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Getting to Know Dramatica Terminology

The building blocks of a narrative theory

Writers new to Dramatica struggle to understand Elements with similar-sounding names. Faith and Trust. Order and Control. Chaos and Uncontrolled. While alike in the common vernacular, these concepts find individuality within the Dramatica theory of story.

Every quad in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements consists of the same base components of Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire. They only appear different because of the context in which you find them within the model.

KTAD looks like Past, Present, Future, and Progress when seen from a Universe context. The same four look like Obtaining, Learning, Doing, Understanding when under a Physics context.

Universe

Physics

In theory, the above quads say the same thing (Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire), but from different points-of-view (Universe or Physics). The relationship between the items of a quad and the involvement of an Element within its parental context is more important than any strict interpretation of any definition. Appreciating an Element in the context of its family draws the Author close to a functional interpretation.

Order and Control sound like the same thing, yet fail to show up within the same context. Order describes structure, planning, and rules, and is a manifestation of Past thinking and a child of mis-Understanding.

Order and Chaos within Past/Understanding

Control represents directed restraint and a locking down of potential. This drive of constraint is a weapon of choice for those focused on the Future, driven to dominate or Obtain a level of authority.

Control and Uncontrolled within Obtaining/Physics

Order and Chaos are instances of Knowledge; Control and Uncontrolled are products of Desire.

This relationship between Element and context explains why you would never compare Chaos to Control or Order to Uncontrolled within the context of a single story. You don’t control chaos, you order it. And you don’t order freedom (Uncontrolled), you Control it.

What would a story look like if you did try to write from this cross-context points-of-view?

Practically speaking, Chaos describes randomness and structureless-ness (anarchy). Uncontrolled in Dramatica (more accurately, Free) in that it represents a direction unbound by restrictions. This unfettered drive could be random—or it could follow a strict pattern. As long as it’s free, it exhibits a quality of Uncontrolled.