Encoding the story point as both a problem and solution – the positive and negative - Is this a more holistic approach?

Note: I am not writing this as a story expert. This is my unqualified and unverified opinion and I stand to be corrected.

I’ve noticed that every dramatica element has a positive and negative charge to it.

For example:

Projection – [Element] – dyn.pr. Speculation< >Projection – an extension of probability into
the future – Projection is a means of anticipating events and situations by extending the line
of how things have been happening into the future.

Positive/Solution - Restoring a balance: A character that represents Projection has a good grasp of what he might look for in things to come.

Negative/Problem - Causing an imbalance However, this character will give great weight to past experience so abrupt changes in direction might be ignored until it is too late. – syn. anticipation, how things will be, most likely, probable

In the article, https://narrativefirst.com/articles/how-to-use-dramatica-the-right-way-part-two

Jim Hull writes: An effective Author defines how the story point is a problem.

I think a more accurate statement would be that An effective Author defines how the story point is an inequity.

An inequity is an imbalance between two or more things.

In an inequity we have a positive and negative. A solution and problem.

An even more accurate statement would be that An effective Author defines how the story point is a problem and a solution.

I feel it is a more holistic way of story encoding.

Story encoding should look more like this I’d suggest:


**How is pursuit a solution or a positive thing? What outcomes does pursuit as a solution lead to? **


How is pursuit a restorer of balance or how is pursuit trying to rebalance issues?

How is pursuit a problem or a negative thing? What outcomes does pursuit as a problem lead to?


How is pursuit a cause of imbalance in the story?
I feel like the order of these can be interchanged in terms of how you express them.

I dare to say that the more holistic approach to story encoding is to illustrate a story point as
both a problem and a solution.

Chris Huntley actually mentions something to that effect.

How does same dramatica element trying to restore a balance – rebalance – How is same dramatica element a restorer of balance?

How is the same dramatica element a cause of imbalance – or how is same dramatica element an imbalance?

I feel like Encoding works better when you think in terms of positive and negative as opposed to problem and solution though one can still think that way - maybe apply different words in terms of reflecting an imbalance, problem or solution, right thing, or wrong

Hi Samuel, are you sure you are using the term “story point” the right way?

When Jim says “An effective Author defines how the story point is a problem” he’s talking about most of the Dramatica story points like Domain, Concern, Issue, Problem; Focus & Direction (though how they are problems is a little different, as they are not the root of the problem). Even other things like Requirements and Preconditions and Catalyst can be problems.

Of course, there are some Story Points that are not really problems – Solution, maybe Inhibitor and Story Dividends.

But in a story where, say, Test is the OS Problem … I agree it’s good to look at different ways of encoding Test as a problem – as a source of drive, a source of conflict, or an imbalance. All these work well. In this case I don’t think you should look at Test as a Solution or restorer of balance on its own, but you could look at the need for a balance between Test and Trust as a Solution.

This balance between elements is in fact part of what Jim is talking about in this recent article:


I think it’s interesting to look at each dramatica story point as having two sides of the same coin.

Encoding the problem of test as an inequity

Test as a positive thing.

Matthew wants to test and see if there’s reciprocity in his relationship with Cindy so these days when he tries to call her and she doesn’t receive his call, he waits for her to call back until it’s something urgent. He’s realized that if he’s to build a strong, intimate and enjoyable relationship with her, they will both have to strike a balance for each other.

And this is a good thing because Cindy’s workmate with whom she shares an office is envious of her relationship with Matthew.

“I admire the fact that you can call on Matthew to actually help you out with your paperwork and he actually shows up when he comes over. My husband does nothing at home. He doesn’t even help me when I ask him to help me comfort my one year old baby when he cries your a lucky lady.”

Test as a negative thing

Their relationship gets tested and Cindy does take the test well.

Matthew is from a wealthy background while Cindy is from a poor family. One day, Matt invites Cindy for a party. She feels out of place but Matthew makes her feel at home. A girl at the party who also likes Matt calls Matt’s mother and says negative things about Cindy.

Matt’s mother has a talk with him the next day and tells him that someone told her that he’s dating a social climber and that he should be very careful around her.

Matt gives Cindy a call and tells her about what her mother said.

Cindy breaks down and begins sobbing.

Solution of trust as an inequity

Trust as a positive thing - trusting someone more and more

Matt’s mother keeps on putting pressure on him to break up with Cindy because she’s not from their social class. Faith, the other girl from the party keeps on doing research on Cindy.

She finds out that Cindy is a teacher and she reports that information to Matt’s mother.

Matthews relationship with Cindy grows stronger and he trusts her so he eventually asks her to marry him. He tells his parents. He’s dad is okay with it. His mother is not okay with it.

Trust as a negative thing

His mother doesn’t trust the fact that someone outside their social standing can be trusted. This leads her to refusing to attend the wedding of her eldest son. And this is a problem because Matt has always loved his mother very much. He’s sad that she’s not able to attend Matt’s wedding.

Cindy comforts him and she says, I trust that she’ll come around one day.

Let’s focus on building our life together she says.

