Story Driver

What starts, stops, and moves a story forward--this is the realm of the Story Driver. Do Actions drive Decisions or do Decisions drive Actions? The answer is yes. And like the conundrum of the chicken and the egg and which one comes first, an author dealing with narrative has to determine which came first. Cool pro tip: all your major plot point will be of the same *type*--either all Actions or all Decisions.

07-19-2005

Dramatica Simplified

A simple way to look at the theory's eight essential dynamic story points of narrative.

Dramatica can seem a bit overwhelming when you first start out. One need only flip casually through the theory book dictionary before instantly coming to the conclusion, “This is insane!”

04-30-2007

Writing Consistent Plot Points

Break this relationship and your story falls apart.

In a story, the major plot points are either driven by decisions or actions. While a story may naturally ebb and flow between both, when all is said and done, one of these will be seen as the primary driving plot force in a story. This is because meaningful stories are really just an argument and effective arguments have a pattern they must adhere to.

11-26-2009

Archetypes and the Hero's Journey

A better method for appreciating character relationships exists.

By far, the most useless aspect of the Hero's Journey mono-myth lies with the concept of the character archetype. The Shapeshifter, the Trickster, the Threshold Guardian...while romantically named, prove ultimately worthless to the working writer.

05-05-2010

Why The MacGuffin Is A Joke

The idea of the MacGuffin was never intended to be, nor should it ever be, taken seriously.

Seriously. If anyone comes at you using the MacGuffin as an explanation for why something is the way it is in a story, do yourself a favor and run.

08-05-2010

Plot Points and the Inciting Incident

Understanding when the problem of the story starts sets an author straight.

Plot points can sometimes be difficult to pick out, especially when there is confusion as to the purpose of such a device in a story. If one accepts the idea that stories are about solving problems, the reason for Inciting Incidents and Act Turns becomes all too clear.

10-02-2010

Meaningful Storytelling: An Analysis of Inception

Great stories move beyond spectacle. By crafting character, plot, and theme in such a way that those concepts bounce meaningfully off each other, they grant audiences a deeper insight into the world around them.

11-11-2010

How to Train Your Inciting Incident

Understanding that what incites is something easily definable

When it comes to the construction of a solid story, there seems to be some confusion over how it actually begins. In an attempt to generalize and make easily accessible the idea of the initial plot point, many have reduced meaningful storytelling to a generic assumption that can cause confusion among new writers.

11-16-2010

When Failure Becomes a Good Thing

Not every story needs to work out for the best. In fact, one could argue that greater truth can be found in stories that closer approximate the bittersweet moments in life.

In How To Train Your Dragon, things don’t quite work out the way Hiccup had intended. While smiles abound and the music swells, there still seems to be a sense of loss. The reason why this is goes far beyond the obvious physical changes: something quite meaningful has transpired.

05-05-2011

The True Nature of the Inciting Incident

Stories begin with an inequity, one that isn't tied to the central character.

It is the event that starts every complete story. Whether an action or an act of deliberation, this inequity-producing force lights the engine that lay dormant within the context of Backstory. It is not, as is so often misunderstood, development of another problem.

07-31-2011

Story Goals and Why They Exist

A storytelling cliché pops up from time to time, an easy get that reeks of desperation from low screening numbers: Characters who proclaim their goals out loud. Why must we suffer through this ridiculous conceit?

04-29-2012

Unlocking the Structural Code of the Story Goal

Understand that the Goal of a story is more than something that is won or lost.

Stories that amble along needlessly often suffer from the lack of a clearly defined Goal. Without that drive towards resolution, a work of fiction can meander from one pointless scene to the next. Determining the source of difficulties guarantees clarity of purpose for any story.

06-10-2012

The Goal of Every Story, The Goal of Every Author

Focus determines narrative structure.

When tragedy strikes, protagonists leap into action. Battling the forces of antagonism and facing deep-seeded justifications, the central character of any story climbs from one treacherous Act to the next, their eyes transfixed on the prize. But what meaning does this intense area of focus hold?

08-06-2012

Avoiding the False Moment

Audiences know when a writer or filmmaker runs foul. They call the poor sap out, lambasting the creator on Twitter or their Facebook accounts, easily picking apart holes and identifying moments that simply felt false. Everyone, it seems, knows best how a story should be told.

05-29-2014

The Schizophrenic Stories of Pixar's Brave

Two directors resulted in two stories masquerading as one.

