Since my name got dropped on this thread, I thought I should show up with my two cents. I'll start with a conclusion I came to a while back about everything to do with writing that isn't sitting down and putting pen to paper: All writing advice is true, and all writing advice is bullshit.
Hero's Journey? Makes perfect sense – follow that and you get a story with an arc and a satisfying conclusion. Save the Cat? Even better: you'll have get your heroic journey and pacing that works for the audience. Dramatica? Who wouldn't want a story that produces a deep sense of meaning in the audience when they reach the end. It's all good. It's all true.
Unfortunately, it's all bullshit as well, because none of it works if all you're bringing to the table is the method/theory/technique itself.
On its own, the Hero's Journey produces the worst kind of formulaic wish-fullfilment crap. Save The Cat? The same crap, only this time you bothered to have the alpha-male stock trader hand a homeless person a fiver and a warm coat. Dramatica? You get a very reasoned, complete argument within a story that just happens to be boring as hell.
Stephen King talks a lot about going into the basement where the bully boys live – the mean, nasty, angry, uncivilized parts of your psyche – and letting them do the talking. He's probably right. When other writers often talk about "finding ideas everywhere" as if reading an article in the newspaper suddenly gives them the basis of a book, I always suspect they read the article and it touches something inside them that they're not comfortable talking about and that, at it's core, delivers creative tension. Without creative tension, without summoning up some of the deep parts of yourself that, for the most part, you don't want to ever talk to anyone else about, you've just got the illusion of structure.
This doesn't mean that techniques, methods, and models can't be worthwhile, it's just that their only utility is in asking you questions. Here's a simple example with each of the models I've mentioned:
Hero's Journey: What stops your main character from jumping into the mystery/fantasy/romance/whatever right from the start? (a.k.a. "Refusal of the Call") Because if they do jump right in, then the audience is going to find your story unbelievable. They know that if given the chance to jump out of a plane, most of them would chicken out and they want to see your character chicken out, too, for a while. Then they want to see something that would get them to take that leap.
Save The Cat: What in your story is going to immediately make us sympathize with your main character? (a.k.a. "Save The Cat"). Because if you don't give us a reason to sympathize with them early on, we're not going to invest in their story.
Dramatica: How are you going to get the audience to invest in very different perspectives on the subject of your story (a.k.a. The Four Throughlines)? Because without that, it's going to feel like there's no real tension within your story's themes. If all we see is your main character looking at it from their perspective, never having that seriously challenged, then the story is going to feel trite.
All of that stuff is great, but none of it has any value as a novelist until you've got two other things in place: the ability to write good prose, and the willingness to reach inside yourself, to venture into that cave of things you spend most of your life trying not to think about, and let them whisper in your ear.
A "pantser" is someone who can write good prose and listens to the voices in their heads (or the muse or whatever other nonsense name we want to give the willingness to dig deep for creative tension) and then just writes and sees where the sentences lead them. A "plotter" is someone who can write good prose and listens to the voices in their heads and then uses a structure to ask those voices questions before putting pen to paper (or during, or after, or whatever.)
What makes Dramatica different from the Hero's Journey or Save The Cat is not that one "works" and the other doesn't, but that Dramatica asks you far more questions, and those questions are much more complex because it's never really one question (like "what's your save the cat moment going to be") but four questions ("how will you address each of these quads at this level of your story"). Those questions can spur you into finding unique and deeply meaningful beats in your story. Or, they can confuse the hell out of you and make you wonder if you should give up writing all together. When the former happens, smile and write your scene. When the latter happens, stand up and shout, "fuck you, Dramatica!" and then sit down and write a scene that has nothing to do with anything Dramatica asked you or suggested. Half the time you'll find the scene you write then just happens to fit perfectly with Dramatica's bizarre terminologically-autistic element and you'll say, "oh, so maybe that's what 'non-accurate' means."
Here's one thing I've learned from writing novels for a living the past few years – which is absolutely true, but may also be bullshit to someone else: the real story is the one about the writer who's struggling to finish a book, whose courage is failing, whose every effort seems to come to naught, who flounders about begging the gods – imaginary or software-based – for help, only to ultimately find him or herself alone again, in front of the keyboard, with the demons of failure eagerly whispering in both ears. You're the one on the journey, and now you've got to get to the end or suffer the consequences. The book? The screenplay? No matter how important they are, they're just artifacts of that journey. If you face each challenge along the way with as much daring as you can muster, you'll create a work of art you can be proud of.
You mentioned not wanting to be a cult member (which sometimes feels like a rational fear when you see people using Dramatica to analyze people who post things on the forum as though labelling them a name from an element in the model was any different than just calling them a sissy). But the simple truth is that Dramatica's job isn't to make you a better writer; becoming a better writer may be a side-effect of using Dramatica, but the software itself never asks any questions about you as a writer. It only asks questions about what you want to write about, and then, like an irritating psych major, starts interrogating you about whether you've really looked at it from all sides, using buzz words that make you want to strangle them. The worst part about that psych major? Once you let go of how much their pompous, self-aggrandizing questions frustrated you, you realize they were probably right.
So, screw you Dramatica! I'm going to go write a scene that has nothing to do with "disbelief" but will instead be about a detective who refuses to go along with with her superiors insistence that her confidential informant is a worthless junky.