Are types explored the same way as variations?

Just to clarify, my question is about types. Are types explored in six pairs just as the variations are? Or simply one type per act?

Or to put it another way, should Types be explored as two pairs per act in a three act consideration or as four individual types in a four act consideration? What does Dramatica Theory hold?


I think I found what you’re referring to:

Just as with character quads, we can make two diagonal pairs, two horizontal pairs, and two vertical pairs from the Variations in the Range quad. For the Morality quad, these six pairs are Morality/Self-Interest, Morality/Attitude, Morality/Approach, Self-Interest/Attitude, Self-Interest/Approach, and Attitude/Approach. Each of these pairs adds commentary on the relative value of Morality to Self-Interest. Only after all six have been explored will the thematic argument will have been fully made … by answering each of these questions in a different thematic sequence, the absolute value of Morality compared to Self-Interest will be argued by the impact of the six different relative values.

… which is interesting, because I don’t remember any recent articles or discussions that approach the Variations that way, so it would be good to get one of the DSEs to weigh in.

That said, I think the standard approach is to:

  • Make sure that the static plot points of each throughline are represented throughout the story (including the Issue/Counterpoint)
  • Use the Signposts (Type Level) and the Variations in the Plot Sequence Report for the story’s plot progression.
    This part all progresses in fours (not sixes).

Both perspectives exist at the same time.

A quad can be seen in terms of structure by seeing four items.

A quad can be seen in terms of relationships by seeing six pairs.

It’s the same idea that you can see either Four Signposts OR Three Journeys when looking at a Quad of Types for a certain Throughline.

Both exist, and at the same time, but not from the same point-of-view.

So you just pick one, and use that as your standard of measure.


What you’re describing is the difference between PLOT and THEME within a single quad, not the difference between Types and Variations.

  • Within a quad, Plot explores sequencing, which is why you explore a quad as 1-2-3-4.

  • Within a quad, Theme explores relative values, which is why you explore a quad through the various element relationships (dynamic pairs, companion pairs, and dependent pairs = six unique pair comparisons).


Hi. Thanks for your reply. I guess I wasn’t really trying to describe Dramatica so much as to clarify my confusion. It stems from this line in the theory book:

“Sequences deal with a quad of Variations the same way Acts deal with a quad of Types.”

All of your responses have been helpful. My current understanding of it is that these things happen simultaneously. While exploring the Types one per act in a four act consideration we explore the Variations beneath each Type in pairs, two pairs per act in a three act consideration.

But that doesn’t quite work either. For example, in Act 1 I am exploring the Type Obtaining in terms of the Variations morality, approach, self-interest, and attitude. Then in Act 2 I have journeyed to Type Understanding which I explore in terms of four new Variations: interpretation, instinct, senses and conditioning.

So, how may I explore one quad of Variations in six pairs through six sequences if I’m exploring four different quads of Variations, one per Type through four acts? You see the extent of my confusion.


Hi Terrence,
First off, that section of the theory book is describing a technique for “sequences” which is wholly different than the Plot Sequence Report. Most people (including @Lakis in his post above) would recommend using the Plot Sequence Report instead. Like Jim says, it’s a different point of view and I think most authors find that point of view more helpful for their writing.

Along with the Plot Sequence Report, of course you still use all the throughline’s story points including Issue and to a lesser extent Counterpoint. I think that by doing so you will naturally end up comparing all the Variations in that Issue’s quad, similar to how that section of the theory book talks about the six pairs, but it will happen more naturally throughout your story – not in a set order.

Now, if you don’t want to use the Plot Sequence Report, and want to use that section of the theory book instead, you would do something like (assuming Self-Interest is the Issue):

Journey 1 Obtaining to Understanding

  • thematically explore Morality/Self-Interest and Morality/Attitude
    Journey 2 Understanding to Learning
  • thematically explore Morality/Approach and Self-Interest/Attitude
    Journey 3 Learning to Doing
  • thematically explore Self-Interest/Approach and Attitude/Approach

Signpost 1 Obtaining

  • examine or judge Obtaining in terms of Morality, Self-Interest, Attitude, and Approach
    Signpost 2 Understanding
  • examine or judge Understanding in terms of Instinct, Interpretation, Senses, and Conditioning

But you’d be doing both at the same time, and shifting at different points (because each Journey represents approximately a third of the story, whereas each Signpost represents approximately a quarter). i.e. the Journey “act breaks” would come at different times from the Signpost / Structural Act Turns.

