Narrative First Thoughts on Story Narrative First Thoughts on Story en-us James R. Hull Copyright 2017 2017-07-27T23:11:45-07:00 <![CDATA[Measuring Your Growth And Understanding As A Writer]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/07/measuring-your-growth-and-understanding-as-a-writer https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/07/measuring-your-growth-and-understanding-as-a-writer I updated my official analysis of Moonlight, taking care to explain where my original inaccuracies fell and what specific piece of narrative structure the filmmakers purposefully left out.

While I find the process of correcting my conclusions fascinating, not to mention imperative considering the nature of my work and this site, some find the lack of certainty telling of something else:

ur the master and you're re-assessing moonlight, etc. if last week moonlight was a non successful grand argument and this week it is, that doesn't make me think mastering dramatica will help me get shit done.

Definitely not what I had in mind.

Developing an Understanding

The published corrections on both the Moonlight and Doubt analyses reflect my personal growth in understanding. The Doubt analysis in particular, spans an eight-year period from original to revised.

I find it enthralling to discover something new about a work. Discerning that Doubt captures problems incurred by certainty and works them into a subtle power play between the two principal characters deepens my appreciation for the film. Detecting the missing piece of Moonlight and tying it directly to a specific Signpost within one storyform confirms my writer’s intuition, while simultaneously teaching me how to accomplish the same in my own work.

The best part about the Dramatica theory of story is that it never changes–you do. The theory remains objective and holds that objectivity while you–the Main Character of your life–change your point-of-view around it. Understanding the theory acts as a benchmark for your own personal development as a writer and narrative artist. The deeper your understanding grows, the clearer Dramatica’s concepts of narrative become—making you a more effective and efficient writer.

And that’s how I get shit done.

The Original Analysis

For the sake of posterity, and for anyone interested in comparing my original conclusions with the final analysis, I present my first pass at Moonlight:

Haunting soundtrack. Engaging cinematography. Riveting and honest performances.

But no story.

Sure, Chiron (Alex Hubert, Ashton Sanders, & Trevante Rhodes) grows to accept who he is...but did the film make a convincing argument as to how best to approach that problem?

A Grand Argument Story combines elements of Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre into four distinct Throughlines: The Overall Story Throughline, the Main Character Throughline, the Influence Character Throughline, and the Relationship Story Throughline.

Moonlight is all Main Character Throughline and little to no Overall Story Throughline. The end result is a great subjective experience, or what is commonly referred to as a slice-of-life story. Without the objectivity one receives from the Overall Story Throughline, the story fails to make its case for why things turned out the way they did. In the same way that our lack of objectivity in our own lives fails to grant us meaning, our inability to see what happens outside of Chiron's point-of-view locks us into his perspective.

We feel for him. But we don't learn from him.

Contrast this with The Matrix where you clearly see how a little bit of faith can save the day. Or Whiplash where a little determination can overcome any doubt over how you have yet to prove yourself.

Moonlight is a Tale, not a story. While captivating and engaging, the film failed to make a convincing argument as to whether Chiron's choices were a good thing or a bad thing, and whether or not they led to success or failure. As a consequence, we can only take the events as they are and not see them as part of a greater, more meaningful experience.

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2017-07-26T08:07:00-07:00
<![CDATA[The First Plot Point Of A Story]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/07/the-first-plot-point-of-a-story https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/07/the-first-plot-point-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.

The first represents one of my initial attempts to communicate those new to the theory the importance of not losing sight of why you discovered Dramatica in the first place: to write a better story. Unravelling math equations that tie Character and Plot to Theme and Genre is a fantastic way to avoid finishing that story. Discovering the Plot Sequence Report and using T-K-A-D to Write a Perfectly Structured Scene With Dramatica helps the artful procrastinator distract themselves from the real struggle of writing.1

The second helps Authors define where their story begins. The rather nebulous concept of "Inciting Incident" tends to claim this spot when in reality the genesis of a narrative begins with the creation of an inequity. Star Wars doesn't start when Luke gets the message, it starts when Darth illegally boards a diplomatic ship. Finding Nemo didn't start when Nemo lost his mom, it began when the kid left the safety of the reef.

