Melanie Anne Phillips
Based on the Dramatica theory of story
originally developed by
Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley
Problems & Dilemmas
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.
NOTE: This excerpt errs in describing Mind and Universe
almost as if they were points of view, rather than the areas which are observed. In
actuality, it is the combination of a point of view with an area under observation which
creates perspective - the foundation of dramatic meaning.
Without a problem, the Dramatica Model, like the mind it represents, is at rest or
Neutral. All of the pieces within the model are balanced and no dramatic potential exists.
But when a problem is introduced, that equilibrium becomes unbalanced. We call that
imbalance an Inequity. An inequity provides the impetus to drive the story forward and
causes the Story Mind to start the problem solving process.
Work Stories and Dilemma Stories
In Dramatica, we differentiate between solvable and unsolvable problems. The solvable
problem is, simply, a problem, whereas an unsolvable problem is called a Dilemma. In
stories, as in life, we cannot tell at the beginning whether a problem is solvable or not
because we cannot know the future. Only by going through the process of problem solving
can we discover if the problem can be solved at all.
If the Problem CAN be solved, though the effort may be difficult or dangerous, and in
the end we DO succeed by working at it, we have a Work Story. But if the Problem
CANT be solved, in the case of a Dilemma, once everything possible has been tried
and the Problem still remains, we have a Dilemma Story.
Mind and Universe
At the most basic level, all problems are the result of inequities between Mind
(ourselves) and Universe (the environment). When Mind and Universe are in balance, they
are in Equity and there is neither a problem nor a story. When the Mind and Universe are
out of balance, and Inequity exists between them, there is a problem and a story to be
told about solving that problem.
Example: Jane wants a new leather jacket that costs $300.00. She does not have $300.00
to buy the jacket. We can see the Inequity by comparing the state of Jane's Mind (her
desire for the new jacket) to the state of the Universe (not having the jacket).
Note that the problem is not caused solely by Jane's desire for a jacket, nor by the
physical situation of not having one, but only because Mind and Universe are unbalanced.
In truth, the problem is not with one or the other, but between the two.
There are two ways to remove the Inequity and resolve the problem. If we change Jane's
Mind and remove her desire for the new jacket -- no more problem. If we change the
Universe and supply Jane with the new jacket by either giving her the jacket or the money
to buy it -- no more problem. Both solutions balance the Inequity.
Subjective and Objective Views
From an outside or objective point of view, one solution is as good as another.
Objectively, it doesn't matter if Jane changes her Mind or the Universe changes its
configuration so long as the inequity is removed.
However, from an inside or subjective point of view, it may matter a great deal to Jane
if she has to change her Mind or the Universe around her to remove the Inequity.
Therefore, the subjective point of view differs from the objective point of view in that
personal biases affect the evaluation of the problem and the solution. Though objectively
the solutions have equal weight, subjectively one solution may appear to be better than
Stories are useful to us as an audience because they provide both the Subjective view
of the problem and the Objective view of the solution that we cannot see in real life. It
is this Objective view that shows us important information outside our own limited
perspective, providing a sense of the big picture and thereby helping us to learn how to
handle similar problems in our own lives.
If the Subjective view is seen as the perspective of the soldier in the trenches, the
Objective view would be the perspective of the General watching the engagement from a hill
above the field of battle. When we see things Objectively, we are looking at the
Characters as various people doing various things. When we are watching the story
Subjectively, we actually stand in the shoes of a Character as if the story were happening
A story provides both of these views interwoven throughout its unfolding. This is
accomplished by having a cast of Objective Characters, and also special Subjective
Characters. The Objective Characters serve as metaphors for specific methods of dealing
with problems. The Subjective Characters serve as metaphors for THE specific method of
dealing with problems that is crucial to the particular problem of that story.
[Lost Theory Book Contents]
the Dramatica Theory Home Page
Try Dramatica & StoryWeaver Risk
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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
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depth, detail and passion to your story.
How They Do It
Dramatica has the world's only
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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
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