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

Chapter 36

The Art of Storytelling

Stage 4:
Story Reception


About the Audience


What do you have in mind?


Few authors write stories without at least considering what it will be like to read the story or see it on stage or screen. As soon as this becomes a concern, we have crossed the line into Reception theory. Suddenly, we have more to consider than what our story's message is; we now must try to anticipate how that message will be received.

One of the first questions then becomes, how do we want it to be received. And from this, we ask, what am I hoping to achieve with my audience. We may wish to educate our audience, or we may simply want to bias them. Perhaps we are out to persuade our audience to adopt a point of view, or simply to pander to an existing point of view. We might provoke our audience, forcing them to consider some topic or incite them to take action in regard to a topic. We could openly manipulate them with their informed consent, or surreptitiously propagandize them, changing their outlook without their knowledge.

No matter what our author's intent, it is shaped not only by who we are, but also by who the audience is that we are trying to reach.

Who are you talking to?


You are reading this book because you want to use the Dramatica theory and/or software to help you record something you are thinking about or feeling. For whatever reasons, you have decided you want to record something of yourself in a communicable form.

A primary question then becomes: to whom do you intend to communicate? You might simply wish to communicate to yourself. You may be documenting transient feelings that you wish to recall vividly in the future. Or you may want to capture the temporal ramblings of your chain of thought and then stand back to see what pattern it makes. Self-searching is often a primary objective of an author's endeavor.

Writing for Someone Else


What if you are writing not for yourself but to reach someone else? It might be that you hope to reach a single individual which can be done in a letter to a friend, parent, or child. You might be composing an anecdote or speech for a small or large group, or you could be creating an industrial film, designing a text book, or fashioning a timeless work for all humanity.

In each case, the scope of your audience becomes more varied as its size increases. The opportunity to tailor your efforts to target your audience becomes less practical, and the symbols used to communicate your thoughts and feelings become more universal and simultaneously less specific.

The audience can thus range from writing for yourself to writing for the world. In addition, an author's labors are often geared toward a multiplicity of audiences, including both himself and others as well. Knowing one's intended audience is essential to determining form and format. It allows one to select a medium and embrace the kind of communication that is most appropriate -- perhaps even a story.

Dramatica and Communication Theory


Exploring all avenues of communication is far beyond the scope of this initial implementation of the Dramatica Theory. To be sure, Dramatica (as a model of the mind) has much to offer in many diverse areas. However, for the practical purposes of this software product, we cannot cover that much ground. Rather, we will briefly touch on major perspectives in the author/audience relationship that can also serve as templates for translation of the Grand Argument Story perspective into valuable tools for other forms of communication. In this manner, the usefulness of this specific software implementation can extend beyond its immediate purpose. (What does this say about OUR intended audience?)

Writing for Oneself


In the Great Practical World of the Almighty Dollar Sign, it might seem trite or tangential to discuss writing for oneself (unless one expects to pay oneself handsomely for the effort). In truth, the rewards of writing for oneself DO pay handsomely, and not just in personal satisfaction. By getting in touch with one's own feelings, by discovering and mapping out one's biases, an author can grow to appreciate his own impact on the work as being in addition to the structure of the work itself. An author can also become more objective about ways to approach his audience. (And yes, one can gain a lot of personal insight and satisfaction as well.)

The Author as Main Character


As an experiment, cast yourself in a story as the Main Character. Cast someone with whom you have a conflict as the Obstacle Character. Next, answer all the Dramatica questions and then go to the Story Points window. Fill in as many of the story points as seem appropriate to you. Print out the results and put them aside.

Now, go back and create the same story again -- this time with your "opponent" as the Main Character and YOU as the Obstacle Character. Once again, fill in the story points and print them out. Compare them to the first results. You will likely find areas in which the story points are the same and other areas in which they are different.

