For Story



Home Mail:

For Story


Write Your Novel or Screenplay Step By Step

Try it Risk-Free for 90 Days

Contact Us - About Us - Lowest Price Guarantee - Shipping - Return Policy

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips - Owner,, Creator Storyweaver, Co-creator Dramatica




Dramatica Articles on Writing Free Online Writing Classes in Streaming Video

Follow Us

Follow Us at Interactive Story Engine

Novel Writing Software

Write Your Novel or Screenplay Step by Step

Thousands of writers use StoryWeaver to build their story’s world, characters, plot, theme,
and genre.

Try it Risk-Free!
Click for Details

Try it Risk-Free!
Click for Details

Thousands of writers use Dramatica to find and refine their story’s structure and to find and fix holes and missteps.

Key Features Key Features

Free Bonus Package The Writer's Survival Kit Bonus Package

Try it Risk-Free for 90 Days!

Click for Details

Free Bonus PackageThe Writer's Survival Kit Bonus Package

Try it Risk-Free for 90 Days!

Click for Details

Dramatica: The “Lost” Theory Book

By Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator StoryWeaver Co-creator Dramatica

Download to your Kindle for $2.99


Before the final version of Dramatica – a New Theory of Story there was an earlier draft that contained unfinished concepts and additional theory that was ultimately deemed “too complex”.  As a result, this material was never fully developed, was cut from the final version of the book, and has never seen the light of day — until now! Recently, a copy of this early draft surfaced in the theory archives. The following are excerpts from this “lost” text.


Because the text that follows was not fully developed, portions may be incomplete, inaccurate, or actually quite wrong.

It is presented as a look into the history of the development of Dramatica and also as a source of additional theory concepts that (with further development) may prove useful.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 1)


Everybody loves a good story.

“Good” stories seem to transcend language, culture, age, sex, and even time. They speak to us in some universal language. But what makes a story good? And what exactly is that universal language?

Stories can be expressed in any number of ways. They can be related verbally through the spoken word and song. They can be told visually through art and dance. For every sense there are numerous forms of expression. There almost seems no limit to how stories can be related.

Yet for all of its variety, the question remains: “What makes a good story, “good”? What makes a bad story, “bad”"?

This book presents a completely new way to look at stories – a way that explains the universal language of stories not just in terms of how it works, but why and how that language was developed in the first place. By discovering what human purposes stories fulfill, we can gain a full understanding of what they need to do, and therefore what we, as authors need to do to create “good” stories.

To that end, Dramatica does not just describe how stories work, but how they should work.

Storyforming vs. Storytelling

Before we proceed, it is important to separate Storyform from Storytelling. As an example of what we mean, if we compare West Side Story to Romeo and Juliet, we can see that they are essentially the same story, told in a different way. The concept that an underlying structure exists that is then represented in a subjective relating of that structure is not new to traditional theories of story. In fact, Narrative Theory in general assumes such a division.

Specifically, Structuralist theory sees story as having a histoire consisting of plot, character and setting, and a discours that is the storytelling. The Russian Formalists separated things a bit differently, though along similar lines seeing story as half fable or “fabula”, which also contained the order in which events actually happened in the fable, and the “sjuzet”, which was the order in which these events were revealed to an audience.

These concepts date back at least as far as Aristotle’s Poetics.

In Dramatica, Story is seen as containing both structure and dynamics that include Character, Theme, Plot, and Perspective, while classifying the specific manner in which the story points are illustrated and the order information is given to the audience into the realm of storytelling.

Storyforming: an argument that a specific approach is the best (or worst) solution to a particular problem

Storytelling: the portrayal of the argument as interpreted by the author

Picture five different artists, each painting her interpretation of the same rose. One might be highly impressionistic, another in charcoal. They are any number of styles an artist might choose to illustrate the rose. Certainly the finished products are works of art. Yet behind the art is the objective structure of the rose itself: the object that was being portrayed.

The paintings are hung side by side in a gallery, and we, as sophisticated art critics, are invited to view them. We might have very strong feelings about the manner in which the artists approached their subject, and we may even argue that the subject itself was or was not an appropriate choice. Yet, if asked to describe the actual rose solely on the basis of what we see in the paintings, our savvy would probably fail us.

We can clearly see that each painting is of a rose. In fact, depending on the degree of realism, we may come to the conclusion that all the paintings are of the same rose. In that case, each artist has succeeded in conveying the subject. Yet, there is so much detail missing. Each artist may have seen the rose from a slightly different position. Each artist has chosen to accentuate certain qualities of the rose at the expense of others. That is how the un-embellished subject is imbued with the qualities of each artist, and the subject takes on a personal quality.

This illustrates a problem that has plagued story analysts and theorists from day one:

Once the story is told, it is nearly impossible to separate the story from the telling unless you know what the author actually had in mind.

Certainly the larger patterns and dramatic broad strokes can be seen working within a story, but many times it is very difficult to tell if a particular point, event, or illustration was merely chosen by the author’s preference of subject matter or if it was an essential part of the structure and dynamics of the argument itself.

Let’s sit in once more on our first storyteller. She was telling us about her run-in with a bear. But what if it had been a lion instead? Would it have made a difference to the story? Would it have made it a different story altogether?

If the story’s problem was about her approach to escaping from any wild animal, then it wouldn’t really matter if it were a bear or a lion; the argument might be made equally well by the use of either. But if her point was to argue her approach toward escaping from bears specifically, then certainly changing the culprit to a lion would not serve her story well.

Essentially, the difference between story and storytelling is like the difference between denotation and connotation. Story denotatively documents all of the essential points of the argument in their appropriate relationships, and storytelling shades the point with information nonessential to the argument itself (although it often touches on the same subject).

In summary, even the best structured story does not often exist as an austere problem solving argument, devoid of personality. Rather, the author embellishes her message with connotative frills that speak more of her interests in the subject than of the argument she is making about it. But for the purposes of understanding the dramatic structure of the piece, it is essential to separate story from storytelling.

Traditionally, theories of story have looked at existing works and attempted to classify patterns that could be seen to be present in several stories. In fact, even today, computer scientists working in “narrative intelligence” gather enormous data bases of existing stories that are broken down into every discernable pattern in the attempt to create a program that can actually tell stories.

Dramatica was not created by observing existing stories and looking for patterns, but by asking new questions: Why should there be characters at all? What is the purpose of Act divisions? What is the reason for Scenes? In short, Why are there stories in the first place?

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 2)

 How Stories Came to Be



Note about this section:

As we developed the concept of the Story Mind, we began to wonder how it might have come to be that stories function as analogies to the human mind. The attempt at that explanation which follows is an early effort that misses some of the key ingredients, but also provides a more emotional perspective on the topic which was lost in the final, logistically polished version. Although somewhat inaccurate, I find this embryonic explanation much more intuitive and in a sense more “charming.”

How Stories Came to Be

Any writer who has sought to understand the workings of story is familiar with the terms “Character”, “Plot”, “Theme”, “Genre”, “Premise”, “Act”, “Scene”, and many others. Although there is much agreement on the generalities of these concepts, they have proven to be elusive when precise definitions are attempted. Dramatica presents the first definitive explanation of exactly what stories are and precisely how they are structured.

The dramatic conventions that form the framework of stories today did not spring fully developed upon us. Rather, the creation of these conventions was an evolutionary process dating far into our past. It was not an arbitrary effort, but served specific needs.

Early in the art of communication, knowledge could be exchanged about such things as where to find food, or how one felt – happy or sad . Information regarding the location or state of things requires only a description. However, when relating an event or series of events, a more sophisticated kind of knowledge needs to be communicated.  Tales

Imagine the very first story teller, perhaps a cave dweller who has just returned from a run-in with a bear. This has been an important event in her life and she desires to share it. She will not only need to convey the concepts “bear” and “myself”, but must also describe what happened.

Her presentation then, might document what led up to her discovery of the bear, the interactions between them, and the manner in which she returned safely to tell the tale.

Tale: a statement (fictional or non-fictional) that describes a problem, the methods employed in the attempt to solve the problem, and how it all came out.

We can imagine why someone would want to tell a tale, but why would others listen? There are some purely practical reasons: if the storyteller faced a problem and discovered a way to succeed in it, that experience might someday be useful in the lives of the each individual in the audience. And if the storyteller didn’t succeed, the tale can act as a warning as to which approaches to avoid.

By listening to a tale, an audience benefits from knowledge they have not gained directly through their own experience.

So, a tale is a statement documenting an approach to problem solving that provides an audience with valuable experience.  Stories, Objective and Subjective

When relating her tale, the first storyteller had an advantage she did not have when she actually experienced the event: the benefit of hindsight. The ability to look back and re-evaluate her decisions from a more objective perspective allowed her to share a step by step evaluation of her approach, and an appreciation of the ultimate outcome. In this way, valid steps could be separated from poorly chosen steps and thereby provide a much more useful interpretation of the problem solving process than simply whether she ultimately succeeded or failed.

This objective view might be interwoven with the subjective view, such as when one says, “I didn’t know it at the time, but….” In this manner, the benefit of objective hindsight can temper the subjective immediacy each step of the way, as it happens. This provides the audience with an ongoing commentary as to the eventual correctness of the subjective view. It is this differential between the subjective view and the objective view that creates the dramatic potential of a story.

Through the Subjective view, the audience can empathize with the uncertainty that the storyteller felt as she grapples with the problem. Through the Objective view, the storyteller can argue that her Subjective approach was or was not an appropriate solution.

In short then:

Stories provide two views to the audience:• A Subjective view that allows the audience to feel as if the story is happening to them

• An Objective view that furnishes the benefit of hindsight.  The Objective view satisfies our reason, the subjective view satisfies our feelings.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 3)



NOTE: This excerpt errs in seeing only two points of view – the Main Character (Subjective) and Author (Objective). Later it was discovered that there are four points of view – Main Character, Obstacle Character, Subjective Story, and Objective Story.

Stories have traditionally been viewed as a series of events affecting independently-acting characters — but not to Dramatica. Dramatica sees every character, conflict, action or decision as aspects of a single mind trying to solve a problem. This mind, the Story Mind, is not the mind of the author, the audience, nor any of the characters, but of the story itself. The process of problem solving is the unfolding of the story.

But why a mind? Certainly this was not the intent behind the introduction of stories as an art form. Rather, from the days of the first storytellers right up through the present, when a technique worked, it was repeated and copied and became part of the “conventions” of storytelling. Such concepts as the Act and the Scene, Character, Plot and Theme, evolved by such trial and error.

And yet, the focus was never on WHY these things should exist, but how to employ them. The Dramatica Theory states that stories exist because they help us deal with problems in our own lives. Further, this is because stories give us two views of the problem.

One view is through the eyes of a Main Character. This is a Subjective view, the view FROM the Story Mind as it deals with the problem. This is much like our own limited view or our own problems.

But stories also provide us with the Author’s Objective view, the view OF the story mind as it deals with a problem. This is more like a “God’s eye view” that we don’t have in real life.

In a sense, we can relate emotionally to a story because we empathize with the Main Character’s Subjective view, and yet relate logically to the problem through the Author’s Objective view.

This is much like the difference between standing in the shoes of the soldier in the trenches or the general on the hill. Both are watching the same battle, but they see it in completely different terms.

In this way, stories provide us with a view that is akin to our own attempt to deal with our personal problems while providing an objective view of how our problems relate to the “Bigger Picture”. That is why we enjoy stories, why they even exist, and why they are structured as they are.

Armed with this Rosetta Stone concept we spent 12 years re-examining stories and creating a map of the Story Mind. Ultimately, we succeeded.

The Dramatica Model of the Story Mind is similar to a Rubik’s Cube. Just as a Rubik’s Cube has a finite number of pieces, families of parts (corners, edge pieces) and specific rules for movement, the Dramatica model has a finite size, specific natures to its parts, coordinated rules for movement, and the possibility to create an almost infinite variety of stories — each unique, each accurate to the model, and each true to the author’s own intent.

The concept of a limited number of pieces frequently precipitates a “gut reaction” that the system must itself be limiting and formulaic. Rather, without some kind of limit, structure cannot exist. Further, the number of parts has little to do with the potential variety when dynamics are added to the system. For example, DNA has only FOUR basic building blocks, and yet when arranged in the dynamic matrix of the double helix DNA chain, is able to create all the forms of life that inhabit the planet.

The key to a system that has identity, but not at the expense of variety, is a flexible structure. In a Rubik’s cube, corners stay corners and edges stay edges no matter how you turn it. And because all the parts are linked, when you make a change on the side you are concentrating on, it makes appropriate changes on the sides of the structure you are not paying attention to.

And THAT is the value of Dramatica to an author: that it defines the elements of story, how they are related and how to manipulate them. Plot, Theme, Character, Conflict, the purpose of Acts, Scenes, Action and Decision, all are represented in the Dramatica model, and all are interrelated. It is the flexible nature of the structure that allows an author to create a story that has form without formula

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 4)


Problems & Dilemmas

NOTE: This excerpt errs in describing Mind and Universe almost as if they were points of view, rather than the areas that are observed. In actuality, it is the combination of a point of view with an area under observation that creates perspective – the foundation of dramatic meaning.


Without a problem, the Dramatica Model, like the mind it represents, is at rest or Neutral. All of the pieces within the model are balanced and no dramatic potential exists. But when a problem is introduced, that equilibrium becomes unbalanced. We call that imbalance an Inequity. An inequity provides the impetus to drive the story forward and causes the Story Mind to start the problem solving process.

Work Stories and Dilemma Stories

In Dramatica, we differentiate between solvable and unsolvable problems. The solvable problem is, simply, a problem, whereas an unsolvable problem is called a Dilemma. In stories, as in life, we cannot tell at the beginning whether a problem is solvable or not because we cannot know the future. Only by going through the process of problem solving can we discover if the problem can be solved at all.

If the Problem CAN be solved, though the effort may be difficult or dangerous, and in the end we DO succeed by working at it, we have a Work Story. But if the Problem CAN’T be solved, in the case of a Dilemma, once everything possible has been tried and the Problem still remains, we have a Dilemma Story.

Mind and Universe

At the most basic level, all problems are the result of inequities between Mind (ourselves) and Universe (the environment). When Mind and Universe are in balance, they are in Equity and there is neither a problem nor a story. When the Mind and Universe are out of balance, and Inequity exists between them, there is a problem and a story to be told about solving that problem.

Example: Jane wants a new leather jacket that costs $300.00. She does not have $300.00 to buy the jacket. We can see the Inequity by comparing the state of Jane’s Mind (her desire for the new jacket) to the state of the Universe (not having the jacket).

Note that the problem is not caused solely by Jane’s desire for a jacket, nor by the physical situation of not having one, but only because Mind and Universe are unbalanced. In truth, the problem is not with one or the other, but between the two.

There are two ways to remove the Inequity and resolve the problem. If we change Jane’s Mind and remove her desire for the new jacket — no more problem. If we change the Universe and supply Jane with the new jacket by either giving her the jacket or the money to buy it — no more problem. Both solutions balance the Inequity.

Subjective and Objective Views

From an outside or objective point of view, one solution is as good as another. Objectively, it doesn’t matter if Jane changes her Mind or the Universe changes its configuration so long as the inequity is removed.

However, from an inside or subjective point of view, it may matter a great deal to Jane if she has to change her Mind or the Universe around her to remove the Inequity. Therefore, the subjective point of view differs from the objective point of view in that personal biases affect the evaluation of the problem and the solution. Though objectively the solutions have equal weight, subjectively one solution may appear to be better than another.

Stories are useful to us as an audience because they provide both the Subjective view of the problem and the Objective view of the solution that we cannot see in real life. It is this Objective view that shows us important information outside our own limited perspective, providing a sense of the big picture and thereby helping us to learn how to handle similar problems in our own lives.

If the Subjective view is seen as the perspective of the soldier in the trenches, the Objective view would be the perspective of the General watching the engagement from a hill above the field of battle. When we see things Objectively, we are looking at the Characters as various people doing various things. When we are watching the story Subjectively, we actually stand in the shoes of a Character as if the story were happening to us.

A story provides both of these views interwoven throughout its unfolding. This is accomplished by having a cast of Objective Characters, and also special Subjective Characters. The Objective Characters serve as metaphors for specific methods of dealing with problems. The Subjective Characters serve as metaphors for THE specific method of dealing with problems that is crucial to the particular problem of that story.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 5)

Dynamic Pairs and Quads

Note: This excerpt errs in describing the Objective Characters as being defined by their relationship to the Protagonist. In fact, the Objective Characters exhibit their characteristics in relation to the story as a whole.

Dynamic Pairs and Quads

The simplest expression of story dynamics is represented by the Dynamic Pair — two opposing forces between which an Inequity can be measured — which forms the basis of conflict. Examples include: Chaos and Order, Logic and Emotion, and Morality and Self-Interest. At the most global level, Mind and Universe form a Dynamic Pair, one being internal, the other being external. The combination of two Dynamic Pairs form the basic building block of the Dramatica Theory — The Quad. A quad consists for four dramatic units that share a defined relationship with each other.

Example: Let’s look at a typical Motivation Quad –

SUPPORT                HELP

     HINDER               OPPOSE


Let’s say you have a character in your story who is going to serve the function of Supporting your Main Character’s goal. You can judge how supportive this character is by how her or his actions Help or Hinder the progress of the Main Character towards her or his goal. The more supportive you want this character to be, the more she or he will help the Main Character rather than hindering the Main Character.

The way Dramatica represents these relationships it to assign the dramatic units to characters. In Star Wars, Luke’s Objective goal is to become a hero. The Robots Support his quest to become a hero, while Han Opposes his quest because he doesn’t want to come along for the ride. Obi Wan’s guidance Helps Luke’s quest, while Darth Vader’s interference Hinders it. Each of these attitudes illustrates the characters’ Motivations, which will affect their actions during the course of the story.


This brief introduction has touched but lightly upon the most broad and basic tenets that form the Dramatica Theory. The remainder of this book will examine these concepts in ever deepening detail as the chapters progress until all aspects and nuances are fully explored.

Please keep in mind that story structure is not the same thing as the talent of storytelling. Dramatica provides a flexible structure that presents both the structure and dynamics of the Story Mind. Dramatica will not make you a more talented storyteller but will keep faulty structure from undermining your creativity. This allows any author to create a flawless structure that has “form without formula.”

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 6)

Methodology Archetypes 

NOTE:  This segment represents a whole new, previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known. In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its own, unique “flavor” or variety of Archetypes.

Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.

This excerpt describes the first 8 of 24 new Archetypes.  Whether these are accurate or not is open for discussion.

Methodology Archetypes 

In Chapter One, when we began our exploration of Characters, we divided them into eight Simple Archetypes, based on their Motivations. Similarly, as we begin our exploration of Method, we discover eight Simple Methodologies that the Simple Characters employ. As before, we divide them into two quads: one reflecting Action Methodologies and the other, Decision Methodologies.

The Action Methodologies are Assertive, Passive, Responsive, and Preservative. Let’s take a look at each.

ASSERTIVE: The Assertive approach is based on the “first strike” concept. When one’s method is Assertive, she will take the initiative action to achieve her goal or obtain what she wants. .

RESPONSIVE: In Contrast, the Responsive will act only when provoked, but will then retaliate, seeking to eliminate the threat to her status quo.

PRESERVATIVE: The Preservative methodology is to build back what has been diminished and take steps to guard things against further encroachment. Unlike the Responsive Methodology, the Preservative approach will not strike back against the source of the encroachment but shield against it.

PASSIVE: The Passive approach will be to “go with the flow” and hope things get better by themselves, rather than attempting to improve them.

It is important to note that Assertive and Passive are not the Dynamic pair here. Rather, Assertive and Responsive complement each other. This can be seen by thinking in terms of the borders of a country. Assertive and Responsive will both cross the border, one for a first strike, the other only in retaliation. But Passive and Preservative will never cross the border, one allowing itself to be overrun, and one building defenses.

Whereas the Action Methodologies indicate the approach to manipulation of the environment that is acceptable to a given Character, the Decision Methodologies indicate the mental approach that will be acceptable. The Decision Methodologies are Dogmatic, Pragmatic, Cautious, and Risky.

DOGMATIC: The Dogmatic approach will only consider data that has been “proven” as being correct. Speculative or second-hand information is rejected out of hand.

PRAGMATIC: In opposition to that approach the Pragmatic Methodology widens their considerations to include information that may prove to be correct based on circumstantial evidence.

CAUTIOUS: When one decides in a Cautious manner, she determines the relative likelihood of various data, giving greater weight in her considerations to information that appears more certain.

RISKY: The Risky approach considers all information that is not definitely ruled out as incorrect, giving all data equal weight in the Decision process regardless of its likelihood.

In the Decision Methodologies, Dogmatic pairs with Pragmatic, and Cautious complements Risky. As a group these four Action and four Decision approaches constitute the Eight Simple Methodologies, and make up our first organization of Plot. We know these types, don’t we? They appear in our world, they appear in our stories, they appear in ourselves. They appear in our stories because they appear in ourselves. As with the Eight Simple Characters, they can be divided in Quads.

The Eight Simple Methodologies 

The Action Quad 


           PASSIVE                         PRESERVATIVE


The Decision Quad 


CAUTIOUS                              RISKY


As with the Eight Simple Characters: No Character should represent more than one Methodology in a given Dynamic Pair. In other words, just as one Character should not be the Protagonist and Antagonist, one Character should not be Assertive and Responsive.

Now you may have noticed that every time we talk about the Methodologies we speak of them as the ways in which Characters act or decide. The immediate question that comes to mind is whether or not these Simple Methodologies of Plot are tied to specific Simple Characters. Let’s find out.

Archetypal Methodologies in Star Wars 

Returning to Star Wars, we can analyze the Method each Simple Character employs to see if: a) they limit themselves to one, and b) if there is a match between Character Motivation and Character Method.

Certainly Obi Wan seems RESPONSIVE. He never attacks, just responds to attacks , such as the Cantina scene where he cuts off the creature’s arm after it had attacked Luke. But here the direct relationship breaks down. This time Obi is not balanced by Darth, but by the Empire which is the key ASSERTIVE Character in the story. This is exemplified in the Empire’s unprovoked attack on Leia’s home world of Alderan, and their efforts to track down and destroy the rebel base. Darth takes on a PRESERVATIVE approach, which works nicely with his charge to recover the stolen plans. Every step he takes is an attempt to get back to start. Even when he leads his fighters into the trench on the Death Star, he cautions his henchmen not to chase those who break off from the attack, but to stay on the leader.

Rounding out the Four Simple Action Methodologies, Luke fills the role of PASSIVE. Luke, Passive? Yep. When Uncle Owen tells Luke that he must stay on one more season, Luke argues, but does he accept it? When Obi tells Luke that he must go with him to Alderan, where does he end up? When the Cantina Bartender tells him the droids must stay outside, does he even argue?

Looking at the Decision Quad, Han reads very well as the DOGMATIC approach, which matches nicely with his role as Skeptic. Leia, on the other hand is clearly Pragmatic, adapting to new and unexpected situations as needed. Note the way Dogmatic Han screws up the rescue attempt in the detention block with his inability to adapt, compared to Leia blasting a hole in the corridor wall, manufacturing an escape route.

Interestingly, the joint Sidekick of R2D2 and C3PO is split by the Methodologies of RISKY and CAUTIOUS. R2D2 is always the one jumping into the fray, going out on a limb, trailblazing through blaster fire. In Contrast, C3PO doesn’t want to go into the escape pod, doesn’t want to go on R2′s “mission” to find Obi, and excels at hiding from battle whenever he gets the chance.

If we hang the Star Wars Character names on the Simple Methodology QUAD we get:


Action Quad 


                 PASSIVE - LUKE                            PRESERVATIVE - DARTH


Decision Quad


          RISKY - R2D2                     CAUTIOUS - C3PO


For the first time we begin to get a sense of some of the conflicts between Characters that we felt in Star Wars, but were not explained by the Motivations of the Simple Characters alone. For example, we can see that in terms of Methodology, Obi is now in direct conflict with the Empire. Suddenly the scene where he is stopped along with Luke by the Storm Troopers on the way into Mos Eisley makes much more sense. As does the scene where he must avoid the Storm Troopers and deactivate the Tractor Beam.

From the Methodology standpoint, Luke is now diametrically opposed to Darth, and that defines that additional conflict between them that does not grow from Luke as Protagonist and Darth as Contagonist. The scene in the Trench where Darth attacks Assertively and Luke ignores him with calm Passivity is a fine example of this.

The antagonism (appropriate word) between Leia and Han has a firm grounding in the Dogmatic versus Pragmatic approach. This is what gives that extra edge between them that is not created by their Simple Characters of Reason and Skeptic.

Of particular note is how R2D2 and C3PO, who share a Character role of Sidekick, are split into a conflicting Dynamic Pair of Risky and Cautious. So many of their scenes have them diverging, even while loyally following Luke. The sniping that goes on between them is a direct result of their opposing Methodologies, and enriches what otherwise would be a flat relationship. After all, if they both agreed with each other’s approach AND were jointly the Sidekick as well, how could you even tell them apart, other than by the shape of their costumes?

Finally, notice how poor Chewbaca ended up with no Methodology at all. Perhaps that explains why he never really does anything.

From the chart we can see that the opposition of Dynamic Pairs between Characters is not necessarily carried over into their Methodologies. Indeed, some Characters might be in conflict over principles but not in approach, and vice versa. This relationship between the Motivation Level and the Methodology Level is the embryonic beginning of more believable “3 dimensional” or “well rounded” Characters. To get a more clear understanding of this phenomenon, we can put the Simple Character Quads side by side with the Simple Methodology Quad.


Driver Motivation Quad




Action Methodology Quad





Passenger Motivation Quad


CHEWBACA - EMOTION                      LEIA - REASON


Decision Methodology Quad


 R2D2 - RISKY                       C3PO - CAUTIOUS



When viewed in this manner, the ebb and flow of conflict can be seen as not a single relationship between Characters, but a complex multi-level interrelationship. Yet, we are still dealing here with Simple Methodologies. Just as we had found that each of the Eight Simple Characters contained two components, the Eight Simple Methodologies are composed of two aspects as well: Attitude and Approach. As before, let’s separate the Simple Methodologies into their respective components.

The Sixteen Methodologies


Approach Plogistic:

The assertive character takes Proaction to upset a stable environment in order to achieve her goals.

Attitude Plogistic:

She Evaluates her situation to determine what action she should take.


Approach Plogistic:

When Responsive, a character Reacts to changes in her environment.

Attitude Plogistic:

The Responsive Re-evaluates her environment in light of unwanted changes, and creates a goal to recapture stability.


Approach Plogistic:

This character employs Protection to prevent what she has from being eroded.

Attitude Plogistic:

She is driven by Non-Acceptanceof the diminishing of her situation.


Approach Plogistic:

The Passive character exists in Inaction, making no move to counter threats against her.

Attitude Plogistic:

SheAccepts whatever comes her way. Attitude Plogistic: She Accepts whatever comes her way.


Approach Plogistic:

Dogmatic deals only in Actualities. Approach Plogistic: Dogmatic deals only in Actualities.

Attitude Plogistic:

She relies on Deduction to reduce data to an irrefutable conclusion.


Approach Plogistic:

The Pragmatic concerns herself with Potentialities, looking at all alternative explanations that can be created from existing data.

Attitude Plogistic:

She employs Induction to generate alternatives.


Approach Plogistic:

The Cautious character bases her decisions on Probabilities: the most likely of alternatives.

Attitude Plotgistic:

She uses Reduction to narrow the field of conceivable alternatives.


Approach Plogistic:

The Risky character considers all Possibilities equally, regardless of their relative likelihood.

Attitude Plogistic:

She processes information with Production to create any alternatives that are not ruled out by known data.

Placing these Plogistics in a Quad table we get:

Internal Approach


PROBABILITY                             POSSIBILITY


External Approach


PROTECTION                             INACTION



Internal Attitude  


REDUCTION                                    PRODUCTION


 External Attitude


 NON-ACCEPTANCE                             ACCEPTANCE



Looking at these sixteen Methodologies, it is important to remember what they represent. DRAMATICA looks at each and every element of story structure as an aspect of the Story Mind dealing with a problem. And we can clearly see that these sixteen points represent part of that process.

When examining our environment, we all make Evaluations, Re-Evaluate in light of a changing situation, choose whether to Accept our lot or Not Accept it. We all employ Deduction to determine what we know, Induction to keep our minds open to other explanations, Reduction to determine what is most likely, and Production to be creative. From these we establish what we see as Actuality, Potentiality, Probability, and Possibility, as well as the need for Proaction, Reaction, Protection, or Inaction.

Once again, in stories, these Methodologies can be illustrated in individual Characters or combined in ways that do not violate their potential. The DRAMATICA rules for combining characteristics apply here as well.

Based upon these rules, we can easily create our own multi-level Characters. Let’s return to the simple story we wrote about Joan, the Screenplay writer.

As you’ll recall, we created Joan, the Protagonist, who wants to write a screenplay. She was in conflict with the Studio Executive, our Antagonist, who wanted to sell a screenplay of her own instead. Joan’s father was a Skeptic, not believing in his daughter’s talent, but Joan’s writing teacher was her faithful Sidekick. As Contagonist, we created Joan’s friend, the Computer Whiz, who tempts Joan to use “the System”. Guardian to Joan is the Seasoned Writer, who keeps the execs of her tail and counsels her to be true to herself. The Prostitute, a student of the Classics served as Reason, and the Avaunt Guard Artist was Emotion.

As an exercise, let’s assign each of these Eight Simple Characters one of the Eight Simple Methodologies. As we’ve already determined, there is no requirement that a particular Methodology must be matched to a particular Character. So, if we start with Joan who is of primary importance to us, which one of the Methodologies do we like best for our Protagonist? We have a choice of Assertive, Reactive, Preservative, Passive, Dogmatic, Pragmatic, Cautious, and Risky.

Try each one against what we know of Joan. It is clear that any of the eight would create a believable and much more three dimensional Character than the simple Protagonist by herself. And yet, there will be some combinations that will appeal to one Author that are not at all acceptable to another. Protagonist Joan as an Assertive young writer, or Protagonist Joan as Risk taker? Our hero, the adamant, close minded Dogmatist, or the Passive putz? Is she to be Reactive to every ripple in her pond, or Cautious about every move she makes. Doe she try to Preserve what she already has, or take a Pragmatic approach, adapting to a changing scenario? The choices are all valid, and all open to you, the Author.

For our tastes (where they happen to be after lunch as we write this) let’s pick a Risky Protagonist. So Joan, the “wanna-be” Script Writer is a real Risk taker, jumping across the stream and looking for the next stone while in mid air. So what kinds of things will this reckless writer do? She’ll wager her contract on being able to make a waitress cry with the sentence she scrawled on a napkin in the diner. If her mother’s health is failing because she can only afford half the dosage of essential medication that she needs, she’ll spend the medication money to fix her broken typewriter so she can finish her outline and get enough of an advance (if they like it) to buy her the full dose. Real Risk taker, our Joan!

So now, we have the rival Studio Exec, our Antagonist. And she can be any one of the seven remaining Methodologies. We could put her in direct conflict of Methodologies as well as Characteristics, by making her the Cautious type. As such, she would lay out all the ground work to assure that her script will be chosen, leaving nothing to chance. Or she could be Responsive, and attack Joan every time she sees Joan’s advancement as threatening her own. Or she could be Assertive and attack Joan without provocation, because she feels it will help her own cause. We’ll pick Assertive, because we want an Action story, and our Protagonist is not an action Character.

We continue in this manner until we have assigned a Simple Methodology to each Simple Character. So, finally, we have Risky Joan, who wants to write a screenplay and is embattled against the Assertive studio Executive who wants to stop her, opposed by her Preservationist Father, supported by her Passive Teacher, tempted by her friend, the Cautious Computer Whiz, protected by the Responsive Seasoned Writer, counseled by the Dogmatic Prostitute to copy the classics, and urged by the Pragmatic Avaunt Guard Artist to break new ground.

This is beginning to sound a lot less like other stories we’ve seen before. And that is just with the Simple Motivations and Methodologies. When you figure in complex Motivations and Methodologies by mixing and matching sixteen Motivations with sixteen Methodologies, then group them together in uneven ways: more to some Characters and fewer to others, you can begin to see the great variety of Characters that can be created using the DRAMATICA structure. And that is the real beauty of DRAMATICA. Because it is a system of interrelationships, a relatively small number of variables creates an astronomical number of specific structures. Form without Formula. And it works because it mirrors the structure and functioning of our own minds in the Story Mind.

Continuing along that parallel, we can see that the Story Mind in dealing with a problem will not only be motivated and apply a methodology, but will also monitor feedback to determine the effectiveness of the method and the propriety of the motivation. This function is defined by our third level of Character, Evaluation.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 7)

NOTE:  This segment represents a whole new, previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known. In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its own, unique “flavor” or variety of Archetypes.

Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.

This excerpt describes the second group of 8 of 24 new Archetypes.

Means of Evaluation

As there were Eight Simple Motivation Characters and Eight Simple Methodology Character, we might expect there to be Eight Simple Evaluation Characters, and so there are. A Character might evaluate using Calculation, or Guesswork. She could base her evaluation on Information or Intuition. She might consider the Outcome of an effort or the Means employed to achieve that Outcome. Finally, she might expand her considerations to include the Intent behind the effort and the actual Impact that effort has had.

Putting these Eight Simple Evaluations in Quad form we get:

The Eight Simple Evaluations

The Measuring Quad



CALCULATION                                   INTUITION



The Measured Quad



MEANS                                         IMPACT



We can see the patterns of dynamic pairs created between the Eight Simple Evaluations. Let’s define each term for a more complete understanding of their relationships.

Calculation: The Calculating Character establishes an unbroken chain of relationships that leads to a conclusion. Her thinking will only carry her as far as the chain can be extended. As soon as she cannot make one thing lead directly to the next, she will not entertain any speculations beyond that point.

Intuition: The Intuitive Character forms her conclusions from circumstantial or nebulous input, rather than a definitive line of logic.

Information: The Character who relies on Information will entertain in her deliberations only definitive packets of data.

Guesswork: The Character who Guesses will fill in the blanks in her information with what appears most likely to go there.

Outcome: The Outcome measuring Character is only concerned with the immediate nature of the objective: whether or not, or how well it has been met.

Impact: Measuring Impact, a Character looks at the ripples in the big picture created by a particular outcome, or looks how well an objective accomplished that for which it was intended.

Means: The Character measuring Means in most concerned with how an Objective was met rather than if it was or how well.

Intent: When a Character measures Intent, she is concerned with the expectations behind the effort that led to the Outcome, whether or not the Outcome was achieved.

Again, these are aspects of Character we have seen before and are familiar with. In our case, their existence and definitions came as no surprise. Rather, we had just never previously considered them all at once as a group in which we could clearly see the relationships among them.

The real value to us as Authors comes in being able to mix and match Motivations, Methodologies and Evaluations. For example, should we be at work building a Character whose nature is best described as Guardian, we might select Dogmatic as her method and Calculation as her tool of evaluation. So this fellow might protect the Protagonist while stubbornly maintaining an ideology, but evaluating the progress of the quest in a very calculated manner: a Character of some individuality and depth.

What if we had the same Dogmatic Guardian who employed Guesswork instead. We can feel the difference in her nature as a result of this change. Now she would protect the Protagonist, stubbornly maintain an ideology, but base her evaluations of progress on conjecture rather than denotative relationships. Certainly, this person has a wholly different “feel” to her, without being wholly different.

The functionality of this is that the way we feel about a Character is based on the sum total of the combined effect of all levels of her attributes. However, when looking at these attributes as separate aspects, we can define the differences between Characters in a precise and specific way in terms of their content and determine if they are nearly the same or completely different. But when we see the dynamic view of the way in which a particular set of aspects merge to create the specific force of a given Character, even a slight change in only one aspect will create a substantially different “feel” to that Character.

When a Character oriented Author writes by “feel” she is sensing the overall impact of a Character’s presence. This is not very definable, and therefore dramatic potentials between Characters are often diminished by incomplete understanding of which levels are in conflict between two given Characters, and which are not.

We have already seen an example of this in our analysis of Star Wars. Han (as Skeptic) is only peripherally in conflict with Leia (as Reason). But Han as Dogmatic in directly in conflict with Leia as Pragmatic. If Han and Leia were to argue, there would be much more dramatic potential if they argued over trying a new approach than if they argued over whether or not they ought to take action.

Clearly, the ability to discern the specific nature of the attributes that make up a Character at all levels allows us to precisely define the nature of inter-Character conflicts, without losing sight of the overall feeling that each Character carries with her.

Evaluations in Star Wars

Looking at the Characters of Star Wars in terms of Evaluation only, the arrangement of attributes is a bit murkier. Since this is primarily a story of action, techniques of evaluation do not play a big role in the progress of the story and therefore have been more loosely drawn. Nevertheless, they are present, even if there is somewhat less consistency than at the Character or Method levels.

Assigning the Eight Simple Evaluations to the Eight Simple Characters of Star Wars by their most common usage in the story, we generate the following list:









R2D2 ———–

Attaching the Character names
to the Evaluation Quads we get:

The Eight Simple Evaluations

The Measuring Quad


Empire CALCULATION                            Darth INTUITION



The Measured Quad


Chewy MEANS                                    C3PO IMPACT



Again, we can see subtle conflicts in techniques of Evaluation between Characters that are compatible at other levels. For the first time, we can see the tension that as an audience we feel between Darth and the Empire in the “Board Room” scene on the Death Star where Darth constricts the breathing of the general he is “bickering” with. The general says to Darth, “…your sorcerer ways have not helped you conjure up the missing plans…”, essentially arguing against Intuition.

Looking at Luke, we note that in his dinner table discussion with Uncle Owen he argues his point that he should be allowed to leave with Information: the new droids are working out, all his friends are at the academy, etc. Another example is the moment Luke bursts into Leia’s cell to release her. Rather than use any other technique, he describes the situation to her simply by imparting information: “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you. I’m here with Ben Kenobi.”

Obi Wan, on the other hand, relies on Guesswork when the Millennium Falcon is chasing the lone imperial fighter after coming out of hyperspace. He sees the supposed moon, and guesses, “It’s a space station!”

Han is completely Outcome oriented, “I’m just in this for the reward, sister!”, and is thereby again in conflict with Leia as Intent: “If money is all you care about, then that’s what you’ll receive.”

Chewy can be seen to focus on Means, when he refuses to don the binders for Luke’s plan to rescue Leia.

C3PO is always evaluating impact: ” We’ll be sent to the spice mines of Kessel”, and, “I suggest a different strategy R2… Let the Wookie win.”

R2, as noted, does not represent a manner of evaluation. We can see by the feel of his Character that he is motivated and has a method, but he never evaluates anything for himself, you just point him and he goes.

Once again, since Star Wars is an action oriented story, the techniques of Evaluation were not as developed as Motivation and Method.

Sixteen Evaluations

As with the previous two levels of Character, the Eight Simple Evaluations can be divided into sixteen evaluations. In Motivation we had Action and Decision aspects, in Method we had Attitude and Approach. In Evaluation we have Passive and Active.



The Calculating Character sees data as Expectations wherein an unbroken chain of relationships that leads to a conclusion.


To form an Expectation, Calculation develops Theories.



The Intuitive Character sees the pattern of her observations in the form of a Determination.


To arrive at a Determination, Intuitive makes Hunches.



The Character who revolves around Information will entertain in her deliberations only definitive packets of data she sees as Proven.


For something to be Proven, the Information Character will institute a Test.



Guesswork will consider even data that is, as of yet, Unproven.


The system she uses that allows her to accept Unproven data is to Trust..



The Outcome measuring Character observes the Results of an effort.


To see the Results, she looks toward the Ending of the Effort.



Measuring Impact, a Character looks at the actual Effects of an effort, as opposed to how well it met its charter.


To determine the Effect, the Impact Character examines how Accurately the ramifications of the effort confine themselves to the targeted goal.



Means is determined by looking at the Process employed in an effort.


Just as Impact examined Effects in terms of Accuracy, Means examines Process in terms of the Unending aspects of its nature. In essence, Effects are measured by how much they spill over the intended goal, and Process is evaluated by how much of it continues past the intended point of conclusion.



When a Character measures Intent, she is concerned with the Cause behind the effort.


She looks at the aspects of the Cause that do Not Accurately reflect the scope of the goal.

Let’s look at these sixteen evaluation techniques in Quad form.

Measured Active Set


NON-ACCURATE                          ACCURATE


Measured Passive Set



 PROCESS                                        RESULT



Measuring Passive Set


UNENDING                                        ENDING


Measuring Active Set



TRUST                                                TEST



As before, these four groupings constitute the dynamic Quads of the Evaluation Set, and are subject to the same DRAMATICA rules as the characteristic and method sets.

Since all good things come in Quads, and since we have so far explored three sets of Character traits, we might expect a final set to round out that Quad as well. DRAMATICA calls that final set of characteristics, Purposes.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 8)

Purpose Archetypes

NOTE: This segment represents a whole new, previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known. In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its own, unique “flavor” or variety of Archetypes.

Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.

This excerpt describes the third and final group of 8 of 24 new Archetypes.

Purpose Archetypes 

When a Character of a certain Motivation acts with a particular Method using a specific mode of Evaluation, her directions is dictated by her Purpose. Conversely, Motivation, Method, and Evaluation are directionless without Purpose. As a corollary to that, each of the four aspects of Character requires the other three, and is determined by the other three.

This is our first glimpse of the real interdependencies of Dramatica: that any three elements of a Quad determine the fourth. This is WHY Dramatica works; that the elements of story are not independent, but interdependent.

This being the case, let us list our Eight Simple Motivations along side the Simple Methodologies and the Simple Evaluations, and see if we can predict what the Eight Simple Purposes might be.

Motivations                                  Methodologies                                   Evaluations


Protagonist                                    Assertive                                              Outcome

Antagonist                                     Responsive                                           Impact

Guardian                                        Dogmatic                                             Calculation

Contagonist                                   Pragmatic                                             Guesswork

Reason                                          Cautious                                                Information

Emotion                                         Risky                                                      Intuition

Sidekick                                          Passive                                                  Intent

Skeptic                                            Preservative                                          Means


When we look at the three points we already have, we can extend that line to project the fourth point, Purpose. When we look at a Protagonist who is Assertive and Evaluates in terms of Outcome, her Purpose is to achieve a Goal. But what then of the Antagonist. The Antagonist, being Responsive and Evaluating Impact, is more concerned with the Requirement.

The Antagonist not Goal-oriented? Absolutely Correct. A TRUE Archetypal Antagonist will be consistent through all four character dimensions. She would be Responsive to the threat of the Protagonist’s Assertiveness. She would evaluate in terms of the Impact being felt.

Keep in mind that a villain is not the same as an Antagonist. In fact, stories often cast the villain as the Protagonist so that the story’s troubles are a result of the villain’s proactive actions. Then, when the hero responds, she is justified. In fact, it is hard to find an Archetypal character who is consistent through all four character dimensions.

Take James Bond, for example. Does he decide that there is something he wants to accomplish and then go after it, starting all the trouble? Not really. Rather, a villain does something to achieve what the villain wants, and Bond Responds.

The point being not to say that James Bond is not a “Protagonist,” but simply that he is not a consistent Archetype through all four dimensions.

Purposes of other Archetypes 

For clarity, let us describe what the other Archetypes would be like if they followed through to consistent Purposes. Then, we can explore how the attributes might be mixed and matched when building specific characters.

For every Goal, there is a Consequence; for every Requirement, a Cost. The Archetypal Guardian is concerned with the Consequence: it is her Purpose to prevent it. The Contagonist, on the other hand is focused on the Cost: it is her Purpose not to pay it. Note the subtle complexities between the positive Purposes of the Protagonist/Antagonist and the negative Purposes of the Guardian/Contagonist.

So, we have half of our Purposes lined out. Next to the other three levels of Character they look like this:

Motivation                Methodology                    Evaluation                  Purpose


Protagonist                  Assertive                           Outcome                      Goal

Antagonist                   Responsive                        Impact                         Requirement

Guardian                      Dogmatic                          Calculation                  Consequence

Contagonist                 Pragmatic                          Guesswork                   Cost

Reason                         Cautious                            Information  

Emotion                        Risky                                  Intuition  

Sidekick                        Passive                              Intent  

Skeptic                          Preservative                      Means  


Now, what to do about the Purposes of the remaining four Simple Characters? Harkening back to the terms “Driver” Characters and “Passenger” Characters, we might better describe the Passengers as “Back Seat Drivers”. That is to say that just because they are not the prime movers of the direction of the story doesn’t mean they are not prime movers of any part of the story. In fact, they are quite active in determining the course of the story.

Just like any journey, a story may focus on the destination, or the sight seeing along the way. Sometimes it is more important where you are going, sometimes how you get there. When a Simple story is destination oriented, the first four Simple Characters are the Drivers. But when a Simple story is journey oriented, the Protagonist, Antagonist, Guardian and Contagonist are relegated to the back seat as Passengers and Reason, Emotion, Sidekick and Skeptic Drive. In fact, all eight are really driving all the time, just in different areas.

What then are these areas? Just as with our minds, the Story Mind’s purpose may be one of an External nature or one of and Internal nature. When we want to change our environment, we work toward an External Purpose. However, when we want to change ourselves, we work toward in Internal Purpose.

Since we have been using Simple action stories in most of our examples, the Externally oriented characters have appeared to be the Drivers. But when we look toward Simple Decision stories, the Internally oriented characters become the Prime Movers.

So what then would be the Internal Purposes that complete the list of Eight Simple Purposes?

Motivation      Methodology      Evaluation      Purpose


Protagonist       Assertive              Outcome          Goal

Antagonist        Responsive           Impact             Requirement

Guardian          Dogmatic              Calculation      Consequence

Contagonist     Pragmatic              Guesswork      Cost

Reason            Cautious                 Information     Satisfaction

Emotion           Risky                      Intuition           Happiness

Sidekick           Passive                   Intent               Fulfillment

Skeptic            Preservative            Means            Contentment


The difference in Purpose between the two groups that make up the Eight Simple Characters is clear. To see how these Purposes fit in with the Motivation, Methodology, and Evaluation traits, lets examine the Internal Characters one by one.

When you look at the Character of Reason, who Cautiously evaluates things in terms of Information, the Purpose of Satisfaction fits right in. To her counterpart, Emotion, doing things in a Risky manner based on Intuition, Happiness is the Purpose to which they aspire. Similarly, the Passive Sidekick evaluating the Intent, rather than the success, is a perfect supporter seeking only Fulfillment. Her adversary, the Skeptic, trying to Preserve her situation, not concerned with whether the Intent is for the good so much as what Means must be employed, finds her Purpose eventual Contentment.

If a Simple story is about trying to achieve a Goal, the Antagonist will be the Prime Mover. If a Simple story is about trying to reach Fulfillment, the Sidekick will be the Prime Mover.

Sixteen Purposes 

What remains is to separate the Eight Simple Purposes into the sixteen Purpose traits. Since we have seen that either the External Characters or the Internal Characters can be the Drivers depending upon the type of story, Each of these simple Purposes can be split into a Situation Purpose and a Condition focus to their Simple Purpose.


Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:



Situation Focus:


Condition Focus:


Here are the sixteen Conclusions in Quad form:

External Condition Focus


AWARE                                   ACTUALITY


External Situation Focus



 PROJECTION                              INERTIA



Internal Situation Focus


SPECULATION                                 CHANGE


Internal Condition Focus 



 SELF-AWARE                                 PERCEPTION



Once more we have an arrangement of the sixteen elements into Quads, but not necessarily the most useful arrangement. As we described before, each of the valid arrangements is most appropriate to Character, Audience, or Author. As Authors we want to put things in the best perspective for our understanding. One of the beauties of DRAMATICA is that if something is adjusted from one valid perspective, it will be equally functional from all other valid perspectives, although not necessarily as meaningful.

This arrangement of the Conclusions is the fully Internal or Character perspective. This is the way we, as individuals, tend to group our Conclusions about ourselves and our environment. We see the elements of the upper left Quad are topped by Knowledge. And to us, these four elements describe what we know about the Universe itself. All of them pertain directly to our understanding of what is out there. In contrast, the upper right Quad deals with our physical relationship with the Universe. These are the Conclusions we draw about how we can affect our environment and how it affects us. This Quad is appropriately headed by “Ability”.

Shifting gears, we move to two Quads that describe our understanding of our Minds and our mental relationship with the Universe. The lower left Quad Concludes how we feel about our environment, aptly led by “Desire”. The lower right Quad organizes our Conclusions about ourselves, described prominently by “Thought”.

But what if we step out of that perspective for the moment and deal with these sixteen elements as if we were looking at someone else’s Mind. More precisely: looking into someone else’s Mind. We would see that Knowledge, Ability, Desire, and Thought are Conclusions that are the actual motivators for that individual. In truth, the other three elements of each Quad are used to arrive at those four motivating Conclusions. So to from a completely External view – the Author’s Perspective – we would group Knowledge, Ability, Desire, and Thought together to form a Quad.

From the External view, Inertia and Change are objective traits of the Universe itself. Equally objective (from the External view) are Actuality and Perception. From the outside perspective, Actuality is the true nature of the Universe, whereas Perception is the true nature of our limited appreciation of it. Since there is always more to see than we have seen, Perception can never match Actuality. But in a limited sense, for a particular consideration, Perception can approach Actuality. So, from the External Author’s view, another Quad consisting of Inertia, Change, Actuality, and Perception is created.

Awareness and Self-Awareness describe the degree of our understanding of all the substances and forces in play, both in our environment and ourselves. Projection and Speculation, however, push that understanding into the future, which, due to our limited Perceptions, has the possibility of being to some degree inaccurate. Nevertheless, it is the best we can do with what we currently Know. So, from the Author’s perspective, Awareness, Self-Awareness, Projection, and Speculation define a third Quad.

The remaining elements, Order, Chaos, Equity, and Inequity can be grouped together to describe a Mind’s understanding of the meaning of the situation, which includes the meaning of the environment by itself, and in reference to self. Therefore, our final Author’s perspective Quad consists of Order, Chaos, Equity, and Inequity.

With this new arrangement, the Quads appear like this:

External Rating Set


DESIRE                               ABILITY


External Judgment Set



  CHANGE                                      INERTIA




Internal Judgment Set  


EQUITY                                    INEQUITY


Internal Rating Set



 SPECULATION                                       PROJECTION




As we examine the Author’s Perspective arrangement, we get an entirely different “feel” for how we might use these Quads. In terms of designing Characters as and Author, these are the Dynamic Quads we would not want to violate: for the greatest dramatic potential, we would place no more than one trait from each Dynamic Quad in a single Character. Otherwise, the representation of the individual elements becomes easily muddled and unclear to the Audience.

As before, the DRAMATICA rules apply:

1. “Character” is a consistent combination of motivations, methodologies, evaluations and conclusions.

2. Characters should never represent more than one characteristic, methodology, evaluation, or conclusion from the same Dynamic Pair.

3. A physical “host” may contain up to sixty four Characters.

4. A physical “host” should contain only one Character at a time.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 9)

The Chemistry of Characters

To make an argument that a particular element is or is not a solution to a particular problem, Character make-up must remain consistent throughout the story.

In order for the argument of a story to be complete, all approaches to solving a problem must be represented. This is the purpose of Characters. Each Character illustrates one or more ways in which one might address a problem. These different approaches are commonly referred to as Character Traits. We call them Character Elements.

If we think of the traits as elements, we can imagine that the chemical compounds created by various combinations can lead to an extraordinary number of different “substances”, or personalities from a relatively small number of building blocks.

Picture the Author as Chemist, filling several jars with samples from a rack of elements. She might put a single element in one jar but a number of them in another. Depending upon the selections she makes, a given jar might grow cold or boil, turn red or blue, crystallize or form polymers.

Now suppose this Author/Chemist was operating under laboratory guidelines that she must use each chemical element off the shelf, but only once – in only one jar. It is conceivable she might put them all into a single jar, but what a mess it would be, trying to determine which element was responsible for which effect. The interactions would become muddled beyond understanding.

Certainly, in a story, such a hodgepodge would fail to fulfill the mandate of making a full and meaningful argument. No, if we are to cover the field, but not at the expense of clarity, we must examine the interactions of smaller groups of elements, which calls for several more jars.

Obviously, if we used a separate jar for each element, nothing would react at all, which means to an author that virtually all of the conflict within Characters would be lost with only the potential of conflict between Characters remaining. Certainly each element could be fully understood, and indeed, from time to time, an author may find good reason to keep a few Character elements solo, so that they might be absolutely defined. More often, however, it serves the story better to combine more than one element in more than one jar.

In this way, very specific combinations can be fully explored, and not at the expense of clarity.

Each of the Character Elements must be employed in one character or another. None must be left out. Otherwise the argument of the story will have a hole in it None must be represented in more than one Character, otherwise the argument will be redundant, confusing, and become less interesting.

Even within these guidelines, a huge number of different types of Characters can be created. Yet, in many stories, we see the same Characters appearing over and over again. Characters like the Hero and the Villain and the Sidekick recur in a plethora of stories in a multitude of genres. This is not necessarily due to a lack of creativity by these authors. Rather, of all the elements, there is one central arrangement that is something like an alignment of the planets. It is a point of balance where each Character looks exactly like the others, only seen through a filter – or with a different shading.

Characters made in this special alignment are called Archetypal. Out of all the myriad of ways in which Elements could be arranged, there is only one arrangement that is Archetypal. Is this good or is this bad? For the author who wants to explore Character nuances, Archetypal Characters are probably a poor choice. But for the author who wants to concentrate on Action, it may be a very prudent choice.

It should be noted that just because a Character is Archetypal, does not mean she is a stick figure. Archetypal Characters contain the full complement of elements that any other Character might have. It is the arrangement of these so that all Elements of a like kind make up a single Character that simplifies the complexity of the interactions between Characters. This unclutters the field and allows for more attention to be paid to other areas such as action, if that is the Author’s intent.

In our example of the Author/Chemist, the jars she uses fulfill an essential purpose: they keep the Chemical compounds separate from one another. That is the function and definition of Character:

A Character is a unique arrangement of solely possessed elements that does not vary over the course of the story.

The last few words above are italicized because the stability of the arrangement of elements is essential to identifying a Character. If elements could swap around from Character to Character, the story would lose its strength of argument, since an approach begun by one Character might only be shown to succeed or fail in another.

When we, as audience, watch a story, we hope to learn that we should or should not use a particular approach, so that we may grow from that experience in our own lives. But how can that point be made if a Character does not finish what she starts. We may see the element as failing, but the argument is left open that perhaps if only the Character who started with that element had stuck with it she would have succeeded.