Star Wars is about star wars—those start when an Empire oversteps its authority. Finding Nemo is about finding Nemo—that journey starts when the kid disappears.

Finding clarity in regards to the beginning of a narrative crystalizes who is the Protagonist and who is the Antagonist and sets in stone the Overall Story Goal for everyone in the story.


  1. Obviously I'm quite guilty of this approach. So guilty, I created an entire business around these avoidance techniques! ↩︎

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2017-07-11T10:14:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Storyforming Wonder Woman]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/storyforming-wonder-woman https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/storyforming-wonder-woman Wonder Woman Ready for Battle

We just posted the latest in our Storyforming Screencasts–a series of videos offering insights and techniques into quickly identifying the storyform of a great narrative. This time we focus on Wonder Woman. In 20 minutes we explain how we were able to single out the one storyform out of a possible 32767 that formed the basis for our analysis of the film.

To access this video and many more in the coming weeks and months, be sure to sign up for a Narrative First Membership. If you have any suggestions for future episodes, please contact us.

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2017-06-27T11:03:00-07:00
<![CDATA[An Update to Our Analysis of Doubt]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/an-update-to-our-analysis-of-doubt https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/an-update-to-our-analysis-of-doubt Over the weekend we cleaned up our previously totally wrong analysis of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt and aligned it to the 500x times more accurate official Dramatica analysis of Doubt. Our new analysis of Doubt takes into consideration all we learned over the past two weeks.

In addition, we added the film to our Storyforms section--an exclusive area where Narrative First members can quickly access complete stories and download their individual DR5 files for use with the Dramatica Story Expert application. For more details on how you can access our complete collection, please visit the Narrative First Membership page.

Called upon by Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley to take over the monthly Dramatica Users Group meeting, I was sure—based on that original analysis—that we wouldn't find anything. Eight years of greater understanding later and living and breathing narrative theory as a full-time career now, the storyform for the film couldn't be more clear.

My previous thoughts on teaching the class explain more and you can find the entire 2 1/2 hour video analysis of Doubt here.

For the sake of posterity, we leave behind our original analysis:

A wonderfully acted film that falls two notches shy of telling a complete story. While “Doubt” is clearly the topic of discussion, it is only within the final scene that we truly discover what the film is really about. This revelation is also the film’s downfall, for stories to truly work they need to explore different themes within each throughline (four to be exact). With only doubt and certainty bandied about, the story feels light and the argument one-sided. Sister James (Amy Adams) wavers between Main Character and Sidekick, disappearing conveniently when necessary for the story to proceed. Ultimately, her character only exists to serve as a bouncing board for Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). In the context of story structure, she only serves to confuse the story’s message. A compelling film that could have been so much more.

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2017-06-26T08:00:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Identifying the Overall Story Issue in Doubt]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/identifying-the-overall-story-issue-in-doubt https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/identifying-the-overall-story-issue-in-doubt While editing and publishing the Dramatica Users Group Analysis of Doubt video, it occurred to me that I completely forgot to address the Overall Story Issue. Normally this wouldn't be a problem--save for the fact that the actual title of the movie--Doubt--features prominently in the corner of Dramatica's Table of Story Elements.

In the interest of time, and hopefully in an attempt to better educated writers interested in developing their understanding of Dramatica, I went ahead and recorded a quick 6-minute video explaining why the Overall Story Issue of Doubt was not Doubt, but rather Investigation.

For more video tutorials like this, please visit our Membership page for details.

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2017-06-20T14:58:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Our In-Depth Analysis of Doubt]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/our-in-depth-analysis-of-doubt https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/our-in-depth-analysis-of-doubt Last week, I ran the Dramatica Users Group analysis of the 2008 drama Doubt starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. The class ran exceedingly well and provided a mountain of insight into a particular kind of storyform not often seen in American cinema.

When Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley first asked me to cover for him last month, my first thought was But there isn’t even a storyform for that movie. In my estimation, Doubt was nothing like The Shawshank Redemption or Pinocchio. Like next month’s Moonlight, the film would prove to be one of those analysis sessions where we can’t find a consistent narrative (like City Lights or Leviathan). In fact, I was so confident in my original analysis of Doubt from 2011 where I said:

A wonderfully acted film that falls two notches shy of telling a complete story.

that I even asked Chris to check in with me before the class.

Imagine my surprise when I watched the movie again last Monday and thought, Well, that was one of the easiest storyforms to figure out!

The Board from the *Doubt* Analysis

All Four Throughlines were clearly there. The Story Outcome and Story Judgment were clearly stated. Hoffman and Streep’s classic “You and I are Both Alike” scene clearly defined their Relationship Story Throughline. Even the Main Character’s Growth–an often elusive and subjective story point to discover-was clearly presented.

One of the most interesting things we discovered as a group was that the Overall Story Issue for the film was not Doubt, but rather Investigation. While not covered in the above class, we did upload an addendum video on Identifying the Overall Story Issue of Doubt that we're sure you'll find compelling.

A Lifetime of Study

Dramatica is not something you learn and put aside. The theory takes years and years to understand and even more years to master. A writer new to the theory said this about his experience Tuesday night:

very fun and humbling evening last night. I feel like this is a life long adventure. every time I think I understand it I find a new layer that breaks my brain. thanks again.

While there are methods for accelerating that process, like our Dramatica® Mentorship Program, it is a lifelong pursuit. That excites me. It means I’ll always be learning something new. It means I’ll always be growing. It means that I will always have a solid touchpoint to keep me on track as I develop the art and craft of what it means to tell a story.

The study of Dramatica improves your writing like nothing else. Personally, I’m grateful to experience that growth every day and to play a role in helping others experience the same.

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2017-06-19T12:00:00-07:00
<![CDATA[A Double Shot of Dramatica Analysis]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/a-double-shot-of-dramatica-analysis https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/a-double-shot-of-dramatica-analysis We finally found time this week to edit, render, and publish the video analyses of both the Pilot Episode of The Americans and the sci-fi film Arrival. Both classes dive into the deep thematic structure of their narratives while using the Dramatica theory of story for context. After identifying the Four Throughlines, we establish the Character and Plot Dynamics, and then visit the Dramatica Table of Story Elements to pinpoint the source of conflict in each Throughline.

The Americans Pilot Episode

This analysis is great as it takes a look at how Dramatica works within the context of a one-hour television show. In addition, Chris explains how some of the story points in this episode set up potential for future stories within the series. If you've ever been interested in what it takes to outline a television series with Dramatica, this is a great video to watch.

Arrival

This class is wonderful, if for no other reason than it shows the various thought processes that lead up to the same conclusions we made in our official analysis of Arrival. Pay special close attention to the difference between how things are revealed, and the actual structure of the narrative.

The Dramatica Users Group meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month and has for the past 22 years. Everyone is welcome to join--newbie or veteran. Please contact us directly for more information.

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2017-06-16T08:27:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Four Hours of Historical Dramatica Audio]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/four-hours-of-historical-dramatica-audio https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/four-hours-of-historical-dramatica-audio From the desk of why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner?!, Melanie Anne Phillips—my favorite go-to for an easy link post posted FOUR HOURS OF BRAND-NEW DRAMATICA AUDIO! And by brand-new, I mean historical audio recorded during the first few months of development of the theory.

I have yet to listen to all of it, but imagine Chris and Melanie sitting around in a conference room with a micro-cassette recorder between them and you get the basic idea. I can't think of a better way to spend your days of June gloom whilst you wait for the next episode of the Narrative First podcast.

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2017-06-05T21:06:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Comparing Story To Outer Space]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/comparing-story-to-outer-space https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/06/comparing-story-to-outer-space The Genesis of a Story

Super genius Melanie Anne Phillips visualizes the process of creating a story out of base compounds and noble gasses:

Think of subject matter as the interstellar gas and material from which solar systems are formed.  This is the narrative space.  Just because you carve out a piece of this space – enclose a particular cloud of star stuff – does not create planets that orbit in understandable patterns.  The job of an author is to look into the nebulous nature of an area of subject matter – a particular historic event, an aspect of human nature – and to coalesce that material into a tale or a story.

