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 workinmg 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. A working knowledge of Dramatica is all one needs to see their story through to the end.

Course Description

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

Please note that students are expected to spend a minimum of 5-7 hours per week writing out of class meetings.

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 just as much as someone more 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 program eventually, it can be quite confusing to try and dive into DSE solo.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program focuses on teaching a practical approach towards the theory and as such, only requires access to Subtext.

Please note that a license to Dramatica Story Expert is required for access to all storyforms (all 32,767). Subtext works more as an introduction. Its collection of 450+ storyforms focus on storytelling trends present in popular and well-understood genres.

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 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 greater marketability. If we are to learn the theory accurately, 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 together—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 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 stage of the Dramatica Mentorship Program, the one that ends with this Story Treatment, is designed to last anywhere from 8-10 weeks. That is the shortest time possible within given time constraints that still allows us to cover the major concepts of the Dramatica theory of story.

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 these extended months finds us getting into a place where the complex becomes second nature. 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.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program prides itself on molding its approach to the student. Extending into this deep-dive is totally up to the student. Engagement is available to add on at any time during the process.

Expectations of the Student

  • A 1-2 page summary of the story the writer intends to develop. While we do not mind taking a look at an 8000-word treatment, a 120,000-word manuscript is too unwieldily for our purposes
  • (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

The Dramatica Story Expert Certification Program

If requested, 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 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.

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. We would love to read everyone's story, but we would love to read it even more after our work together. 😁

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).

Optional: 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.

Weekly Course Schedule

As mentioned, we prefer and enjoy shaping the program to fit the needs of the individual writer. The following is a recommended course of action given full engagement within the time allotted:

Week 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.

Week 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.

Week 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.

Week 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.

Week 5 - Delivery of the Main Character Playground exercises. Introduction to the concept of the Influence Character Throughline.

Week 6 - Delivery of the Influence Character Throughline Storybeats. Introduction and development of the Relationship Story Throughline.

Week 7 - Delivery of the Relationship Story Throughline. An introduction to Character Archetypes, and the function of Objective Story Characters within a narrative.

Week 8 - Delivery of the Objective Story Character functions. Wrap-up and preparation for writing the first draft. Introduction to PRCO (Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome).

Week 9 and beyond - Delivery of the initial weaving of the first Act and first scene. 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 weeks involve a deeper dive into the concepts of PRCO and TKAD as we write the First Act of their story together. 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.

Month 3 - Further development of PRCO and introduction to TKAD—necessary for the development of individual scenes. Development of PRCO and TKAD for every scene within the first Act.

Month 4 - Playground Exercises for the Influence Character, Relationship Story, and Objective Story Throughlines. Storyweaving the Storybeats from Subtext into individual Scenes for the entire story.

Month 5 - Dramatica Certification Program. The student will select a film or novel, and engage in a deep thematic analysis of the work. This analysis will include example illustrations of every single Storypoint found in the current theory of Dramatica (75 total). The result will be included in the next version of Dramatica, as well as provide preparation for the final certification test.

Month 6 and beyond - Continued mentorship throughout the writing process of the student's first draft, from beginning to end.

Additional Course Information

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

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

James R. Hull

CEO & Founder, Narrative First