Honestly, I would just use Plot Sequence Report. There’s been much more written about it, including some validation of it in actual stories. And Jim has shared some secret sauce that he uses to work with clients here:

He’s even built a big part of his Subtext service around that paradigm. It’s obviously useful for many, many writers. And it doesn’t mean you don’t still do the “six pairs from issue quad comparisons”; they just happen naturally as you go along.


Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that a grand argument story has a central theme, a conflict between two diagonal variations, and that this central conflict is explored in six pairs, two per act in a three act consideration.

However, I also got the idea that in each throughline the character or characters explore four Types one at a time, one for each act in a four act consideration, but that each type is explored via the Variations below thar type.

And I couldn’t reconcile these two things. If MC explores a different type in each act in terms of the variations below it, the IC does the same with his or her four types, OS and RS the same, then who explores the main theme in six pairs through six sequences?

By main theme I mean the main thing the author wants the viewer or reader to come away with at the end of the story, thematically speaking.

Does this naturally find its way to the viewer because all of the variations explored in the different classes are similar in some way? Or, does it find its way by author emphasis? In other words, would the author cull the main theme from the other thematic conflicts by emphasizing the six pairs where they are spread about in the four throughlines?

And now you’ve shown me that the plot sequence report only has the Overall Story Sequences:

“For screenplays, and most stories, I suggest only doing the Overall Story Sequences. These are the sequences found in the Plot Sequence Report.”

But the Grand Argument Story examples, such as Star Wars or Witness contain more than this, don’t they?

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

The plot sequence report actually contains four variations for all four throughlines, all four signposts (4x4x4=64). When outlining your a story, however, there are different approaches.

I think what Jim means is that it’s not necessary to give all four throughlines equal weight. Most films will emphasize the OS, so it makes sense to create beats for all four variations. But you might only want to create one beat for the IC throughline, referencing just the Signpost. Also Jim uses the “Z-pattern” approach so that dynamic pairs that are adjacent to each other in the PSR are combined into one beat (e.g. Self-Interest to Morality). For novels, you might want to expand and use more of the variations from the other throughlines, depending on what kind of story you want to tell.

If you’re interested in this subject, I highly recommend Armando Saldanmora’s Dramatica for Screenwriters. He goes through a huge number of practical approaches to using Dramatica for outlining and writing stories (not just for screenwriters!). @jhull’s approach (in the link above) is just another approach which works for him and his clients (I used it for my current outline and highly recommend it).

@jhull was just talking about this on a recent Subtext video, making the point that not every complete story will actually hit every single story point with the same amount of emphasis. In Star Wars, for example, the IC (Ben) is killed at the midpoint – but he continues to exert his influence on Luke through a memory and the final voice in Luke’s head during the death star trench scene. These are very small story points in comparison to the other throughlines, yet enough is there to fill out and complete the story.

Can you reference the place where it talks about GAS having a “main” theme with a dynamic pair? I think that the entire storyform is itself the “thematic” statement – and is therefore not reducible to a single dynamic pair.


This is true: the entire storyform is “theme” - or at least, what most people consider theme (Greed leads to self-destruction, etc.)


I honestly don’t know where I got the idea that a central issue or theme or sequence of variations from a central quad was to be explored in pairs through six sequences. Reading back over the Dramatica Theory, everything seems to be done within the four Throughlines. However, my main confusion still exists. Even within one Throughline, how do you examine one quad of Variations through six sequences in a three act appreciation while also examining four Types by their Variations one Type per act in a four act appreciation? Here are excerpts from the Dramatica Theory online:


Acts are the most plot-like of the Progressive Story Points, and therefore fall in the Type level of the structure. Sequences, on the other hand, occur at the Variation level and therefore, like the Issue, are the most Theme-like of the Progressive Story Points.

What is a Sequence?

Sequences deal with a quad of Variations much as Acts deal with a quad of Types. The quad of interest is the one containing the Issue, as that is the item at the heart of a throughline’s Theme.

Just as with character quads, we can make two diagonal pairs, two horizontal pairs, and two vertical pairs from the Variations in the Issue quad.

How Sequences Relate to Acts

Three-Act Progressions

With six thematic Sequences and three dynamic Acts, it is not surprising that we find two Sequences each Act. In fact, this is part of what makes an Act Break feel like an Act Break. It is the simultaneous closure of a Plot Progression and a Theme Progression.

The only constraints on order would be that since the Issue is the heart of the thematic argument, one of the three pairs containing the Issue should appear in each of the three dynamic Acts. Any one of the other three pairs can be the other Sequence.

