Contextual Subgenres

Interesting, “…it is suggested that in other cases Chaucer both added to his work and revised it as it was being copied and possibly as it was being distributed.” [wikipedia]. I’m guessing subgenres never end.

Sounds cool!

Understood. All the same, lighthearted or quiet conflict is still conflict if illustrated as such. Also, @jhay’s definition of the Survival subgenre is “where characters attempt to survive day-to-day in an unfamiliar or hostile situation,” so the Universe/Situation in the story need not necessarily be life-threatening. For example, @jhay provides “a single mother tasked with taking her sons camping” as an example of the subgenre.



For sure. In that example, the survival could definitely be life-threatening or not.

Life-threatening: single mother has to try and keep her kids safe from nature in the unforgiving wilderness.
Non-Life-threatening: storm knocks out power, single mother stuck with other parents and strange kids.

It might be helpful to think of Survival as a warzone story, whether life-threatening or not: a character is stuck in an environment that they can’t stand or figure out, with seemingly no escape, and they have to put up with it as best as they can.

All that said, having read back all of the mystery stuff, I don’t think @pattyloof’s story is in Universe at all. The stuff about poisoning, and the honeymooning couple investigating feels more like Physics. It depends on the conflict, I guess, but that’s my gut. I’m not sure it would be in Survival, necessarily, anyway.


That’s so weird! A few days ago I revisited the storyform and decided that this was a Physics story after all. :smile:

Nice catch!

EDIT: this pushes the Concern of The Present to the MC Throughline, which totally fits.

The MC wants to help with the OS story (Activity: hunt for a killer). But he’s trying to keep their public presence at the hotel under the radar/out of the newspapers (long story), so this could be a Status Quo as far as he’s concerned.


Happy to help! Happy writing! :grinning:

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It just occurred to me that the dynamic pair for this might be (for lack of a better term) Burying stories: where the focus is on someone trying to hide or cover up the past. For example, someone who is running from the law, hiding a secret child, ashamed of growing up poor, etc.

The MC Throughline of the first few seasons of Mad Men comes to mind. Don Draper exerts a whole lot of energy to keep his secret past hidden from everyone else.

I noticed that you have stories where people are forced/compelled to be someone they’re not. How about when people voluntarily evolve into or out of playing a role?

Two examples:

  1. Coming of Age/Maturing (going into a role with a new positive effect): a teen coming to terms with adulthood, a man taking on the role of a father

  2. Evolving/Escape (leaving a role which had a negative effect on them): a woman escaping the role of battered wife, a gay man coming out of the closet

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Something else that just occurred to me which everyone might find helpful is that since we look at each throughline as a story of its own, these might be applied to each throughline’s Concern/Goal.

For example, the story I’m revising right now has an OS Concern of The Past (Chronicle). But my MC Concern is Obtaining (Benefit). In other words, the MC is piecing together the past in order to gain a benefit, mostly to herself.

I’m playing with this right now with all the throughlines and I’m finding that it gives me clarity with what is going on in the throughline.

Thanks again!


Been thinking a lot about the dynamic pair to this one. How about stories where a character deliberately puts aside their heart’s desire for a greater cause? The true story of Maria Von Trapp comes to mind (apparently she didn’t ever want to be anything but a nun).

I would consider the first one (coming of age) as an Evolution story for sure – becoming a father/becoming an adult is absolutely there. If you wanted to deal with the pressures of living up to parenthood or being a parent, that would be in Expectation (living up to the expected ideals of parenthood).

The second would depend on the context of the story. I tried my best to stay away from creating subgenres that were specifically positive or negative, since it forces writers into a certain area of storytelling. I could see either of those being Becoming or Being, depending on how the story was written.

The Past and Obtaining? In the same storyform?

That is definitely possible, but I can’t add it to the list without Dramatica-approved examples! The Mind Domain was quite a challenge in that way.

Sorry, that was unclear. I have two levels of storytelling going on here. I’m at Signpost 2 in my overarching storyform, and OS: The Past and MC: Obtaining is from that.

Fair enough. The reason I got to thinking of this is that my IC’s Throughline for this particular book falls into this category. I’m tentatively calling it Selfless Sacrifice: a character giving up their desires for a greater good.

One thing I like about this is that it’s a counterpoint to the Revival story: the passion is already there, and the person decides to suppress it.

It just occurred to me that Edward Elric’s decision at the end of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood might fall into this category.

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Ah I understand! Well, I’m very glad that my work has helped in some way. :relieved:

I think you are probably right. It sounds like it fits the other side of the pair, I’m just cautious about adding anything I can’t back up!


An idea I’m toying with, applying the concept of on one side there’s too much, on the other side there’s too little can help you unlock dynamic pairs.

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This was something I tried initially, and I can say: it doesn’t work here.

If you look at, say, Makeover and Evolution – neither one has a ‘too much’/‘too little’ feel. I tried early on to see if they had a positive/negative vibe, but the subgenres are like the concerns – they can be both positive and negative, too little and too much at once. It’s entirely up to the writer’s storytelling, so that’s not a great way to find the missing ones.


I recommend that one always keep aware of context. Within a single context, I do not think being both positive and negative (and/or too much and too little) can be true. If both exist, then you are not using a context within which meaning is useful toward problem resolution. When something is true in one context but its counterpoint is not true, you have found a point where meaning may be discerned. If everything is true, then nothing objective may be discerned and applied toward problem resolution.


I’m not sure if this was ever compiled into a document, but I found it helpful to put this together with the Concerns onto a printable reference set.

Here it is, if it helps anyone else.
Concerns_Contextual Subgenre.pdf (282.5 KB)

It’s not perfect, ideally each would be on its own slide, but meanwhile, maybe this will be helpful for others.


@jhay I have this idea of putting your subgenres in quads similar to the current dramatica tables.

It doesn’t have to be valid at this state but I believe it will give insight into what’s happening with subgenres.

You may have stumbled a dramatica type table of elements that’s definitive of sub genres.

when I get time, I’m going to work at putting your contextual genres in a dramatica style table


Sounds awesome! I did start doing this but never finished it, so I encourage you to go right ahead! :slight_smile:


@jhay, would you be so kind to link to the other videos you have on this topic on vimeo?

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I’ve updated this resource/reference. Please see my newest post.


I actually only made these three! I never got around to the others, but if there’s still demand for these Dramatica videos, I’ll happily make more. It might take a little while, though. I don’t have much free time and can’t afford to take time off work at the moment.

But let me know if you guys want more videos like this, and I’ll add them to my list!

(Also, thank you again for the ePub. I’m genuinely thrilled we now have that in a convenient format.)