Emphasis mine. This is where Dramatica comes in. Finding a great story idea is one thing, coalescing it into an actual story? Something entirely different.

A tale in a given narrative space would simply explore the subject matter and make a statement about it.  A story would transcend that and make the case for the best (or worst) of all possible ways to organize (or live through) that material.

Every complete and meaningful story is an argument . The Dramatica theory of story helps authors develop the argument of their story.

Often, to make a complete argument, we must exclude favorite subject matter pieces that would have to be ham-handedly crammed into our story and would never truly fit.  Further, we may have to include additional elements that really don’t inspire us, because if we went with only the parts we truly care about, our overall argument would be full of holes.

The first is the hardest when working with writers and producers; many find it damn near impossible to let go of their precious babies no matter how much their ugly faces ruin the family picture. The second is no less difficult, but takes considerable effort to communicate the reason why aliens deserve a seat at the Thanksgiving table.

Dramatica and Narrative First--uniting the universe one story at a time.

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2017-06-02T10:18:00-07:00
<![CDATA[The Best Way To Read By The Pool]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/the-best-way-to-read-by-the-pool https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/the-best-way-to-read-by-the-pool When it comes to reading scripts on holiday--and by the pool--turn to Weekend Read. Nothing more annoying than constantly having to resize PDFs in a reader or having to continually scroll back to your location when you step out to check your IG Stories or take a dip in the water.

Weekend Read

With Weekend Read you simply morph your client's PDF into the app and the above annoyances slip away, making it easier to lose yourself in a great story. Bonus functions include being able to highlight dialogue by character--for those moments when you want to remind yourself Was this the guy who was hitting on that other woman earlier?

It may seem like you can get by without it--but really, you shouldn't.

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2017-05-29T19:02:00-07:00
<![CDATA[A New Understanding Of Dramatica]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/a-new-understanding-of-dramatica https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/a-new-understanding-of-dramatica Experiencing difficulty connecting with Dramatica and its concepts because it seems to favor logic over passion? Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of the theory, takes us on a trip to visit The Holistic Side of Narrative Structure--the hidden, passionate side of story construction:

Linear thinking says – logic and passion are nothing alike because logic requires evidence and proof and passion does not. But from a holistic way of thinking, logic and passion are quite alike because each arrives at conclusions, and it requires both to direct and then implement logic – they are team members of the greater process.

The first part makes complete sense to me--the second requires a bit more contemplation. Passion arriving at a conclusion? How does that work?

You and I

One of the most indelible moments I remember learning Dramatica featured this montage of storytelling:

From Dodgeball to In the Heat of the Night, the same lines of dialogue continue to show up--venturing on cliché. But as Melanie explains, their proliferation serves a purpose:

You can see how often that conversation comes up in stories. And yet we never see it as cliché, because it is the core and essence of that duality problem...Simply put, life experience shows us that under some conditions, it is better to see things as separate and other times as part of the same group. This is how we determine friend from foe, mine from yours, and even defining ourselves sometimes as individuals and sometimes as part of a family.

These concepts appear over and over again both in the elements of story structure and in the subject matter we explore in stories because choosing one view over the other is never absolute and must be determined by experience for a given context, yet is always changing, drifting, and what was best seen linearly this week (or in our childhood) may be better seen holistically (as an adult) at this time (though it might change again next week).

Conflict is context. No one solution exists. What works in one context fails in another. With story, we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate approaches.

​And then Melanie continues by defining the difference between Linear and Holistic thinking:

Linearity looks to the long-wave truths, calls them predicable, labels them as a law, sets up rules to impose the law, and defines any instance where it doesn’t work as an exception.

Holism looks to the short wave truths, calls them “evolving,” labels them as trends, breaks down barriers to encourage evolution, and defines any instance where change does not occur as an obstacle.

