I absolutely love Holly Lisle! I’m combining her stuff with Dramatica as well. Very interesting results. She helps with a way to think of things.
I’ll even go so far as to say. A single line of dialogue can be a scene that covers Armando’s 4 criteria and then by implication the 4 classes/domains.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, then puked on his tennies.
- Change of circumstance - check
- Important to character(s) - check
- Irreversible - check (at least not easily, or without it’s own scene material)
- sends the character(s) in a new direction - check
Character is definitely in a new sitch - check
The puking (activity) is new - check
People always have strong opinions on the newly preggers - FA - check
And there is usually some adjustment needed (mentally) to the thought/reality of becoming a parent. - psychology
I have no idea about connecting Armando’s scene criteria with the Domains, but @jhull did connect them with the four Variations under Conceptualizing.
Irreversible = Situation (Variation, not Concern)
Changing the Character’s Circumstances = Circumstances
New and Important Purposes = Sense of Self
Meaningful to the Characters = State of Being
@jassnip… I don’t want to rain on the ideas here, but I see very little Dramatica in your example scenes.
Dramatica critique: where is the conflict in this?
The prince won’t marry a woman if she thinks she’s barren. She’s pregnant?! Well, conflict resolved.
Important to the character? Where does it say this? You, the reader, are bringing this.
Irreversible – what exactly is irreversible here? If she thought she was barren, then yes. Otherwise, I can point you to an entire movie based on the reversibility of this situation. (I know you basically said this.)
Sends the characters in a new direction? Again, you bring that to the interpretation.
Is the character in a new sitch? Not if she’s a slave kept to bear children.
The puking? I see no puking here.
I have similar critiques for the ceiling scene, but they all go towards the same point: dramatica is about conflict, not about implications. Dramatica is about perspective, not about topic matter. A (potentially) dead body in the room above you is not a perspective.
But I have a larger point: you are seeing too much in the scenes, and I worry that when you write, you assume your readers will see more than you write and see exactly what you want them to see. This won’t happen. In fact, I know more writers who have killed their careers on the blade of implication and subtext than I know successful writers.
I was giving my understanding of Armando’s criteria for what makes a scene, which is useful but separate from Dramatica. However, as I said, I can usually (I haven’t found one yet, where I can’t) also see the top tier from Dramatica domains/classes.
I will admit to dragging in my personal puking experience being pregnant…since a male reader would not have that frame of reference (or even all women) I amended the sentence.
In Dramatica for Screenwriters Chapter 14 Armando lays out his criteria for a “true event” To my interpretation the minimum necessary to create a scene, the basic building block of plot.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, then puked on his tennies.
You are right, it is the reader who brings importance to the concept. But under no circumstances are those words EVER unimportant. Go ahead find some one anyone who thought they were, I’ll wait. No? Didn’t think so. Even if you have a character that says “So what, that’s on you,” and walks away. THAT is a conflict for the character left standing there.
Irreversible - I’m sorry, being pregnant is not something you can, just undo. You have to DO something else if you want to reverse it. Are you deliberately being coy?
And new direction, again…in the context of story, this announcement will pretty much always send the characters in a new direction. Who do they tell, or not tell, do they try and hide it. Do they need to start going to prenatal care, are they in medieval and the local wise woman just croaked. There are natural consequences to being pregnant that will have to be followed up on. So no, I am not just pulling things out of my ass.
Yes, finding out you are pregnant is a new situation – what conflict the character finds there is dependent on the story being told, but a new sitch still exists – otherwise why would an author include it. To your example of a woman kept for breeding purposes (which eww, what an ugly example. have you been watching Handmaid’s Tale?) Her sitch is most definitely changed, or why make her preggers? You give her jealousy from the others that have not become pregnant, You give her special treatment or food. You give her fear of her child being taken away.
I feel like you think, I think “I’m pregnant.” is a story full and complete. And I don’t know why you’d think that. I don’t think that. But I absolutely believe that it is a full and complete scene based on Armando’s criteria and my personal writing experience. It would be one that was part of a sequence, never meant to stand alone, but separated as an emphasis to its importance.
