A noob stuck with trying to find a storyform

Hello to everyone.

In my urban fantasy story the MC (Jody) is a an adult woman who faces unusual situation: her teenage son performed a magical ritual in order to gain stronger physique. The story is set in a fictional town where the inhabitants work as farmers and follow traditional and outdated ways of life. The story is set in еру roughly early to-mid 1900’s. However, the way of life of the characters is more akin to the 1800’s, no cars or electricity, strong influence of religion, patriarchal values, family clans.

The underlying source of conflict are prejudices as the MC is supposed to inherit a large horse farm but her relatives are against it since the previous 4 owners (her father, grandfather, etc) were men and in their town it is unheard for women to manage farms on their own. Plus, she was brought up in a different faith and her mother was a foreigner.
Her aunt and cousins think that the farm should go to either her younger half-brother (who lives in the city far away and doesn’t want to deal with it at all) or to one of her male cousins.

MC was enthusiastic at first, but after facing insults and aggression from her family and neighbors, she became passive and is considering giving up, giving it to her greedy cousin and leaving.

Her second husband is not a farmer, and although he is generally supportive, he can’t do much for her, and he has no interest in farming. He low-key causes problems for her by constantly getting involved in fighting with the locals but they fear him at the same time.

MC’s eldest son is weak and small, he feels unfit for life in this town where the men are busy farming, hunting, riding and fishing. He has used an arcane ritual he has found to make himself more like his stepfather (who served in the military), but instead his younger mother and his stepfather have come from the past.
I decided the younger version of my MC will be her IC. She will remind MC how to be more bold, confident, going for her dreams, protecting her rights and her children’s.

I chose OS concern as Obtaining but I’m not sure. I think:
MC (Jody) wants to obtain safe and stable life for her family and a status of the head of family matriarch. She doesn’t want to break relationships with her stepdaughter and she feels guilty since she married her father, which indirectly led to the death of her mother (first wife of her man).

Her son John wants to obtain security and strong physique to fit the role of a man in this world.
IC (young Jody) wants to marry the man of her choice. Younger Rick also wants that.
MC’s husband wants to change the past to marry the woman he always wanted earlier (get the wife of his choosing).
His daughter wants to keep the past unchanged as she fears she would stop existing if IC and younger man will marry in the past.

For MC it is choice between changing her past and getting a love match with her man much earlier at the expense of her children’s existence, since her children are from the first marriage. Plus she gives a promise to her stepdaughter not to interfere.

My storyform looks like that now:
OS Issue: Self-Interest
OS Concern: Obtaining
OS Problem: Control
Cost: “The Subconscious”
Dividend: “The Future”

MC Domain: Universe
Resolve: Change
Growth: Stop (Stop being so passive?)
Problem: Control (her trying to control her family and prevent them from changing the past?)
Solution: Uncontrolled (I can see it as MC letting loose and becoming less fearful and strict)
MC Issue: Preconception
Unique Ability: Choice (choice to do the right thing or a choice between her promise to the stepdaughter and her own desires?)
MC Critical Flaw: Hope (I have no idea how illustrate it in my story. Naive Hope that everything will be alright?)
Responsibility as the SS Catalyst - MC feels responsible for her family while her younger self is reckless and doesn’t care about them.

Any comments? How could I find the best Storyform? I feel like every element is so vague that I can choose any of them and they will fit.

If this is the case, why isn’t either the OS or the MC in Mind?

It’s easy to look at a story point and ask “what process is this?” This question will often cause confusion. “Jody obtains a farm, so that must be Obtaining, but that doesn’t seem right, or maybe everything else seems just as right”. This confusion is because, in this example, we are not looking at enough information to make a determination of the storyform.

Before we start asking “what process is this?” we need to ask “how does this process relate to other processes in the story?” Then we might ask “How does Jody obtaining a farm relate to Jody being insulted until she feels like giving up?” And if the answer is along the lines of “Jody obtaining the farm is the direct cause of the others getting upset with her” then maybe that’s an obtaining story.

But if the answer is “Jody obtaining the farm triggers the others to insult her because they believe that a woman is incapable of running a farm,” then we can ask “what process is believing that a woman is incapable of running a farm?” and maybe find that that’s a Mind story (along the lines of the predator/prey OS story in Zootopia).

Or if the answer is “Jody obtaining the farm triggers others to insult her because they don’t think she can fulfill the role of farmer” then maybe we ask what process “fulfilling the role of farmer” is and maybe that’s a Psychology story (along the lines of “anyone can be a chef, including a rat” in Ratatouille).

