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Visualizing The Various Story Points

Sometimes a quick visual image can make all the difference in understanding a complex theory of narrative.

While most of my client work is done online and through applications like Quip and Slack, occasionally I find the opportunity to meet an Author face-to-face. I always enjoys these as the eye-contact and lack of Internet interruptions makes for a positive and productive meeting.

This week I had a chance to meet an Author from Germany who was out to take a meeting with a production company here in Southern California. Navigating numerous traffic accidents proved fruitful as we discussed and elaborated on many of the concepts we had been exploring through our shared screens.

One area he expressed trouble with concerned the Additional Story Points, specifically with the Prerequisites and Preconditions. Thinking back to when I was first introduced to Dramatica over twenty years, I remembered a visualization tool I made for myself. As an animator and storyboard artist I was always looking for a quick visual interpretation of these complex elements of narrative.

I sketched up how I learned to visualize the Story Points and sent to him. It looked a little something like this:

Visualizing the Additional Story Points

The Goal sits on top as it represents the focal point of everything.[1] Beneath it are the Requirements as they are the steps towards reaching the Goal. The Prerequisites and the Preconditions sit directly beneath the Requirement as they are essential for those Requirements to be met. When it comes to screenplays I rarely take the time to encode these; there simply isn't enough time. But if you're working on a novel or a multi-series work where you have the real estate, you may find these two story points essential towards fleshing out your narrative.

The Costs and Dividends rest in the middle with the Dividends on top and the Costs below. I visualize it that way because I generally see the Goal as a positive thing and the Consequence as a negative. In truth they're both objective and don't carry any value judgment, but for this purpose it seems to be a good way to think about them.

And then finally you have the Forewarnings that eventually lead to the Consequence. Again, I realize that some narratives exist where the Consequence is already in place and the Goal is the sort of thing that will draw the characters out of their horrible circumstances. But for most stories this Linear approach is how you would want to think of these story points.


  1. Note that this is a very Linear way to imagine the storyform. I realize that other interpretations, more Holistic in nature, exist. ↩︎