Breaking Down Story Units for Novels

I’m editing my novel’s outline given the information you just shared with us, but I’m confused on a point. The idea of replacing signposts with four variations was something I had already intuited, but the only place I’ve seen Dramatica use the term “story driver” is action vs. decision.
What do you mean by five story drivers?

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I had the same question when learning Dramatica. See the footnote here:

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Thanks and now that question leads to another question.

What function does the fifth story driver serve given that the story is over?

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The story isn’t over until the fifth Story Driver. That would be the Concluding Event.


Permit me to rephrase my question. What is the function of making the concluding event a story driver?

Only an action can solve a problem which was created by an action, same for decision. It’s about consistency I guess.

The problem has already been solved by the time we get to the concluding event.

Wait, why do you think that?

e.g. The concluding event in Star Wars is Luke blowing up the Death Star. The problem was most definitely NOT solved before that.

I see it this way:

The first and last Story Drivers “bookmark” the scope of the problem and (possible) solutions being explored by a story. The first driver gives the sense of “There’s something to explore here,” while the last Story Driver says, “This problem has been explored as far as possible in this context (whether or not it was solved).”

Since each Story Driver means to shift the direction of the narrative, making the concluding event of the story a Story Driver gives the event a sense of finality. It is the shift that shows there are no more directions to take.

There’s one caveat: Starting with one type of driver, and concluding with the other (i.e. Action -> Decision or Decision -> Action) marks the story as feeling incomplete or open-ended. I suspect which it is depends on the skill of the writer.

Anyone may feel free to correct me if I am off somewhere, though.

The final driver is analogous to what non-Dramatica story structure calls the Climax – which happens near the very end of Act III and is (maybe) followed up by a brief denouement/wrapping up. Is that correct?

I’m pretty sure that the concluding event in Star Wars is when everyone gets their medals.

But, in @jhull outline, the concluding event is the FINAL scene. Since it is the final scene, there can be no denouement scene following it.

…the final scene in a dramatica sense.

The Concluding Event or Final Story Driver in Star Wars is when the Death Star goes Ka-blooie. The Story Drivers in Dramatica are tied to the Overall Story Throughline and when the inequity in that Throughline is resolved (or unresolved as the case may be)–not when the presentation of the narrative ends.

My outline above was to show how you would break up individual Signposts into individual sequences, not an exact outline that should be followed to the letter.

Many stories end their Overall Story Throughlines and then carry out their fulfillment of the conclusion of Main Character, Influence Character, and Relationship Story Throughlines.

The Shawshank Redemption is a great example of this. The Concluding Event of that Throughline is when the Warden blows his head off. Then you have a whole bunch of Main Character stuff, then a smidge of Influence Character, and then finally you wrap up with Relationship Story Throughline.


Thank you.

This is actually something I’ve always struggled with - how the Dramatica story form lies over the traditional three act structure. I can’t count how many times I’ve mistakenly thought the third journey was the denouement and got myself confused over that.

Your post brings some much-needed clarity.


Does this mean that the elements of the PSR also have to be presented in the order written? I understood the “sequence” of PSR was the Past, Progress, Future, Present and the four approaches needed to be presented in that Act, in whichever order.

And if the order must be as given-- (is it forbidden to ask?)-- what’s the logic behind that? If you’re looking at a topic from four perspectives why does the order matter?


Some might say the order doesn’t matter, but it’s been my experience it does. It’s the same thing you’re seeing at the Signpost level—just from a different point of view.

The order of events has meaning.


Okay. Very good to know.

What factors (in storyform) lead to that SPECIFIC order that is produced by the PRC? I haven’t been able to find that, though I did read it’s not what we see in the Theme browser.

At times like this I don’t want to go on blind faith “because they say so.” Who made the order and what is the logic behind the order theory? What exactly is the reasoning behind the order of elements left top/right top/left bottom/right bottom?

(Spoken like a archetypical Skeptic, with apologies)


I notice that the event list that shows up is sometimes (!) under the same domain as the signpost, sometimes under another throughline’s signpost, sometimes under a different act’s signpost of a different throughline. I’m wondering if it’s just a random spattering of ideas generated when you come to a final storyform.

Regarding Suspense, Irony and Mystery (Armando’s book, Ch 22).
He suggests moving concrete blocks into a different order to create suspense, etc. Would it not also be the case for the signpost events?

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It’s not random - pretty sure it’s part of the “secret sauce” Dramatica algorithm (like Signpost order) that Melanie and Chris figured out in the 90s. It has to do with how the storyform is “twisted up” like a rubik’s cube and unwound over the course of the story. So I don’t know if it’s possible (or necessary) to figure out why its that way, but the experience of a lot of people suggest it works.

This is storytelling rather than structure. So the order of events exists in one way in the story, but the author reveals them in a different order to create a certain dramatic effect. This is what Jim was getting at in that other thread you linked to:

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I should probably make this a hot key.

Plot Sequence Order