The Story Mind

By Melanie Anne Phillips

One of the unique concepts that sets Dramatica apart from all other theories of story structure is the assertion that every complete story is a model of the mind’s problem solving process. This Story Mind does not work like a computer, performing one operation after another until the solution is obtained. Rather, it works more holistically, like our own minds, bringing many conflicting considerations to bear on the issue. It is the author’s argument as to the relative value of these considerations in solving a particular problem that gives a story its meaning.

To make his case, an author must examine all significant approaches to resolving the story’s specific problem. If a part of the argument is left out, the story will have holes. If the argument is not made in an even-handed fashion, the story will have inconsistencies.

Characters, Plot, Theme, and Genre are the different families of considerations in the Story Mind made tangible, so audience members can see them at work and gain insight into their own methods of solving problems. Characters represent the motivations of the Story Mind (which often work at cross purposes and come into conflict). Plot documents the problem solving methods employed by the Story Mind. Theme examines the relative worth of the Story Mind’s value standards. Genre establishes the Story Mind’s overall attitude, which casts a bias or background on all other considerations. When a story is fully developed, the model of the Story Mind is complete.

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