I don’t know how to allay your fears for my writing chops. Maybe when I post my short.
I enjoyed reading this note enormously.
The point is not that “I’m pregnant” is not important. It’s that it alone does not have any meaning.
This isn’t a critique of your writing chops in any way. It’s a reminder that nothing has meaning without context.
I think in very Dramatica fashion we are having a Dramatica style argument, where you are saying…It all means nothing without context and I am saying Screw context, I’m talking about what makes a scene. When in fact we are both correct. You MUST make a scene…and it MUST have context. Happy now?
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
clearly a shoe salesman advertising their product. no conflict there.
You’re kinda like Dick Nixon: cold, tough.
I think that’s one of the best things he ever wrote.
Either way “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” is a good example of what we, as readers, put into a few words, just because we know it’s supposed to be a story.
“clearly a shoe salesman advertising their product. no conflict there.” is facetious, but does anything about it contradict the information we’re given? No. But it still feels wrong, because it is supposed to be a story, it’s supposed to have conflict, drama.
Whether “I’m pregnant.” is happy news, sad news, angering news, disgusting news depends on the context, as do most other things about that sentence.
As authors we probably have to think about what that context really is, even if we leave a lot of it unsaid.
I’m pregnant, she said to the crowd, accepting the cash award.
I think this is a good way of summing up the problem with things that lack context. Your reader or viewer can or might fill in the blanks to make something feel like a story. But we are not here as storytellers to let our audience fill in the blanks with what they want to fill it in with.
As authors, we have something to say. We must say it. If we let other people fill in the blanks, then they are telling themselves a story, and it’s not the story we want told most likely. They might think the “story” about the baby shoes is incredible, but what they are really saying is that it is evocative.
And that’s at best. There are lots of things out there that bore the audience and they stop filling in the blanks.
I too find the terms events and sequences confusing when comparing Armando’s book with the theory book. The 40 step outline, I think he refers to them as scenes, for example: are these 40 scenes of the desired 64? That means combining SPs, Drivers and plot sequence gives you a proper outline? I get that it’s a tool to give to a basic grid of your story but how would one add Static story points such as Cost or Dividends? And where are the sequences? I always feel like the PSR are the sequences… ?
I think Armando uses Signposts as sequences (four per structural act) and PSR variations as scenes – either 4 per sequence (64 scenes), or 2-3 per sequence if you’re using the Z-pattern (somewhere around 48 scenes). He describes how to encode static plot points into these scenes in the vampire story chapter. He also has the “Instant Dramatica” approach which comes up with 40 paragraph outline combining the static points with the signposts.
@jhull has a modified approach which uses 5 story drivers (1 initial, 1 final, and 3 for the act turns) + 7 scenes per act from the signposts (4 OS scenes using each PSR variation + 3 scenes from the other throughlines).
This all sounds confusing but if you map it out it makes sense.
It seems like all of these approaches can work, depending on how your mind works and how much detail and how many scenes you need. Or to put it another way, there’s a lot of ways to skin the Dramatica cat. (Note to self: write a story structure book called “Skin the Cat!”)
I have been beating my head against the wall on this for a while an have come to the conclusion that I’m way too much in weeds on this and that the most important thing is to just learn enough about my story to write the draft and try not to overthink it (easier said than done).
The amount of OS scenes depends on the PSR—using the “journey” perspective of looking at a quad (where you blend the diagonal terms).
But that’s only a starting off point—sometimes you need to break them out into four to tell the kind of story you are writing.
Oh, I see. I knew I had the math wrong somehow!
So it’s either 2 or 3 OS scenes (usually 3 but sometimes 2) depending on the z-pattern of the PSR, right?
It can actually be 2 to 4 OS scenes depending on the z-pattern.
“…we may also find the rare case where no Variations in the same sequence are Diagonally paired (such as ‘Approach, Self-Interest, Attitude, and Morality’). In this case, we should give each Variation its own scene—like we did on the ‘Using the Plot Sequence Report’ chapter of this book.”
Source: Dramatica for Screenwriters, pg. 158