A Writer Comments...
Dramatica's terminology is too obscure and inaccessible to most writers. Since the
differences between such terms as "Conceiving" and "Conceptualizing",
"Preconscious" and "Subconscious", or "Mind" and
"Psychology" is paper thin anyway, can't you come up with some alternative words
that are easier to understand?
Excellent wish list! And I agree. I believe that any words which are difficult to
understand in the semantic chart should be replaced immediately with more accessible words
that are just as accurate. For example, Conceiving and Conceptualizing are much too
osbcure to be of use to the vast majority of writers. They should absolutely be replaced.
Unfortunately, I have personally been unable to come up with alternatives.
What is needed is an approach whereby writers themselves, having a command of the
vocabulary, might suggest replacement words which we could consider. For those who might
be interested in pursuing that endeavor, let me give some "plain English"
definitions of the terms mentioned in the above comment, to assist in the process of
finding different words that fit the definitions.
First, the writer's comment notes that the difference between Mind and Psychology is
"paper thin". That is probably due to our choice of words. In fact, the
definitions between the two are quite far apart.
The most notable difference is that Mind is a state and Psychology a process. Mind can
also be defined as our fixed attitude on any subject. It is also how we feel about things
emotionally, such as what we enjoy eating, the sports we like to watch, who we love,
whether we like the mountains or the beach better. It also means our whole collection of
memories. It is also includes our prejudices. Part of Mind is described by the phrase,
"Hey, that's just where his head is at."
What "Mind" DOESN'T mean: It is NOT a person's personality. It is NOT his or
her instinct. It is NOT thought or consideration. Personality is a combination of the
fixed attitudes AND the mental processes in which an individual engages. Instinct
describes how a mind responds to its environment based on built-in fixed tendencies,
meaning that intinct is more akin to a physical process, which is why that Dramatica terms
is actually found in the Physics Class, rather than the Mind Class. Thought and
Consideration are mental processes, so they have no place in a descripition of a mental
Perhaps the best way to come up with words is to look at the whole quad. Each quad is
really based on the very same relationships among four items as any other quad. It is the
relationships that define the quad, not the words in it. So, if you can find one word in a
quad that makes sense, you can base the other three words on those relationships.
For example, a quad of Male, Female, Masculine, Feminine, has exactly the same
relationship among the words at Mass, Energy, Space, and Time. This is also the same
relationship as Up, Down, Higher, Lower or Knowledge, Thought, Ability, Desire, and Dead,
Alive, Getting older, Becoming more youthful.
So, if we look at the quad containing Mind and Psychology, we see that Universe, Mind,
Physics, and Psychology have that same relationship in concept: in this case, an external
and internal State and Process. That's really all it means. Just that: Universe, an
external state. Mind, and internal state. Physics, and external process. Mind, and
Armed with this perspective, we can see why Mind would describe which sports we like to
watch, while Psychology would describe the path our thoughts and emotions take while
watching the game.
Okay, so for those two words, we now have a number of explanations available from which
to work. Now, the question is: what better words can be chosen for these two distinct
meanings that are more accesible, cover the complete ground of each meaning, do not stray
into the other word's meaning in connotation or denotation, and fit as appropriately with
the other two words in the quad (Universe and Physics) while maintaining the foundational
quad relationship which must hold true in every quad.
As I mentioned, I've personally been unable to come up with more appropriate
alternatives, but fresh minds considering the above definitions may find a solution more
Now, looking at the remaining words suggested as prime candidates for change:
Preconscious and Subconscious.
Preconscious is a filter which prevents sensory information from making its way into
the energy patterns of the mind, be they logistic, emotional, or even autonomic. It does
not matter where this filter comes from to fit this definition. It might come from
built-in brain patterns caused by genetic memory, caused by brain injury or damage, caused
by experience at such a low level it doesn't even effect one's subconscious drives and
The key point is that even the SUBCONSCIOUS is not affected by the Preconscious in a
proactive way. Rather, Conscious, Memory, and Subconscious are equally presented with
filtered sensory information so that the Observation we Perceive may not be an accuate
representation of the information in which our sensory organs were actually bathed.
In contrast, Subconscious is the mean average of ALL the sensory experiences which
actually get into the mind and aren't stopped cold by the filter. Conscious, Memory, and
Subconscious ALL receive sensory information directly, as well as receiving sensory
information from each other which has already been processed by one or both of the other
two. But none of those three receive ANY information which hasn't already been filtered by
What sets the Subconscious apart is that it is not a mental force caused by specific
observation, but is more like a field of snow drifts of different breadth, depth, and
shape. This field is modeled by the constant drift down of sedimentary thoughts which
evaporate out of inactive considerations, forming the storm clouds of memory, which drop a
gentle snow fall on the field of the Subconscious.
So, whereas Preconscious would be like sitting in a room with a ticking clock and,
after a while, no longer hearing it (habitation), Subconscious would be more like having a
gut level reaction to some person, place or thing you had never met, been, or seen before
- either to be drawn toward it or repulsed by it.
