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Go Into The Story

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Those theories never sat well with me. Dramatica's insight that a character is tempted to change, but may remain steadfast, encompasses a much more diverse set of great stories and dramatic possibilities.


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While Dramatica primarily cares about the main character's resolve, it seems to me that any character who has an arc must have a resolve, and probably needs to have their own influence character to reflect the opposite resolve to make the story feel complete. The key insight that I found most useful here is the clear distinction between the Protagonist the driver of the Overall Story and the Main Character the primary POV character.

According to the vocabulary of the theory, the Protagonist is the character who pursues the Overall Story goal. The Main Character is the character the audience most identifies with, the one through whose eyes we see. When these two roles are played by the same character, they are called a Hero. This is a common construction, but not the only one. A more complex story can separate these roles into different characters. Dramatica clued me that there is another kind of story limit: the Option Limit.

Dramatica (software) - Wikipedia

This is where the story is given finite scope by allowing limited options: three wishes, and then you're done. The story limit is the thing that adds dramatic tension to your story and compels the characters to move forward. Without a story limit, stories can just meander on and on, reaching no conclusion, or characters can sit around indefinitely without moving the story forward at all.

I have found that story limit, character resolve, and the four through-lines have been excellent tools for me to apply in the construction of stories. Dramatica's Four Through-Lines Dramatica identifies four through-lines that intertwine to weave a complete story. Character Resolve Speaking of change, another extremely useful concept I picked up from Dramatica is character resolve.

In Dramatica the theory focuses on the Main Character Resolve, assigning it either Change the main character changes their perspective or approach by the end or Steadfast the main character retains their original perspective or approach at the end. The theory goes into great detail explaining how these archetypes are constructed, and how they can be broken down to create more complex and interesting characters.

Creating effective story development tools is more difficult than developing script formatting programs reviewed elsewhere in this website. First, there is no agreed-upon approach to writing; everyone has their own habits and idiosyncracies. And more importantly, there isn't just one single theory of drama. The most widely accepted theory is Aristotle's, written over 2, years ago.

Many theories have been proposed in the intervening years, but few have found lasting favor. That's why many story development tools take entirely different approaches. Collaborator and Dramatica are at opposite ends of the story development spectrum.

What Is Story Theory?

The only similarities these two programs have in common is that both are available in relatively new versions, and that both are available in Mac and PC versions. They were reviewed on a Pentium computer running Windows 95 and on a running Windows 3.


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At startup, Collaborator asks you to choose whether you want to use a novel or a screenplay story type. Then, you're presented with a series of questions, starting with the working title of your story. Next, Collaborator asks you to describe your intended audience and why that audience will respond to your story. As you move through the program, the questions progress through theme, genre, tone, time period, plot and characters.

You can follow Collaborator's presentation or skip around and answer the questions in any order. Collaborator generates follow-up questions using an artificial intelligence engine that can, on occasion, lead to awkwardly phrased questions. Context-sensitive help -- with clear explanations and examples -- is readily available.

The program is menu-driven and most functions and features are accessible via mouse or keystroke commands. All of Collaborator's features worked as expected. Reports Collaborator produces over a dozen reports including synopsis, summaries, character profile reports for each character, plot note reports, audience detail reports, and lists of settings and characters.


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The program's three-act outliner can print your outline on standard paper or create index cards. Collaborator's reports can be viewed on screen or saved as ASCII text files for import into a word processing program. Collaborator groups its questions into four key areas: Character, Plot, Setting, and Audience. These are universal concerns for nearly every writer. Many of the questions are based on Aristotle's six elements of drama: plot, character, thought, diction, music and spectacle. These "reveals" are the complete answers to Collaborator's questions for these four films, prepared after the fact.

Reviewing these examples is useful for beginning writers, although it's doubtful that these reveals will give you any insights into your own writing. Rather they help to illuminate Collaborator's approach to story development. Outlines Collaborator's strengths are that it asks all the questions an able producer or editor would ask a writer, and that the outline feature does help to make it easier to craft your plot. The outliner works on a four act structure. The second act is broken into two parts for the purpose of outlining the plot.

The reasoning for this seems to be that many stories fall apart during the second act, and that the second act is twice as long as the other acts. Breaking the second act into two parts may help introduce the plot complications to the audience but the explanation of the division seems rather arbitrary. Dramatica Story Talk A collection of various discussions exploring Dramatica and its use in the creation and analysis of story.

In addition to the basics, these recordings dive into the theory's take on character and plot development, as well as a few audio essays covering Dramatica's use in the real world.

Reports about Your Story in Dramatica Pro Writing Software

Dramatica Character Development Originally recorded and produced in as a series of cassette tapes, these recordings feature theory co-creators Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley leading an early Dramatica discussion. Beginning with an exploration of the difference between Objective and Subjective Characters, Chris and Melanie move on to discuss Archetypal Characters and how to break them out into more Complex Characters. Dramatica Theory Basics Originally recorded and produced in as a series of cassette tapes, these recordings feature theory co-creators Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley leading an early Dramatica discussion.

Starting with a brief introduction of the Story Mind concept, Chris and Melanie continue on to cover the 12 essential questions of a complete story. Dramatica Theory Book All 38 chapters of the Dramatica theory book presented in individual podcast form.

Dramatica: My Take-Aways

Read by co-creator Chris Huntley, these recordings supplant the need for all those pesky words. Starting with The Elements of Structure and ending with a Word about Adaptation and Propaganda, this collection works as a wonderful introduction to the theory. Dramatica Users Group Videocast Sometimes listening just isn't enough. For those who prefer a visual component to their education, we offer these fine recordings of the Users Group monthly meetings that discuss and breakdown a film using the Dramatica theory of story. Check out the template here.

For More Templates You can view these videos free at the screenplay. Check out the message boards here. Jim Hull's Narrative First This is Narrative First, a collection of articles covering story structure and analysis for creative writers. Published weekly.