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How to Write Characters
of the Opposite Sex

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

Transcript from Dramatica Unplugged Volume I:
Story Forming: Part 1

From writing instructor and Dramatica co-creator Melanie Anne Phillips

Audio Transcription provided by
Dramatica Listserv member Sharon

First of all, we are going to look at the X Files with Scully and Mulder.  The thing is, this is interesting because, in fact, the Male FBI agent Mulder has the Female Mental Sex. Scully who is the female FBI agent has the Male Mental Sex.

He's the one who deals with things intuitively, holistically and tries to arrive at understandings by pulling all the little feelings together where as she's the one who tries to look at things step-by-step.  "If I don't see the connection logistically, from one point to the next, then I'm not buying it."

X Files Clip

Mulder: Listen to this...I come and return to the beginning of the end to begin again the journey of souls...

Scully: What's that from?

Mulder: 1994...this stuff goes on for hundreds of pages. This man was obsessed with reincarnation.

Scully: Being obsessed with it doesn't mean you can do it.

Mulder: No. Unless he knew something we don't.

Scully: Like what? The secret pass word?

Mulder: Every major religion deals with surviving death. Millions, even billions of people believe in some kind of transmigration of the body or rebirth.

Scully: I'm sorry Mulder that's not what I learned in Catechism.

Mulder: Even Christianity teaches about the ascendancy into Heaven of the body.

Scully: Do you honestly believe that this man came back from the dead to kill those two men?

Mulder: You have another competing theory?

Scully: I have a very good one and one much more believable.

Mulder: What--that this is a complete scheme...that the headless man planted behind the warden's desk is the work of a conspiracy?

Scully: Or guard.

End Clip.

OK, now we have seen that she is asking for give me this linear proof, show me how this connects to that, give me the theory.  She doesn't believe that his is a theory. He's just saying well this is known and this is known...just because it says Male and Female Mental Sex has nothing to do with physical gender in Dramatica.

Next video clip we are going to look at is from Hunt For Red October.... Alex Baldwin plays a very masculine character and he's definitely male but he's female mental sex...because he uses his intuition before he approaches his logic....

In the scene we have him surrounded by all the Generals and Admirals in the room with the Presidential Advisor and they are all sitting there trying to determine what to do about Rameus, who is ostensibly going to take the ship that he has stolen the Soviet submarine and make it launch and attack on the United States but Alex Baldwin's character Jack Ryan comes up with this intuitive decision and then has to explain himself logistically when he doesn't even know logically why he thinks as he does. So lets take a look at that clip now...

<Clip from Hunt For Red October>

Ryan: Son of a Bitch..Slams down fist...Son of a Bitch. (Smiling)

Presidential advisor: You wish to add something to our discussion Dr. Ryan?

Ryan: Well Sir I was just thinking that there's another possibility we might consider...Rameus might be trying to defect...

Admiral: You mean to suggest that this man...

Advisor: Just a minute...Mr. Ryan...

Ryan: Rameus trained most of the officers in the core.  Which would put him in a position to select those that would be willing to help him. He's unemotional.  Lithuanian by birth raised by a maternal grandfather, a fisherman. He has no children, no ties to leave behind, and today is the fist anniversary of his wife's death.

Admiral: how do you know how his mind works?

Ryan: Have you ever met Rameus Sir?  He's nearly a legend in the Submarine community...I have followed his entire career...I actually met him once at an embassy dinner...Have you ever met Captain Ramous Sir?

<End clip>

So, just came to him in an inspiration because he was just passing over his mind all the experiences, and impressions, and feelings he had about Rameus and it just occurred to popped up like Oh My God He's trying defect...and then when they said what makes you come to that conclusion he had to stop and say well let me see what did make me come to that conclusion...and start trying to come up with reasons that are enough to satisfy them.

Reason and emotion are two different kind of intelligence...there is emotional intelligence and there is reasonable intelligence...each one uses a different kind of logic...there is reason logic and emotion logic...female mental sex uses emotion logic primarily...male mental sex uses the reason logic...psychology behind Male Female Mental sex.

The human mind starts out with neither a bias towards the neurology or the biochemistry...the neurology is where all the binary decisions are made...the biochemistry is where all of the analogy decisions are made. If the brain was just one big neurology...stuck in a big biochemical suit well not much would happen...but the brain is made up of a bunch of little tiny neurons called ganglia and each ganglia has oh 4,000 up neurons in it tightly packed with its own little climate zone of biochemical's.

Now in the 12th to 14th week of pregnancy the developing fetus will either get a flush of testosterone or not during that time...if it does then that testosterone has a well known effect on the body to increase the amount of serotonin which is a neurological exciter and the result of it being an exciter it sort of amplifies the effect of the neurology compared to the makes it fire more easily more often.

