Dramatica experts, help me please!

I am a television writer from India. I am trying to use dramatica for my writings. The theory is mind boggling and quite inspiring. But having said that, am still unable to apply the dramtica elements in my writing.
Here is where I am stuck . Please guide…!

So I am trying to crack the spine of the story using dramatica. And here is what i am trying to do… i think i am doing it all wrong. so the players want to achieve (Goal) so that they could solve the (Problem) of the os story. And to achieve goal they have to fulfill certain Requirements and to get to the requirements they would have to fulfill certain (Pre-rquisites), and the rule of the game is ( Preconditions). That means operating under the rule of the game they have to fulfill (Pre-requisites) which will help them get to the r( Requirement) which is needed for the goal to be fulfilled. But they are unable to fulfill the (Requirements) because they are looking at ( Symptom) acting with ( Response), since that is not the real story problem , so the the requirements that they are fulfilling is not getting the ( goal) so not solving the (Problem) and the journey of finding the (Requirement) is through the OS signposts.
That means signposts are progression of the assembling of requirements right…?.
I mean the os signposts.
Now the MC perspective, the MC is personally trapped in his concern, and is driven by Problem. in my story he is a steadfast character, so he is looking at symptom as problem and trying to tackle it with response…
So probably , his signpost is the journey of how he is encountered with symptom and he is countering it with response. Right?
MC is encountered by IC who is showing him different way to solve his problem. But since he is steadfast character, he does not look as problem as problem. SO the IC keeps on trying, to push him to see problem as problem. and actually Impact character’s symptom and response is his signposts.
because IC problem is what we see that hsa led to IC’s problem, IC thinks his real problem is symptom and he responds with solution
not been able to twist my head around the relationship story. Although you have many writers room episodes of relationship stories. But i am going to see and understand them. Only thing I understand is what is happening externally is OS what is happening in the interior between characters is relationship story.
Thank you…


Hello Ra. Welcome to the boards!

I don’t think I qualify as a Dramatica Expert, but I thought I might be able to help.

First, Dramatica is a model of the human mind. As a human being you already “do Dramatica”. Dramatica is a tool that can help ease the process your brain is already engaged in when you’re creating. There’s a ton of ways to approach Dramatica, and I don’t think any of them are wrong. So, don’t worry!

I’m not entirely sure if it matters how the causality plays out, but I think it’s usually that the Overall Story problem is preventing the goal and switching to the Overall Story solution allows the goal to be achieved.

I would recommend not worrying about prerequisites, preconditions, requirements, costs, dividends, etc. If you’re writing for television, you probably don’t have the time to really explore them anyway. The Goal and Consequence the are two important ones.

I find that it’s usually best to let Dramatica pick the signposts for you.

Setting the dynamics, choosing the domains, and picking the problems are the biggest things to get right.

Right, but keep in mind that the IC doesn’t have to be actively showing them.

Correct. The steadfast MC problem is more like a source of drive that they grow further into.


The symptom and response in all throughlines is what’s the most evident in the story. So, each throughline sees the focus as the problem and treats it with the response. It kind of bounces back and forth between the two. Like ping-pong or tennis.

The IC signposts are the big “beats” of their influence on the MC.

I think everyone struggles here. I still struggle here. The best advice I have is to focus on the relationship and not the people. Think about what is strengthening the relationship and what is pushing it apart. People will be more than happy to help if you have questions.

Hope that helps!


You are fighting the good fight!

I can feel your desire to understand and your confusion. We have all been there. The only way through is to keep working at it.

A couple of thoughts:

Think about this the other way: we have to solve the Problem to get the Goal.
In Lagaan they have to win the match to get rid of the British. (Or, they have to get rid of the British before they get their land back. Either way, the Goal is second. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s most common and easiest to think about this way.)

Like @glennbecker suggests, I would not concern yourself with Requirements, Prerequisites and Preconditions just yet. You may be the person who finds these to be your #1 tool, but most people don’t consider them in the early drafts.

Signposts are a general description of the how the story is being looked at. For instance, in PK, when he loses his gem, this is not a Requirement, but it does force him to consider what his Future on earth is going to be like because now he can’t leave.

But, at this point, I would recommend that you don’t think about signposts too much either. Why? Because doing too much can be very confusing. But also, because you are writing television. There isn’t a lot of room to do everything in television if you are writing something 45 minutes long.

For now, just focus on the OS, the MC and how the IC pushes the MC. If you can do that and get the story to work, then think about going deeper.


