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Story mind... what is that? And more importantly, what
does it have to do with writers or writing? Well, if there is a central concept to the
Dramatica Theory of Story, it is the notion of The Story Mind. According to Dramatica
theory, every complete story is an analogy to a single human mind, trying to deal with an
inequity. That's quite a mouthful, so let me state it once again for clarity. Dramatica
sees every complete story as an analogy to a single human mind trying to deal with an
In other words, stories are not really about characters,
plot, theme, and genre, but rather, characters, plot, theme, and genre represent different
families of consideration that go on in a single human mind when it is trying to come to
terms with an inequity. Characters are the different motivations of the Story Mind that
influence each other, jockey for position, or come into conflict. Theme represents the
value standards of the Story Mind - the measuring sticks by which the Story Mind
determines what is better and what is worse. Plot demonstrates the Story Mind's
methodologies or techniques it employs in trying to resolve the inequity at the heart of
the story. And genre determines the Story Mind's personality - what kind of a mind it is
that is doing this consideration.
Well, that's a rather bold statement to make. After all,
why would such a complex model of psychology end up being at the center of story
structure? Surely writers didn't sit down and say, "I think I'll write an analogy to
a single human mind trying to deal with an inequity." Not hardly. So where does the
Story Mind come from? According to Dramatica, this model of the mind happens quite
naturally, by itself, as a byproduct of the process of communication.
When we seek to communicate we can't reach our audience
directly - mind to mind . Rather, we must transmit our message through a medium. To do
this, we fashion a symbolic representation of what we have in mind in the hope it will
affect our audience the same way it does us. In effect, we create a model of what we are
thinking and feeling for the audience to embrace. Which symbols we use depends upon our
personal experiences and the culture in which we are working. But beneath the specific
symbols are the essential human qualities that are the same in all of us - all cultures
and all times.
In and of themselves, these qualities do not yet
constitute a model of the mind. For example, if we wanted to convey fear, then we would
choose a symbol that would invoke fear in our audience. That human quality would then be
communicated. But it is only a small part of what makes up each of our minds.
As communication evolved, the earliest storytellers
progressed beyond simply expressing basic emotions or single concepts and began to tell
tales. A tale is a progression of symbols that connect one feeling or consideration to the
next in an unbroken chain. In this way, an author could lead an audience along an
emotional journey and also illustrate that a particular approach led to a particular
It didn't take these authors long to realize, however,
that the human heart cannot leap from one emotion to another indiscriminately without
passing through the emotions in between. This concept is well documented in The Seven
Stages of Grief, and even in Freud's Stages of human development.
Similarly, a logistic chain must not skip any links or
it will be held as invalid. So, when telling a tale, the early storytellers developed a
feel for which intermediate symbolic steps were required to get from one point of view to
another, both logistically and emotionally. We see the result of these discoveries in
concepts such as the hero's journey, and story as myth.
Still, this is not a complete model of the mind. A tale
is simply a statement that a series of concepts led from point A to point B. In other
words, the message of a tale is that a particular series of events can happen. It will be
accepted or rejected by an audience solely on the basis of taking the right steps
logistically and making the right connections emotionally. Yes, this could happen, or no
it could not.
Many fine works through the ages and even today in
novels, motion pictures and television are really not complete stories, but simply tales.
So what constitutes a story? Well, if a tale is a statement, then a story is an argument.
A tale says, "this path led to this outcome indicating it is a good way or a bad way
to go about solving a problem". A tale states that a particular outcome is possible.
A story says, "this path always leads to this outcome indicating it is always a good
way or a bad way to go about solving a problem". A story argues that a particular
outcome is inevitable.
If an early author made a statement that a particular
case was good or bad, he or she would simply have to prove that a particular approach led
to a positive or negative outcome. But if that author tried to tell the audience the
approach was always good or always bad, more than likely someone in the audience would
say, "Well, what about under these conditions," or "what about in this
context?" Being right there, the author could counter that rebuttal by explaining how
the approach would still be best or worst even in that additional case. He or she would
either make the point, or fail to make it, in which case the argument would be lost, and
the tale would remain as a only a statement, true for that case alone.
As the art of communication evolved beyond the spoken
word to the written word, however, the author was no longer physically present to argue
the point. Instead, if an author wanted to "prove" inevitability, he or she
would have to anticipate all reasonable challenges to that statement, and preclude
dissension by incorporating all appropriate arguments in the work itself. In this manner,
by the time the story is told, not only is a statement made that an approach is good or
bad, but all necessary supporting arguments have also been made to "prove" it
could not be any other way.
To make these supporting arguments, an author needs to
look at the story not only from his or her own point of view, but to anticipate all the
other points of view on the issue that audience members might take. By the time the work
is finished, it should represent a full exploration of the issue at the heart of the story
- both logistically and emotionally, addressing all considerations a human mind might
explore within the scope of the argument. In so doing, a complete mind-set is created - an
full analogy of a single human mind trying to deal with an inequity - the Story Mind.
Characters, plot, theme, and genre, evolve naturally out
of this process to represent the full spectrum of considerations made by the human mind.
Acts, Sequences, Scenes, and Events also evolve naturally as the Story Mind finishing
considering the issue from one point of view and shifts it's attention to another.
A story suffers if it's argument is left incomplete
because a valid point of view is not considered. To avoid plot holes, missing characters,
unbalanced themes, and sporadic genres, it pays an author well to consider the story mind
as a foundation upon which to build a story.
*Try either or both for 90 days. Not working for you?
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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