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Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story
By Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley

Chapter 26

The Art of Storytelling

Stage Two:
Storyencoding


Introduction To Storyencoding

Storyencoding is simply the process of turning the raw appreciations of a storyform structure into the flesh and blood people, places, and events of a story that can be told.

As an example, suppose in our storyform we have selected an Objective Domain of Universe. As we have learned, this means that the Objective throughline revolves around an external situation. Now, when it comes to actually writing our story, we are not going to put down on paper, "The Objective throughline was revolving around an external situation." Our audience would have a lot of trouble getting involved with that! Instead, we're going to connect that bare appreciation to something concrete so the audience can relate to what we're talking about.

To make this appreciation real, we ask ourselves, "What kind of a situation is it?" One author might choose to say, "The situation around which my Objective throughline revolves is that a group of travelers are trapped in a sunken ship." That fulfills the dramatic function called for by the appreciation that the Objective Domain is Universe.

Another author might choose to encode an Objective Story Domain of Universe by saying, "The situation around which my Objective throughline revolves is that the parents of five children have died in a car crash, leaving the children to fend for themselves."

Clearly, each appreciation might be encoded in any number of ways. Which way you choose depends only on the kinds of subject matter you wish to explore. How you encode each appreciation will determine much of the setting of your story in a Genre sense, the kinds of things that might happen in you plot, the thematic issues that are likely to rise to the surface, and the nature of the people populating your story.

Once the concept of encoding is understood, another issue often comes up: "Storyforming and then Storyencoding doesn't seem like a very organic way to go about creating a story." Well, we can't argue with that. You see, most authors are attracted to a story not by the underlying structure, but by some element of storytelling. It could be a setting or a character or a bit of action -- anything that stimulates the imagination. In fact, most authors don't even think about a message at this stage. What gets them started is some intriguing concept, and the remainder of their effort in developing that concept is to try and build a story around it.

At first, things go very smoothly. But at some point along the way there is a hole and no inspiration to fill it. Or, there are some incompatibilities or inconsistencies and no idea how to fix them. It is at this point that authors beat their heads against the wall, run in circles screaming and shouting, and tell their story to every remaining friend they have in hope of getting some comment that will clear the creative skies.

It is a lot easier if you have a storyform.

If you already know what your story is about, then all you need to do is illustrate it. Rather than being constraining, this process is liberating. You can let your imagination run wild, then hold up each new inspiration to the storyform and see if there is an appreciation that idea will encode. You may have to tweak it a bit to make sure it will communicate the appreciation accurately, but if your intuition is pretty much on the mark, then just about anything you come up with is likely to be a part of the puzzle and simply needs to be nuanced a bit to slip it into the job it really ought to be doing.

Some of the appreciations in your storyform will already be encoded. In fact, they were encoded before you created the storyform; that's how you knew which appreciations to select. If you are using the Dramatica software, after making a limited number of selections (perhaps twelve or even fewer!) all the remaining appreciations are selected by the Story Engine. In other words, the model of story programmed into the software has calculated the dramatic influence of the selections you've made and determined that all the remaining appreciations for a balanced and complete story structure.

In the case above, many of the appreciations predicted by the Story Engine may not yet connect with anything you have already developed. Rather, you find in your Storyform a Goal of Obtaining, for example, and wonder, "Obtaining what? What are my characters after?" This is when you think about what you do know about your story. Maybe it takes place in a circus. Then a Goal of Obtaining could be getting to perform in the center ring, or winning a place as a permanent attraction in a new mega-amusement park. Your story might be about a mountain man, and his Goal of Obtaining might be to find a wife, or to get a ranch of his own. It really doesn't matter how you encode an appreciation, as long as the encoding carries the message of the story through one more stage of communication between author and audience.

Finally, if you are not using the Dramatica software, you will have selected your appreciations by feel or topic. Some may have been chosen as appropriate to specific ideas you are working with, but the rest just seemed appropriate to the story you have in your mind and/or in your heart. We're back to intuition again here. And once again, you will need to examine those appreciations which do not yet have specific encoding in your story and ask your muse to suggest something.