Preconscious determines of what we will be aware. Subconscious determines which of
those things we will pay attention to above others, because of a sense of attraction or
repulsion. As simply as I can put it: Preconscious determines what we see, Subconcious
determines how well we perceive. Preconscious determine if we hear. Subconscious
determines how well we listen.
Before we jump into picking new words, we need to examine one additional attribute of
Preconscious: In addition to filtering OUT information, it also filters it IN. This isn't
just a play on words. Rather than limiting the flow of sensory data into the mind due to
habitation, the Preconscious additionally represents the force of
"sensitization". Here, sensory input which is too weak or insignificant to make
it all the way through the neurology into the mind gets amplified or boosted by the
Preconscious, much as telephone signals are boosted on the way from a home or office to
the switching station. So, our senses can either limit out information or make us acutely
aware of information. The Subconscious, then, will determine how much attention we pay to
what is there (based on its interest value as an attractor or repeller) or how much we
notice that something is missing (based on our yearnings and fears).
As a last comment, Preconscious should not be confused with Instinct. Instinct causes a
built-in response to patterns of observation. When a pattern is recognized, it triggers
mental activity which can lead to action. In contrast, the Preconscious determines how we
will respond to sensory stimulation before the mind gets hold of the information. It is
well known that sensory signals generated by touching a hot grill may cause the hand to
pull back before the nerve signal has time to be processed by the the brain. This is not
Instinct, but Preconscious.
In effect, there are direct routes from sensory input to physical response. In
addition, there are direct routes from physical conditions to emotional response. Parts of
the brain such as the hypothalamus and pituitary secrete chemicals which flavor and even
cause emotional conditions. These can be affected by such things as exercise and the types
of foods recently eaten (as well as by medications). Preconscious encompasses this kind of
impact as well.
Again, we must look at the whole quad to determine if our new words work in the
essential relationships among all four items that define the quad in the first place. This
quad has Memory, Conscious, Preconscious, and Subconscious in the same positions as Mass,
Energy, Space, and Time, and Dead, Alive, Growing older, Getting younger, as well as all
the other examples listed above. The new words must also fit.
Finally, my most hated of words in the whole chart: Conceiving and Conceptualizing
Simply put, Conceiving is the process of determining what is needed. Conceptualizing is
determining how to fill that need. Now that is a really warped view, but it is simple. For
example, Conceiving would be looking at all the things that might lower the night-time
crime rate in a third world city to find the best thing to do the job. Conceptualizing
would be visualizing how to build an electric light.
Conceiving takes time because it requires the consideration of a number of
alternatives: a bigger police force, turning vicious dogs loose at dusk, more severe
punishments for night-time criminals, arming the populace, etc. Each time a new item comes
to mind, Conceiving concludes.
So, some stories might be about the mental work of trying to arrive at just one idea,
while the course of the story is filled with frustration until that happens. But another
story might show a series of efforts of conceiving, each of which is shown not to be
satisfactory, so the process begins again. In the example above, the story would not end
until someone conceived of using artificial lighting of some sort, rather than dogs or
In that story, no one spends time figuring out how to actually PAY for more police, how
to keep the dogs from attacking innocent people who were visiting sick relatives, how to
know which members of the population should receive guns since the criminals would receive
them as well if the whole population got them, OR how to build an electric light bulb. All
of THOSE ideas require Conceptualizing, rather than Conceiving.
But to say, as I did, that this was just about figuring out what was needed
(Conceiving) and what would fill that need (Conceptualizing) is seriously misleading, if
not absolutely wrong.
Conceiving and Conceptualizing also apply to internal issues, and even emotions. And,
they don't have to be about a lack, but can be about an over abundance. AND, they don't
have to be about something that is a problem, but can be about something that is good. AND
they don't have to be about changing anything, but can be about fully appreciating or
So, a person who sits for hours at a computer answering email might engage in
Conceiving by looking for the aspect of that activity which most attracts her. She also
might Conceptualize some other more healthy activity which would bring the same pleasure.
Or, she might Conceptualize a way to make email answering revolve around the most joyous
aspect even more. (Clearly, this example is fiction!)
In truth, Conceiving and Conceptualizing do not require each other. One might be a cave
man who conceives of the need for artificial lighting, but will never Conceptualize an
electric light bulb or any other means because the pre-requisites simply don't yet exist.
Similarly, one might conceptualize an electric light bulb without having any idea to
what use it might be put. That is the "D" in "R & D". Development
in the hope that once something is actually created, a use for it will be found.
Again looking at the quad, Conceptualizing, Conceiving, Being, and Becoming have the
same relationship at Mass, Energy, Space, and Time. They don't feel like it though, do
they? That is because we are in the Psychology Class, and that class is the one of the
four in the quad of Classes that is at the "end of the trail". Just like, Dead,
Alive, Growing older, and Becoming Younger, the last one, "Becoming Younger," is
the least accessible to simple understanding.
