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Abandoned documents from the earliest days
of Dramatica Theory development
Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley
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
States Patent Number 5,734,916
The Dramatica Dynamic Model
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
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
storys "Orientation" and the determinate of its specific linear order of
presentation, a storys "Alignment".
"Orientation" is determined by the authors
application of a "Bias" to a story, and "Alignment" is controlled by
the authors 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
authors Bias choice for that level, the other as a result of the authors 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 authors selection of four binary Bias choices, four will
be determined by the authors selection of four binary Skew choices, and four will be
automatically determined by the four combinations of Bias and Skew.
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?
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
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 Storys
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
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 Characters Justification will be applied first, making it
the more accurate of the two. If the author selects Change, then the Storys
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
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 Characters 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
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
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
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
Start or Stop?
A Main Characters 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 Characters Justification Class
relative to the Storys 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 hasnt 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
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:
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
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
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
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.
the Dramatica Theory Home Page
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