[Now here’s where I get lost]

Four-Act Progressions

Beneath each Type is a quad of four Variations. Structurally, we examine or judge the Act representing each Type by the four Variations beneath it. In our current example, the Act dealing with Obtaining would be examined in terms of Morality, Self-Interest, Attitude, and Approach. The difference between this and the thematic sequences we have just explored is that we judge Obtaining by each Variation in the quad separately, rather than comparing each Variation with the other Variations in the quad. It is an upward looking evaluation, rather than a sideways looking evaluation.

[Which leaves my question. How can you do both? How can you examine the central issue in pairs, one pair per sequence, two sequences per act in a three act appreciation while at the same time examining four Types by the variations beneath them, one Type per act in a four act appreciation?

I guess one thing that’s throwing me off is this:

“The difference between this and the thematic sequences we have just explored is that we judge Obtaining by each Variation in the quad separately, rather than comparing each Variation with the other Variations in the quad.”

How can you judge a variation separate from the other variations in the quad? And, if your moving from Type to Type, each with its own Variations, how can you examine one Variation per act from a single quad?]


1 Like

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you might be getting tripped up by trying to combine these ideas as a single thing. However, they are more or less different perspectives to take. (Much of Dramatica reminds me of the Blind Men and the Elephant story)

A different way of reading this quote that might be more concrete: “…we judge the United States (as a whole) by each State in the country, rather than comparing each State with the other states directly”

In other words, you can

  • Judge the United States by each State separately (Judge Obtaining by each Variation in the quad separately)
  • Compare each state to one another directly (comparing each Variation with the Variations in the quad)

The answer to this is a corollary of the answer to the other question. If you work with one view, most, if not all, of the other will come through. For a concrete example, if I were to compare each state to each other state, you would end up getting a feel of the United States as a whole. A similar thing would happen if I were to explore the United States as a whole using each state individually. You would get a sense of how the states compare. However, if I tried to write in way that did both, it would likely become a mass of confusion. The same kinds of things happen with a quad.

Thus, focus on one view only, and the other will come. Either

  1. Compare the Variations of a quad to one another with the “Six Sequence” view, OR
  2. Judge the Type using the underlying Variations with the “Four Item” view

But, don’t try to do both.

Another important thing to note:

The one quad of Variations through six sequences involves only the quad of Variations making up the Concern of the Throughline, which using Journeys, presents as three acts. (This represents movement.)

Examining the four Types by their Variations involves viewing every Variation in that one Class, which using signposts, presents as four acts. (This represents static structure.)

Again, they don’t mesh because they’re different points of view. In the three blind men, one is the Fan (the elephant’s ear) and the other is the snake (the elephant’s tail). However, they’re both still the Elephant (the story or argument).

Lastly, if I got anything wrong in the above, I’m sure someone will correct me.



Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I can tell you put some work into it. I appreciate it.

I’m going to push back a little bit, however. You noted that these could be two perspectives: exploring the US one state at a time or comparing the states to each other. But doesn’t Dramatica Theory say to explore all the states one at a time and/or compare some of the states to each other.

In other words, when Dramatica says to explore the quad related to the Concern through six sequences, isn’t that like saying learn about the US by studying only the Southeast? So this again leads me to believe that somehow we have to do both paths.


1 Like

For purposes of theory, Yes. According to Dramatica, as far as my understanding goes, it’s theoretically impossible for one mind to be able to build a comparison of all the states (items of a quad) completely individually. When working out this comparison, you have to use one as a baseline. Which one you choose may depend on context, but you can’t remove this choice.

For purposes of practicality, it almost doesn’t matter. The idea presented there will end up in your writing if you are using Dramatica, anyway.

This particular variation of your question is actually a bit more difficult, and the analogy I used, as presented actually breaks down. As such, I’ll be working purely with the theory this time. In the following, I’ll be using a Main Character with a Concern of Obtaining.

The Concern of a throughline is a Type, but because it is a Concern, it is seen throughout the story, from beginning to end. For example, in the hypothetical, the MC deals with conflict from Obtaining from start to finish. Every act will reference Obtaining in some way. In addition, since Obtaining is made up of Approach, Self-Interest, Morality, and Attitude, the same story-length struggle can be broken up into the six pair-wise relationships between these Variations. Note that these comparisons specifically target and explore the Concern of the MC from the start of story to the end. This is how you can get the three act perspective.

