Model (2020) every Dramatica quad is a reiteration of Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire—from a Knowledge-based point-of-view.

When looking at the Universe from this perspective, the Past is what is Known. The Present is what is Thought of as the Universe. Progress describes the Ability of the Universe, and Future describes not what will be— but what is already there waiting for us as an extension of the Universe. Within the context of the Storymind, the Future and the Past exist simultaneously dependent on each other as a means of establishing their “place” in the Universe.

Let’s assume that Dramatica indeed has some secret code that changes A, B, C, or D into specific vocabulary words that all makes logical sense.

It does.

But there is another problem. According to Dramatica, the code AADB, BACB, CAAD, and DABB all code for the Element, “Desire,” with the same definition. How is that possible? Taking the only information about quads we had (motion and position), we end up with one word seemingly describing four completely different Elements. Using my recursive techniques, each one of the 256 Elements should be different, otherwise they were not derivative (or did not share the same properties) as the original quad. How did Dramatica condense certain codes all into the same meaning?

By reducing Dramatica’s relationship of quad dynamics to “ABCD” and misattributing them to “motion and position,” you lose any opportunity to understand Dramatica effectively.

As Melanie Anne Phillips explains in her book, Dramatica: Inside the Clockwork:

The Elements are the same names in each Class because they represent the basic truths in the story. They are in different arrangements because each Class looks at them in a different way.

Melanie continues to describe how the bias towards state (Knowledge) remains from top to bottom:

At the Class level, external items rest in a horizontal alignment (Universe and Physics):

At the Type level, the external is diagonal (Doing and Obtaining):

At the Variation level, the external is vertical (Approach and Morality):

Having worked our way through all the available permeations, we reach the bottom only to be left unable to distinguish external from internal:

But we have already seen the Truth distort from horizontal to diagonal to vertical. What’s left? A complete breakdown of some of the basic connections underlying our understanding. There are so many filters, the "crystal grows dark" and our ability to find meaning loses resolution. We can see as far as Pairs of Elements, but we can’t see the Elements as individual components.

The last relationship in the quad, the one most difficult to visualize, is the connection between the individual components and their grouped family dynamic. This relation indicates direction up or down through the model; Past, Present, Progress, and Future are both components and members of the Universe family. The same relationship occurs at the Element level; only it’s impossible to differentiate external from internal at that level of magnification.

Under Morality, for example, we have the Elements Faith, Disbelief, Conscience, and Temptation. Which is more External; which more Internal? Which is more or a State or more of a Process? Individually, they seem equally comprised of aspects of External, Internal, State, and Process. For example, Faith is IN something External, but DRIVEN by an Internal commitment. It is the State of "having Faith" but also the Process of "believing."

When seen individually, an Element consists of all four External, Internal, State, and Process—which is why going down further would manifest an entirely new story. This reality is how serialized novels and episodic television works: stories within stories.

Melanie explains the specific mechanizations between the four sets of Elements in Clockwork. Comparing various Element pairings from one Class to the next, one sees the pattern involved—one closely resembling the double helix of DNA.

Next, I decided to ditch my code-system and try a bottom-up approach to see how the Dynamic Pairs of Elements changed from one Class to the next. The Dynamic Pairs of Elements were never separated which gave me some hope of finding a pattern, but their rearrangement was, again pretty random. For some reason, certain Dynamic Pairs never changed relative position at all from Class to Class (like Knowledge and Thought). I do not know what is so special about these Pairs.

Not random. Knowledge and Thought are always in the upper left-hand corner—this is the bias of the model. Look to the Co-Dynamic Pair for Knowledge and Thought within each Class and match them against their relative location in a class; once you do that, you’ll see the pattern.





Thinking Dramatica an exercise in mental gymnastics isn’t too far from the truth. Given a specific context (Story), the Mind needs to address every relationship from every point of view before it can appreciate the meaning of the story.