A single story event in isolation isn’t that important. The relationship between events is where meaning comes from and is where you will find the story form. Things like “obtaining a farm”, “fighting with the locals”, “using an arcane ritual”, “coming from the past”, etc are only storytelling on their own. They only unlock a storyform when seen in relation to other events in the story.

The relationship between story points, and not the story points themselves, are where meaning and the storyform are found.

“Obtaining” is not Obtaining. “Obtaining causes character to be yelled at and insulted” is Obtaining. “Obtaining triggers character to be yelled at and insulted because of a belief or prejudice of others” is Mind. “Obtaining triggers character to be yelled at and insulted because of the others manner of thinking” is Psychology.


It is not so straighforward.

They are upset because they are sure a woman is unworthy of being the owner of a farm and a family leader. Pus some of them want that farm for themselves. Here we have both greed and prejudices.
The locals also think that weak boys are unmanly and deserve to be ostracized.

It seems closer to Psychology OS domain, I think.

So maybe I should have invert the elements:
OS: Psychology
Concern: Becoming
Issue: Responsibility
Problem: Conscience
Consequence: “Obtaining”: achieving or possessing something

Story Dividends of The Future: better future for the whole family?

I don’t know, it partly fits to my vision, I mean OS elements I find good and right.

But then I look at the MC and almost all of it seems weird.

MC Concern: Future (no idea, really, I may say that MC worries about the future of her family and that the rivalry will lead to serious problems for her children and herself).
MC Issue: Choice. Choice between keeping the current timeline or change the past?
MC Flaw: Dream. Doesn’t understand this one.
MC Unique Ability as Delay also seems out of place, far-fetched.
The app suggests a MC Conflict between Choice and Delay and I don’t see it.

Assuming both of these are sources of conflict, they seem like two different problems. Or, at the very least, two different perspectives on a problem. To try to have both of them be a source of conflict for the OS Domain seems like it would create a confused story…a story that’s arguing two different contexts.

I think there may be a few ways to incorporate both into a single story. In order to do that, I suggest ignoring for a moment what happens in the story and focus on what you want the story to say and then put these elements where they belong based on that.

Some ways I think you can make both of these work:
Everyone has conflict from greed (OS Psych?), but Jody deals with conflict coming from the prejudice of others (MC Mind?).

Everyone has conflict from the prejudice of others (OS Mind?) but Jody deal with conflict coming from greed (MC Psych?).

Everyone has conflict from greed (OS Psych?), and everyone has conflict from telling Jody she’s incapable of running a farm because she’s a woman (OS Rationalization?).

Everyone has conflict from prejudice (OS Mind?), and everyone has conflict from trying to keep Jody from inheriting the farm (OS Denial?).

And just because something happens in the story doesn’t mean it appears directly as a point on the Dramatica storyform. It’s only in the list of storyform processes if it’s the source of conflict. For instance:

Everyone has conflict from greed (OS Psych?), and that conflict manifests as others telling Jody that because she’s a woman, she’s incapable of running a farm (not listed separately on the storyform because it’s already illustrating OS Psych).

Everyone has conflict from prejudice (OS Mind?), and that conflict manifests as others trying to keep Jody from inheriting the farm (not listed separately on the storyform because it’s already illustrating OS Mind).

The only thing that matters in terms of choosing a storyform is what you want to say with the story. It doesn’t matter if you want a scene where Jody is arm wrestling (physics) and another scene where Jody is being antisocial (psychology). If your story is telling the audience how to address prejudice, Jody may be arm wrestling as a means of addressing prejudice against women. She may become antisocial as a means to of addressing others prejudice against her.

Once you figure out what the story is saying, or once you make a determination as to what you want the story to say, you can shuffle all your ideas for the story into the proper place to say what they need to say.

PS: I’m not saying any of the examples I gave are right for your story. It may be that your story should have an OS of Physics (obtaining the farm, etc) that’s illustrated through conflict of greed and prejudice.

Yes, that’s what confused me.

Thank you for suggestions.

The hardest thing for me is to find how all other characters are fitting the OS throughline.

I think in the core is about survival (Safety) being threatened by Prejudices, presented in all characters’ minds.
Actually, the MC’s relatives greed is based on their inner views that a woman just can’t manage a farm so she simply doesn’t have a right. If she were a man, they wouldn’t dare to oppose her in such way.

Is it OS Mind? Fixed attitude?

  1. MC suffers from prejudices of her neighbors threatening her family life in different forms.
  2. Her son also suffers from them, he worries about not fitting in that norms. Not being good enough, unmanly.
  3. MC’s husband doesn’t suffer as much, but he holds a negative point of view against locals. He also has his own prejudices considering his daughter. He loves her but he secretly doesn’t value her as much as his younger own son.
  4. The daughter fears her father doesn’t value her and her mother who gave him a daughter, not a son. And she is sure he will be willing to change the past to get a “better wife”.

