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Dramatica and the Number 64

By Melanie Anne Phillips

It has been suggested that the fact there are 64 dramatic Elements in the Dramatica Theory of Story is mighty suspicious.  After all, that's a real convenient number if you are going to be creating a software program, such as Dramatica Pro.  Which naturally leads to the speculation that perhaps the Dramatica Theory is not so much about what's really going on in story as it is about describing stories in terms of how software might best look at them.

Another unsettling fact is that you'll find a lot of symmetry in Dramatica - pairs of things like Protagonist and Antagonist, quads of things like the four Domains: Objective Story, Subjective Story, Main Character and Obstacle Character, and so on.  Perhaps one of the most "disturbing" aspects of the theory is that everything is in even numbers - 2 Subjective Characters, 8 Archetypes, 4 Plot Signposts, etc. - Or, perhaps it just appears that way....

After all, there are 3 Plot Journeys that span the 4 Plot Signposts and give us the standard Three Act Structure.  But, you can also structure a story to emphasize the first Signpost, the three Journeys, and then the final Signpost, thereby creating the feeling of a 5 Part Plot Progression (handy for television programs and their commercial breaks).  In addition, you can clearly illustrate all four Signposts and all three Journeys in a throughline thereby creating 7 different dramatic movements along the way.

As a final example of odd numbers in Dramatica, there are four primary character functions: Protagonist, Antagonist, Main Character and Obstacle Character.  Protagonist and Antagonist fight over the goal, Main Character and Obstacle Character fight over moral values.  Often, stories will make the Protagonist the Main Character and the Antagonist the Obstacle Character so that only two players represent all four attributes between them.  In such a case, these two characters fight over the goal and also fight over moral values.  This can get pretty confusing, so often authors will split one of those character to create a "dramatic triangle" to make the two kinds of conflict easier to follow.  In such a case, you might have the Protagonist be the Main Character, the Antagonist fight with him (or her) over the goal and the Obstacle Character (often a "love interest") fight with him or her over moral values.  Suddenly four attributes becomes three characters.

The point of all this is that you aren't limited to exploring just even numbers or things in fours, eights, sixteens, or sixty-fours.  And yet, the Dramatica theory (and especially the Dramatica chart) does divide itself into these even number chunks based on multiples of four.  So why is that?!!!

Simple - because we all think in four dimensions: Mass, Energy, Space and Time.  There are no other dimensions we can directly sense (though we can conceive of all kinds of dimensions in M theory, for example).  But at the very top of that heap are the four dimensions we can sense directly.

Actually, Dramatica goes beyond that.  It sees those four external dimensions but also sees four internal ones as well: Knowledge, Thought, Ability and Desire.  What the hell?  Stay with me here...  Knowledge is the Mass of the mind.  It is "material" in the mind - the fixed and defined.  Thought is the Energy of the mind.  Just as Energy can rearrange mass or become attached to it as potential, so too can Thought organize Knowledge and also be attached to it as potential.

Ability is the "Space" of the mind.  Say, what?  Think about it.  Mass exists in Space; Ability exists in Knowledge.  And you can think about Mass and Space in terms of what is and what isn't just as you can think about Knowledge and Ability in terms of what you know and what you don't.  It is really the relationship between what you know and what you don't that defines Ability just as the relationship between what is and what is not defines Space.

Now, Desire....  Desire as it equates to Time in the external dimensions.  Time can only be measured by comparing what was to what is and what might be - that is how we can experience the concept of motion - by comparing where something was to where it is and projecting where it might be.  Internally, Desire is determined by comparing how things were to how they are and how they might be.  And in this way we measure progress, which is how we see motion in our lives.

This isn't just a lot of cute loose connections between hard physics and pop psychology - oh, no!  Well, not entirely anyway.  You see, in physics E=MC2, which is to say that Energy equals Mass time the speed of light squared.  How is speed measured?  in Space and Time (cm per second, in the case of Einstein's equation).  So, even in the physical world, four things - Mass, Energy, Space and Time - can be combined into three (Mass, Energy and Speed).  Sounds a lot like Dramatica, don't it?

Well, then you'll love (or hate) this...

The primary equation of the Dramatica model of story from which the entire structure is built is quite simple: T/K = AD, or Thought divided by Knowledge equals Ability time Desire.  What the hell?  (again!)  Okay... when we think in logic, we are parlaying our Thought against our Knowledge.

Example:  Knowledge bends our thoughts in new trajectories because of what we know, just as Mass in Space bends energy (such as light waves) along the vectors of its gravity.  "Plain English, PLEASE!"  'Kay....

It takes a lot of thought to make a little knowledge, just as a little bit of knowledge can generate an awful lot of thought.  Now...  isn't this interesting...  That relationship between Knowledge and Thought is the same as the relationship between Mass and Energy in Einstein's equation:  It takes a lot of energy to make a little mass but a little mass can generate an awful lot of energy.

What an interesting (or convenient) similarity between Dramatica and Relativity.  Well, here's a little more then...  If you take the equation of Dramatica - T/K = AD and do a little rearranging using Algebra by multiplying each side by K you get T = K (AD).  Looks unnervingly like E=MC2, doesn't it?

Of course, in Einstein's version, Space and Time are combines into C2 (which is the Speed of light (Time) multiplied by the wavelength of light (Space), thereby combining Space and Time into a single C2.  Why is it a constant?  Because when the speed goes up the wavelength goes down so they are both on this cosmic seesaw and collectively never change their value, even when they keep rocking back and forth.

So too it is in Dramatica.  Ability and Desire are blended by our minds into "Desirability" so we can think logically in Knowledge and Thought.

Think about the ramifications - no matter how great our knowledge or thought, if either our ability or desire are zero, then nothing's going to happen because it means all our considerations amount to naught.  But if every element in the equation has a value of more than zero, there will be some degree of motivation within us.

We all know that different frequencies of light have different speeds, but none of them have a speed of zero or light would have to have a wavelength equal to infinity.  And in our minds, there are many emotional flavors of desire, but none are really ever at a zero-level or Ability would have to be infinitely huge (like, God, say...) or we'd never move.

My but haven't we drifted far afield from "The Number 64" (the title of this article).  Alright, here's another co-incidence for you - the IChing has 64 elements, just like the Dramatica Chart.  Honest to Madeline Albright, we didn't know that until someone brought it to our attention once Dramatica was released.  But the really strange thing is that the pictograms in the I Ching line up exactly with the same mathematical progressions in Dramatica.

In fact, one Dramatica user was so intrigued that he created a whole explanation of how Dramatica's archetypes correspond to the I Ching.  You can find it at http://storymind.com/dramatica/i_ching/index.htm  assuming you're interested.  (It's there even if you aren't interested - like Schrodinger’s Cat)

Legend has it that the guy who originated the IChing got the idea from looking at the patterns on the back of a tortoise.  Not surprising.  If Dramatica and it's equations are based on how the mind makes patterns, then any pattern we see is not so much generated by what we observe but by our projection of a pattern upon it from those available to our minds in order to understand it as fully as we can.  After all, a sprial in a teacup and a spiral in a galaxy have no similarity at all except in our own minds.

Oh, and as for the I Ching - to get the best interlock between the Dramatica Chart and the I Ching's chart of Trigrams, be sure to use the "Pristine Yi King" rather than today's common "I Ching" which was corrupted from the original by an ancient monarch seeking to bend the meaning of the grid to his own political motives.

So Dramatica deals with the concept of a Story Mind - that every story's structure is the psychology of a SINGLE mind in which all the characters represent facets.  And, since Einstein's equation was all about Relativity in the physical universe, we decided to name our equation and the model of psychology that grew from it, Mental Relativity.  I have a whole web site devoted to it, though it hasn't been updated in years (no time, honest!)

Final thought for today - E=MC2 (and constants in general) appear as such only from inside the system being measured.  We always blend two items into a baseline from which to measure and observe the other two.  So, you stepped outside the universe you could clearly see time and space as separate and not locked to each other on that seesaw at all, thereby severing the space-time continuum and making all kinds of things possible (like that two dimensional man on a piece of paper who can't cross a straight line drawn across the page).

Similarly, we think in threes, but one of the threes is really two things combined.  Looking at others we are observing their universe from the outside and so we see their thought processes in fours, leading us to easily see the solutions to their problems but not to our own.

And lastly, the equation T/K = AD is not the only one in Dramatica.  Sequentially, we go through all permutations such as A/K = TD.  Now that isn't mathematically equivalent to the first equation, but it describes a particular mindset.  To get the best parallax on the universe, our minds adopt one equation (mind set) after another in order to see things in all possible contexts.  The benefit is that you get more "depth" on the issue, the drawback is that things are constantly changing so that by the time you go through all the mind-sets, the issue may no longer be the same as it was when you started, making your results inaccurate.

It is that inaccuracy that creates the dramatic potential that winds up the Dramatica chart into a single storyform, as all the permutations of the equation are represented in one quad or another - oh yeah - I should mention that each quad is a physical representation of one of the permutations of the equation.  They are twisted and turned to create dramatic potentials among them that describe the conflict between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

This whole system evolved as a survival trait, yet the devil is in the details.  But hey, ain’t that life.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips - Owner, Storymind.com, Creator Storyweaver, Co-creator Dramatica