The Dramatics Of Sweet Spots In Narrative Structure

The forces that act upon structure expose an unexplored area of narrative science.


Catching up on January’s articles, I ran across this one from Dramatica co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips on the “Sweet Spots” of story:

Now, consider that just as a tennis racket (a spatial construct) has a sweet spot, so too can a narrative (a temporal construct) have a sweet spot. Sweet spots in time… what would they be? They would be story points. Specifically, dynamic story points.

I say bummer because I was so excited that she was returning to developing more areas of Dramatica that I failed to realize that she originally posted this article almost five years ago.

Five years.

If you haven’t had a chance to read The Dramatics of “Sweet Spots”—or you did and completely forgot about it—it’s worth a second or third or fifteenth reading.

Most important takeaways:

Elements are Processes NOT Objects

The elements found in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements represent items in motion:

These elements are not objects but processes. For example, “Hope” is not really a thing but rather the process of “Hoping.”

Dream is Dreaming. Past is Pasting. Preconscious is Preconsciousing. I do this automatically now, but if you’re new to Dramatica or struggling to understand how a story point fits into your narrative, this idea that the elements are processes not things can usually help you breakthrough any mental blocks.

Story Points Consist of Two Parts

Building on this idea of elements as processes, we add the element of perspective:

But when one of these items is seen as a Goal (such as a Goal of Memory, which might be trying to remember or trying to forget) suddenly we are looking at it from a particular point of view – as the story’s Goal. This contextualizes the process element by combining its nature with how it is being perceived. This blending of object and observer, item under study and point of view – this creates perspective. And perspective is a nodal point – a spatial sweet spot.

The item in question and the point-of-view from which it is seen. This is how an Author identifies the key points of their story’s structure.

In Dramatica, story points (such as Goal, Main Character Problem, and Benchmark) are all spatial story points – sweet spots in space that represent the harmonic conjunction of point of view and item being observed.

The rest of the article deals with the development of temporal story points—dynamics that now are only found within the Main Character Dynamics like Main Character Resolve and Plot Dynamics like Story Outcome and Story Judgment.

The development of this dynamic model is so essential to the progression of narrative theory.

Much like signposts and journeys enable the translation of narrative meaning to narrative sequence, such a model would hold insight into the relationship between time and space, the smallest sub-atomic particles and the world of quantum theory across that bridge from matter to probability.