I’d look at the Signposts as a progressive exploration of the problem at the heart of the story. The signposts are your plot, the methodology for trying to solve the problem.

If you look at the four types of a given throughline as sitting side by side, there will be an inequity at the center, but the Storymind will assign all of the conflict from that inequity to just one corner of the quad. For instance, if there is an inequity between Understanding, Doing, Obtaining, and Learning, rather than saying they are all responsible for the conflict, you’ll say that all the conflict comes from, say, Obtaining. That becomes the story’s concern and it remains the same throughout the story.

The signposts, on the other hand, take a different perspective. Rather than assigning conflict to one corner, signposts are a view that assigns conflict to all four corners. But this view doesn’t assign conflict to all of them all at once because it also doesn’t see the types side by side. Instead this view looks only at one type at a time and in a particular order. So maybe it looks first at Understanding, then at Doing, then at Obtaining, and then at Learning.

By having both a Concern and a series of Sign Posts in sequence you get to explore the quad both spatially and temporally. Two different perspectives on the same methodology.

Leaving signposts out of it, the journey is about building up justifications or tearing them down. Basically, the character is looking at his core problem from a certain view and is either encountering things that support that view, or give the character even more reasons to hold that view OR is encountering
things that tear down that view and suggest that maybe another view is in order.


Hey thanks so much MWollaeger. Your bollywood film reference made so much sense. Thanks a lot.
What you suggest makes a lot of sense. I will try and use them and then get back.


Thank you Greg.
Thank you for breaking down my doubts into understandable concept. I will bother you again, if i get in some trouble. Before discovering dramatica, writing was so easy. :slight_smile:


Thank you Glen. Thanks for the insight. Story writing with dramatica had started to look like coding :slight_smile: . Your detailed explanation, makes me so confident and comfortable.
will bother you all again, if i get stuck.


Actually I am in process of developing couple of series for different platforms. So each series will have around 10 episodes. Trying to use all the elements of dramatica to create a healthy and consistent series. That is the reason why i am struggling with every element.
But as you said, most people don’t consider it in early draft, does that mean later on we need to put them in the script?
what i find quite baffling also is that how the four domains and signposts are interrelated. Also i am starting to wonder how the elements interact with each other.
Thanks a bunch!

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@glennbecker what i understand is that , while exploring the signposts what needs to be kept in mind is that it is symptom and response at play and they are exploring the concern which is the main inequity of the throughline. So for every throughline, this kind of exploration works.


@Greg what you mean to say in your example is that, obtaining is the source of conflict and understanding, doing, obtaining , learning are the different ways of looking at the central conflict and that applies to all throughline and their corresponding concerns.
so will it be safer to say that all the throughlines will be perspectives of the central inequity, which is i guess the OS concern ? or is the central inequity different.
so in each throughline, problem is countered by getting to the solution and to get to the solution, signposts are the 'trial and error" means .
Correct me if my reasoning is misplaced…

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This is getting more into theory and less into writing, but the Central Inequity (from here on referees to as CI) does not appear in any one throughline, such as the OS. Rather, it takes place between the throughlines, or in the relationship between throughlines. That is what makes it central and why all four throughlines are needed in the story. By looking at all four, you get an idea of the relationship between them and thus the CI. So this

Is safe to say.

Each perspective will then look at the CI by exploring the relationships between the items in its own quad to get the fullest view of the problem from that perspective that it is possible to have. So for example, an OS Physics throughline will look at Understanding, Doing, Obtaining, and Learning to see what the CI looks like from a perspective of Physics. Where the Concern will look at all four at once and say that all of the conflict in the story is because of one of those areas, the Sign Posts will look at all four areas not at once, but one at a time and in a particular order and that some bit of conflict comes from each area in sequence.

Structurally, each signpost will explore one corner of a quad in order to build up that full view of what the problem looks like. But I suppose from within the story, it might look like the characters are saying “we have a problem, let’s try to Understand it away…that didn’t work, let’s try Doing it away…well, that worked a little bit, but we still have a problem, let’s try Obtaining it away, etc” or it might look like they’re saying “we have a problem. We’re going to have to Understand something before we can move forward. Then we’re going to have to try Doing something to move further forward.” All that to say that you could treat it as trial and error, or as a series of steps taken, or however you want.

All of the stuff about taking four views to get a full picture of the CI is Storymind stuff that deals with the structure, but you can tell the story of that exploration so that it looks like anything you want.

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Yes, that is correct.

I do want to slow you down a little bit here. I mentioned earlier that there are many ways to approach Dramatica and none of them are really wrong. I do think some might be more productive than others.

