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Abandoned documents from the earliest days
of  Dramatica Theory development

developed by
Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley

The Dramatica 
Dynamic Model

op_quads.gif (10572 bytes)


The following document was one of the first attempts to model the Story Engine which drives the Dramatica software.  If the structure is likened to a Rubik's Cube, then these algorithms describe how the cube can be twisted and turned to create different patterns - in this case, dramatic patterns.

The Dynamics are driven by questions posed to an author.  The author's answer to each question twists the model in a different manner.  Some of the questions twist the model directly, others twist the relationship between other questions so that depending upon some answers other questions may have completely different effects   on the structure.

The structure is built from smaller units called quads.  Each quad contains four items.  They are arranged so that they represent a fractal relationship from top to bottom and an iterative relationship as they spiral up from bottom to top.

To visualize the dynamics that drive the model, we must use another kind of quad called and "Operation Quad" or "Op Quad" for short.   Toward the end of this document is a chart showing the primary Op Quads.  Each position in each quad represents an operation which will be performed on the structure in response to an author's answer to a particular question.

As indicated above, some operations are applied directly to the structure's quads, and others are applied to other Op Quads, twisting them and therefore altering the manner in which the operations are later applied to the structure.

Finally, it should be noted that this early attempt to quantify the structural dynamics is not completely accurate.  Some operations were later refined to become more symmetrical, thereby providing questions to authors which are more evenly spaced around a story's structure.  In addition, a good deal of terminology was later changed, and even the interpretation of what certain operations meant to a story was refined.  This can be seen  in the names and descriptions of some of the questions, several of which were completely redefined as the Story Engine evolved.

NOTE: Portions of the following material 
are protected under

United States Patent Number 5,734,916


The Dramatica Dynamic Model

by Melanie Anne Phillips
co-creator of the Dramatica Theory & Software

The following information describes the nature, content and functioning of the Dramatica Dynamic Model and its relationship to and effect upon the Dramatica Structural Model.


The entire Dramatica model consists of two parts: a Structural model and a Dynamic model.

The Structure represents the relationship of the processes of the Story Mind (how they affect each other) through the spatial arrangement of semantic terms within a matrix.

The Dynamics represent the external force or the Environment that acts upon the Story Mind creating a differential between the Story Mind and the Environment.

The Dynamics are implemented as operations that re-order the arrangement of the Structural semantics within the matrix. When the Structural and Dynamic models are balanced against each other, there is no dramatic potential and there is no story. When an imbalance (or inequity or difference) exists between the Structure and the Dynamics, dramatic potentials are present and a story exists. It is the function of the author to specify the nature and location of the differentials between the two models.

In and of themselves, this differential is a relationship of logic, but its overall impact on an audience when presented in a linear fashion over the course of the telling of a story determines the emotional meaning.

We refer to the differential between Structure and Dynamics as a story’s "Orientation" and the determinate of its specific linear order of presentation, a story’s "Alignment".

"Orientation" is determined by the author’s application of a "Bias" to a story, and "Alignment" is controlled by the author’s use of "Skew".

"Bias" is the process of making four binary choices as to the Orientation of the Dynamics, and "Skew" is the process of making four binary choices as to the Alignment of the Dynamics in respect to the Structure.

The Dynamic Model

The Dynamic model has four "levels" of appreciation of the differential. One level is based on looking at (or using a particular kind of measuring stick to examine) the differential in terms of Space; one in terms of Time; one in terms of Objective Reality, on in terms of Subjective Reality.

In the following examples we will present the levels as four horizontal rows. Each of these four levels has three "measurements" that are made with that appreciation. One is Objective/Subjective, one is Space/Time, one is Positive/Negative. These three factors are presented as vertical columns.

In each level, two measurements will be made: One as result of the author’s Bias choice for that level, the other as a result of the author’s Skew choice. The relationship between the Bias and the Skew is measured by the third measurement. As a result, of the twelve positions in the grid of the Dynamic model, four will be determined by the author’s selection of four binary Bias choices, four will be determined by the author’s selection of four binary Skew choices, and four will be automatically determined by the four combinations of Bias and Skew.


Bias Questions:

1. Does the Main Character need to Change or Remain Steadfast?

2. Does the Main Character Succeed or Fail?

3. Is that a Good thing or a Bad thing?

4. Do we view the Main Character with Sympathy or Empathy?


Skew Questions:

1. Is it an Action or Decision story?

2. Is the main Character a "Do-er" or "Be-er"?

3. Does a "Space-lock" or a "Time-lock" limit the story?

4. Does the main Character need to Stop doing something he is doing or Start doing something he hasn't been doing?

Bias Question Effects

Steadfast or Change?


Stories are driven by "Justification", which might be defined as the difference between the way the main Character sees things and the way things really are. When we look at Justification Objectively, we see the Story’s Bias. When we look at it Subjectively, we see the Main Character's bias. Both Biases swap semantics into different positions in the Structural model by "flipping" or "rotating" them within a quad. The Story Justification favors rearranging all items at a given "resolution" first, THEN moving to lower resolutions, completing the functions at each before moving to the next. The Main Character Justification favors rearranging items through all resolutions, THEN, moving through the allied items at the same level in which it started. In terms of the Structure, Story Justification favors the horizontal quads, and Main Character Justification favors the vertical quads.


Because there are two kinds of Justification, one will be applied to the model first, the other second. The result is that the first one applied will work on the neutral structure directly, the second one applied will work on an already biased structure. Sometimes the Main Character has to accept things the way they are (Change) or cause things to get in line with the way he sees them (Steadfast). If the author selects Steadfast, then the main Character’s Justification will be applied first, making it the more accurate of the two. If the author selects Change, then the Story’s Justification will be applied first, making it the more accurate.

Good or Bad?


Once the two Justifications have been applied, they need to be presented to the audience. Unlike the author, the audience does not see the story as an overall foregone set of dramatics. Rather the audience is presented the dramatics in a time linear fashion as a story unfolds; slowly building up an understanding of how they all fit together. This is not unlike the scanning lines of a television building up an entire picture.


The justified structure can be scanned in either of two manners. One, it could be presented in a depth- first order that favors resolution or in a breadth -first order that favors in horizontal quads. If the author selects "Good"the type of scanning will favor the same approach as the first kind of Justification applied to the model. If the author selects "Bad" the type of scanning will favor a different approach than the first kind of justification applied to the model. This creates in the audience all possible combinations of feeling that Main Character’s success or failure is a good or bad thing in terms of "The Big Picture"

Success or Failure?


Success or Failure is determined whether or not the Main Character achieves his goal, independent of good or bad. In order to achieve his goal, he must end up where he wants. Because a quad has four positions and can be seen as dynamic or companion pairs, in order to succeed, the Main Character must start at one point and end at its appropriate partner. If he does not, he has failed.


The quads of the success/failure level are by default arranged in a success configuration. If the author chooses Success, there will be no effect. If the author chooses failure, the Dependent pairs of each of the three quads at this level will flip in reference to each other within each quad. In other words, in each quad, one of the dynamic pairs will invert from top to bottom in reference to the other, simultaneously disrupting both dynamic and companion pairs and preventing the main Character from successfully completing his quest.



The audience can feel one or two ways about their Main Character; they can identify with him or simply identify him. In the first case, they see the story trough his eyes. In the second case, they focus his attention on him. Either way the Main Character is the center of the story but we either see story from his point of view or watch him as he experiences the story.


The three quads at the bottom level are juxtaposed upon each other in order to create appreciations of all the quads in the structure as to their subjectivity, objectivity, time, space, positive and negative natures. When combined as they are in their default position, the relationships created between subjective and objective will have the audience looking trough the Main Characters eyes, the author's choice of "Empathy". If the author chooses "Sympathy" all three quads flip over like poker chips, and are combined from their reverse sides, reordering subject and objective, time and space, positive and negative and having the audience look at the Main Character.

Skew Questions

Action or Decision?


The story's justification either represents an external or internal inequity of the story mind. If the Skew is external, the Justification (and hence the story) will manifest itself in action. If the Skew is Internal, the story will focus on decision.


The two operations of "flipping" and "rotating" will be applied to the Structure, one before the other. If the flipping portion of the Story Justification function is applied first, the Story will favor a spatial (or external) view and will manifest itself in action. If the rotation portion of the Story Justification function is applied first, the Story will focus on the temporal and (internal) view and the story will manifest itself primarily in Decision.

Do-er or Be-er


Just as the story's justification can favor Action or Decision, so can the Main Character's Justification. The Do-er or Be-er choice identifies the main Character as someone who prefers to attempt to resolve inequities and solve problems by taking action or making a decision (changing the environment and changing oneself).


As with the Story Justification, if the Main Character will "come off" to the audience as a Do-er. Rotate first, flip second will create a Be-er Main Character.

Space-lock or Time lock?


Every story would go on forever unless the Main Character reached a point where he was forced by circumstance to make a decision to change or remain Steadfast in "a leap of faith". To reach this point the Main Character must "run out of room" to delay his decision. The limiting factor can either be spatial or temporal. In the Space-Lock the Main Character runs out of options. (New things to try to avoid the leap of faith) In the Time-Lock, the Main Character runs out of time to try new things.


Although flip and rotate may carry all the items below them when they are applied to the Structure (carrying the children), in a given quad the children may go only with flip or only with rotate, or with both or neither. In a Space lock, it is the shape of the flip pattern that determines which of those four scenarios applies. In a Time-lock, it is the shape of the rotate pattern that determines which of the four applies.