Both are true, neither is right.

That explanation of Holism needs to be revisited--especially for us predominantly Linear thinkers. ​

One Side Separates, The Other Blends

Bringing everything back full circle to that "You and I" montage, Melanie redefines the basis for everything in Dramatica:

Simply, it isn’t that one side divides and the other multiplies or even one side is exclusive and the other inclusive or even one side defines the differences and the other defines the similarities. No, the way to grok the equation is, one side separates and the other blends.

And with that, Melanie shifts the overwhelming complexity of Dramatica into a simple matter of context.

... point for the here and now is to open a door to an additional realm within the Dramatica theory that leads to a more sweeping and more practical appreciation of the model as it initially appears and as you have currently applied it.

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2017-05-28T10:58:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Storytelling Is The Number One Skill]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/storytelling-is-the-number-one-skill https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/storytelling-is-the-number-one-skill Over on Medium, Jon Westerberg tells us Storytelling is the Number One Skill You Want to Improve:

I think that storytelling is the greatest technology that humans have ever created. Storytelling is the basis for almost everything in our society, and the way we interact, build, communicate, live and dream all derives from it.

Couldn't agree more.

And we would go further to say that Dramatica is the greatest combination of both technology and theoretical story structure humans have ever created.

In the last week we helped two companies align storytelling with their core values. The first--a company that sees close to a billion dollars in revenue annually--was pleased to hear that our concept for their big budget animated feature synchronized perfectly with their company-wide marketing campaign. Instead of simply helping them tell a story, we helped them craft a structure that propagated one of their core values.

A complete story is an argument. When one of the principal characters resolves their own issues by completely changing their world paradigm, the Author makes the argument that changing this position resolves even bigger issues in the world around them. Instead of marketing an idea through imagery, a story markets values by showing the results of taking that new position.

With the other project, we managed to weave the company's mission into both the pilot episode and entire series of a proposed animated television series. By developing two similar, yet vastly complex arguments, into one work, the production company can move forward with the confidence that the end result will be more than simple diversionary entertainment.

Storytelling should be the number one skill you want to improve--understanding the psychological structures behind effective storytelling accelerates and deepens that skill set far beyond simply making it "relatable." Making it truly relatable requires aligning structure with the psychological processes that dictate problem-solving within our own minds.

Dramatica--and specifically Narrative First--provide the tools and know-how to make that alignment an easy and fun process.

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2017-05-27T12:45:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Problem-Solving and the Order of Acts Within a Story]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/problem-solving-and-the-order-of-acts-within-a-story https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/problem-solving-and-the-order-of-acts-within-a-story Malcom Solves Problems by Working the Balance of Things

Over the weekend, we removed the plastic wrap off FIVE of our premiere articles within our Vault:

The first three cover the Dramatica concept of the Main Character's Problem-Solving Style. For those new to the theory, the MC Problem-Solving Style (originally the Main Character's Mental Sex) sets the base-operating system for the story engine of a narrative. Linear problem-solvers seek solutions to problems by looking to cause and effect. Holistic problem-solvers seek solution to problems by looking to the relationships between things and shifting the balance to draw out change.

This difference requires Authors to make a choice as to how their Main Character functions as it explicitly sets the order of thematic material considered in each and every Act.

Why Act Order is More Important Than Time Spent explains why this order is infinitely more helpful (and useful) than the actual time spent within each Act. Think you need to "turn" the First Act after 25 pages in a screenplay and the Second after 75 or so? Think again: the actual substance of those Acts supersedes any of these considerations.

Finally, Thinking of Your Audience First takes an initial look at Dramatica's Audience Appreciations. We provide this article within the context of history. The more recent series of articles The Audience Appreciations of Story dive into these illusive concepts with far greater confidence and accuracy.

