The Dramatica Mentorship Program

Our flagship course in narrative theory

Course Syllabus

The following document lists the prerequisites and expectations involved in the Dramatica Mentorship Program for Narrative First. With over four years of practical experience working with hundreds of writers across all disciplines and decades of familiarity with the theory, we offer an unparalleled and unique learning experience.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program is led by James R. Hull, CEO, and Founder of Narrative First. As a writer and consultant for both film and television, Jim provides a practical application of theory intended to help the writer move forward--not hold him or her back. We have proven time and again that a working knowledge of Dramatica is all a writer needs to see his or her story through to the end.

Course Description

This course is designed to help students build a fundamental knowledge of Dramatica while engaging in a practical application of the theory. Students are introduced to Dramatica and its Table of Story Elements, and taught to identify these concepts in narrative across all disciplines. Students develop a comprehensive Treatment for their story, and if continuing beyond the primary semester write their first Act.

Please note that students are expected to spend a minimum of 5-7 hours per week writing out of class meetings. The results of this program are exponential--the more you put in, the more you receive in the end.

Previous Knowledge of Dramatica

A basic understanding of Dramatica is not a prerequisite for entry into the Program. While it can be helpful to have a general appreciation of the concept of Throughlines, and the notion of what it takes to write a complete story, it is not necessary. The neophyte will thrive alongside those familiar with the theory.

Purchase of Dramatica Story Expert

Owning a copy of the Dramatica Story Expert (DSE) application is not a prerequisite for entry into the program. While the student will need the Dramatica application to build their own stories in the future, it can be confusing to try and dive into DSE during the initial stages of one’s education.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program focuses on teaching a practical approach towards the theory. We provide a complimentary subscription to Subtext to facilitate this work.

The Goals of the Program

Students will learn how to:

  • use Dramatica to identify the intention of a story
  • intuit story structure through the Dramatica Table of Story Elements
  • write a complete and meaningful Story Treatment (12-16 pages) perfect for starting their first draft
  • prepare for Certification as a Dramatica Story Expert (if requested)

Required Reading

The only required reading for the first semester is the following articles found on Narrative First:

The last one is crucial--we will be using the original terminology found in the initial release of Dramatica in 1994. Subsequent versions of the theory dilute meaning in service of marketability. If we are to learn the theory with accuracy, we need to invest the time into the original concepts.

Intended Results

We intend to provide the writer with a complete and comprehensive understanding of the Dramatica theory of story consistent with other experts in the field. In addition to helping develop an intuitive understanding of the entire Dramatica Table of Story Elements, we want the student to leave the Program with a substantial and meaningful Story Treatment.

This Treatment is theory put into action--a practical application of our work--and perfect for setting the writer on the right path for their next draft.

This Treatment runs 12-16 pages in length. The writer will know their Objective Story Throughline beats down to the sequences. They will develop their Main Character's personal and intimate development. Furthermore, they will identify places where the Influence Character and Relationship Story balance out the whole of their story.

This result is perfect for handing off to agents or prospective buyers--it will be a complete story in a scope that is both manageable and meaningful.

Going Above and Beyond

The first semester of the Dramatica Mentorship Program, the one that ends with this Story Treatment, is designed to last anywhere from two to six months. Ten weeks is the shortest time possible within given time constraints that allows us to cover the major concepts of the Dramatica theory of story. Note that the typical student requires at least four months, with six being the prime duration.

The student may want us to continue with them as they write their first draft, helping explain the more complicated concepts of Dramatica. Continuing the program into the second semester finds us getting into a place where the complex becomes rote. PRCO (Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome), KTAD, and the building blocks of narrative further the student's understanding beyond Acts and Sequences, and into the detailed progression of every Scene.

In addition, we explore in detail Objective Story Character Elements and how they shift to accommodate specific narrative structures. The final months of the second semester find us preparing for Dramatica Certification. This intense process involves a deep analysis of a chosen work with a test at the end. The idea is for the student to end up with a document expressing his or her command of the Dramatica theory of story.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program prides itself on molding its approach to the student. Extending into the deep-dive of the second semester is up to the student’s discretion.

Expectations of the Student

  • A 1-2 page summary of the story the writer intends to develop. Those with 80,000+ word drafts usually find themselves tossing out their work once they realize what they’ve been missing. A short summary is all we need to get started.
  • (Optional): Watch two films a week, concurrent with that week's narrative theme in the Table of Story Elements Tour
  • Work on the assignments handed out during our twice a week meetings in-between sessions. (approx. 5-7 hours a week)
  • Arrive for our meetings with all work from the previous class completed. We can adjust the schedule to meet the needs and work habits of the student but prefer the intended schedule. Consistency of momentum raises the effectiveness of the program.

Expectations of the Mentor

  • Mentors will be available for two one-hour face-to-face meetings every week. Meetings will consist of course curriculum and facilitation of the artist's artistic intents. We will answer any questions, and head off any questions that will inevitably come in the subsequent weeks 😄
  • Also, the Mentor is available to answer questions and provide support in the interim, through email or Subtext chat. Mentee students are given priority over regular Subtext subscribers

Submitting Story Materials

As noted, a 1-2 page synopsis is the only prerequisite for entry into the Program. The writer can upload any development materials, including character snapshots, story ideas, and treatments--as long as they do not exceed the 10,000-word limit.

If experienced with Dramatica, please do not worry about uploading the storyform. Nine times out of ten, the submitted interpretation of a story's conflict is inaccurate (an unfortunate result of being trapped in subjectivity). We prefer to take in the work "new," as if seeing it with fresh eyes. The result will be an understanding of the story consistent with the writer's deepest intentions, rather than any attempt to satisfy a perceived notion of meaning (the storyform).

