Essential Perspectives in Your Story’s Structure

All meaning comes from perspective – putting things in context. And perspective is created by the combination of what you are looking at and where you are looking from. Change the object of your intention and perspective is altered. Shift your point of view and perspective shifts as well.

The Dramatica Story Structure Chart is a map of what you might wish to explore (look at) in a story.  When you pick your topics and add points of view you have determined how your readers or audience will be positioned in regard to the issues you wish to explore, which is the essence of story structure

The Dramatica chart is divided into four different sections, each one representing a different kind of topic.

SITUATIONS:  The first section deals with stories about fixed situations, such as being stuck in a collapsed mine or struggling with a disability.

ACTIVITIES:  The second area is for stories about activities like trying to win a race or the effort to discover a lost civilization.

ATTITUDES:  The third covers stories about fixed attitudes, mindsets, fixations or prejudices.

MANIPULATION:  The final section deals with changing attitudes, manners of thinking, and emotional progressions such as slipping into a depression.

 

To create meaning in our story we need to add points of view to the topics under consideration.

Just as there are four kinds of topics, there are also four points of view from which to see them.  They are the Objective View,  the Subjective View, the Main Character View, and the Influence Character View.

THE OBJECTIVE VIEW:  The Objective view explores your story’s topics as would a general on a hill watching a battle in the valley down below. Though he cares about the conflict below him, he is not directly participating and also sees a bird’s eye view of the broad strategies involved. Essentially, the Objective view encompasses the “Big Picture” of the grand schemes in your story – from the outside looking in.

THE MAIN CHARACTER VIEW:  But what about the personal view – what things look like from the inside looking out. For that, we have to imagine that we zoom down from the hill into the shoes of one of the soldiers on the field of battle. We experience what he experiences, we feel what he feels, we see things through his eyes. This is the most personal point of view in a story, and it is that of the Main Character – the character with home the reader/audience most identifies – the one whom the passion of the story seems to be about or to revolve around.

THE INFLUENCE CHARACTER VIEW:  The third point of view is from the inside looking in – much like one soldier encountering another in the midst of all the dramatic explosions. This represents the way we all look within ourselves to consider our options, other outlooks we might adopt, whether or not we should change our point of view. So this is the view of the Main Character looking at the Obstacle Character – representing that alternative paradigm we might change to embrace.

THE SUBJECTIVE VIEW:  Finally, there is the Subjective view of the argument we make with ourselves about the pros and cons of sticking to our guns or changing our minds. This is represented by the personal skirmish between the Main and Influence charactersin the midst of the overall battle as seen by the general from the Objective view.

In essence, these four points of view are equivalent to I, You, We and They.

The Main Character is “I” – our sense of self or identity in our own minds.

The Influence Character is “You” – perhaps our future “I” – another way of being we might adopt.

The Subjective Story is about “We” – our examination of the relationship between our now and futures selves – the difference between who we are and who we might become.

The Objective Story is “They” representing all the other aspects of ourselves that aren’t being pressured to possibly change.  This is the realm of the archetypal characters.

Having outlined the four topic categories and the four points of view, what remains is to combine them together to create your story’s structural perspectives. In fact, all four topic categories must be explored in your story for it to feel complete. What sets one story apart from another begins by the author’s decision as to which point of view will be used to explore which topic category.

When the points of view are matched to a corresponding topic realm, four principal perspectives are created for your story. And each perspective is a different angle on the truth at the heart of your story – a different approach to discovering and solving the problem issue that creates all the difficulties in your story.

This match of point of view and topic area of interest is called a “Domain.” So, since the four points of view are matched up with the four topic areas, your story will have four Domains of perspective – the Objective Domain, Subjective Domain, Main Character Domain, and Influence Character Domain.

To fully develop your story, you’ll need to dig deep into each domain to see in greater detail the true heart of your story’s problems. This means that each point of view looks deeper and deeper into sub-topics within the overall topic over the course of the story.

To facilitate this, each domain in the chart is divided into smaller and smaller parts – squares  within squares so they are balanced evenly within the mechanics of your story’s structure.

As an example, in the Dramatica chart we find that the overall area of Situation is sub-divided into four smaller aspects: Past, Present, Future, and Progress, while the area of Activities is divided into Learning, Understanding, Doing, and Obtaining.

Each of these areas requires a little study to really understand how to use the chart to explore your subject areas in a way that creates the kind of impact you wish to have on your readers or audience.

Summing up, for a story to having meaning and to build a message, we must include all four of the topic areas and all four points of view to fully develop the four essential perspectives of story structure.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creatorDramatica

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