These points of similarity and divergence will give you a whole new perspective on the conflicts between you and your adversary. Often, this is the purpose of an author when writing for himself. Thoughts and feelings can be looked at more objectively on paper than hidden inside your head. Just seeing them all jumbled up together rather than as a sequence goes a long way to uncovering meaning that was invisible by just trotting down the path. After all, how can we ever hope to understand the other person's point of view while trying to see it from our perspective?

A wise woman once said, "Don't tell me what you'd do if you were me. If you were me, you'd do the same thing because I AM ME and that's what I'm doing! Tell me what you'd do if you were in my situation."

Documenting Oneself


Another purpose in writing for oneself is simply to document what it was like to be in a particular state of mind. In a sense, we jot down the settings of our minds so that we can tune ourselves back into that state as needed at a later date. The images we use may have meaning for no one but ourselves, and therefore speak to us uniquely of all people. The ability to capture a mood is extremely useful when later trying to communicate that mood to others. To bring emotional realism to another requires being in the mood oneself. What better intuitive tool than emotional snapshots one can count on to regenerate just the feelings one wants to convey. To make an argument, accept the argument. To create a feeling, experience the feeling.

Who is "Me"?


A simple note is stuck to the refrigerator door: "Call me when you get home." Who is "me?" It depends on who you are asking. Ask the author of the note and he would say it was "myself." Ask the recipient of the note and they would say, "It's him." So the word "me" has different meanings depending upon who is looking at it. To the author, it means the same when they wrote it as when they read it as an audience. To the intended audience, however, it means something quite different.

In life, we assume one point of view at a time. In stories, however, we can juxtapose two points of view, much as we blend the images from two eyes. We can thus look AT a Main Character's actions and responses even as we look through his eyes. This creates an interference pattern that provides much more depth and meaning than either view has separately.

My "Me" is Not Your "Me"


When writing for others, if we assume they share our point of view, it is likely that we will miss making half of our own point. Far better are our chances of successful communication if we not only see things from our side but theirs as well. Overlaying the two views can define areas of potential misunderstanding before damage is done. Still, "Call me when you get home" is usually a relatively low-risk communication and we suggest you just write the note without too much soul-searching.

Writing for Groups


What Binds a Group?


Groups are not clumps. They are conglomerations of individuals, bound together (to various degrees) by an aspect of shared interests or traits. Sometimes the common theme can be an ideology, occupation, physical condition, or situation. Sometimes the only thread of similarity is that they all gathered together to be an audience.

Do readers of novels "group" as an audience? Certainly not in the physical sense, yet fans of a particular writer or genre or subject matter are bound by their common interest. Regular viewers of a television series start out as individuals and become a group through bonding of experience. They know the classic "bits" and the characters' idiosyncrasies. In fact, the series' audience becomes a group representing a fictional culture that ultimately becomes one more sub-cultural template in actual society. Works can indeed create groups as well as attract them.

What Binds Us All Together


What of the "captive" audience that has no sense of what they are about to experience, yet are gathered in a classroom or reception room or boardroom or theater? What of the audience attending the first telecast of a new series, knowing little of what to expect?

Underneath all the common threads binding an audience together is a group of individuals. Each one is responsive to the same essential mental processes as the next. It is this intrinsic sameness -- not of ideas but of the way in which ideas are formed -- that makes us all part of the group we call humans. At this most basic level, we are all part of the same group.

Symbolic Identification


Throughout this book we have stressed the difference between storyforming and storytelling. A clear communication requires succinct storyforming. Communicating clearly requires appropriate storytelling.

What makes storytelling appropriate? The fact that the symbols used to encode the storyform are both understood in denotation and connotation by the intended audience. If the audience misreads the symbols, the message will be weakened, lost, or polluted.

Identifying with one's audience is not enough: one must also identify one's audience. It is all well and good to feel part of the group. But it can be a real danger to assume that identification with a group leads to clear communication in appropriate symbols or clear reception by all audience members.



Proceed to the Next Section of the Book-->


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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.

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Movie Magic Screenwriter - $149.95

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

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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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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.


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