Dramatica is a new theory describing how stories work. It is also the name of a line of software products that help authors use the theory to design flawless dramatic structures for their stories.
The more you know about the theory, the more useful the software becomes. This book describes all the key concepts in the Dramatica theory and how to use them with the software.
Can you give a quick description of the theory?
Everything in Dramatica is built around a single central concept called “The Story Mind.” The Story Mind concept states that stories are more than a number of characters doing things in the plot with thematic values in a particular genre. Specifically, Dramatica sees every story as a model of the problem solving processes of the human mind. Characters, plot, theme, and genre are different families of thought that go on in the mind, made tangible, so the audience can watch the inner workings of their own minds to learn how best to solve different kinds of problems.
Characters are the motivations of the Story Mind. Plot represents the methods the Story Mind uses to try and solve the problem, driven by its motivations. Theme illustrates the Story Mind’s conflicting value standards as it tries to determine the best way to evaluate potential solutions to the problem. Genre describes the Story Mind’s overall personality: what kind of a mind is it, that is trying to solve this problem?
How can learning about the Story Mind help me write better stories?
For a story to feel complete to an audience, the story’s problem and possible solutions must be fully explored. If some point of view on the issues or some approach is not tried, then it will feel as if there is a hole in the plot or that there are inconsistent characters.
Dramatica theory has created a map of all the essential points of view and approaches. Each one needs to show up in order for the story to feel complete. So, by learning about the Dramatica theory, one learns how to create a dramatic structure without holes or inconsistencies.
Doesn’t this lead to a “formula” approach to story structure?
It would if Dramatica was just a checklist of points of view and approaches, but it is much more than that! Story structure is actually made up of Story Points. Each Story Point is made up of a point of view on a particular approach. The approach is what the audience is looking at. The point of view positions the audience in relationship to that issue. Together, they create perspectives, each of which is a different Story Point.
Just as in real life, there is more than one way to look at an issue, so too each point of view might be matched to any one of a number of different approaches. When you consider all the different kinds of perspectives (Story Points) that can be created, it is easy to see how Dramatica does not lead to formula stories. In fact, the Dramatica software can create 32,768 completely different dramatic structures, based on the number of Story Points it currently tracks.
Is Dramatica hard to learn?
The concepts aren’t hard, but there are quite a lot of them. This is because Dramatica describes all kinds of stories in great depth. Still, each concept you learn will be immediately useful even by itself in improving your stories. The more concepts you learn, the more you will begin to see how the underlying forces that drive stories actually work. For those who have the patience, you will eventually reach a point where all the concepts blend together in an intuitive understanding of stories that will help you channel your creative inspirations into meaningful directions.
Sounds like a lot of “New Age” mumbo jumbo. Is it?
Not at all. Since Dramatica deals with a model of the human mind and emotions, it is not surprising that it may seem at times almost philosophical. But the theory takes a more precise approach to its subject than philosophy. As an example, the Story Engine in the software that keeps track of the relationships among Story Points is so precise and revolutionary that it received a patent from the United States Government.
Dramatica is the first successful attempt to describe the relationship between what goes on in story structure, and what goes on in the mind. It offers insight into what needs to be in a story and why it needs to be there. By studying the theory and using the software you will learn to improve the structural foundation of your passionate expression as an author.
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