Building from topic in the theme chart

I was in a conversation today and a story came up that has to do with expectations.

Obviously, this is in the theme chart, so one way to go about making up a story is to say, “How about I make that the OS Problem (or Crucial element, or whatever) and go from there.”

Another is to say, “What do I want to say about expectations? Maybe that they’re best avoided and the problem element is pursue.”

How have you gone about this?


OK, I’ll be the first one to say it. The book Great Expectations did present something unforgettable. I’m not sure what it was, exactly, but he sure made an exaggerated case about something that no one who was ever forced to read it could forget. I had read later that he had not planned for them ‘to get together’, but fan outrage forced it (or some such). Our culture (and me!) does prefer getting expectations fulfilled, so the against it argument might be a more intellectual cultured platform.

I try to write a few lines first about the idea and skim the skeleton synopsis for Dramatica catchwords afterwards.

I have seen it many times that my first assumption on the problem element was quite different later in the process. The same is true on the variation level. It’s often something completely different then first anticipated.

I think I have read an advise her on the forum to avoid the urge to jump to early on Dramatica. I am trying hard and nail down first a few lines about the idea.

The question „what do I want to say about…“ was actually what brought me to Dramatica. But until today I could never develop a story based on that. If I follow this path I end up collecting quotes and what other people have to say about something but loose the feeling for my own story I want to tell.

If I have an idea, I use Dramatica to understand what is this unknown thing what I am trying to show/disclose/tell/explain/describe … until I arrive or never reach a point like … ah, this story is about someone who measures the value of others by seeing if they can match on his expectations.

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In one, you’re looking at expectations as a source of conflict. In the other you’re looking at expectations as the subject matter. The first makes expectations into a means for addressing an inequity. The second makes expectations a part of the inequity being addressed. Somehow, you’d need to determine whether you wanted to tell your audience how to use expectations to address an inequity, or how to address an inequity of expectations.

I have no good way of doing that. The best I’ve come up with for myself is to try to come up with a question for which the answer is the story. For example, if I decide the question driving me to write the story is some form of “In this given context, why would someone engage in expectations to address the inequity?”, then it’s pretty easy to conclude that expectations are going to be either the problem or solution, depending on the other dynamics. Because that’s how the story answers the question. It says someone would or wouldn’t engage in expectations for this reason/to bring about this context.

But if the question were something like “In this given context, why would someone engage in X to address having expectations?”, then expectations doesn’t really matter as far as the storyform is concerned.

But that question is really just another way of coming up with an inequity. It’s a way of asking “in a dilemma where I can do this to bring about context 1, but that brings about context 2, and I can’t have both, why would someone do that instead of this?” So coming up with that question can be pretty difficult, too.


Agreed. Understanding this was a major turning point for me.
It was exactly this that made me post the question. Someone asked for a story about expectations and I thought to myself… is the story about expectations, or do I have to figure out what I want to say about expectations?

This is well put.

Ultimately, I’m going to do what I always do which is juggle every approach until something sticks, but it’s interesting to see that both of you comprise all the approaches I generally use.

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