The other is that you’ll naturally do Dramatica, it’s just a matter of how many drafts it takes to get there.

I know when I first came to Dramatica, I had the same questions as you. The theory is fascinating and it’s really fun and mind blowing to dig into all the details.

My problem was I spent to much time trying to dig into the theory that I wasn’t actually writing anything. I eventually put Dramatica aside and thought it was neat, but it wasn’t useful or productive for me.

When I came back to Dramatica I had a different approach. I approached everything from the top down. I’d make sure I could answer the dynamics. Check that I had four throughlines and the Domains were set correctly. Then I’d try to get the concerns.

That will get you from 32,768 storyforms to 16. Once you have that, start writing your outline. Run wild. Your mind will have a context and you can be super productive.

Once you have something, then go back and look at the problem level. If you can get down to one storyform, great! Use it to check you work. You’ll probably see things you hadn’t considered, things you could do better.

You’ll also probably see you were already encoding symptom/response, throughlines and benchmarks.

I don’t want to speak for anyone, but this more top down approach is what @MWollaeger seems to be advocating and Subtext by @jhull is all about working from the big pieces.

To steal a line from Mark Twain, “The best time to use Dramatica is after you’ve written, because then you know what you want to say”.


Actually, no. What tends to happen is that focusing on the big picture generates the other details you are thinking about.

The next step, then, is amplifying what you have already created and filling in the spots you have missed. And using Dramatica to find and remove ideas that fight your story. These usually enter into a draft because as we plan, the story develops. Thoughts you had on Monday no longer work with the full story idea on Friday, but we hold onto them because they felt good at the time we thought of them.

This comes with time and effort.


The MC is steadfast, so the IC character shifts/changes, etc. That’s always been my take on it. Pick a few things for the magic to have room to percolate.

Pick some part of the software program that is fun for you to use. Then flush out that part of the story, just writing something to entertain. The brain keeps things straight, even though we are not “aware”, just like it keeps us walking with balance without our thinking about it.

When I first used Dramatica, I picked the plot option. I worked through the day and through the night, filling the blanks with story items as story sentences that would cover each software point. I had only made it through about one-fourth of the way, for all that time. After a lot of sleep, I picked the character option, and began again. I nailed all the story form items in only 2 hours!


Sorry , for late response.
Thank you for the advise and breaking down Dramatica for me. I went ahead and almost wrote the first draft of my story.
I am Still trying to figure out how to tackle the relationship story. In the main and impact throughline a lot is covered, so relationship story is a task, although i understood that it is about relationship. But in my story the main and impact character are father/ son, so whenever i look at them, their father/ son relationship come into play. Now i am wondering what different to do in their relationship throughline. Any suggestion / advice please. You guys are amazing. in my part of the world the hero’s journey is quite different than what is there in the western thoughts. we have passive heroes and they don’t the act they do in the western part of the world.
Dramatica has come forward as a life saver for me. :slight_smile: thank you so much @MWollaeger.
Keep shining your light.

@ Prish thanks for your suggestion…Main and Impact character looked live.

@glennbecker your advise/ suggestions have been eyeopeners for me. I used to get so much caught in the bits and pieces that it was was killing my stories slowly.
Would love to hear from you about how to tackle the relationship story. I have almost written the first draft and since main and impact characters are father/ son , so in their throughlines their relationship becomes prominent and so when tackling the relationship story has become tough, because i don’t know what new to add. But as you have been advising, i am taking it slow, one element at a time :slight_smile:
Thank you so very much.

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How does their relationship change over the course of the story?

The best description of this is “paralysis from analysis”. :grin:


Heres’ my advice:

Try with everything in your power to keep everything in the relationships focused on the relationship itself and not the people in it. This still hurts my brain, but it really does help.

Don’t think about the son or the father as people, they have their own throughlines. When you make notes talk about the relationship as if it were it’s own person, with it’s own issues separate from any character in it.

  • The father/son relationship has low-self esteem
  • The father/son relationship can’t cope with the past.
  • etc …

Think about the quality of the relationship. Is it happy or depressed? Is is supportive or resentful?

Think about where it starts and where it ends. Does it grow closer or does it dissolve and separate?

What are the things that are important to the relationship? What things strengthen the relationship? What things hurt it or weaken it?

Finish your first draft. Then give it a week and go back. Look at your story. See if you can answer these questions without mentioning the father or the son specifically. That will help you see what Relationship Story is present and what you can start filling in.

If you have questions about some specific part of it, everyone here is happy to help.

Keep up the good work. :thumbsup: