A step by
step approach to story development, from concept to completed story for
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you through the entire process.
powerful story structuring software available, Dramatica is driven by a
patented "Story Engine" that cross-references your dramatic
choices to ensure a perfect structure.
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Elements of Structure -
Art of Storytelling
by Melanie Anne Phillips
Theory Book begins:
"Part of what makes a story great is its underlying dramatic structure and
part is the manner in which that structure is related to an audience, often
called "storytelling". Therefore, this book is divided into two
principal sections: The Elements of Structure and The Art of Storytelling."
When I wrote that paragraph, I thought it was pretty self explanatory. But over
the years I've been surprised by how many people, though they agree with the
concept in principal, don't really understand the difference between those two
facts of a story.
Part of the problem is that people lump all aspects of a story other than the
words they use to tell it into a single glop they think of as the structure.
This means they see a characters name, its job, age, gender and so on as
structure. They see the setting, time frame and genre as structure. They all the
events that happen and all the moralizing as part of the structure. Yet none of
these are structural elements at all. They are, in fact, part of the
Why is it important to differentiate the two? Because structure can only be
solidly built if you see it for what it really is - the framework that holds up
In this tip, I'd like to spend a little time illustrating the nature of and
differences between story structure and storytelling, and provide some
techniques for using this clear view of both to enhance the soundness of your
story and your creative experience as well.
What we're going to do is break a completed story into four parts, rather than
just structure and storytelling. To do this, we'll use an analogy.
Think of a story as a body. There's the skeleton, the soft tissue, the clothes
and lastly the haircut, jewelry, make-up, facial hair, cologne and so on.
The skeleton is the structure, the soft tissue is the encoding (I'll define this
in a moment), the clothes is the exposition and the finishing touches are the
Structure then is the fixed framework that defines the basic shape and function
of the thing. For example one story might have a goal of Obtaining a particular
item. Another story might have a goal of Becoming a different kind of person.
Obtaining a thing is completely different from Becoming a new person, so those
two structures would be completely different.
Now on to the soft tissue of story, the Encoding. Using the above example, in
the Obtaining story the goal might be to obtain a treasure, a diploma, someone's
love or the answer to a riddle. Clearly each of these stories would seem
completely different, even though they are all Obtaining stories and, therefore,
In the other story example, "Becoming" might be becoming more honest,
becoming more self-sufficient, becoming more passionate or becoming more
considerate. Again, each of these would seem like a different story, even
though, structurally, they are all about Becoming something.
Just as the same skeleton
can belong to a fat person or a thin one, a healthy one or a sick one, a strong
one or a weak one, so too a single structure can manifest itself in many
So we have a pretty good grip on a very fundamental understanding of the first
two parts of a story, the structure and the encoding. Now we consider the
clothing, which is the equivalent of Exposition.
In stories, as in clothing, exposition is the way the thing is revealed. How
much do you show up front? How long does it take to see more? What do you see in
what order? And when do you get to see it all?
Authors need to remember that while they know their entire story from beginning
to end and everything in between, their audience or readers don't. So the job of
exposition is two-fold. One, to make sure you find a place in the unfolding of
your story to convey everything you want the audience/readers to know. Two, to
consider how best to unveil the details of your story like a striptease artist,
teasing your audience/readers to instill in them the greatest possible interest.
Finally, we come to the actual storytelling - the fancy dancy
primps and preens that give the whole package pizazz. Now consider that though
you have completed the first three stages in developing your story (built a
structure, determined the encoding, and worked out the exposition, you haven't
actually written a word! So this last stage, Storytelling, is (surprisingly
enough) where you actually tell your story!
The structure determines what it is, the encoding determines what it means, the
exposition determines how it comes across, and storytelling determines how it
feels. In other words, in four steps you've moved clear across from a fully
logistic approach to the elements of structure to a purely passionate
experience in the art of storytelling.
Now, I promised to describe why this is useful to a writer. First of all, we
shouldn't think about the four stages when we are creating - it just moves us
into an analytical frame of mind and smothers our Muse. But once we are done
with inspiration for a bit, then we need to look at our story more objectively -
to examine it analytically to make sure we haven't missed a beat, gone off
track, failed to communicate or lost the passion.
A completed section of your story may mask problems in one of the four aspects
by something really cool in another. This doesn't solve the problem, it just
hides it behind some flash. In the end, it might wow, but it won't sustain.
Conversely, the best balance meal of a story might be bland to the point of
being impossible to swallow, yet seems quite complete to an author. By
separating the four stages, you can see where your storytelling might not have
enough oomph and needs to jiggle its booty a bit more to entice.
By putting structural considerations out of your mind while you creatively
write, it frees your Muse to pursue any creative path that appeals to her. By
putting creativity out of your mind while you analyze,
you can see clearly where the problems are and how to go about fixing them.
In the end, you'll be more productive and have a more pleasant creative
experience. And all by being truly aware of the difference between the elements
of structure, the art of storytelling and all the points between.
*Try either or both for 90 days. Not working for you?
Return for a full refund of your purchase price!
About Dramatica and
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.
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 Alone
By itself Dramatica 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
How They Work
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.
Try Either Program
We have a 90
Day Return Policy here at Storymind. Try either or both of these
products and if you aren't completely satisfied we'll cheerfully refund your