@mlucas I wouldn’t have arrived at the encoding above if all I’d asked myself was and this is a problem because

@samuelogeda I might be misunderstanding you but it seems like you’re conflating two different things:

  1. The idea of encoding a particular story point (e.g. Domain, Concern, Issue or Problem) as a source of conflict (i.e. how is this a problem?) and;

  2. The idea that Elements, Issues, Concerns or Types can be graded or flipped. So you definitely can have too much or too little Test as a problem (i.e. Bob is constantly testing everyone around him, causing problems or Janet is very smart but she is so afraid of taking tests that she skips class and is kicked out of school).

In your first example, the “how is this a problem” seems to be the workmate’s reaction to the positive aspect of Cindy and Matthew’s relationship, which causes a problem with her husband (i.e. leading her to become conscious of the inequity in their relationship). To solidify that it’s a problem of Test, you might have her decide to not pick up her 1 year old the next he cries, just to test her husband and see if he responds. When he doesn’t, this causes more problems. (To be clear–we can make a judgement and say that failing to chip in around the house is bad, but from a story perspective it doesn’t become a Problem until the workmate is forced to deal with it somehow).

On the other hand, if what you’re writing is just about how great the relationship between Cindy and Matthew is, I’m not sure how it creates a story.

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The positive aspect that I encoded is not isolated from the negative aspect I encoded below.

It’s one and the same thing.

In a final encoding I’d write the positive and negative as one thing.

I think considering both the positive and negative aspects creates for more expansive storytelling.

From my understanding an inequity and a problem aren’t the same things.

An inequity is an imbalance.

When we have an inequity, we have at least two opposing forces, for example a positive aspect and a negative aspect.

When I encode a story point and ask and how is this a problem, I feel like it’s only considering one side of the INEQUITY.

I feel like the story elements were built more around the idea of INEQUITY which includes both a negative and positive aspect.

Also, when you read the element definitions from the theory book, they reflect both a positive aspect and a negative aspect.

I feel like asking and this is a problem because only reflects the negative side of an inequity.

Yet in an inequity there’s both positive and negative aspects.

In @jhull latest articles he defines a story as an analogy of the human mind trying to solve an INEQUITY.

The earlier definition was a story is an analogy of the human mind trying to solve a PROBLEM.

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From a linear point of view**: What’s the difference? A problem cannot exist without inequity, and an inequity is, by its very nature, a problem.

In terms of the negative/positive charge, I would suggest focusing on one and letting the others come about through your subconscious. I remember reading somewhere that two elements in a quad end up with a positive charge, and the other two with a negative charge. For illustrating a story, though, I think the terms “lack of” and “overabundance” have helped me far more than the other minutia at the element level.

** I am extremely preferential to linearity, a programmer, a mathematician, a logician.


Thanks for clarifying @samuelogeda.

Like @Hunter these are synonyms to me …

So I’m not sure what you mean when you say an inequity contains both positive and negative. I think of an inequity as an imbalance between one side and another. Neither side in this imbalance is inherently positive or negative. (I am assuming you mean positive as “a good thing” and negative as “a bad thing” – or am I misunderstanding?)

My understanding is that the Element itself is neutral until the author makes it a problem (or inequity).


Joe gets all 100 percents on his school tests and Joe fails all his school tests

are neutral until the author makes it a problem (or inequity).

So I might ask “how does Joe getting perfect scores on his school tests cause an inequity?” and the answer might be that “it makes his brother extremely jealous, causing a rift between their once wonderful relationship.” or “his schoolmates start bullying him, causing him inner turmoil” or something.

The problem for me with “positive” and “negative” is that it implies a pre-existing value judgement that confuses things. Most of us probably assume that getting perfect grades is positive, but what if you were actually trying to fail the test?

Unless I’m not understanding what you mean by positive and negative.

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I think your encodings would be stronger if you focused on the problematic (I think what you are calling negative) aspects of the Problem element. And on the resolution-bringing, positive aspects of the Solution element.

By trying to make each element positive and negative, I think you are muddying the waters. This is probably why, as @Lakis pointed out, your encodings of Test aren’t really Test but more like Reaction.

If you feel like the term problem is too simple and one-sided – and I can certainly see how you might view it that way – I think the answer is to think of how imbalances of that element are causing conflict. Too much Test on one hand, too little Test on the other, someone tricking you into testing something that didn’t need testing, testing the wrong thing, etc.


@mlucas thanks for clarifying that idea for me.


@samuelogeda I think your mind is mostly in the right place, but I think maybe there’s a step between what you’re describing and what the storyform is asking you to do.

First of all, the storyform is already describing an inequity between Test and Trust, so trying to describe an inequity between positive Trust and negative Trust would be describing a different inequity a step removed from what the storyform is looking at. Also, since an inequity is an imbalance between two areas, you’re really not looking at an inequity by looking at various aspects of Test but rather, I’m thinking, multiple ways it might be imbalanced when compared to Trust.

So what you describe sounds more like a way to view the inequity and decide either 1. which element should be the problem and which the solution, or 2. A way of describing how the elements are in disharmony.


true trust and test balance out each other.

Too much test can be solved by trusting.

Too little trust can be brought into balance by testing

The words too little and too much are helping out a great deal,