Dramatica chart help

I’ve tried reading the book explaining how to use the chart but, I still don’t quite understand. I’m interested in the chart and not really interested in the rest of the program, but I’m struggling to see how to use the chart as there seems to be a lot of contradictions when I read about it. If someone could help explain it to me that would be awesome.

I think I understand the through lines. I’m just not sure how each level of the chart fits into a story and where the vs. or diagonal fits into a story. Should I end up using every element to create a complete story? It’d be really awesome if someone could take a simple story idea and apply the chart for me so that I can actually see how it’s used in practice. I would be soon greatful! Feel lost.


Are you talking about this chart?

Ya, I was actually looking at the flat version as it seems a little easier to read, but I think they both have the same content, just trying to gain an understanding of it.

I suppose the only thing I can really say here is that the chart doesn’t have a use that you could access without approaching it through the program.

I suppose if you stuck to just the first two levels of the chart (Classes & Types), you could use those as the highest level structure for a story. So either you would be ignoring the further details of the story’s structure, or you would be using it for a shorter piece of work whose resolution doesn’t really go beyond the Type (Concern) level, like the substory in Finding Nemo. In this case you wouldn’t need the software.

So it could be done, but I’m not sure it would be a good idea because it would still require a proper understanding of the Throughlines, and there’s a lot more subtlety to Throughlines than one might expect.

(And once you’ve studied Dramatica enough to be able to apply things properly at the top two levels, you’ll almost certainly want to go beyond that!)

Thanks for the replies guys. So does each throughline use one class, one type, one variation, and one element or does, for example, the main character throughline use one class and then that throughline further splits into 4 types and then those split etc.?

Maybe read through the analysis of Star Wars (or any other film or story on the Dramatica analysis site, there are hundreds). You’ll see that each throughline has one main Class (Domain), Type (Concern), Variation (Issue), and 4 main Elements (Problem, Solution, Symptom, Response quad). But then there are also other story points like Unique Ability, Catalyst, etc. (Variations); also Signposts, Benchmark, Requirements, Consequence, etc. (Types).

And you have to understand that the rules for picking throughline Domain and Concern are simple and can be easily done with the chart. I’m not sure about Issue, the rules for that might be easy enough to do manually. But for Problem quad, however, and any other story points like Unique Ability, Catalyst, Signposts, etc. you need the software or you will end up with an invalid storyform.

Ok, I think it’s starting to make sense. Obviously I’d need the software, like you said, to make the lower levels work, but I’m starting to understand the concept.

Can someone explain to me why the lower levels aren’t limiting our writing? Obviously the top levels make sense as things can only be subjective/objective and static or changing, but the lower levels seem to be making a lot of philisophical assumptions unless I’m misunderstanding something. Anyone know where they got the information for the 64 elements? I mean essentially they are saying combinations of those are the only possible arguments characters (people) can have.

Are they basing this on any kind of philisophical or psychological theory or did they just come up with a bunch of opposite abstract ideas to fill the squares at the lower levels?

You likely want to spend a lot of time at Melanie’s Storymind site learning all you can about the “chart” and the theory attached to it. They’re not arbitrary and they aren’t philosophical assumptions.

A storyform is an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem. One problem, one mind. The storyform argues that one particular approach to solving problems is more appropriate than another. You can use Dramatica to structure an infinite amount of arguments–but one story argument at a time.

Dramatica is anything but limiting when it comes to your own writing. If anything, it produces way more than you would ever need to tell a compelling story.

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Ya, I’ve actually read quite a bit on that website and also on this one. I even watched some of her videos and Ive read some of the analysis of different films.

I guess at this point I’m just trying to get a simple example of someone actually applying the concepts. I guess I learn best by seeing it done.

So for example say I have a super simple story:
Bill and his dog are going to get a cheeseburger, but the restaurant closes in 15 minutes. As a premise let’s say I have hurrying leads to mistakes, but efficiency leads to a full belly.

Can you give me examples of how to apply a story form to this story to make it a complete story?

The misconception that Dramatica limits writers is easy to fall into at the beginning – cause that’s what it no doubt does (seems to do!) on the surface.

Even seemingly “freer” paradigms are based on the notion that structure describes somethimg finite – after all, what is an infinite paradigm if not the oxymoron of the century? But they tend to end with the afterthought “…but you can basically write whatever story you want!” (giving the illusion of freedom: “master the classical form and you can break it however you wish!”), because these paradigms don’t split story structure from storytelling – the finite set of “lenses” in our mental kit from the virtually infinite number of subject matters and angles.

The ultimate irony in the ocean of story paradigms is that Dramatica, the seemingly most limiting and rigid of them all, helps you write exactly the story you wanna write!