What about Jekyl and Hyde? Is that not an inconsistent Character? Yes, it is not. This is because Jekyl and Hyde are two different Characters. Two Characters in a single body? Exactly.

There is a great difference between a Character and the body it inhabits. We have all seen stories about spiritual possession, split personalities, or Sci-Fi personality transfers. In each of these instances, different Characters successively occupy the same body or physical host. We call these hosts Players.

A Player is a host in which a Character Resides

A Player does not have to be a person. It can be an animal, spiritual force, a car, a toy – anything that can be shown to possess a personality. Character is the personality, Player is where it resides. So, Jekyl and Hyde are two separate Characters who vie for the same Player’s body.

Conclusion to Objective Characters

We have now defined all of the elements or traits that can be combined to create Characters. We have also arranged these traits in meaningful groupings. We have described methods and rules governing the combining process. And, we have related each aspect of the Character Structure concept to the other aspects.

But something is missing. So far we have created a Structure, but it is a static Structure. We have not at all discussed the manner in which Characters interrelate and conflict. In effect, we have not created a set of Dynamics to drive the Structure.

As you may have noted, the Section headings of this book are divided into Structure and Dynamics, indicating that all Structural considerations will be explored before they are put into motion. There is a reason for this. When we had first completed discovering the sixty-four elements of Character, and had arranged them in the Author’s perspective, we thought that Character conflict would be the next door that opened to us. It was not. Try as we might, we could not perceive any kind of definable pattern that governed the interactions among Characters or even Character traits.

Instead, we found something most unexpected: that there was a definitive relationship among the structures of Character, Theme, Genre, and Plot. In fact, Plot did not just describe the Dynamics of Character, but Theme and Genre as well. So to see the Plot operation of Character conflict, Theme progression, and Genre perspectives, we first needed to finish our Structural model of Story, by building a Structure for Theme and Genre as well. Once this was accomplished we would then be able to discern and quantify the functioning of story Dynamics.

Therefore, we move on to the next set of bricks in our DRAMATICA Structure, edging ever closer to that elusive overview.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 10)


NOTE: This excerpt provide a completely different look at two kinds of characters later dropped from the Dramatica theory – “Pivotal” and “Primary.” It errs, however, in seeing only two points of view – the Main Character (Subjective) and Author (Objective). Later it was discovered that there are four points of view – Main Character, Obstacle Character, Subjective Story, and Objective Story.

Subjective Characters

In the introduction to this book, we assert that stories work because audiences are provided TWO views of the Story mind. One is the view OF the Story Mind dealing with the problem. This is the Objective view, much like a general watching a battle from atop a hill. From this perspective, characters are external to us. We appreciate them logically, and may have feelings for them, but they are not us. These are the Objective Characters that we have just described in Section I.

But stories provide TWO views of the Story Mind, and the other one is the view FROM the Story Mind. This is more like the perspective of the soldier in the trenches: she actually LIVES the battle, and perhaps DIES in it. The view FROM the Story Mind is the Subjective view, as if we actually WERE that mind, and were dealing with the problem ourselves. This is a much more personal experience, and is represented by much more personal characters: The Subjective Characters.

Unlike the extended family of their Objective kin, the Subjective Characters number only two. Remember, the Objective Characters exist to show ALL the ways in which the Story Mind might go about solving a problem – the Subjective Characters exist to show the ONE SPECIFIC way that CAN solve the particular story’s SPECIFIC problem.

So why TWO Subjective Characters? Why not just ONE? Since all characters represent problem solving approaches, different approaches conflict. Even when one approach turns out to be the correct one until that is proven it is still pondered by the Story Mind as one of many potential solutions. It is weighed and balanced against its antithesis, like any Dynamic Pair. Only when one of these two elements of the Subjective Character Dynamic Pair is shown to be the only actual solution is it accepted without resistance.

This creates a wonderful and complex relationship between the two Subjective Characters, that brings the problem solving process home, and makes us, the audience, feel part of the story. The Subjective Character who carries within them the actual solution is the Main Character: the one we empathize with. The Subjective Character that resists them is called the Obstacle Character.

Obviously, a question of Resolve must be answered. Sometimes the Main Character must remain Steadfast in order to achieve her goal. Other times, they must change by learning what their real strength is. When a Main Character must remain Steadfast, we call them a Pivotal Character, since they remain “fixed” as a Character, and the story must revolve or pivot around them. However, for the Main Character that must learn and change, we call them the Primary Character, since they are central to the deliberations of the Story Mind.

This whole conflict between Main and Obstacle Characters is based on their natures as Pivotal and Primary. In essence, the deliberations of any problem solving process is most effected by the decision to stick with the same approach, or try something different. In real life, sometimes one works, and sometimes the other. We cannot tell until we have tried.

Sometimes the message of a story is to explore whether or not it is correct to remain Steadfast in trying to solve a particular kind of problem. In this case, the Main Character would be Pivotal, and the resisting Obstacle Character would be Primary.

Now think about this for a moment: the Primary Character in a story does not have to be the Main Character. But if she is not, she must be the Obstacle Character.

Then, there is the other case: the story that has a message about whether or not it is correct to change your approach, based on experience gained in the problem solving process. In this arrangement, the Main Character is the Primary Character and the Obstacle Character is the Pivotal.

Simply put, in every story, there will be a Main and an Obstacle Character. One of them will be Primary, and the other one Pivotal. This results in two possible combinations: Main Character remaining Steadfast, Main Character Changing.

A number of interesting ramifications spin off of this simple concept. Perhaps foremost is the notion that a Main Character does not have to change. A popular concept of story insists that a Main Character must change. Yet, one is hard pressed to see how James Bond grows as a character. The point of the Bond stories is that he must remain Steadfast. That is to say that he is already using the proper approach, and therefore there is no need (and actually much to lose) by failing in his resolve.

Nevertheless, there IS one Bond film that accommodates Bond as a Primary Main Character: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In this picture, Bond changes and determines to resign as 007 in order to make a new life with his bride. This IS the proper choice from his Subjective Character’s view.

Of course, if James Bond actually left the service, there would be no more in the series with the successful formula that had been established by all the earlier stories. So, at the end of the picture, after he has married, Bond’s wife is gunned down by the villains, thereby not only removing his motivation to leave the service, but actually rekindling his motivation to remain.

This prevents the necessity of setting the next Bond thriller in a Scottish suburb with the wife, the kids, the boss, and the bills. Certainly, the death of his wife could’ve been accommodated at the beginning of the next in the series, driving him back to the service, but the producers did not want to leave a mamby pamby taste in the mouths of avid Bondite’s, and also the author could make a powerful statement that once in, you cannot get out.

But we said that if a Main Character Changed (was Primary) then the Obstacle Character would be Pivotal (remain Steadfast). So, who remains steadfast throughout that entire story? Bond’s future bride. She is an unbridled woman who maintains her course and never caves in, even in marriage.

Okay, so this is the exception to the Pivotal nature of the Bond Characters. But what about the other Bond stories? If Bond remains steadfast, who changes? Let’s look at one: Goldfinger. In Goldfinger, who is it that changes their course, in this case alters their allegiances? Pussy Galore. She is the one who is “forced” by Bond’s steadfast nature to change her attitude and fink on Goldfinger to the authorities. Then, consistent with her new approach, she exchanges the gas canisters on her planes with harmless substitutes.

What is clear is that there is one Pivotal Character (Bond) and one primary (Pussy), but since Bond is the Main Character, Pussy provides the Obstacle to his success. Therefore, when she changes, that obstacle is removed and he can succeed by remaining Steadfast.

These, again, are simple examples, but the principle is true of every story.

So far, we have spoken of Main Character, Obstacle Character, Pivotal Character, and Primary Character as concepts. If we were able to define the Objective Characters down to their elements, what can we say about the content of the Subjective Characters?

As we recall, sixty four elements make up all the Objective Characters, each one getting at least one, and up to 16 of them. Each Subjective Characters gets all sixty four. If we simply duplicate two additional groups of sixty four elements from the original Objective group, one would go to the Primary Character and one to the Pivotal. Then, one of these two groups would be named Main and the other Obstacle.

The Subjective Characters each get a complete group because they have more duties than the Objective Characters. Rather than representing the functioning of a one part of the problem solving process, the Subjective Characters represent a view of the entire process working together. This is the view FROM the Story Mind, that requires a new angle on all of the Objective Characters and what they do.

We can easily see that the discrepancy between how the audience sees the function of the Objective Characters and how the Subjective Characters see it is what creates the dramatic potential that drives the story forward. When Objective “reality” sees things one way, and the Subjective sees them another, that is truly a definition of a problem. In fact, this is much like saying that the Universe is arranged in a certain manner, and the Mind is at odds with it.

It becomes crucial to understanding story and the functioning of the Story Mind to define how a Mind can fall into a discrepancy with reality so deeply that is requires either the Universe to change to accommodate the view of the Steadfast Pivotal Character or requires the Mind to change (Primary Character) in order to accommodate the Universe. The latent force that supplies the Pivotal Character her resolve and the Primary Character her adaptability is called Justification.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 11)

Character Justification

The creation of Justification is the purpose of and reason for Backstory. The dismantling of Justification is the purpose and function of the Acts. The gathering of information necessary to dismantle Justification is the purpose and function of the Scenes. And the nature of the specific Justifications used in a particular story determines all the thematics.

With such a wide range of effects, one would expect the subject of Justification to be extensive and complex. It is. Fortunately, the concepts themselves are actually very simple. We shall explore those now.

First of all, what is Justification? Justification is a state of mind wherein the Subjective view differs from the Objective view. Okay, fine. But how about in plain English!!!! Very well, when someone sees things differently than they are, they are Justifying. This can happen either because the mind draws a wrong conclusion or assumes, or because things actually change in a way that is no longer consistent with a held view.

All of this comes down to cause and effect. For example, suppose you have a family with a husband, wife and young son. This is backstory of how the little boy might develop a justification that could plague him in later life. The husband works at a produce stand. Every Friday he gets paid. Also every Friday a new shipment of fresh beets comes in. So, every Friday night, he comes home with the beets and the paycheck. The paycheck is never quite enough to cover the bills and the wife is being eaten alive by this. Still, she knows her husband works hard, so she tries to keep her feelings to herself and devotes her attention to cooking the beets.

Nevertheless, she cannot hold out for long, and every Friday evening at some point while they eat, she and her husband get in an argument. Of course, like most people who are trying to hold back the REAL cause of her feelings, she picks on other issues, so the arguments are all different. End of backstory.

Beginning of story: The young boy, now a grown adult with a wife and child of his own, sits down to dinner with his family. He begins to get belligerent and antagonistic. His wife does not know what she has done wrong. In fact, later, he himself cannot say why he was so upset. WE know it is because his wife served beets.

It is easy to see that from the young boy’s knowledge of the situation when he was a child, the only visible common element between his parents arguments and his environment was the serving of beets. They never argued about the money directly, and that would probably have been beyond his ken anyway.

