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Recent Updates

2 days ago

Ryan Holiday explains why I write best when I run:

As a runner, the real race is getting up and running every single day. Life is the marathon. The same is true in writing. A lot of people sit down to write a book. Many don’t make it past that point. Plenty get something finished, but are intimidated by the maze that is publishing, promoting, selling. And of the relative few that make it through there, only some have the stamina to start the next one. To make it a career.


Great Stories

More Story Structure & Story Analysis

4 days ago

Dark and twisted psychological thriller? Check.

A feeling of being perplexed and unable to escape? Check.

A challenge from another to think differently? Check.

A cat-and-mouse relationship that parries back and forth until one undoes the other? Check.

Am I describing Get Out?

Or am I describing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Or maybe Rear Window? Or Sunset Boulevard? Or even Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Or am I describing a unique family of perspectives that form a basis for all of the narratives listed above?

The Psychological Thriller

The kind of conflict encountered in the Four Throughlines of a narrative determines the Genre of that story. Align the Overall Story Throughline in Physics and the Main Character Throughline in Universe, and you have an Action/Adventure. Align the Overall Story Throughline in Mind and the Main Character Throughline in Psychology, and you have a solid Drama.

Align the Overall Story Throughline in Psychology and the Main Character Throughline in either Universe or Mind and establish the foundation for a Psychological Thriller.

Or rather, establish the umbrella for a Psychological Thriller.

The Genre Trap

The Dramatica Table of Story Elements presents the four areas, or Domains, of conflict into four towers. Sliced into four levels of resolution, these columns support and magnify the message of the Author. While the bottom three dial in Character, Theme, and Plot, the very top casts all under the shadow of Genre.

Each Throughline–Overall Story, Main Character, Influence Character, and Relationship Story–argue a different understanding of the underlying conflict present within a story.

By assigning a perspective to one of these four towers, an Author generates a comprehensive narrative capable of depicting the totality of their argument. No stone left unturned, and no question left unanswered–a complete story address all four perspectives and all four areas of conflict.

A complete story–like Get Out.

The Four Perspectives of Horror

The psychological horror of Get Out stages evidence of conflict from the Overall Story Throughline. The attempt to manipulate and coerce hapless African-Americans to “coagulate” with ailing and incapable White Americans describes the uneasy peace between the two parties. Therapy sessions with Mrs. Armitage leave visitors open to suggestion and ready for their final transformation. That dark and foreboding atmosphere present the moment Chris steps onto the grounds of the estate finds its source within the Domain of Psychology.

The Throughlines of *Get Out*

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), at first reticent for a hypnotic resolution to his nicotine addiction, finds the procedure a catalyst towards the breaking down of his justifications. Unlocking uncomfortable memories of the night Chris let his mother sit unidentified at the sight of a hit-and-run accident, Missy opens up Chris’ locked and troubled [Mind](( “Mind - Dictionary - Dramatica”). From his Main Character perspective, the Audience experiences what it feels like to tumble into that “sunken place” and feel as if no one can hear you scream.

Cheerful and agreeable, Georgina and Walter tend to their master’s needs with a kick to their step and a whistle between their teeth. Slaves to the psyches of grandfather and grandmother Armitage, these unwitting victims challenge Chris with their Influence Character perspective of Universe. Both Chris and the help struggle against an unseen master–the help physically enslaved, Chris mentally enslaved. Their projection of what Chris should expect to find at the end of that road compels him to finally gain the courage to break free of his mental restraints.

Chris escapes out into the dead of night only to find Walter tearing across the lawn at full speed. Stepping out of the way, the gardener blasts by him without saying a word. Turning, Chris observes Georgina combing her hair, eyes glossy and detached. Reaching out to fist-bump Andre Hayworth–another victim–Chris receives a firm handshake instead. The perspective of the Relationship Story casts light on these problematic activities and completes the narrative model of the mind with its portrayal of the Physics Domain.

Nothing Left to Explore

With every perspective accounted for and every Domain rendered, the narrative of Get Out warrants appreciation and critical acclaim. One finds it easy to vouch for the film in conversations with friends and family–an acknowledgment of something more than a mere tale of horror. Treasure the technique and expertise on display with this movie and be inspired to repeat the same for your work.

6 days ago

Nothing can be more pleasing to fans of great storytelling than opening up a movie everyone tells you to watch only to find the Rotten Tomatoes score at 99%. After several years of never being let down by this online rating system, you can trust RT to tell you the truth about the quality of a film.

Hilarious, then, when you consider that Hollywood is blaming Rotten Tomatoes for a horrible summer.

Between the first weekend in May and Labor Day, a sequel-stuffed period that typically accounts for 40 percent of annual ticket sales, box office revenue in North America totaled $3.8 billion, a 15 percent decline from the same span last year. To find a slower summer, you would have to go back 20 years. Business has been so bad that America’s three biggest theater chains have lost roughly $4 billion in market value since May.

As the Boston Globe reports (but won’t let me go any further because of a pay wall) The movie box office this summer was so bad because the movies were [so bad].

The Emoji Movie received a score of 8 because it deserved a rating of 8.

Breaking Structure and an Indication of a Great Story

As I explain in my analysis of Get Out (and podcast), writer/director Jordan Peele decided to change the final sequences of the film to mollify a potential reactive Audience. This choice, while ultimately successful, ran counter to the entire argument set up throughout the rest of the movie.

