Blog Post

The Development of a Comprehensive Narrative Framework

May 3rd, 2021

Many writers new to Subtext, yet familiar with the Dramatica theory of story, run into a disconcerting stumbling block: why are the Plot Progressions for the two applications sometimes different? While reading through The Relationship Between Dramatica and Subtext helps, there remains a need for clarification. Why do things keep changing?

I thought I had a handle on where you’ve been going with your newfound HOLISTIC storytelling.  I thought you detected a glaring bias toward LINEAR stories in the standard software engine we use in the commercial versions of Dramatica. 

This is true. The bias, while recognized by Dramatica co-creators Chris and Melanie, lacks the documentation and exploration to effectively communicate this issue to new writers. Thus, my foray into these matters. 😬

I thought you were attempting to compensate for that by shuffling and rearranging the PLOT PROGRESSION POINTS in various Storyforms with HOLISTIC problem-solving styles.  You seemed to be strategically swapping “C” patterns for “Z” patterns. 

Also true. While developing the narrative engine for Subtext, I realized that the temporal progression through a quad is a reverse C pattern (in contrast to the spatial relationships found in a Z pattern).

In the Dramatica model, horizontal aspects account for space, vertical aspects take care of time. Take any quad of items arranged horizontally and the default progression through that quad is upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. Knowledge Ability Desire Thought is one example of this Z-pattern relationship.

That pattern alters when you move vertically through the model. Top to bottom, the same quad of items reads Knowledge Ability Thought Desire.

Having discovered this in January 2021, I set out to incorporate this into Subtext. While the default Z-patterns seemed to work great for Linear Mindset stories, they fell short of accurately capturing a Holistic progression of time. Based on my research of The Holistic View of Time and repeated experiences consulting with writers, I hard-coded the new pattern into the Subtext app.

Exactly which ones you were changing, and HOW you were changing them … I could not figure out after reading a ton of articles.

It was all of them—for stories with a Holistic Mindset.  

It made sense to me and seemed to explain WHY I COULD NOT simply transfer the Points of one of your Storyforms into my stone-age Dramatica software. 

Subtext uses a different set of relationships to build a story. You cannot mix Subtext with the Dramatica application and expect the same results. You can, if you’d like, import a Dramatica Storyform into Subtext but you cannot go the other direction (Subtext to Dramatica).

Whenever I tried, it would barf all over the order, insisting that “Conceiving” come before “Being”, instead of the order you advocated.

The Plot Progressions found in the Dramatica application will sometimes match those found in Subtext—but not all the time.

Coming Full Circle

In March of 2021 I made another important discovery regarding the progression of time through a narrative. You can see some inklings of this understanding in my re-writing.of the Story Limit into the Story Continuum. This new appreciation allowed me to complete my work on the Premise Builder while simultaneously removing the “hack” of traveling in a reverse C-pattern through a quad.

For years, I always felt as if some, if not many, of the Plot Progressions in the Dramatica application were off. Being based solely on intuition, I would often toss it aside and attribute it the effects of subjectivity on meaning.

My work in January re-writing the paths for Holistic stories brought the storyforms closer to what I sensed in my gut. Plot Progressions, both at the Signpost and Variation level, required less “shoe-horning” to illustrate, less falling victim to confirmation bias.

The work in March brought me even closer, removing the need for engineering a Holistic appreciation of the Storyform.

If a Dramatica Story Expert/Pro Storyform is 75% accurate, then the Storyforms generated in Subtext in January were 80-85%, and the latest March versions squeeze by the 90% mark.

What you see now in Subtext is a fully realized comprehensive view of what narrative looks like through the eyes of a Linear mind. These Storyforms, which illustrate the most accurate implementation of Dramatica theory, identify themselves with a plaque at the very bottom.

The March 2021 (c) narrative engine in Subtext is, for now, the latest and greatest application of Dramatica narrative theory.

It won’t be the last. Subtext allows for further development of the theory. It is my intention to eventually release and open-source the method by which Subtext generates these narratives in an effort to leverage the power of the collective. As our understanding of the mind improves, so too will our application of those concepts.

Eventually, we plan on getting as close to 100% as possible. The model itself may prevent complete accuracy, but there’s no reason why we can’t leave open the opportunity to improve the way we communicate with one another.