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Tips from Dramatica Users...
"Encoding Signposts and Journeys"
From: Armando Saldaña Mora (tictic@DATA.NET.MX)
Subject: The answer to all your troubles-1.
This is a long E-mail, but I think it'll be worth it.
I've noticed two recurrent problems on Dramatica writers:
1) The "I'm encoding the
same scene/information over and over in all the throughlines" syndrome.
"I always fold at Storyweaving" syndrome.
I know that well because I had those two problems myself. Here are the symptoms:
Let me show you the problem in vetro, let's say that I'm writing a story about a
deformed child who is neglected by his father, in which Young Jed (the deformed child) is
Protagonist and Main Character and Old Abraham is Contagonist and Obstacle Character. Now
here comes the problem, I used to encode things like:
- OS Signpost 3: Conscious. "Abraham makes Jed conscious that he
doesn't loves him"
- MC Signpost 3: Understanding. "Jed understands that Abraham
doesn't loves him"
- OC Signpost 3: Being. "Abraham stops pretending that he loves
Jed in order to make him know so"
- SS Signpost 3: Future. "Abraham and Jed now know that there
won't be any love in their future"
Now, I went to Storyweaving and only then I realized that that was the same darn* scene
written four times!
Why did that happened? Because I started writing with some ideas about the story and
when I started encoding I only sticked to my original ideas, and didn't create new ones to
flesh my Storyforming apreciations in a dramatic and interesting way.
Now here's the cure, step by step:
1. make a complete tale about each throughline. Go to the Reports section, look at the
Story Engine Settings report and look at each throughline Domain, Concern and Problem. It
looks like this: OS: Mind, Preconscious, Effect. MC: Physics, Doing, Effect. OC:
Psychology, Being, Result. SS: Universe, Progress, Accurate.
That is to say that your MC tale is about a character who is trying to change a
negative effect by doing something. And your OS tale is about some characters that are
fixed on the unthinking reactions something's causes them and have problems with the
effect this causes. (NOTE: On the OS Throughline you'll have to define your Objective
Characters into a group. Go to the Story Info Window and look at the Period and Place
fields. Are your Objective Characters a community? A working group like a police force?
People find at random that shares the same fate, like in a Vonnegut novel? Your Objective
Character group definition could be as broad as America or as the Milky Way, but the more
precise, the better for you)
Going back to our example, Our OS tale could be encoded as "A mid-America small
town community that has problems in accepting a deformed boy because they can't help the
repulsive reaction his looks causes them" And our MC tale is about "A deformed
child that's trying to overcome the effect he causes on people through an activity"
let's give him something more "he has an incredible talent to play the violin. His
violin playing has an incredible effect on people that makes them forget the boys
physicality" (NOTE: Even though the OS problem and the MC problem are the same
"Effect" try and encode them differently. One is a effect of repulsion, the
other is an effect of attraction. Do this every time you have the same element in
different apreciations) Our OC tale is about a "Stepfather who used to be an
alcoholic and after his only son was born deformed (let's give him more) and his wife died
in the delivery room, he became sober. But since his quitting didn't fixed his boy and
didn't bring back his wife, (and he doesn't have the consolation of alcohol anymore) the
man blames himself for all the misfortune and isn't able to accept his son love."
Finally our SS tale is about "A father and son who isolate themselves from the
outside world, more and more each time, until the moment they became misfits, not accurate
enough to be sociable accepted, so they have to turn to each other"
Having worked on your throughline tales your apreciations have much more room to grow,
but still beware: the idea inertia can get you to encode apreciations with the same ideas
over and over. When this happens, go back and change them! think hard "How can I make
another use of "Understanding"? The boy can't understand? He misunderstood the
other character words? He tries to make everyone understand how it feels?..."
And then, be creative! Don't be bullied by the software to believe that you must give
an exact answer like if you're working with Microsoft Excel. You are writing! and when
encoding don't think on terms of black and white. My rule of thumb is "The
Appreciation says "Understanding", if my encoding idea just feels like
"Understanding" (even if I didn't use the word "understand" anywhere)
I go for it!
So using all this**:
- OS Signpost 3: Conscious. "Jed decides to give a public violin
performance. He goes to the church with his violin without even consulting the preacher.
After the service, when the people is getting up he shouts 'Wait, I wanna play for you!'
and drags himself to the stand. Everyone lowers their sight. Jed takes his violin but
before playing a single note he hears a little girl saying ''why is he so ugly, mommy, did
he sinned a lot? Jed froze. He takes down his violin and goes home."
- SS Signpost 3: Future. "Abraham is in his living room, he never
goes to church. Jed arrives home. His father looks at him coldly and says 'I heard you
made a fool of yourself today at church. Now you'll have to spend the Sundays in here with
me... just what I needed' And goes into his room"
- MC Signpost 3: Understanding. "Jed doesn't wants to understand
the community rejection, his father rejection. He tries to escape the pain. Once more he
goes into the attic to play his violin for 12 hours or more, uninterrupted"
- OC Signpost 3: Being. "Abraham hears the violin and gets
furious. He plans to go to the attic and shout the kid to shut up, but while going up the
stairs Jed's music works his magic. Abraham sighs and began to cry. Abraham reaches
something inside of him. He spends all night sitting in the hallway under the attic trap
door, hearing his son playing. Crying in silence"
Now, that works a lot better.
NOTES: Please forgive my horrible spelling and use of English. I write all these
e-mails in Spanish and try to translate them the best I can.
* Forgive me for using the word "Darn" but I needed to express my frustration
of looking at an unusable encoding.
** These type of encoding the plot progressions, to encode them as events, opposed to
the Exploration Areas Encoding described in the Storyguide book works for me. You can
encode your progressions as Exploration Areas if you like and still use the Throughline
Tales techniques described here. If you want more information on how I weave the Event
encoding progressions (and about Storyweaving), I'll write about these in other E- mail
called "The answer to all your troubles-2"
*Try either or both for 90 days. Not working for you?
Return for a full refund of your purchase price!
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