Start or Stop?


A Main Character’s success depends upon his meeting the need or either adopts a new method to get rid of and old one. For example, is a Main Character blocked from success because he is mean or because he lacks kindness? Obviously these are two sides of the same coin, but which we focus on is the issue here.


The position of the Main Character’s Justification Class relative to the Story’s Justification Class determines the Start or Stop nature of the roadblock to success. If the two classes are companions, the main Character must Start doing something he hasn’t been doing. If the classes are dependent pairs, the Main Character must Stop doing something he has been doing.

What needs to be implemented


The four Bias and four Skew questions must be asked of the author, and the result of each made available as calls to invoke certain sub-routines.


The following operations must be available to apply to the Structure:


The following quad arrangement must be created so that the operations of flip and rotate can be called in a manner as to apply them to the structure based on the position in the quad:

op_quads.gif (10572 bytes)

Justification Sub-routines

Each of the two types of Justification has very specific rules that delineate the location and order of applying flips and rotates to the Structural model. These functions will be specified later, as it is a large and complicated procedure. The important thing at this point is that both of the Justification Sub-routines will need to be able to access the arrangement of the flip and rotate quads as well as which one is locked to the children and which ones carry the children. This information will then allow the sub-routines to apply the proper mix of operations to each specific quad.

Structural Considerations

Since we are making the calls of flip and rotate; we need to be able to move the semantics of the structure around in the matrix. Earlier in the Dramatica development, we accomplished this by calling the original position of the semantics as their Absolute Address, and the positions they moved to their Relative Address. Each semantic, then, might carry two addresses with it: the Absolute, which remains constant no matter where it is, and the Relative, location dependent and changeable. This is essential, as in order to obtain meaning from the justified model; we need to return all of the semantics to their original position.

Here is how that works. We have discussed in the past the concepts of Potential, Resistance, Current, and Power (or Outcome). These are the four spatial measurements that can be made of any quad. Potential will always be attached to whatever semantic item is in the upper left corner of the quad, Resistance to the upper right, Current to the lower left, Power to the lower right. When the model has been fully justified, the PRCP template is applied to each quad and attached to the semantics in the quad at that time. Next, the semantics are returned to their Absolute Address, dragging the PRCP markers with them. Obviously, in many cases, the PRCP will be all out of order in the Absolute Address arrangement. This is the nature of finding meaning in the justified model: to see how this PRCP has shifted as a result of a specific justification. This shift is what we see in the dynamics we have already programmed. Similarly, the 1,2,3,4 act-order template is also applied to the Justified model at the same time as the PRCP, and this is why Act order in the Structure is determined by the Justification of the applied dynamics.

In Summary

1. We must obtain the four Bias and four Skew answers from the Author.

2. We must use those answers to orient the internal make-up of certain quads, and the relationship between others.

3. We must be able to access the position of items in each of these quads.

4. We must be able to lay quads of dynamics "on top" of each other to determine how various orientations combine.

5. We need a system of Absolute and Relative addressing for the semantics of the Structural model and a means of attaching a template to them that can be carried back to the Absolute address position.

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About Dramatica and StoryWeaver

Hi, I'm Melanie Anne Phillips, creator of StoryWeaver, co-creator of Dramatica and owner of  If you have a moment, I'd like to tell you about  these two story development tools - what each is designed to do, how each works alone on a different part of story development and how they can be used together to cover the entire process from concept to completion of your novel or screenplay.

What They Do

Dramatica is a tool to help you build a perfect story structure.  StoryWeaver is a tool to help you build your story's world.  Dramatica focuses on the underlying logic of your story, making sure there are no holes or inconsistencies.  StoryWeaver focuses on the creative process, boosting your inspiration and guiding it to add depth, detail and passion  to your story.

How They Do It

Dramatica has the world's only patented interactive Story Engine™ which cross-references your answers to questions about your dramatic intent, then finds any weaknesses in your structure and even suggests the best ways to strengthen them.

StoryWeaver uses a revolutionary new creative format as you follow more than 200 Story Cards™ step by step through the story development process.  You'll design the people who'll inhabit your story's world, what happens to them, and what it all means.

How They Work Together

By itself Dramatic appeals to structural writers who like to work out all the details of their stories logically before they write a word.  By itself, StoryWeaver appeals to intuitive writers who like to follow their Muse and develop their stories as they go.

But, the finished work of a structural writer can often lack passion, which is where StoryWeaver can help.  And the finished work of an intuitive writer can often lack direction, which is where Dramatica can help.

So, while each kind of writer will find one program or the other the most initially appealing, both kinds of writers can benefit from both programs.

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