Try Dramatica & StoryWeaver Risk
Melanie Anne Phillips
Based on the Dramatica theory of story
originally developed by
Melanie Anne Phillips
and Chris Huntley
The Chemistry of Characters
Before the final version of "Dramatica - a New Theory of Story"
there was an earlier draft which contained unfininished concepts and additional theory
that was ultimately deemed "too complex". As a result, this material was
never fully developed, was cut from the final version of the book, and has never seen the
light of day -- until now! Recently, a copy of this early draft surfaced in the
theory archives. The following are excerpts from this "lost" text.
Because the text that follows was not fully developed, portions may be incomplete,
inaccurate, or actually quite wrong.
It is presented as a look into the history of the development of Dramatica and also as
a source of additional theory concepts that (with further development) may prove useful.
The Chemistry of Characters
To make an argument that a particular element is or is not a solution to a particular
problem, Character make-up must remain consistent throughout the story.
In order for the argument of a story to be complete, all approaches to solving a
problem must be represented. This is the purpose of Characters. Each Character illustrates
one or more ways in which one might address a problem. These different approaches are
commonly referred to as Character Traits. We call them Character Elements.
If we think of the traits as elements, we can imagine that the chemical compounds
created by various combinations can lead to an extraordinary number of different
"substances", or personalities from a relatively small number of building
Picture the Author as Chemist, filling several jars with samples from a rack of
elements. She might put a single element in one jar but a number of them in another.
Depending upon the selections she makes, a given jar might grow cold or boil, turn red or
blue, crystallize or form polymers.
Now suppose this Author/Chemist was operating under laboratory guidelines that she must
use each chemical element off the shelf, but only once - in only one jar. It is
conceivable she might put them all into a single jar, but what a mess it would be, trying
to determine which element was responsible for which effect. The interactions would become
muddled beyond understanding.
Certainly, in a story, such a hodgepodge would fail to fulfill the mandate of making a
full and meaningful argument. No, if we are to cover the field, but not at the expense of
clarity, we must examine the interactions of smaller groups of elements, which calls for
several more jars.
Obviously, if we used a separate jar for each element, nothing would react at all,
which means to an author that virtually all of the conflict within Characters would
be lost with only the potential of conflict between Characters remaining. Certainly
each element could be fully understood, and indeed, from time to time, an author may find
good reason to keep a few Character elements solo, so that they might be absolutely
defined. More often, however, it serves the story better to combine more than one element
in more than one jar.
In this way, very specific combinations can be fully explored, and not at the expense
Each of the Character Elements must be employed in one character or another. None must
be left out. Otherwise the argument of the story will have a hole in it None must be
represented in more than one Character, otherwise the argument will be redundant,
confusing, and become less interesting.
Even within these guidelines, a huge number of different types of Characters can be
created. Yet, in many stories, we see the same Characters appearing over and over again.
Characters like the Hero and the Villain and the Sidekick recur in a plethora of stories
in a multitude of genres. This is not necessarily due to a lack of creativity by these
authors. Rather, of all the elements, there is one central arrangement that is something
like an alignment of the planets. It is a point of balance where each Character looks
exactly like the others, only seen through a filter - or with a different shading.
Characters made in this special alignment are called Archetypal. Out of all the
myriad of ways in which Elements could be arranged, there is only one arrangement that is
Archetypal. Is this good or is this bad? For the author who wants to explore Character
nuances, Archetypal Characters are probably a poor choice. But for the author who wants to
concentrate on Action, it may be a very prudent choice.
It should be noted that just because a Character is Archetypal, does not mean she is a
stick figure. Archetypal Characters contain the full complement of elements that any other
Character might have. It is the arrangement of these so that all Elements of a like
kind make up a single Character that simplifies the complexity of the interactions between
Characters. This unclutters the field and allows for more attention to be paid to other
areas such as action, if that is the Author's intent.
In our example of the Author/Chemist, the jars she uses fulfill an essential purpose:
they keep the Chemical compounds separate from one another. That is the function and
definition of Character:
A Character is a unique arrangement of solely possessed elements that does not
vary over the course of the story.
The last few words above are italicized because the stability of the arrangement of
elements is essential to identifying a Character. If elements could swap around from
Character to Character, the story would lose its strength of argument, since an approach
begun by one Character might only be shown to succeed or fail in another.
When we, as audience, watch a story, we hope to learn that we should or should not use
a particular approach, so that we may grow from that experience in our own lives. But how
can that point be made if a Character does not finish what she starts. We may see the element
as failing, but the argument is left open that perhaps if only the Character who started
with that element had stuck with it she would have succeeded.
What about Jekyl and Hyde? Is that not an inconsistent Character? Yes, it is not. This
is because Jekyl and Hyde are two different Characters. Two Characters in a single
There is a great difference between a Character and the body it inhabits. We have all
seen stories about spiritual possession, split personalities, or Sci-Fi personality
transfers. In each of these instances, different Characters successively occupy the same
body or physical host. We call these hosts Players.
A Player is a host in which a Character Resides
A Player does not have to be a person. It can be an animal, spiritual force, a car, a
toy - anything that can be shown to possess a personality. Character is the personality,
Player is where it resides. So, Jekyl and Hyde are two separate Characters who vie for the
same Player's body.
Conclusion to Objective Characters
We have now defined all of the elements or traits that can be combined to create
Characters. We have also arranged these traits in meaningful groupings. We have described
methods and rules governing the combining process. And, we have related each aspect of the
Character Structure concept to the other aspects.
But something is missing. So far we have created a Structure, but it is a static
Structure. We have not at all discussed the manner in which Characters interrelate and
conflict. In effect, we have not created a set of Dynamics to drive the Structure.
As you may have noted, the Section headings of this book are divided into Structure and
Dynamics, indicating that all Structural considerations will be explored before they are
put into motion. There is a reason for this. When we had first completed discovering the
sixty-four elements of Character, and had arranged them in the Author's perspective, we
thought that Character conflict would be the next door that opened to us. It was not. Try
as we might, we could not perceive any kind of definable pattern that governed the
interactions among Characters or even Character traits.
Instead, we found something most unexpected: that there was a definitive relationship
among the structures of Character, Theme, Genre, and Plot. In fact, Plot did not just
describe the Dynamics of Character, but Theme and Genre as well. So to see the Plot
operation of Character conflict, Theme progression, and Genre perspectives, we first
needed to finish our Structural model of Story, by building a Structure for Theme and
Genre as well. Once this was accomplished we would then be able to discern and quantify
the functioning of story Dynamics.
Therefore, we move on to the next set of bricks in our DRAMATICA Structure, edging ever
closer to that elusive overview.
[Lost Theory Book Contents]
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About Dramatica and
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
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
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
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