Events, scenes and sequences

In the theme browser, at the elemental level, I can see that there are 64 elements attributable to characters (per throughline). I think I’m clear on the idea that those 64 elements as represented by characters need to be weaved into each of the four throughlines in the assigned combinations.

But other information I have received refers to turning four acts into six sequences, and getting those six sequences by comparing six variations. These comparisons might be of the variations closure, hope, dream and denial, for example.

I have a few questions about this:

1.These variations (“closure”, for example) aren’t attributes to a particular character in the theme browser. So, in those scenarios where they’re not attributed to a particular character, how am I supposed to determine which character represents “closure” for example? Do I need to visit a different tile?

2.If you look at the theme browswer, there is class, type, variation and element. Is it right that each throughline needs to include, independent of one another, 64 elements, 24 scenes (as represented by quads of four variations paired against each other in six ways)?

  1. Does the problem quad then need to be included in each throughline as an additional layer of information that pairs that quad of four elements in the six ways they can be paired against each other?

Note: This would seem to take this throughline to 94 independent pieces of information at this point (64 elements + 24 scenes + 6 combinations extracted from the pairings in the problem quad.

4.Also, in the theme browser, at the type level, a few words are included below the type and assigned asterisks. The main character concerns and the main character dividends, for example. Are these supposed to be addressed/introduced into the throughline additionally, and as a one off?

And likewise, where words are included below the variation headings. Such as MC issue asterisked below the “rationalisation” variation, for example?

  1. I also received this information: “So now we’ve broken this Throughline down to 24 Scenes. Last is Events. Within each Scene, you should have a Situation, an Activity, a Way of Thinking, and a Fixed Attitude Event. That brings us to 96 Events total”. I’m pretty foggy on this. Where do I locate what sort of four events I should be having per 24 scenes? I know Situation, Activity, Manipulation and Fixed Attitude are classes but I’m not seeing where I can go to identify what sort of situation, activity, manipulation and fixed attitude are to be the events included in every scene?

Note: It seems these 96 additional events would be taking the pieces of information to introduce per throughline close to 200 now, given the 90-plus I already identified earlier.

@Josh, as a 20-year Dramatica-user who frequently uses the theory in Hollywood script-consulting, let me just say this to you:

You’re focusing way too little time on the “story” aspects of the theory, and way too much time on the “numbers” aspects — which is mostly used in Dramatica marketing just to show that the theory is not a “limiting” or “narrow” story theory, but actually offers writers many more story options than most theories do.

Yet I suspect none of the successful stories analyzed by Dramatica contain the exact prescribed numerical amounts you are straining over… because that’s not what wins audiences!

Therefore, remember always: “Story” is not in the numbers, but in the emotions, the mindsets, the human dramas of real life that entertainment-seeking audiences want to experience as cathartic releases (not math exercises).

So spend more time on studying Dramatica’s “Examples” files, and participating in/watching the Dramatica Users and Writers Groups (first three Tuesdays of every month).

And look around this Discuss Dramatica site, where you’ll find lots of other advisers saying pretty much the same thing I am. Check out Dramatica Consultant @MWollaeger’s offering of a workshop on “Living, Breathing Characters” (coming up soon).

Finally, I’m glad you’ve joined the Dramatica “community,” and I know we all look forward to your (less-number-oriented) questions and posts here in the future!

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Thanks for the feedback Payton. These questions are only part of my focus. I have no intention of being enslaved by mathematical formulas/box ticking etc. but I want to understand it in advance and then launch into the story aspects. I don’t think feeling confident with one aspect precludes me from likewise with the other. But yeah, I’d rather make determinations about what to dismiss after I understand than before. I think I’m a few days off moving on from the subject my enquiries pertain to but I’m going to feel much more at peace with proceeding once I’m confident I can properly visualise the workings of the structure I’m creating. Reflecting on what I’ve learned about forming the building blocks of the story over the last three or four weeks, I have no regrets; it’s actually helped me build up a structure that I am confident I can pretty confidently/purposefully quickly transform into a meaty first draft. But until I understand the answers to my questions, I’ll just feel a obstructed. I’ve invested quite a lot of mental energy so far and want to see it through.

A single Character does not need to represent Closure, the scene you are writing needs to convey whether Closure is illustrated in a positive light and Denial in a negative or vice versa and to what degree. The Thematic arguments are more how a scene feels than representatives of specific characters.


The problem quad should be the most prevalent quad in each throughline. You will have enough material focusing on just that quad in each throughline.

Yes. But whether you use it as a one-off or multiple times is up to you. I believe its better to keep the Element consistent but illustrate it differently. How many different times can a Dividend of Contemplation be illustrated to the audience? Some will be easier than others. Or you can keep the Dividend the same throughout the entire story, again, totally up to you. For example a Dividend of Contemplation could be the clues to a mystery, clue after clue being the same Dividend throughout.

You definitely want to include an Event from each throughline per Act. Now whether it’s one huge Event that takes up the entire Act or a series of Events that add up to an Act is up to you. I personally have a hard time thinking of one single Event that can fill up a throughline for an entire Act, or haven’t so far anyways.

This of course would now be inaccurate as you initially over calculated.

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Just remember you can drive a car without understanding the mathematics behind combustion.


Amen to that metaphor, Mike!

You can drive a car without a road map too. But you may get lost.

You can also go to a foreign country and be offered assistance by people who know the place and decide that you’re better off looking at the wrong map.

I hear you, but (and this is just my limited experience) If you spend all your time looking at all the detail of the map you may never be ‘present’ in the land of your story and you might miss it.

I would use the signpost as excellent maps to plan your trip. Plan who you want to take with you. What you want to take with you. Write out a paragraph about each signpost you want to visit. For each throughline you know where you are starting and then this happens so then____ and because that, then this which takes you to signpost 2 and so on…

Take your journey using your ‘itinerary’ and write crap. Don’t worry if it’s good (believe me I don’t know you. i am preaching to myself here) If you get in trouble go down to the variations and even the elements if you have to but try just to write it. Then look at the big picture. Did your storyform stay the same? did what came out of you change the storyform… blah blah blah

What I’m trying to say is, if it were me I would prevent myself from ever writing a complete story if I had to have all my elements in a row before I started. But this is probably rude. You may operate on a different plane where the more detailed you get the more creative freedom you find and I should have stopped after my first sentence.

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The best thing I’ve personally heard on the topic of how much of Dramatica to try and pin down was from Jim Hull when I attended his workshop last spring. He said (paraphrasing) some people need to know everything, they want the theory down to a “T” and want to know all the interactions of each and every facet of a Storyform but those ones tend to not have as much material written when it comes the amount of stories completed albeit having absolutely pristine Grand Argument Stories of course! But they mainly become teachers of the craft, Jim included himself in that category. Stories are still generated but you can go 10+ years and still be learning the theory.

He also mentioned that some people can learn just enough about Dramatica (relative), to incite inspiration and they’ll take off and have pages upon pages of material, completing story after story, ultimately becoming a “writer” in the classical sense of the word (blemishes and all). Yes some of the fine details of Dramatica are left behind but these individuals don’t really care either, obviously risking accuracy, coherency and filled out arguments.

The choice comes down to the individual. I appreciated this choice. Not only did it unburden me from worrying that there was only one option, one way to complete this journey but It helped me position myself down the path I saw for me personally. A way to navigate both ends of the spectrum and land on coordinates that feel best for me.