Obviously, it is not stupidity that leads to misconceptions, but lack of information. The problem is, we have no way of knowing if we have enough information or not, for we cannot determine how much we do not know. It is a human trait, and one of the Subjective Characters as well, to see repetitive proximities between two items or between an item and a process and assume a causal relationship.

But why is this so important to story? Because that is why stories exist in the first place! Stories exist to show us a greater Objective truth that is beyond our limited Subjective view. They exist to show us that if we feel something is a certain way, even based on extensive experience, it is possible that it really is not that way at all.

For the Pivotal Character, it will be shown that the way she believed things to be really IS the way they are in spite of evidence to the contrary. The message here is that our understanding is sometimes not limited by past misconceptions, but by lack of information in the present. “Keeping the faith” describes the feeling very well. Even in the face of major contradiction, holding on to one’s views and dismissing the apparent reality as an illusion or falsehood.

For the Primary Character, it will be shown that things are really different than believed and the only solution is to alter one’s beliefs. This message is that we must update our understanding in the light of new evidence or information. “Changing one’s faith” is the issue here.

In fact, that is what stories are all about: Faith. Not just having it, but learning if it is valid or not. That is why either Character, Pivotal or Primary, must make a Leap of faith in order to succeed. At the climax of a story, the need to make a decision between remaining steadfast in one’s faith or altering it is presented to both Pivotal and Primary Characters. EACH must make the choice. And each will succeed or fail.

The reason it is a Leap of Faith is because we are always stuck with our limited Subjective view. We cannot know for sure if the fact that evidence is mounting that change would be a better course represents the pangs of Conscience or the tuggings of Temptation. We must simply decide based on our own internal beliefs.

If we decide with the best available evidence and trust our feelings we will succeed, right? Not necessarily. Success or failure is just the author’s way of saying she agrees or disagrees with the choice made. Just like real life stories we hear every day of good an noble people undeservedly dying or losing it all, a Character can make the good and noble choice and fail. This is the nature of a true Dilemma: that no matter what you do, you lose. Of course, most of us read stories not to show us that there is no fairness in the impartial Universe (which we see all too much of in real life) but to convince ourselves that if we are true to the quest and hold the “proper” faith, we will be rewarded. It really all depends on what you want to do to your audience.

A story in which the Main Character is Pivotal will have dynamics that lead the audience to expect that remaining Steadfast will solve the problem and bring success. Conversely, a story in which the Main Character is Primary will have differently dynamics that lead the audience to expect that Changing will solve the problem and bring success. However, in order to make a statement about real life outside of the story, the Author may violate this expectation for propaganda or shock purposes.

For example, if, in Star Wars, Luke had made the same choice and turned off his targeting computer (trusting in the force), dropped his bombs, and missed the target, Darth blows him up and the Death Star obliterates the rebels… how would we feel? Sure you could write it that way, but would you want to? Perhaps! Suppose you made Star Wars as a government sponsored entertainment in a fascist regime. That might very WELL be the way you would want to end it!

The point being, that to create a feeling of “completion” in an audience, if the Main Character is Pivotal, she MUST succeed by remaining Steadfast, and a Primary Main Character MUST change.

Now, let’s take this sprawling embryonic understanding of Justification and apply it specifically to story structure.

The Dramatica Model is built on the process of noting that an inequity exists, then comparing all possible elements of Mind to Universe until the actual nature of the inequity is located, then making a Leap of Faith to change approach or remain steadfast.

At the most basic level, we have Mind and we have Universe, as indicated in the introduction to this book. An inequity is not caused solely by one or the other but by the difference between the two. So, an inequity is neither in Mind nor Universe, but between them.

However, based on their past experiences (assumed causal relationships in backstory) a given Subjective Character will choose either Mind or Universe as the place to attempt to resolve the inequity. In other words, she decides that she likes one area the way it is, and would rather change the other. As soon as this decision is made, the inequity becomes a problem because it is seen in one world or the other. i.e.: “There is a problem with my situation I have to work out.” or “I have to work out a personal problem”.

Doesn’t a Character simply see that the problem is really just an inequity between Mind and Universe? Sure, but what good does that do them? It is simply not efficient to try to change both at the same time and meet halfway. Harking back to our introductory example of Jane who wanted a $300 jacket: Suppose Jane decided to try and change her mind about wanting the jacket even while going out and getting a job to earn the money to buy it. Obviously, this would be a poor plan, almost as if she were working against herself, and in effect she would be. This is because it is a binary situation: either she has a jacket or she does not, and, either she wants a jacket or she does not. If she worked both ends at the same time, she might put in all kinds of effort and end up having the jacket not wanting it. THAT would hardly do! No, to be efficient, a Character will consciously or responsively pick one area or the other in which to attempt to solve the problem, using the other area as the measuring stick of progress.

So, if a Main Character picks the Universe in which to attempt a solution, she is a “Do-er” and it is an Action oriented story. If a Main Character picks the Mind in which to attempt a solution, she is a “Be-er” and it is a Decision oriented story. Each story has both Action and Decision, for they are how we compare Mind against Universe in looking for the inequity. But an Action story has a focus on exploring the physical side and measuring progress by the mental, where as a Decision story focuses on the mental side and measures progress by the physical.

Whether a story is Action or Decision has nothing to do with the Main Character being Pivotal or primary. As we have seen, James Bond has been both. And in the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Indy must change from his disbelief of the power of the ark and its supernatural aspects in order to succeed by avoiding the fate that befalls the Nazis – “Close your eyes, Marian; don’t look at it!”

Action or Decision simply describes the nature of the problem solving process, not whether a character should remained steadfast or change. And regardless of which focus the story has, a Pivotal Character story has dynamics indicating that remaining steadfast is the proper course. That mean that in an Action story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Universe and must maintain that approach in the face of all obstacles in order to succeed. In a Decision story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Mind, and must maintain that approach to succeed. On the other hand, a Primary Character, regardless of which world she selects to solve the problem, will discover she chose the wrong one, and must change to the other to find the solution.

A simple way of looking at this is to see that a Pivotal Character must work at finding the solution, and if diligent will find it where she is looking. She simply has to work at it. In Dramatica, when a Pivotal Character is the Main Character, we call it a Work Story (which can be either Action or Decision)

A Primary Character works just as hard as the Pivotal to find the solution, but in the end discovers that the problem simply cannot be solved in the world she chose. She must now change and give up her steadfast refusal to change her “fixed” world in order to overcome the log jam and solve the problem. Dramatica calls this a Dilemma story, since it is literally impossible to solve the problem in the manner originally decided upon.

From the Subjective view, both Pivotal and Primary work at solving the problem. Also, each is confronted with evidence suggesting that they must change. This evidence is manifested in increasingly growing obstacles they both must overcome. So what makes the audience want one character to remain steadfast and the other to change? The Objective view.

Remember, we have two views of the Story Mind. The Subjective is the limited view in which the audience, in empathy with the Main Character, simply does not have enough information to decide whether or not to change. But then, unlike the Main Character, the audience is privy to the Objective view which clearly shows (by the climax) which would be the proper choice. To create a sense of equity in the audience, if the Main Character’s Subjective Choice is in line with the Objective View, they must succeed. But if a propaganda or shock value is intended, an author may choose to have either the proper choice fail or the improper choice succeed.

This then provides a short explanation of the driving force behind the unfolding of a story, and the function of the Subjective Characters. Taken with the earlier chapters on the Objective Characters, we now have a solid basic understanding of the essential structures and dynamics that create and govern Characters.

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book (Part 12)


What is Theme?

Of all the areas of story that have been examined and employed, Theme is perhaps the most elusive. Clearly, much of a story’s “feel” is due to the Thematic nuances that color the scenes and shade the plot. Yet, previous attempts to describe Theme have achieved little success. Fortunately, the concept of the Story Mind once again provides insight to the specific meaning and function of story elements, in this case enabling the first truly definitive description of what Theme really is, how it works, and how to use it.

Just as the Objective and Subjective Characters are seen to have Motivations, Methodologies, Means of Evaluation and Purposes, so too does the Story Mind. The relationship of the Characters to the Story Mind is such that all four of these levels of Character make up only the Motivations of the Story Mind. Let’s explore this more fully.

According to Dramatica, each story represents a single mind dealing with a particular problem. This Story Mind contains within it all the elements, structures and dynamics of the story. The audience is afforded two views of the Story Mind: the Objective View and the Subjective View. It is the comparison and convergence of these two views that creates the potential to drive the story forward.

So, we have two views, and a comparison of those views. In effect, the comparison is a view of its own, a synthesized dimensional perspective of the Story Mind that consists of a blending of the Objective and Subjective views.

When we look at the attributes of the story as a whole, in effect the attributes of the Story Mind, all elements of Character become the collective force that drives the story forward, in essence the Story Mind’s Motivation. Just as we are all driven by many independent forces that ultimately coalesce into a single Motivation to do or do not, all of the Characters in a story represent these many and varied drives that combine to Motivate the Story Mind and force the progress of the story (the problem solving process of the Story Mind).

As illustrated earlier, Motivations alone do not provide a complete system or circuit. On of the other ingredients needed is a direction in which to apply that Motivation. Without direction, motivation would simply be dissipated, working against itself in all directions randomly. When we get a “feel” for the theme of a story, we are really looking at the synthesized view that is the Story Mind’s Purpose.

Just as the elements of Character come in Dynamic Pairs, so do the Elements of Theme. To prevent confusing the two, Dramatica calls the Thematic Elements Variations.

The difference between Elements and Variations is one of appreciation, meaning that the difference is not in their natures so much as the way we interpret them. This clearly explains why Theme has traditionally been so difficult to pin down: because it cannot be defined by content, but by usage.

As soon as we understand that Variations represent the Story Mind’s Purpose, how to appreciate them becomes much easier. The best way to get a feel for the Variations is to see some in Dynamic Pair Relationships. Here is one quad of four Variations.

Approach                                            SELF-Interest

Morality                                                    Attitude    

So many stories come readily to mind when examining the Variations. Morality vs. Self Interest, Attitude vs. Approach: how many times have we seen these Thematic conflicts explored? That is why the Variations are in Dynamic Pairs – because the Story Mind is torn between two contradictory Purposes and must choose one at the point of the Leap of Faith.

Which is better, Morality or Self-Interest? Well that depends on your point of view, doesn’t it. It is easy to imagine a scene where it is more “correct” to lay down one’s life for the good of the group, but it is just as easy to imagine a scene where one must stand up against the common code and be an individual. The point here is that neither Morality, Self-Interest or any of the Variations is “better” or more proper than another. Rather, in a specific story, one Variation in a pair will be seen to be more appropriate to the situation at hand.

Creating a Thematic Message

Variations are where an Author makes her statement – the place where the message of the story is defined. There are four sets of sixteen Variations that are commonly applied in the most popular story structures. Only one set contains the message of a given story. When you pick a Set of Variations, you have selected the subject matter that your story will be about, and the nature of the deliberations of the Story Mind.

