Dramatica Theory (Annotated) Part 9 “Author’s Intent”

Excerpted from the book, Dramatica: A New Theory of Story

Simply having a feeling or a point of view does not an author make. One becomes an author the moment one establishes an intent to communicate. Usually some intrigu- ing setting, dialog, or bit of action will spring to mind and along with it the desire to share it. Almost immediately, most authors leap ahead in their thinking to consider how the concept might best be presented to the audience. In other words, even before a com- plete story has come to mind most authors are already trying to figure out how to tell the parts they already have.

As a result, many authors come to the writing process carrying a lot of baggage: favorite scenes, characters, or action, but no real idea how they are all going to fit to- gether. A common problem is that all of these wonderful inspirations often don’t belong in the same story. Each may be a complete idea unto itself, but there is no greater meaning to the sum of the parts. To be a story, each and every part must also function as an aspect of the whole.

Some writers run into problems by trying to work out the entire dramatic structure of a story in advance only to find they end up with a formulaic and uninspired work. Con- versely, other writers seek to rely on their muse and work their way through the process of expressing their ideas only to find they have created nothing more than a mess. If a way could be found to bring life to tired structures and also to knit individual ideas into a larger pattern, both kinds of authors might benefit. It is for this purpose that Dramatica was developed.


Finally, here at part 9, do we come to a section of the book that I think says exactly what it intended to say.  And, in fact, that is what the section is all about – saying what you intend to say.

Having an experience or an insight doesn’t make one an author.  SHARING an experience or an insight does – or at least attempting to share.  How successful you are at communicating the logic and passion of your intent determines how skillful an author you are.  How interestingly you convey that information determines how compelling an author you are.  Together, they determine how good an author you are.

If I were to add anything to this section at all, it would be something the Dramatica book intentionally avoided: giving advice on how to write.  We wanted to focus on explaining our model of story structure (our intent) and that is what we did (success).  But, we had no interest in making it interesting.  Which, by my definition above, means that we weren’t very compelling authors and, overall, were not very good authors.

And so, let me simply suggest that it pays to not only know what you want to share with your audience, but to determine what impact you’d like to have on them, i.e. to scare them, motivate them, inform them, illuminate them or any combination of multiple intents.  In that way, even without a structural road map, you always have a beacon, a lighthouse to guide your communications and the manner in which you present your information.

~~Melanie Anne Phillips

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