Approach to work with Story Arc, Theme and Dramatica

There have been some discussion recently how to work with Dramatica …

…I like to share my approach how I prep a new story and get story ideas for each signpost.

The approach takes standard story development tools (Story Arc, Theme) and enhance them with Dramatica.

This approach for me is helpful, to walk through the story development process without getting lost in Dramatica.

The example I am using here, is from a story I currently working on.

So lets go…

Before I start Dramatica I am trying to answer seven questions:

  1. What is in one sentence the subject of my story?
    Example: Two characters who can’t be part of a certain group, come together and help each other to integrate into the group

  2. Where does my story play?
    Example: My story plays in a perfect world, where imperfection has no place

  3. What is the theme in my story?
    Example: Friendship

  4. What is the question related to the theme?
    Example: How can I integrate into a group without sacrificing my friends.

  5. What ist the personal problem of my Main Character?
    Example: My 9 year’s old Main Character can’t be part of a cool skateboard gang. He is not cool enough, a bit overweight and tries to impress others by making up stories.

  6. What is my premise?
    My Main Character has to learn to being more honest to find friends

  7. How does my story end?
    Example: My Main Character finds a way to integrate into the cool skateboard gang without tricking other and himself

After I have the answers

I start with Dramatica building the Storyform.

  1. What is in one sentence the subject of my story?

Gives me the RS Throughline
Example: Friendship (Understanding, Instinct)

  1. Where does my story play?

Gives me the OS Throughline, Problem and Story World
Example: Kids in a Skatepark know that the main character is not cool

  1. What is the theme in my story?
  2. What is the question related to the theme?

Gives me the theme and the story mind question

  1. What ist the personal problem of my Main Character?

Gives me the Main Character Throughline
Example: A 9 year old boy uses tricks to impress his friends but must face the true later (Past, Fate)

  1. What is my premise?

Gives me my the argument
Example: Start being thoughtful and you can integrate into a new environment

  1. How does my story end?

Gives me Outcome and Judgement
Example: Success, Good

By answering the questions

I get to the storyform. This is not a straight process, it goes back and forth as well. But the questions give me a guideline to focus and get a story arc.

So, now I have an arc from start to end for my story (might be with only a vague idea what’s happening in between)…
Example: Start being not part of the group - to - End being part of the group

The arc I use to work out scenes for each signpost which fit under this arc (see graphic below)

The arc helps me also to get scene ideas for the signposts.

Example OS Signposts

SIGNPOST 1: Conceptualizing
The protagonist can’t be part of a group and his plan to become a part fails

SIGNPOST 2: Conceiving
The protagonist goes on a trip to realise that the one who he is lying to is actually his friend

The protagonist keeps playing a role until he is forced by the influence character to tell the true

SIGNPOST 4: Becoming
The protagonist becomes more reliable and tells the truth to his new friends

Illustration of the Story Arc with thematic scenes


do you do this on subtext?

No, but I use Subtext to look up Gists, brainstorm ideas and write the first version of my treatment - but treatment comes afterwards - when I have the setup and the story form