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2017-05-22T14:43:00-07:00
<![CDATA[In Regards To The Inciting Incident]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/in-regards-to-the-inciting-incident https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/in-regards-to-the-inciting-incident Joe and Lee work things out

The "Inciting Incident" is a nebulous term and therefore insufficient in matters of story structure and analysis. Some see it as the event that starts the story while others see it as the "Call to Adventure". Even Hero's Journey advocates find it less than useful:

The Inciting Incident is a confusing term and, in general, not very helpful. Within the context of the Hero's Journey, it could represent a few points of action…Perhaps the Inciting Incident is useful in [infantile] three, four or five act structures, but amidst the complex Hero's Journey, it is less useful.

Ignoring the ridiculous comparison between the Hero's Journey and other "infantile" understandings of narrative structure, one witnesses a lack of agreement over the function an Inciting Incident actually performs.

The Call to Adventure

From a Dramatica point-of-view, the Call to Adventure is simply the moment where the Main Character and Overall Story Throughlines meet for the first time. R2D2's delivery of Ben's message in Star Wars weaves in Luke's constant need to find ways to test himself against the larger world's concern of finding someone skilled enough to help fight the evil Empire. The revelation that brother Joe listed Lee (Casey Affleck) as guardian to son Patrick in Manchester by the Sea pits the empty black hole of wanting anything within Lee against the bigger picture concern of a dying man's wishes.

This functions as a sufficient definition of Inciting Incident--if it weren't for the fact that these stories don't start with those moments.

The First Story Driver

Instead of relying on amorphous "Inciting" moments, the Dramatica theory of story looks to the initial creation of the central inequity within the Overall Story Throughline. Dramatica refers to this initial event--whether it be an Action or a Decision--as the first Story Driver. This moment marks the dividing line between the world at peace and the world embroiled in conflict--the world that needs a story to make meaning of the efforts to resolve that conflict.

Death Vader's illegal boarding of Princess Leia's ship is the initial Story Driver of Star Wars. Sure, the Rebels and Empire were at odds before the story began, but it was an equitable conflict--like the Cold War between the US and Russia. His blatant display of hubris upsets that tender balance and motivates everyone to search out a way to fight back.

Joe's diagnosis—shown out of temporal sequence within the movie—is the initial Story Driver of Manchester by the Sea. Lee's personal problems start sometime later, yet it is this dire set of circumstances that forces Joe, his wife, his attorney, and his friends to begin the process of making key decisions in the planning of Patrick's future.

Diagnosing the Start of a Story

As you can see, knowing the identity of the Inciting Incident does little for an Author. While masquerading as the beginning of a story, this mixed-up charlatan confuses issues and mixes perspective in its attempt make things easier. Authors need to understand the difference between conflict as seen from the Main Character point-of-view and conflict as seen from the objective Overall Story point-of-view. A term like Inciting Incident blends the two, leading to all kinds of subjective misinterpretations of conflict.

The Main Character Throughline naturally collides with the Overall Story Throughline at some point within a narrative. Knowing when it does, or the nature of it, matters little to the actual meaning of a story.

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2017-05-17T07:53:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Main Character And Perspective]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/main-character-and-perspective https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/main-character-and-perspective Recently, I received an email questioning our narrative analysis of Arrival. The writer took issue with my assignment of Be-er to Louise's Main Character Approach, thinking the story featured more instances of her solving problems externally, rather than internally. In fact, this writer listed over 40 different examples to back up his claim.

Unfortunately, each and every one of them described Louise's function as Protagonist in the Overall Story, not the Main Character Throughline.

Main Characters, Protagonists and Perspective

When a single player represents both the Overall Story function of the Protagonist and the first-person perspective of the Main Character, it can be difficult determining what portion of the storyform a certain event holds.

Seeing the Main Character Throughline as a perspective, not a storyline, makes the process easier.

The easiest way to find the part of the story that applies to the Main Character Throughline, and therefore a clue to the Main Character Approach story point, is to look to that personal baggage that the Main Character would take with them into any story—not just this one. Find something unique to the Main Character and the Main Character only, and you'll find this personal baggage.