(Image not available in online version)

 As we can see, each set has a distinct flavor to it, and the choice of which set to employ has far ranging effects on the shadings and nuance of a story. When selecting a set, one Quad will ultimately serve as the focus of the message. For example in the Universe Set, one might tell a story that focuses on Morality, Self-Interest, Approach, and Attitude. Or, an author might elect to make a point about Instinct, Conditioning, Senses, and Interpretation. Any of the sixteen Quads that make up the sixty four Variations are equally suited to conveying a message. But for a given author, some Quads will be more appealing than others.

So, the first job in creating the Theme of a story is to select a Quad that will serve as the message focus. As a simple example, lets pick Morality, Self-Interest, Approach, and Attitude. Now one of those Dynamic Pairs will constitute the Thematic Conflict of our story. Again picking a common choice, we’ll select the argument over Morality vs. Self-Interest as the Thematic Conflict of our story.

What this means is that the Theme of Morality vs. Self-Interest will run throughout our story. This is the principal consideration that all the hullabaloo is a about. Of course, some stories concentrate on the Theme and other stories concentrate on the Characters, but EVERY story must have both, represented to some degree of prominence.

Here is where the difference between story and storytelling is clearly drawn, and also where the flexible nature of the Dramatica Model becomes apparent. Say we had selected Morality vs. Self-Interest as the Thematic Conflict of our story. How many ways could we think of to illustrate it? Quite a few! Taking candy from a baby, cheating on a test, a psychologist taking advantage of a female patient, spending your mad money on new shoes for the kids, allowing someone else to be blamed for something you did – all of these illustrate that conflict.

So, not only were we provided the choice of which Conflict to focus on, we also have an unlimited number of ways we could illustrate it. The important thing is that Morality forms a Dynamic Pair with Self-Interest, not with Interpretation, Wisdom, Strategy or any other. Certainly there is some kind of relationship between them, but not the pure antithesis of the Dynamic Pair. In fact, the relationship between any two Elements or any two Variations is consistent with their overall position relative to one another, which is why the Dynamic Pair is the most elemental relationship of conflict.

Now every Quad has two Dynamic Pairs, whenever one pair is selected as a dramatic potential (like Thematic Conflict) the Co-Dynamic Pair functions as a potentiometer to control and vary the intensity of the conflict. A Thematic Conflict of Morality vs. Self-Interest would be modulated by Approach and Attitude, the Co-Dynamic Pair. For Instinct vs. Conditioning the potentiometer will be Senses and Interpretation.

Since we can pick any dynamic pair as the Thematic Conflict, we might instead choose Approach vs. Attitude as the conflict, which would then be adjusted by the interactions of Morality and Self-Interest.

Since Theme is a synthesis in the mind of the audience, the way to achieve that synthesis is not to try and portray the Thematic Conflict directly, but to portray the Co-Dynamic Pair – the potentiometer – in the story. Then, the conflict that is being controlled is formed in the mind of the audience.

For example, let’s make our Thematic Conflict State of Being vs. Sense of Self. State of Being means the actual kind of person someone is. Sense of Self is their self image. To vary the intensity of the conflict between self image and actual state of being, we create a discrepancy between this Character’s Situation and their Circumstances.

If we make a Character’s Situation that they are a big city doctor, and the Circumstances that they are constantly brow beaten, the relationship between the Co-Dynamic Pair of Situation and Circumstances would drive up the potential between State of Being and Sense of Self. But if we make her a big city doctor who is revered by all, it makes the potential for Thematic Conflict nearly zero. We could also make her a lowly medical trainee, who is brow-beaten, and also bring to nearly zero the Thematic Conflict between State of Being and Sense of Self.

Simply put, the potential between the Variations in the Co-Dynamic Pair creates and adjusts the potential between the Variations in the Thematic Conflict.

Stories always appear to be heavy handed when the Thematic Message is driven home too directly. This happens when an author tries to make her point with the actual Variations of the Thematic Conflict. But when an author uses the Co-Dynamic Pair of Variations to control the potential, the Thematic Message of the story is created powerfully and gracefully in the mind of the audience as a synthesis. The point is never stated directly, merely alluded to. And that is the strength of Theme and the strength of Dramatica’s ability to define it.
Developing a Theme

Thinking of Theme as the “message” of a story gives a good idea of its purpose, but provides no indication about how to relate that message. Theme is not just something that springs full-grown from the story, or is simply flat-out stated, but must be developed, explored, and proven. This is not an arbitrary task. The nature and order of the Thematic Progression is absolutely interrelated to many other choices an Author makes.

Notice we are taking the first step into a new phase of Dramatica. So far we have talked only about arrangement, but now we are talking about progression. Arrangement is an appreciation of the Story Mind based on how things are ordered in Space. Progression is an appreciation of the Story Mind based on how things are ordered in Time.

Anyone familiar with writing knows that both Space and Time play a role in the creation of a story. In Dramatica, Space and Time are two different ways of looking at the same thing. A similar phenomenon would be the particle and wave nature of light. In certain instances (like with reflections) it is more practical to deal with light as if it were only a particle. This is a Spatial view and is quite useful in many ways. But not all ways. In an equal number of instances the wave view is best (such as when explaining interference patterns). This is a Temporal view. The point is: light can be seen as both a particle and a wave and these nature’s coexist. Yet sometimes is it more useful to see it as one rather than the other.

Similarly, Story can be appreciated as an arrangement or a progression. In truth, they coexist at all times. But sometimes one view is more useful than the other. So, when describing the Thematic Message of a story, we are describing the nature of a Spatial object: something that is unchanging throughout the story. But when we look at the progression of the development of that message, we are taking a Temporal view to see it as a process.

Time, in the Story Mind is manifested in many ways. The most broadly drawn is Act Order. As an introduction to time flow in the Story Mind, and as a means of describing Thematic Progression, we’ll limit ourselves to that least complex level first. In later chapters we shall see how time flow as well as spatial arrangement, are both important aspects of the development of not only Act structure, but scene structure and even the subject matter contained within the scenes.

Again, Dramatica does not dictate the specific content, order, or arrangement. Rather, it simply makes sure that the choices an author makes are consistent with one another.

The first step in looking at the progression of Thematic Development at the Act level, is to answer the age-old question: How many Acts are there in a story? Three? Four? Dramatica’s answer is: Both!

Sounds pretty non-committal, doesn’t it? No, its just more of the particle/wave kind of effect. Reconsider for a moment, what we have learned about the Subjective and Objective views: that both are looking at the same thing and just seeing it from a different perspective. It is that shift in perspective that causes the same story to sometimes appear to have three Acts and sometimes four.

The following diagram illustrates the concept:

Figure 1- Objective View   Figure 2 - Subjective View

0                 0

0                 0




  0              0

Figure 1 is the Objective View, which not coincidentally has a similar appearance to the Quad structure of Dramatica. When we are looking from outside a system to get an Objective view (the view of the General on the hill) we see all four soldiers in the battle. But if we want the Subjective View that we can only get from inside the system we need to become one of the soldiers.

For simplicity, say we have become the soldier represented by the star in the middle of the triangle in figure 2. Now, in each case, there are four soldiers in the battle. In the Objective view, we see all four with no one of central importance. but in the Subjective view, we place ourselves at the center because subjectively, things seem to revolve around us. What’s more, our attention is not focused on how we relate to the rest of the battle, but how the battle relates to us. “Ask not what your country can do for you” is the Subjective view. “Ask what you can do for your country” is the Objective view.

The fact that both a three act and a four act structure can and do coexist in every story grows directly from the difference between the Subjective and Objective views. Historically, some systems have supported a three act structure, some four, but no system can fully explain the Spatial and Temporal aspects of story.

Now, applying this to Thematic Progression: Since the Objective view always gives a view of all four Acts instead of only three, we have used it exclusively in this book so far. Keeping consistent, we will take the Objective view in examining the Act division of Thematic Progression. Let’s look once again at the four sets of sixteen Variations.


(Image not available in online version)

We have talked about the Dynamic Pairs in a Quad. This relationship is all through Dramatica. In fact, in the above four sets of sixteen Variations, the four sets form a Quad of sets. For example, the upper left set of Variations forms a Dynamic Pair with the Lower Right set of Variations.

As we have seen, we can pick any Quad as being the message Quad. That Quad is one of four in a set. Whichever set contains the Message Quad, the Dynamic Pair of that set will contain the Thematic Progression.

Now, that is a bold and significant statement. It purports that not only can an Author know exactly what the Thematic Conflict is by the Dynamic Pair of Elements she chooses, and not only can the Author know how to present that message by looking at the Co-Dynamic Pair in that Quad, but she can also find out EXACTLY the subject matter of her Thematic Progression on an Act by Act basis.

Let’s try it out. We’ll use our standard example of a Thematic Conflict of Morality vs. Self-Interest. The way to present it, then, is the Co-Dynamic Pair of Approach and Attitude. The four Acts of Thematic Progression are described by the Variations in the set that is a Dynamic Pair to the message Quad. That means one of the Acts will be about Morality vs. Self-Interest in terms of Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment and Responsibility. Another Act will be about Morality vs. Self-Interest in terms of State of Being, Sense of Self, Situation, and Circumstances. Another Act will be about Morality vs. Self-Interest in terms of Can, Want, Need, and Should. And the remaining Act will be about Morality vs. Self-Interest in terms of Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire.

Each Quad of the Set opposite the Message Quad represents one Act of a four Act Thematic Progression.

Now, we have not indicated what order these acts will be in. In fact, it requires more information about the relationship between the Subjective and Objective Characters to determine the exact Act order. In a later chapter, we will deal with precisely that. For now, though, we initially want to illustrate the relationship between the Message Quad and Thematic Progression.

The first byproduct of this dynamic, is that no matter which Quad of the four was selected as the Message Quad, the same four Quads of Thematic Progression will be used to develop and illustrate it. If we picked Strategy vs. Analysis as our Thematic Conflict instead, the same four Quads of Thematic Progression would be employed.

This relationship harkens back to our earlier discussion of how a Main Character will choose one world (Mind or Universe) to hold constant, and the other to try and solve the problem in. In our example here, Morality vs. Self-Interest is what is being held constant (hence the unchanging message) and the other four Quads are the attempts to come to grips with that conflict.

As an exercise, it is helpful to select various pairs from each of the four sets and then get a feel for how one might gear an act toward the exploration of that Conflict in terms of each Act of the Thematic Progression.

Dramatica has much more to say about Theme and how to use it, but even in this brief introduction already we have defined more about what Theme is and how it functions than ever before. However, rather than exploring all the way into Theme, while we are at this Act level appreciation of structure, we will shift domains slightly and cover the kinds of activities that Characters will engage in Act to Act.


Well, there it is – the Lost Theory Book – at least parts of it.  The remainder of the original text pretty much duplicates what is in the “official” edition, which is why it isn’t included here.

As described in the beginning, the embryonic concepts laid out in this preliminary draft are rough and sometimes off course.  Still, at worst they provide a record of the seminal thinking that went into our early understandings we were finding in our evolving model of narrative psychology.  And, at best, they point the way to undeveloped regions of the theory, awaiting exploration by the next generation of narrative theorists.

Melanie Anne Phillips

Dramatica: The Lost Theory Book

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

Published by Storymind Press

(Scroll down in center section for rest of eBook)