The concept of the Storymind reigns supreme: the analogy of a complete story working as a model of a single human trying to solve a problem is understood and accepted by every single person in the Audience–whether they know it or not.

The Audience for Get Out expected a Failure ending because the model of the mind setup in the previous 90 minutes set a course for Failure.

This kind of thing has been going on for centuries–it’s just now we have a lexicon and a computer model to help explain it (and Narrative First to help solve both!).

And when you think about it–the concept of Rotten Tomatoes has existed as long, if not longer. The groupmind collectively understands the composition and story points of a satisfying and emotionally fulfilling narrative.

Compare the “Amazingly Fantastic Stories” of my Narrative First Analysis Showcase against Fun, But Broken and Avoid at All Costs. I guarantee those in the first hover above 90% while the latter two land below the median, if not at the bottom.

The problem isn’t Rotten Tomatoes–it’s a system that hangs too small a value on a valid and complete narrative structure. It’s a system that relies on instinct and subjective approaches to story out of deference to a lazy mindset.

We have an objective model of the Storymind and story structure. Dramatica® is the way to fight back against Rotten Tomatoes and films like Peele’s Get Out stand out as a prime example of this new reality.

What will the site look like when every film and television show lands a 99% or 100% rating?

6 days ago

Get Out and Breaking Structure for Shock Value

This week I discuss a method for Authors to connect the Characters in the story with the mechanics of Plot by crossing over through the family of Thematic Issues congruent with their story’s meaning. In addition, I discuss at length my analysis of Get Out and how the film played with structure in an attempt to address Audience reception issues.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program - my premier service designed to give you the tools and techniques for applying Dramatica’s powerful concepts to your stories.

Show Notes & Links

Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace

1 week ago

This week, I finish my series of articles on preparing your story for the Narrative First approach to Dramatica with the article Identifying the Storyform of a Complete Story. If you ever were confused or overwhelmed with where to begin, this series of articles–now entitled Preparing to Write a Complete Story–gives you a great place to start.

(Hint: I help you go through this process one-on-one in my Dramatica® Mentorship Program)

I’m particularly excited about this last article about the Storyform. So many writers new to Dramatica and Narrative First mistake the storyform for what their characters experience, rather than what their story is about.

The storyform defines the edges of the indescribable conflict at the center of a narrative.

What the heck does that even mean?!

Conflict isn’t a thing–it’s the imbalance between things. Only, you can’t describe an imbalance–you kind of have to experience it.

It’s like a rose. If I asked you to describe for me how a rose smelled, you probably wouldn’t be able to answer. That’s because the smell of a rose is something you have to experience, not something you can teach or know.

Same thing with conflict.

Your story provides an experience of that conflict for your Audience. Those Four Throughlines that surround the conflict and approximate it for them? That’s giving your Audience a chance to experience the inequity from different points-of-views.

In some respects, the experience of your story is something the Audience could never find in their own lives.

And that makes telling a story something extraordinary.

The storyform of your story sets the stage for that experiential process. It’s not what your characters are going through or what situations they find themselves up against–the storyform explains the experience of conflict you want your Audience to entertain.

The moment you stop thinking of your story as this thing about real people and real situations is the moment your storytelling rises to another level.

Other Updates This Week

Orson Welles makes an appearance on the blog with his explanation of the storyform.

The LEGO Batman Movie makes fun of the classic “You and I” conversation between Main Character and Influence Character (video clip included!)

(I also dropped in a clip of Batman’s 2nd Signpost of the Future that I discussed in last week’s newsletter)

This week’s podcast: Episode 46: The Final Word on Captain America: Civil War closes out the discussion on that shielded goody-two-shoes while diving into an in-depth exploration of the storyform.

And the new Learn section on the site provides an easy point of entry for writers new to Dramatica and Narrative First. Stop by to learn a new concept of story, or simply search for something that has been on your mind.

1 week ago

Everything You've Been Told About Story is Wrong

This week I take a gander at Okja and discuss the reasons why many swayed by this film’s message ultimately reverted to their old ways. Propaganda fades—complete stories last. With that in mind, I then cover the Dramatica storyform and how it holds an image of the mind’s problem-solving process in its complex and sophisticated arrangement of story points. Interested in writing something that lasts? You’ll want to listen to this podcast and begin to develop an understanding of story as an analogy to the processes going on in our minds.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program - my premier service designed to give you the tools and techniques for applying Dramatica’s powerful concepts to your stories.

Show Notes & Links

Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace

2 weeks ago

Reading Ryan Holiday’s book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts, I came across an enlightening quote from Orson Welles.

He said a movie

“must be better to see the second or third time than it is the first time. There must be more in it to see at once than any one person can grasp. It must be so ‘meaty,’ so full of implications, that everyone will get something out of it.”

You know what he means.

That “meaty” compulsion that comes when there is “more in it to see at once than any one person can grasp” is the result of a comprehensive storyform.

Writing complete stories gives the viewer or reader something unattainable in real life: meaning. It is impossible for us to be both within our own subjective experience and without to view the course of events from an objective point-of-view.

A complete storyform grants us that taste of the impossible.

Impossible to grasp at once; possible and full of possibilities on repeated viewing–a whole narrative improves with another reading or another screening.

Want to guarantee that your Audience will get something out of your work?

Give them the gift of a complete storyform.


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