However, we can also view the story in this way: Since the MC is dealing with conflict in the Physics Class, she will need to pass through some conflict from each Type under Physics, one at a time, to work out (or fail to work out) whatever personal issues she has. For this, let’s say the order is Understanding -> Doing -> Obtaining -> Learning. Thus, we are now looking at four acts, each of which corresponds to a single Type. Here, we broke a Class down into its Types, but we can do something similar with each Type. We can break each Type down into its four Variations. In this case, the Variations don’t belong to the single Concern of the throughline, but they will be shaded by it.

Both of these views will give you a story. More interestingly, in the first paragraph, the six relationships will eventually give you some static view of the four Variations found throughout the story. In the second paragraph, you’ll eventually find that you create relationships, though you didn’t deal with them directly.

In other words, everything ends up tied together.

From a practical standpoint, which paragraph you choose to use for your implementation depends on how you think and write.

Personally, I need to plan with the static points, and fill the transitions and relationships in as I write. (I use the second paragraph.) However, I know of other writers who actually have to plan the movement that they wish to write and let the standstills show up. (They use the first paragraph.)

Strictly speaking, though, Jim’s answer, as quoted above, is probably the best view to take.


From as much as I can tell, It would be impossible to do a six sequence, three act exploration of the quad of concern and somehow just end up with a four act exploration of the four Types and their Variations.

Likewise, I don’t perceive how I can do a four act exploration of the four Types and their Variations and somehow also end up with a six sequence, three act exploration of the quad of concern.

If a sculptor only sculpts the elephant’s trunk, he won’t also get the elephant’s tail.

I considered the possibility that while the MC explores the quad of concern, some other characters explore the four types, but that doesn’t make sense. All the characters are assigned a throughline with its own four Types and quad of concern.

Honestly, all I can think to say at this point is this:

Try developing the six sequences under the Concern of a throughline and see what happens.
Try developing the four Types of a throughline with their Variations and see what happens.

Actually, that sounds like a fun little exercise that could be done under the Workshop tag…
I’ll have to see if I have time for it, since I’d like to try it myself. If so, I’ll post a new topic.

That’s good advice. Only, if it works, I still might not know how. Any insights would be nice. I’d like to understand the theory better. Thanks for responding.

The only way any of this works is if your primary goal is to tell a story.

The sculptor does end up with that elephant’s tail, because he’s trying to sculpt an animal. Maybe his muse/intuition is driving him, so he doesn’t consciously know what kind of animal he’s sculpting until it’s done, but it works because his intuition understands the shapes of animals (narrative, in this analogy; since we all have story-minds).

That said, I would suggest that the section of the theory book you’re trying to use is not very helpful for writing. I think since it was written people have discovered that the following aspects are a lot more apparent in the final work, and easier to use when writing:

  • of perceived acts due to slide vs. bump pattern in OS (though somewhat affected by other throughlines). i.e. slide-bump-slide seems like a two-act story; bump-slide-bump like three, and bump-bump-bump like four.

  • plot exploration via Signpost Types, and PSR Variation items
  • theme exploration via the WHOLE storyform, but often most apparent through Growth, Resolve, Outcome, Judgment, and Crucial Element(s).

I do think Issues and Counterpoints and the whole Issue quad explored throughout the story are usually pretty apparent too. I’m not so sure about all this comparison stuff – I’m sure it’s there but harder for me to notice. Like I would just see Responsibility being “brought in” to the story at a certain point, rather than saying “oh, that’s comparing Obligation vs. Responsibility right there”.


Here I have a question: Value;Confidence,Worry and worth are not variations of progress. They are variations of Preconscious. So how do you define the quad to be explored ?

Welcome @nicodu!

In that post I was talking about the plot sequence report (you can find it in Dramatica under the “reports” tab). When you create a storyform, Dramatica “twists” the structure so that sometimes (often? usually?) the Issues explored under a particular Signpost Concern are from a different Concern. “Unwinding” this structure is how one works through the story. (There’s a lot of theory here that someone else would be better at explaining).

Anyway, in this example (probably from a story I was working on) OS Signpost 1 - Progress is working through the Preconscious issues.

Hey Lakis,
I have indeed noticed the fact that it comes from a different concern. But I can’t find the explanation or the relationship between these two items. It is precisely in studying the plot sequence report of Star Wars that suddenly discovered this new layer of progressive plot points.But I wasn’t able to understand where it comes from.
In your example, did you choose that quadrant or was it the engine that choose it for you. And if it the engine, where do you see it ?