If you look at Louise and the totality of Arrival, you’ll see that the biggest personal issue for her is the loss of her daughter. She is the only player, the only point-of-view really, that suffers through that loss—and it is those memories of her daughter, those painful memories, that connect us the Audience to the narrative. The Author specifically places within her point-of-view in order to experience a unique understanding of time.

A completed story intertwines the various elements and perspectives into one “piece”, so it can be difficult at times to parse out the different contexts for the Four Throughlines. If you can look to those elements of story that are unique to the Main Character and unique regardless of external “plot” or Overall Story, then you will find the path to the Main Character Throughline.

A Greater Perspective

Realizing that not every Main Character is a Protagonist broadens a writer's mind towards a more comprehensive understanding of narrative; seeing the Main Character as a perspective, not a character, opens up even greater channels and opportunities for storytelling.

Arrival is challenging to analyze because Louise is both Main Character and Protagonist. She not only suffers through the loss of her daughter but also drives the plot forward from Act to Act. Separating her function as the one pursuing and considering a successful resolution for all from her emotional point-of-view ensures an accurate assesment of its central narrative dynamics.

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2017-05-09T11:37:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Men Calculate Narrative Differently From Women]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/men-calculate-narrative-differently-from-women https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/men-calculate-narrative-differently-from-women

In the end, there are two alien species living on the planet, each in possession of the secret the other seeks, but that they do not know they have and could not communicate if they did.

Melanie takes time out to blow us all away with a greater understanding of the difference between the way the two sexes think in order to better appreciate how Dramatica predicts elements of narrative:

Not to be cryptic, but perhaps the answer you seek cannot be found from the wisest man because the answer is just beyond what men can see. It is also just beyond what women can see, but then it is a different answer. What men seek is the special knowledge that women possess and women seek the special knowledge that men possess.

Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with her dislike of the terminology switch from Mental Sex (Male or Female) to Problem-Solving Style (Linear or Holistic), and hope it switches back in succeeding versions.

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2017-05-07T22:24:00-07:00
<![CDATA[The Source of a Main Character's Problem]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/the-source-of-a-main-characters-problem https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/the-source-of-a-main-characters-problem Back from the Vault, part three in our four part series on Main Character and Meaning: How Main Characters Approach Problems. Beyond showcasing my turning of the phrase "Main Characters have a myriad of approaches", the article introduces the concept that where the Main Character prefers to solve problems indicates the kind of conflict he or she experiences in the story.

If they prefer to solve problems externally as a Do-er, their personal problems will center on problematic situations or activities. If they prefer to solve problems internally as a Be-er, their personal problems will revolve around manners of thinking and fixed attitudes.

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2017-05-05T10:53:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Establishing A Difference Between Plot And Exposition]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/establishing-a-difference-between-plot-and-exposition https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/establishing-a-difference-between-plot-and-exposition Melanie posits an excellent distinction between the internal order of events within a narrative, and the external revelation of those events:

Plot, then, is really that internal progression of events, while the reader/audience order is more precisely referred to as Exposition.

The timing on this post couldn't be better. In an effort to better serve the writers and producers we work with, we've been fast at work developing a tool that can easily bridge the gap between these two views...

...all the way down to the Scene level view.

For an author, it is important to separate the two. Otherwise it is too easy to overlook a missing step in the logical progression of the story because the steps were put out of order in Exposition.

The response to this new way of working with Dramatica has been overwhelmingly positive and we can't wait to share it with you.

Using this system, you will ensure that everything that happens in your story is not only interestingly revealed, but also makes an unbroken chain of sense.

Without a doubt, this corresponds with our own internal data. Help the writer develop his or her plot so that it makes sense, then guide them to expose that plot through an emotionally meaningful experience.

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2017-05-02T22:02:00-07:00
<![CDATA[Being Rushed Or Being Pressured In A Story]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/being-rushed-or-being-pressured-in-a-story https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/05/being-rushed-or-being-pressured-in-a-story Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of the Dramatica theory of story, offers a new way to look at the Story Limit:

In a time lock story, you are rushed. In an option lock story you are pressured (because the undesired situation remains an irritant until you finally find a solution).

