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!”

But greater comprehension comes with time. Eventually terms like Universe, Preconscious, and even Conceptualizing as a Story Concern begin to make sense in a way that can significantly benefit the process of writing. The difficulties with the language slowly fade as one realizes the reason for their foreign nature.

They’re Complicated Because They’re Accurate

If the terms were simpler, or put into more “writer-friendlier” terms, they might be easier to comprehend, but they would distill down the power of Dramatica. The theory seeks to accurately map out the psychological processes of the human mind. The mind is not a simple machine. And why should it be? It provides us with a mechanism for determining meaning, a way to buttress context against context.

If the theory was painted in broader strokes, the Main Character would always be the Protagonist, want and need would replace Problem and Solution, and metamorphosis/transformation would replace Resolve and Growth. In other words, it would be just like every other story theory.

However, if you don’t mind dialing the accuracy back a little, the initial Eight Questions the theory poses become easier to deal with.

A Simpler Take on Story Structure

  • There are two major characters in your story. One who will significantly change his world view and one who will stand his ground.
  • One of these characters will like to build things, use their hands, and get things done. The other would rather change themselves or act a different way.
  • One will want to find how things fit together, while the other would prefer to solve problems.
  • In your story you will have good guys and bad guys. In some stories the good guys win. In other stories the good guys lose and the bad guys win.
  • The people you are rooting for will feel like they are running out of time or running out of options. Again, it doesn’t matter, just keep it consistent and don’t change it halfway through.
  • Your story will either have major events that happen to these characters or they themselves will decide to take action. Both will be in there, but one will feel stronger than the other.
  • The character you care about the most will either be at peace at the end of your story or he/she will still feel at odds with the world around them.
  • This same character will grow throughout the story by trying something new or by discarding an old trait.

The above relate (in order) to: Main Character Resolve, Main Character Approach, Main Character Mental Sex, Story Outcome, Story Continuum, Story Driver, Story Judgment, and Main Character Growth. When you first set out to map your story, the above eight questions may be a convenient and easy way to start.

Download the FREE e-book Never Trust a Hero

Don't miss out on the latest in narrative theory and storytelling with artificial intelligence. Subscribe to the Narrative First newsletter below and receive a link to download the 20-page e-book, Never Trust a Hero.