'Tis not a typo. If a functioning story resembles a single human mind trying to solve a problem then the duplicitous and haphazard nature of Pixar's Brave suggests a split-personality. A psychotic mess of storytelling, this film of two minds exemplifies the need for a better understanding of story structure.

06-19-2014

The Tragedy of James Bond the Antagonist

It can be misleading to suggest that Bond works against a successful resolution.

Learning to work with Dramatica challenges the mind. On an intuitive level writers sense the accuracy of its concepts and endeavor to incorporate these new understandings in their work. Unfortunately, trouble can sometimes arise when putting theory to practice.

09-16-2015

The Link Between Plot Points

The order of plot points dictates the feel of a story.

From the Chris Huntley if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times archive:

10-01-2015

Determining The Order Of Plot Points

Plot points share a common factor within complete stories.

We get mail.

12-06-2015

The Tyranny Of The Page Number

Ancient beliefs die hard.

From Tom Stempel's Understanding Screenwriting on the great Collateral:

06-22-2016

A New Look at Plot Points

Updated and refurbished, the most looked-at article on this site gets updated by returning it to its original publishing status.

By far, the most popular post on this site is an article I wrote six years ago called Plot Points and the Inciting Incident. And by popular I mean 5x-8x more views then the 2nd most beloved article.

07-13-2016

Our Analysis Of Kramer vs. Kramer

While simple and sublime in its choice of thematic material, *Kramer vs. Kramer* reveals some key insights into how great stories work.

At the monthly Dramatica Users Group meeting last night, we watched the Academy Award winning Kramer vs. Kramer, starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. To say that I loved the film is an understatement. I miss acting. To say I was underwhelmed by the storyform we discovered is also an understatement.

07-14-2016

Understanding the Personal Goal of Your Main Character

The Dramatica theory of story makes it easy for Authors to determine what is of utmost concern to their Main Characters--if you understand what Dramatica is asking.

Beyond their concerns in the larger Objective Story of a narrative, every Main Character finds themselves focused on a concern personal and intimate to themselves. With so much attention focused on this area, this concern often comes across to the Audience as a goal for the Main Character. Whether conscious of it from the beginning or something they synthesize towards the end, the Main Character exists in the narrative to achieve that concern.

08-02-2016

The Tendency of a Main Character to Drive a Story

Over on Discuss Dramatica, someone asked about the Tendency of a Main Character:

09-08-2016

The Refusal of the Call: The Resistance or Flow Through a Narrative

The Main Character's personal problems define the flow of energy through a story.

When faced with the unknown, many Main Characters of a narrative balk and recede back into the comfort of their present surroundings. Seen by many as an indication of "refusing the call to adventure", this unwillingness on the part of the central character to participate seemingly correlates with a key story point in Dramatica. Unfortunately, this similarity exists only in semantics and if left unexplained could lead to confusion and a misappropriation of narrative focus.

09-18-2016

What The Inciting Incident Of A Story Really Is

> The subjective nature of the Inciting Incident prevents it from being an effective tool for structuring a story.

The"Inciting Incident" of a story is not what most people think it is. With the Inciting Incident you want to make sure you're simultaneously setting up the Story Goal with that first major Plot Point. If you don't, you really haven't set anything up as much as you may have tied one Throughline to another.

05-17-2017

In Regards To The Inciting Incident

A popular term of story matters little in the final analysis.

07-11-2017

The First Plot Point Of A Story

An older article from the Vault explains the importance of clearly defining the start of a story.

Over the weekend, I restored two articles into the Vault section of Narrative First: Why You Shouldn't Care How the Dramatica Theory of Story Works and The Most Important Event in a Story.

03-01-2018

What Star Wars and Black Swan Share in Common

The Main Characters of these films possess the same problematic narrative element at the heart of their individual Throughlines.

Always found it interesting how much Natalie Portman's character Nina in Black Swan shares with Luke Skywalker--albeit, with very different results 😃

03-23-2018

Uncovering the Major Plot Points of a Complete Story

Tying Act Turns to the source of conflict ensures integrity in the narrative.

Writers intuitively know the ending of their story. What they often fail to appreciate is where it all starts. The major plot points of a narrative find commonality in causality, in the space between one Act of narrative consideration and the next. Understanding them allows writers the convenience of not only knowing what is coming next but also why it is happening next.