With only 10 days to go before his wedding, Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church) feels rushed to hook up in Sideways. With only so many people to turn to, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) feels pressured to honor his brother's wishes in Manchester by the Sea.

Everyone loves subjective perspectives on Dramatica's cold and objective storypoints. The popularity of our series of articles Plotting Your Story with Dramatica speaks to this wave of interest.

Melanie's latest take on the Story Limit adds to this recent trend in making Dramatica more palatable to the everyday writer. More importantly, her latest post offers new understandings of a fascinating and groundbreaking theory of narrative.

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2017-05-02T21:35:00-07:00
<![CDATA[The Storyform Works As A Whole]]> https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/04/the-storyform-works-as-a-whole https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2017/04/the-storyform-works-as-a-whole Whether working with comedians, actors, writers, producers, directors, and everyone else in-between one thing stands out: they all love to second-guess their storyform. They begin with a purpose in mind, but then struggle to force-fit that vision into a narrative that Audiences everywhere embrace. The problem lies in our own ability to deceive ourselves.

The Death Knell of the Student Film

I experienced the same self-doubt during my tenure at the California Institute of the Arts. During the first semester, students would kill themselves developing a solid story for their student films. We would work the story over and over again until it rang true for them and for others in the class. And they would finish the semester confident that they created something meaningful and important to them.

But then they would leave for Christmas Break.

With the excitement of continually problem-solving the structure of their story far behind them, they would return pumped up about starting a new film. Why work to complete a fully developed story when you can start over fresh and face new narrative challenges?

The exact same thing happens daily here at Narrative First.

A Form for Your Story

The Dramatica theory of story helps writers and producers tell the story they want to tell. By carefully answering key dynamic questions revolving around the central character of the narrative and the plot dynamics of the story itself, Dramatica returns a carefully balanced amalgamation of story points. Follow these points and Author's Intent becomes a reality.

Once writers submit their original material for our consultation, we spend a considerable amount of time zeroing in on the exact set of character and plot dynamics needed to accurately portray their story. In addition we help quadrangulate the various thematic issues and concerns involved in the Four Throughlines of their story. Writers enjoy the process and often sign off excited to start writing.

But then inevitably return, just like those CalArts students, with new ideas or new directions to take their story. Once writers find themselves exposed to the power of Dramatica, they begin to develop a tendency to continue to work and rework the storyform and that's because it's much easier to do that than to move forward and encode the various story points.

In addition, one tends to look the other way and ignore other aspects of the storyform that don't quite fit with their current new idea because they focus in one or two key story points that they would like to see different.

Working Together as a Whole

The current Dramatica storyform model contains over seventy-five holistically integrated story points. This integration, by definition, requires that all these points work together as a whole. A writer can't focus on one little bit of the storyform—they need to step back and see it in its entirety.

As the consultant on the project, I have the luxury of only recently coming to the story in question. Unlike the writer who knows their story forwards and backwards and forwards again, I come to the story free of prejudice. I see what is there and can comment and guide a writer to the exact storyform for the story they want to tell. What I can't do is continually bend and warp the storyform the way the Author can, because I'm not actually in their mind.

And unfortunately for the Author, neither is the Audience.

Writers convince themselves a storyform works the same way a character convinces themselves that they don't have a Problem. They subconsciously turn away from the reality of what drives them in order to focus on the apparent symptom of the problems in their story and respond by continually trying to change it. This justification process—the very opposite of actual problem-solving—forms the basis for what many refer to as writer's block.

Thankfully, writers familiar with Dramatica understand this process whereby a character fools themselves into taking one approach because they don't fully realize the true source of the conflict in their lives. By better understanding how this justification works within a story, Authors can flip the script in their own lives and return to the process of solving that problem of the unwritten story.

If you would like to learn more, or have us take a look at your story and help you develop it into a solid and workable bit of narrative please contact us or sign up for popular Dramatica Mentorship Program®. Over 30 writers, producers, and directors signed up over the past year. Add your name to the list and start seeing your story the way your Audience does--not the way it is in your head.

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2017-04-22T19:07:00-07:00