So, the neurology becomes much more active compared to the biochemistry...if there is no flush of testosterone then...natural estrogen in the system...dopamine which is an inhibitor...of the firing of the doesn't add more just there is no testosterone so when the neurology is quieter then the background biochemical's like shadows when you turn a bight light off in front of your face can show through and they hold their own elegant information that's analog information...our emotions, our time sense our  sense of ebb and flow.....Anticipations, desires, that all comes from that biochemical side.

Now on our neurological side we get our ones and our zeros we get this not that we get networks's what happens according to Dramatica Theory...Dramatica Theory is about the Story Mind...and it predicts that we need to know weather the story mind is male or female in order to be able to complete the structure of the story.

What is the male mind? Well in that 12-14 week of pregnancy where there is the flush of testosterone...inside the ganglia there are these little cells that they know about called L-Cells are R-Cells and it is our belief that the L-Cells or R-Cells one of those is a permeate creator of a base line level of serotonin or exciters within each ganglia and that the other cell produces a certain level of dopamine.

So it's our belief that during that 12th to 14th week there is a steady wash of will cause these L and R Cells to lock in place with a certain ratio of one compared to the other...and that the level of the ganglia that will be where it is determined if the neurology is more sensitive or if the biochemistry is more sensitive...which one has more sway...when you have the wash go away it sets in the level of each ganglia there will be this built in that it is going to emphasis the logistic reasonability or the logistic emotionality. Are you going to be more towards the intuitive holistic or more towards the liner logistic?

I teach a class on Mental Sex...the evolutionary necessity for the creation of two mental sexes. You can go to and click on Mental Relativity the Psychology behind Dramatica.

[end transcription]

Additional Information from the Dramatica Story Book Developed and written by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley.

Main Character Mental Sex: Male or Female?

The fourth Essential Character Question determines a Main Character's problem-solving techniques to be linear or holistic. Much of what we do as individuals is learned behavior. Yet, the basic operating system of the mind is cast biologically before birth as being more sensitive to space or time. We all have a sense of how things are arranged (space) and how things are going (time), but which one filters our thinking determines our Mental Sex as being Male or Female, respectively.

Male Mental Sex describes spatial thinkers who tend to use linear Problem solving as their method of choice. They set a specific Goal, determine the steps necessary to achieve that Goal, then embark on the effort to accomplish those steps.

Female Mental Sex describes temporal thinkers who tend to use holistic Problem solving as their method of choice. They get a sense of the way they want things to be, determine how things need to be balanced to bring about those changes, then make adjustments to create that balance.

While life experience, conditioning, and personal choice can go a long way toward counter-balancing those sensitivities, underneath all our experience and training the tendency to see things primarily in terms of space or time still remains. In dealing with the psychology of Main Characters, it is essential to understand the foundation upon which their experience rests.

How can we illustrate the Mental Sex of our Main Character? The following point by point comparison provides some clues:

  • Female: looks at motivations
  • Female: tries to see connections
  • Female: sets up conditions
  • Female: determines the leverage points that can restore balance
  • Female: concentrates on "Why"
  • Female: seeks fulfillment
  • Female: puts the issues in context
  • Female: tries to hold it all together
  • Male: looks at purposes
  • Male: tries to gather evidence
  • Male: sets up requirements
  • Male: breaks a job into steps
  • Male: concentrates on "How" and "When" and "What"
  • Male: tries to pull it all together
  • Male: argues the issues
  • Male: seeks satisfaction

In stories, more often than not, physical gender matches Mental Sex. From time to time, however, gender and Mental Sex are cross-matched to create unusual and interesting characters. For example, Ripley in Alien and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs are Male Mental Sex characters. Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides and Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October are Female Mental Sex.

In most episodes of The X Files, Scully (the female FBI agent) is Male Mental Sex and Mulder (the male FBI agent) is Female Mental Sex, which is part of the series' unusual feel. Note that Mental Sex has nothing to do with a character's sexual preferences or tendency toward being masculine or feminine in mannerism--it simply deals with the character's problem-solving techniques.

Sometimes stereotypes are propagated by what an audience expects to see, which filters the message and dilutes the truth. By placing a female psyche in a physically male character or a male psyche in a physically female character, preconceptions no longer prevent the message from being heard. On the downside, some audience members may have trouble relating to a Main Character whose problem-solving techniques do not match the physical expectations.



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About Dramatica and StoryWeaver

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 Alone

By itself Dramatica 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 they go.

How They Work Together

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.

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