In the end, even if the storytelling may be atrocious it will at least make sense if it is built on a sound storyform.

The remainder of this section presents hints and tips for encoding all four aspects of story: Character, Theme, Plot, and Genre. By far, Character is the most complex of these for it requires the greatest subtlety and nuance to fashion believable people who still manage to fulfill their dramatic functions. As a result, you will find the character section the longest of the lot, and also, due to its importance, the first one we address.


Proceed to the Next Section of the Book-->


How to Order Dramatica: A New Theory of Story

Back to the Table of Contents

Back to the Dramatica Home Page


Copyright 1996, Screenplay Systems, Inc.

The Dramatica theory was developed by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley
Chief Architect of the Dramatica software is Stephen Greenfield
Dramatica
is a registered trademark of Screenplay Systems Incorporated


Visit the Dramatica Theory Home Page

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*Try either or both for 90 days.  Not working for you?  Return for a full refund of your purchase price!

About Dramatica and StoryWeaver

Hi, I'm Melanie Anne Phillips, creator of StoryWeaver, co-creator of Dramatica and owner of Storymind.com.  If you have a moment, I'd like to tell you about  these two story development tools - what each is designed to do, how each works alone on a different part of story development and how they can be used together to cover the entire process from concept to completion of your novel or screenplay.

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.  StoryWeaver 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 Together

By itself Dramatic 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 they go.

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 Both Programs Risk Free!

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 purchase price.

 
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Includes 2 Exclusive Bonuses! The most 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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Little brother to Dramatica Pro, Writer's DreamKit is built around the same patented Story Engine - it just tracks fewer story points.  So, you develop the same solid story structure, just with fewer details.  Perfect for beginning writers or those new to Dramatica.

Power Structure <br>Story Development <br>Software

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An all-in-one writing environment with built-in word processor that helps you organize and cross-reference your story development materials.  INCLUDES DVD SET BONUS!

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The little brother of Power Structure includes the essential organization and word processing tools writers need the most.

Throughline - Index Cards (Mac) - $19.95

Interactive index cards - add notes, titles, colors, click and drag to re-arrange.  An essential tool for every writer.

Movie Magic Screenwriter<br>Plus FREE Bonus!

Movie Magic Screenwriter - $149.95

The most advanced screenwriting software available, Movie Magic is deemed a "preferred file format" by the Writer's Guild.  An industry standard, MMS is used by professionals and studios around the world.

Final Draft 7 <br>Screenwriting Software

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Everything you need to know about story structure - twelve hours of video on a single DVD - presented by Dramatica Theory co-creator, Melanie Anne Phillips.

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StoryWeaving Tips Book - $19.95

170 pages of eye-opening essays on story structure, storytelling, finding inspiration and a wide variety of writing techniques.

Writing with the Story Mind<br>1 hour audio program

StoryWeaving Seminar 8 DVD Set - $99.95

14 hours of video from a live two day course taught by theory co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips covering Dramatica story structure and StoryWeaver storytelling.

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The Dramatica Theory<br>2 hour audio program

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Every key concept in the Dramatica Theory of Story is fully explained in this double-CD set.

Writing Characters<br>of the Opposite Sex

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A three-hour audio CD set that explains everything you need to know to create characters of both sexes that ring absolutely true (and maybe even gain insight into the communication problems in the real world!)

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Master Storyteller Improves Your Writing - $29.95

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A 90 minute video program recorded during Dramatica co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips' live in-person seminar on story structure and storytelling.

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Structure vs. Passion - Audio CD $19.95

The Story Mind approach to writing uses your own passions to create your story's structure.  It focuses your efforts, clarifies the direction of your story, and triggers your imagination.


Writing with the Story Mind - Audio CD - $19.95

Learn how to psychoanalyze your story's "mind" to uncover and treat problems with characters, plot, theme, and genre.


 

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