Should I choose OS elements first and then MC’s and IC? Or I should better start with MC refining?
Should I see that IC character also had OS elements or she needs only her own IC line, completely independent from the OS?

Sometimes it’s easier to start at the Concern level, even if you can’t immediately figure out the Domains. In other words, does the story as whole feel more like Uper Left, Upper Right, Lower Left, or Lower Right?

You seem to be leaning toward Lower Left (Obtaining, Becoming, Future, Subconscious) but from the description of your story (people coming from the past), it sounds like it could be Upper Left (Understanding, Conceptualizing, Past, Memory).

This sounds like the IC (mostly the younger main character but maybe shared with the stepfather) is in Universe, which puts the MC in Mind.

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The OS story is often discussed as encompassing all of the people in the story. And that’s often correct because the people that appear in one throughline will appear in the other throughlines as well.

But characters, in a Dramatica sense, are really just those that are illustrating the storyform, or some part of it. The OS throughline is an it/they perspective that sees from the outside how a given process creates conflict for “it/them”. You only need to fit in the characters that are there to illustrate this perspective. If you have one character that the story looks at this way, then you have “fit in” everyone that you need to.

Additionally, not everyone that is in the OS will need to actively engage in the process of “having a prejudice” or “being greedy”. If all of the OS characters experience conflict because John has a prejudice, that works. Or if all of the OS characters experience conflict because Marsha is greedy, that works. If we have a story about a kid lost in the woods, the kids parents, the police, the search parties, the kids classmates, and everyone else in the story can experience conflict from that and be in the OS without also being lost in the woods themselves.

If you want to write a story about prejudice, all of that sounds great for OS.

I would suggest to be more holistic than that in that you should decide what you want the story to say. Doing this would, theoretically, decide the MC, IC, and OS elements all at once.
For instance, if you decided you wanted the story to say something like “Keep pursuing and you will achieve”, you have Pursuit for the OS, “keep” suggests a character that’s already pursuing, a steadfast MC. Once you have a detailed enough premise to draw OS and MC info from, the IC should work itself out in the Dramatica story engine.


Yes, I think the OS is about the prejudice.

I mean, the use of magic and the younger version’s arrival is the indirect consequence of the MC’s family dealing with other’s attitudes.

Prejuduce - tension in MC’s family, danger - her son tries to avoid the bullying and help his mother with the farm - use of magic - arrival of IC and younger version of stepfather that only further complicates the matter. IC couldn’t marry at her time by her choosing because of her father and mother’s prejudice against her preferred groom’s job and traits.

You seem to be leaning toward Lower Left (Obtaining, Becoming, Future, Subconscious) but from the description of your story (people coming from the past), it sounds like it could be Upper Left (Understanding, Conceptualizing, Past, Memory).

I don’t know, the situation is caused by fixed attitudes here not vice versa, so Mind is more likely?

P.S I’ve just thought I found the ideal Storyform… everything seemed ok. And then MC turns out to be a Do-er while I need her to be a Be-er changing to Do-er in the end…:man_facepalming:

That what turns me off. If I make OS and MC elements fit my idea, then some other element drops out.

I really wouldn’t worry about that too much, especially in early drafts. There are lots of reasons a Do-er could appear to be a Be-er and vice versa. I think Dramatica for writing (as opposed to analysis) is best used to help you understand and get excited about the story you want to tell. If there’s something you feel is missing in your concept, Dramatica can help you flesh it out. But don’t let the software boss you around, or prevent you from writing.

Another way to look at it, is if you illustrate the other story points (and it doesn’t have to be all of them), the Be-er/Do-er question will naturally work itself out.

Yeah, I was referring to the Concern level – so maybe it would be OS Mind/Memory. But that might not be right.

Yes, but IC is her opposite and she is a Steadfast so if she is Be-er from the start, I will have to illustrate it.
In short, I planned a character arc for my MC who grew passive and too timid after all tensions (she supposedly had gone from Do-er to Be-er as she matured and learned to adapt, not to rebel) and is ready to accept the terms and give up. Her IC was supposed to remind her about her fire of the youth.

Maybe I could rewrite younger IC as a very active and assertive Be-er, appearing as Do-er? I need to think about it, how it will change their dynamics.

Could it be Universe - Future -Preconception?

So what is the storyform you now have in mind?

I might be misunderstanding what you have in mind. It sounds like at the beginning of the story, the MC is resigned and adapting (Be-er) and needs to recapture her fire to change circumstances around her (Do-er). The IC influences her in this direction – is that right?