So, the Psychology Class is the hardest to see in a logical mode. But, since Conceiving
and Conceptualizing are down at the Type level, they are already two levels into the area
in which logic works least well. That means that these areas are really best understood in
terms of emotion. I don't mean words describing emotion, but in terms of actually FEELING
the meaning, rather than THINKING the meaning.
But, we can't put feelings directly in the chart. So, when we go even one more level
down in the Psychology Class, we get even farther away from the experiential aspect. For
example, the Variations Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment, and Responsibility are
all understandable as things we see in others, but they are SUPPOSED to describe how those
things feel to US.
What do YOU FEEL when you have a sense of Obligation - a sense so strong that even
though all your logic and common sense tell you to chuck it all, you still stick around?
This is one reason people stay in awful marriages even though they are quite aware of all
the awful things they endure. There is that gut-level twang of Obligation, or
Responsibility, or a truly motivational, adrenaline-rush sense of commitment, or that
strange little force of Rationalization which allows you to lie to yourself about your
real reasons for doing something, yet buy it hook line and sinker until you absolutely
believe it as if it were the gospel.
So, jumping back up to Conceiving and Conceptualizing, the new words must not only
capture the definitive meanings but also the much more important emotional feel of what is
Finally, we must note that although every quad illustrates the same relationships among
four items, there is a reason why each quad uses four different words. The entire
structure is based on the upper left item in the topmost quad which we call
"Universe". That is the Knowledge position in the quad, which is why we call the
structure a K-based system. That is also why we say that the whole structure is biased
toward K. In our society, we read from upper left to lower right, which makes that
Universe postion the most powerful.
But more than that, whatever we chose to be the upper left item would set the tone or
bias for the approach by which the other semantic terms need to be chosen. This means that
the quad is not only about relationships, but that each of the items in the quad, even
before it is named, has some intrinsic value.
For example, if we picked four math functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication,
and division, each has a meaning in and of itself. Now suppose we put these functions in a
quad - not the names like "addition", but the actual functions themselves.
The FUNCTION of addition might go in the upper left of a K-based quad, and then
following the same pattern as all our previous examples the subtraction, multiplication,
and division functions would follow. We still haven't named them, just made their
functions operate in each of the four spaces in the quad.
So, each has an identity without a name. Now, if we create a second quad under the
addition function and give that quad the very same four functions something interesting
happens. If we want to look at that quad, we have to go through addition first. In other
words, we would have to perform the addition function before we could get to the
subtraction below it, or any of the others in the second level quad. We are applying one
operation on top of another. Clearly, the order in which these functions are played out
will change the result of the equation we are creating. This means that we cannot consider
the second level equations except in the context of the operation which was already
performed to get there.
The result of all this is that if we wanted to name each item in the second level quad
under "addition" in the top quad, the names would have to be different than
those under "division" in the top quad, even though the same four functions are
This creates a fractal nesting to the whole structure. And, with any fractal structure
one can see repetitive patterns. So, when we compare the second level word,
"Past" to its parent "function", Universe, this has the exact same
relationship as the second level word, "Memory" compared to ITS parent function,
Therefore, when we come up with new words, they must not only match the definition of
the function and maintain its relationship with the other three items in its quad, but
must ALSO maintain an analagous relationship with any parents above it and any children
below it COMPARED TO all other items and their parents and their children.
Tha'ts why the structure took so long to create. You start from K and work your way
down to the elements and maintain identities, intra-quad relationships, inter-quad
relationships, and analagous fractal relationships.
So, in conclusion, I absolutely agree that some of the words in the chart are difficult
to access. Absolutely we must find better alternatives. But since we aren't just talking
words here, but semantic representations of mathematical relationships and functions, it
is important to be sure accuracy is not lost in the quest for accessibility.
The only reason the Dramatica chart and Story Engine work at all is because the
algorithms which created them are accurate and mathematically precise. The most accurate
appreciation of it would be to simply understand the structure without any words at all.
But, since that is virtually inaccessible to most, the next best thing is to assign words
to each of the functions that intuitively describe their identities and illustrate their
relationships. It is almost as if distance between terms in the model holds meaning, and
if one pre-supposes a meaning, one could know precisely where to chart it on the model.
Let us move forward, then, with all haste to replace obscure words, but let us also
move forward with utmost caution to ensure that accuracy is maintained. For if the words
chosen to not accurately fulfill all of the precise identities and relationships they are
intended to represent, then the model they create as semantics will no longer function
accurately to hold and predict meaning. The Story Engine will keep working according to
its programming and the chart will still be nested, but the meaning of the chart and the
semantic output of the engine will start missing the mark as being intuitive. The
Dramatica effect will be diluted, and the power, usefulness, and magic of the theory and
software will be reduced.
By all means, we MUST make things more accesible, but I firmly believe we do writers a
better service by providing slightly obscure absolute accuracy than by providing slightly
accurate absolute understanding. With an accurate model, a certain amount of learning can
ultimately provide complete understanding, but with an inaccurate model, the more one
learns, the more obscure it becomes.
If you've read this far, congratulations on your tenacity: you are now ready to
consider all the variables you'll need to juggle in the process to suggest alternative