Happy New Year everyone!!
Every year at Narrative First we write weekly in-depth articles covering narrative structure & analysis. Starting in March and continuing through November, these articles seek to better understand why some stories work better than others. For context we use the complex yet deeply insightful Dramatica theory of story as our baseline.
Dramatica sees every complete story as an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem. Character, plot, theme, and genre act as stand ins for the motivations, the methodologies, the evaluations, and purposes of this singular story mind. The closer the narrative mimics the psychological processes of the mind the better and stronger the story.
Looking back over 2016, we found ten articles that stood out as being the most informative and insightful. For a complete listing of articles dating back to 2006, please visit the Narrative First Archives.
Undoubtedly the most important article of the year. Every other paradigm of story—from the Hero’s Journey to Save the Cat! To the Sequence Method—looks at story from the Audience’s point-of-view. Dramatica stands in sharp contrast to these approaches by looking at story from the Author’s point-of-view.
The distinction is important—you don’t craft a great meal by analyzing how it tastes. You craft a great meal by understanding the ingredients available to you and appreciating how they interact with each other.
Functioning simultaneously as a great primer on Dramatica, this article shows how some Authors find themselves drawn to the same thematic structures found in the mind. If you catch yourself attracted to certain stories, chances are there is some aspect of problem-solving you personally want to work out.
What began as a simple blog post covering the smallest unit of dramatic structure evolved into our most ambitious article of the year. Refining a series of blog posts on Scene Structure, this article built upon ideas and concepts alluded to by Melanie Anne Phillips in many of her own posts on the Storymind concept.
Most of Dramatica deals with the broadest strokes of narrative: namely, Acts and Sequences. The creators of the theory purposefully avoided smaller units of dramatic structure in an effort to avoid creating a “story-by-numbers” situation. As this article seeks to show, a greater understanding of the minutiae of storytelling leads to an increase in creative possibilities, not a reduction.
As powerful as Dramatica is, it can quickly turn into a colossal time sink. Dramatica’s complex concepts grant writers the perfect excuse not to write. If you’re given to bouts of writer’s block, Dramatica offers the Hoover Dam.
Certain aspects of the theory remain hidden. Dramatica’s “secret sauce”—the algorithms that determine Act order—remain locked away deep within the program. Many find themselves drawn to the prospect of revealing this secret—typically the same kind of person given to bouts of writer’s block.
It is only once the writer lets go of the skepticism driving this treasure hunt that they finally begin to see the monumental gains possible with Dramatica.
Speaking of writer’s block, here is a great article on how to use Dramatica’s brainstorming features to make sure you’re never left without a story to tell.
Perhaps our most popular article on redefining and “extending” Dramatica beyond its original theory book, this article provides a rare insight into story points seen from an Audience’s point-of-view.
Our most controversial article of this year provides verifiable proof that the way you structure your story determines the gender makeup of your Audience. Often derided as sexist or misogynistic, Dramatica’s concept of the Main Character’s Problem-Solving Style explains why men feel drawn to certain stories and women to others. Read with an open mind and understand: there isn’t an ounce of sexism or gender politics in Dramatica—only a fascinating insight into the different operating systems found between us.
Dramatica isn’t just for fiction. Based as it is on the mind’s problem-solving process, it only makes sense that the theory can be applied to narratives in the real world as well. Once you understand the fractal nature of story and how we self-group into character types in our families, communities, cities, states, and nations you begin to see how Dramatica can help us solve the problems we face in our everyday lives.
The Dramatica theory of story is a powerful insight into the proper structuring of effective narratives. Whether through fiction or in the real world, an appreciation of the mind’s problem-solving process can help us better understand the kind of solutions needed to achieve our greatest goals.
We appreciate you taking the time to read more about what we offer, and we look forward to expanding our potential to help you in the New Year.
See you then!