Based on this if I were to guess, I would put the MC in Mind (being afraid to rock the boat) and the IC in Universe (being stuck in a different time period). From there, one obvious choice is to have the IC in Past (creating conflict because she comes from the past) and the MC in Memory (forgetting who you once were).

I’m a little influenced by your description, which sounds kind of heavy/profound to me, but that’s totally subjective on my part. If you’re interested, here a couple of old threads that talk about how subgenres and how different arrangements “feel”. Of course this is subjective. Just another way to think about it.

Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll check it.

But then I come back to my original scheme:
OS Domain: Physics.
Concern Obtaining

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That’s the nature of the beast. Taking a single perspective on an inequity leaves us with blindspots and we don’t see things that are there. If we change to a perspective that lets us see those things, our blind spot moves and things we could just see a moment ago disappear.

Why do you come back to this?

Ok, no, of MC Concern is Memory then their Issues are either Truth, Falsehood, Evidence, Suspicion. But it is all very far-fetched.

What makes them far fetched?

I read the Usage, the context and can’t get how to fit my story to these markers.
In short, it seems like I read all this and have to bend my draft to fit that line instead of finding a Storyform that would be like a Glove to my daaft.
Overall it makes me kind of dissappointed.

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All of us have been there. There are a couple of possibilities. One is that your story is missing something and Dramatica is pointing out what that is – we all have blind spots.

But another is that you’re not actually understanding the Dramatica story points. It takes a little experience with Dramatica to kind of intuitively “get” where a storyform should sit. I have a bias toward upper left stories, so I could be wrong about yours, that was just the impression I got based on your initial description.

So caveat emptor. :slight_smile:

That said, this:

sounds like it could easily be Suspicion – the MC’s personal problems are centered around the fact that the townspeople are dubious about her taking over. As a woman, she is “suspect” for even wanting to run a farm.


sounds like it could easily be OS of Conceptualizing, where problems are caused by scheming and imagining things. From this perspective, it’s not so much the goal of becoming strong like his father that’s the problem, it’s the way he looks at (Conceptualizes) himself, the way he can’t imagine a better future without this arcane ritual etc.


I second @Lakis . We’ve all been there.

Just to add to this a bit, Dramatica sees a story as a single unified argument explored from multiple angles/perspectives. It assumes that everything in your story is trying to prove the same point. Just because you have a handful of ideas for different scenes involving the same character doesn’t mean they all belong in the same story.

If I have an idea for a main character scene about how physically being a werewolf causes John to miss his sons birthday and another idea for a main character scene about how becoming psychologically wolflike causes John to overstep boundaries in his relationships, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to find a storyform that incorporates both of those ideas without some editing because one really looks like an MC Universe scene and one really looks like an MC Psychology scene.

In this scenario, it would seem that I either need to come up with the entire story in order to see how these two scenes are part of the same argument, or I need to decide the argument I want to write to and mold these scenes just enough to fit the storyform for that argument. Or I could also give up my least favorite of the two scenes for now.

You can write the story you want to write and pull the storyform from it once you’ve got the whole thing written. But trying to find the storyform before you know enough of the story to do that will lead to a lot of tail chasing and going down a rabbit hole for every single storyform you try. If you’re going to analyze you’re own story for a storyform, I’d think it would be best to not worry about the form at all until the first draft is written.

If you want to have a storyform for the first draft, I think you need to decide which one you want to use absent of any of the ideas you have, and then find where the ideas you have best fit.

Do you have a completed first draft? If not, then yes, the idea is that you bend the storytelling you have to fit the storyform you chose.

If you do have a first draft, it may be that it’s not a complete story or contains scenes that don’t belong in the same story. If your draft already fully illustrates a storyform perfectly…like a glove…I’m not sure why you would even need to look at Dramatica. If you have an idea of what the completed draft is meant to say, find a storyform that best fits that. Where your story lines up, you’re already good. If theres something you can’t find in the story, add it until the storyform does fit the story like a glove.

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Can I just have two different storyforms and “mix” them if I can’t find on that is perfect? I read some posts about how some people had one full storyform and one secondary.

^^ 100%

Many works have more than one storyform, and it’s possible that’s what’s going on. But it’s not exactly a mix and match kind of thing. Anyway I’m not sure that’s the most productive approach at this point.

To sort of restate what I think @Greg was getting at: for what purpose do you feel you need Dramatica at this point? Are you struggling to understand your story concept or your characters better? Are you trying to nail down the plot events of the story before you write it? Do you have a finished draft but feel like something is missing?

The answers to those questions will inform how to best use Dramatica without getting lost in the weeds (in my opinion).