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Awesome, I’ll take your word on it. Seems like you all have a good community here. Would any of you who have had success with the concepts on a scene/sequence level be willing to share a scene or sequence you’ve written? I’m really interested in reading something that uses threse concepts!

Hi Doctor Funk,
I think there are some different ways to apply Dramatica to a story idea.

1. Full fledged idea

This first is when you have a full-fledged story idea that your muse has already populated with at least hints of all four throughlines. You’ve probably spent some time developing it, and really care about it. Basically, there is already a storyform hidden inside your story idea, created by your subconscious, but the “conscious you” doesn’t know exactly what that storyform is. (As an aside, I think this is why sometimes you can get new ideas that seem great, but when you try to apply them to your story, they don’t really fit, or mess everything up in a way that you don’t understand. I think the reason is the way you’re applying the new ideas doesn’t fit the storyform, and your subconscious can sense this, but can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong.)

So, the way you use Dramatica here is to try and figure out your storyform, sort of like analyzing an existing story. It can be frustrating and usually you don’t get it right the first time, but when you get one that seems close you can go with it and adjust later. The nice thing is when you get close to your real storyform you start to feel like Dramatica is reading your mind (literally!) because the software comes up with outputs that match parts of your story so well, even though those parts weren’t part of the input you gave it. (Let me know if you want some examples of that.) This gives you confidence to rely on the entire storyform, like it’s kind of got your back.

2. Using random story points (story embroidery)

You could just generate a random storyform using the software, maybe setting a few fixed items if you wanted like an OS Issue of Approach (the thing about hurrying could be Approach, but that’s just a guess). Then once you have that storyform, you could say okay, Bill is the MC and his dog is the IC ,and apply all the story points to create a great story out of it. I think if you check the Story Embroidery youtube videos, like this one, you will find examples of this process.

This is probably the process that would work best for your “cheeseburger” idea, though keep in mind, it would still take some time.

3. Create an outline using helpful Dramatica concepts

The other thing you could do is to follow a process like the one used in Jim’s free “logline to treatment” email course, which involves using Dramatica principles to come up with a solid outline. From there I think you would be close to a single storyform. I think you would want to start that with a solid idea that you really care about though, as you will be really working at breathing life into it.

I think Melanie might have a similar process that you can follow as well.

Does this help? I’m not sure if you were thinking it would be quicker, but a full Grand Argument Story storyform takes some time and energy. OTOH you can definitely apply a few Dramatica concepts to quickly develop the idea a bit further. If I get time maybe I’ll post again with how that would work…

mlucas, thanks taking the time to post and help me understand. Definitely going to take some time taking it in. By chance do you know any place I can read scenes that have been written using the element concepts?

Usually the Element concepts are applied through the Problem/Solution/Symptom/Response quad that you would see in the analyses. Or as elements of the overall story characters, as in the archetypes section of the Dramatica theory book. These things all come up in scenes, like you might have a scene where the overall story Problem of Help is shown when the fugitive doctor sneaking into hospital helps a patient even though this act of helping puts him at grave risk of being discovered. (Harrison Ford in The Fugitive)

Is that what you meant? Or did you want an example of Dramatica creating the actual scene content using Elements? I’m not sure if there are any examples of that.

Here is an example of using the Variation level from the software’s Plot Sequence Report to create the sequences for a script: Far End of the Black script creation
I think technically you could then dig into the Elements under each Variation for ideas, but that might get a bit crazy. Another (probably better) approach to using Dramatica for scene creation has been explored recently at http://narrativefirst.com/blog/ but keep in mind it’s fairly new territory.

Personally, I think Dramatica’s biggest strength is the structure of the entire narrative: the sources of conflict in the story and the content of different Acts (using Signposts). So that’s where I’d start trying to apply it before getting into sequences and scenes.

No, please, don’t take my word for it! Plenty of evidence in the theory itself once you put it to use :grin:

Hi Doctor Funk, I had the idea that you might want to try developing your “cheeseburger” story idea further, really quickly, using Dramatica concepts. We could do it without going down to the Element level so we could just use the chart. (We could probably still touch upon the Variation level.) Let me know if you’re interested in this and I could start a new topic called something like “quick story development using dramatica chart” or something like that.

That would be really cool. Let’s do it!

The structural chart is one of the unique aspects of Dramatica as a theory and practical tool for story development because it represents the natures of the conflicts/resolutions explored. However, it is not part of what most paradigms consider “story structure”. The Dramatica equivalent to what other paradigms see as story structure are the story points, e.g. story goal, main character problem, etc. You will not find those on the Dramatica structural chart because they are not part of it. They are LINKED to the chart and the story dynamics deform the chart (from its default state) to represent the dramatic potentials created by making storyforming choices.

So studying the chart alone is insufficient to understanding how Dramatica (or narrative) works. One needs the chart, the story points, and the interaction between them to understand how a narrative really works.