Course Schedule

As mentioned, we prefer and enjoy shaping the program to fit the needs of the individual writer. The sections below take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on the student. The following is a recommended course of action given full engagement within the time allotted:

Primary Semester

Section 1 - Introductions and initial understanding of the Author's intent. Together, we will figure out their story's unique storyform, and use that as a basis for our work. The writer will plot out their basic Objective Story Throughline. If requested, they begin the Tour of the Table of Story Elements--a process of watching two films a week, both sharing a common narrative theme.

Table of Story Elements Tour

An additional track available within the Dramatica Mentorship Program is the Table of Story Elements Tour. Understanding Dramatica is more than merely an intellectual pursuit--its a development of one's emotional experience with a narrative.

The Tour takes the student on a journey of story designed to heighten the writer's intuitive sense of narrative conflict. By examining two-three films with similar thematic intent each week, the Author builds up a knowledge-base of the feeling of different narrative structures.

Due to the added time requirements, this track is an available option for those in the Mentorship program wishing to develop this sense.

Section 2 - Delivery of the first weekly Tour insights and the major plot points of the Objective Story Throughline. Introduction and Illustration of the Objective Story Throughline Signposts (Acts) and Objective Story Sequences.

Section 3 - Delivery of the OS Signposts and OS Sequences. Introduction to the Main Character Throughline and development of the Main Character's journey. The weekly Tour continues with analysis and review at the start of every subsequent session.

Section 4 - Delivery of the initial pass on Main Character Throughline Storybeats. Introduction to the Main Character Playground exercises and their use within the context of the Main Character Throughline.

Section 5 - Delivery of the Main Character Playground exercises. Introduction to the concept of the Influence Character Throughline. Playground Exercises for the Influence Character.

Section 6 - Delivery of the Influence Character Throughline Storybeats. Introduction and development of the Relationship Story Throughline. Playground Exercises for the Relationship Story.

Section 7 - Delivery of the Relationship Story Throughline. An introduction to Storyweaving with Subtext and initial weaving of First Act. Playground Exercises for the Objective Story Throughline.

Section 8 - Delivery of weaved Storybeats and completion of primary phase of program. An introduction to producing a Treatment with Subtext and preparation for the writing process.

Primary Wrap-up - cleanup any leftover items and an introduction to the Secondary Semester before send-off. Planning an approach to Scenes that facilitates narrative drive and obliterates any notion of "writer's block."

As mentioned, if the student decides to continue, subsequent sections involve a deeper dive into the concepts of Dramatica Scene Structure. This process includes an introduction to techniques of Storyweaving--understanding how to write and weave the individual Storybeats into a compelling and meaningfully consistent story.

Secondary Semester

Section 1 - review Treatment and give an introduction to Character Archetypes, and the function of Objective Story Characters within a narrative.

Section 2 - Delivery of first-pass on Objective Story Characters. Introduce concept of character functions that accommodate structural intent.

Section 3 - Delivery of Comprehensive Character Functions. Produce new Storybeats for Protagonist and Antagonist throughout narrative, and populate First Act with additional character-specific Beats.

Section 4 - Discuss First Act strategies. Select several scenes for exploration and delivery.

Section 5 - Review initial scenes. Introduction to PRCO (Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome). Re-write scenes.

Section 6 - Review scenes and introduce remaining concepts of Comprehensive Scene Structure (Temporal, Atomic, and Storytelling aspects)--necessary for the development of individual scenes.. Re-write scenes.

Section 7 - Review scenes and plan delivery of First Act Comprehensive Treatment.

Section 8 - Review of First Act and develop strategy for remaining Acts. Discuss methodologies for increasing tension and drawing narrative threads tight as the story progresses to the end.

Secondary Semester Branches - subsequent Sections cover completion of a Comprehensive Final Treatment, Building Your Own Story, and the Dramatica Story Expert Certification process.

The Dramatica Story Expert Certification Program

As noted, the student can add on preparation for entry into the Dramatica Story Expert Certification process. Certification identifies the writer as someone who understands the theory at a level consistent with best practices and identifies them as someone others can turn to for help in learning Dramatica. The past four Experts were all students in our Dramatica Mentorship Program before their certification.

Certification is an additional branch of the Second Semester Program and is not required for all students.

Preparation for certification involves choosing a film or novel to analyze at the deepest level. The student will analyze and illustrate all seventy-five Storypoints of the Storyform. The final result will act as the entry "fee" into the Certification Program and an example included within all subsequent versions of Dramatica.

This work will be done concurrently with the methods and approaches taught during the regular Dramatica Mentorship Program.

Note that completion is not a guarantee of Certification--only a preparation necessary for the final test administered by Chris Huntley, co-creator of the Dramatica theory of story.

Regardless of enrollment in the program, mentorship continues throughout the writing process of the student's first draft of their enter story, from beginning to end.

Building Your Own Story

The purpose of this program is to provide the Author with the tools and knowledge required to develop meaningful stories with Dramatica. As a final service to this program, we ensure that the writer possesses the skills necessary to find and develop their own storyforms--without the need or assistance of other experts.

Rounding out the student’s education, we engage in the Quick Story Generation Process, discuss how to leverage Genre and Sub-genre to arrive at structure with confidence, and explore strategies for communicating Dramatica’s complex concepts to "the outside world."

Additional Course Information

The fee for this course is $10,000 for each semester.

Individual Sections (or modules) are available for a flat $3000 fee:

  • Table of Story Elements Tour
  • Playground Exercises
  • Perfect Scene Construction
  • Dramatica Story Expert Certification

If further questions exist regarding this program, or you would like more information on how to sign up, including payment plan options, please visit our contact page.

We look forward to our collaboration and the further development of your understanding of a compelling and meaningful narrative.

James R. Hull

CEO & Founder, Narrative First