Far End of the Black script creation

The following are the original posts from G+ some who are just starting out with Dramatica may find useful; this was the very first script I wrote with the help of the software after having read up on the theory for a few years prior (and waiting for the new release of Story Expert on Mac.) I had an idea for the story in my mind for some time prior - knowing specifically how it began and ended and put it off until I had the software. The posts are broken down as I wrote them on various days, the outlining taking about a month and the writing about a month and a half.

So I thought I would share this little happy accident/discovery/realization with the first story I’ve been working on full-fledged Dram 5 style.

In ACT I, I have my signposts and aligned them in the order I think works best. I work my way backwards, knowing my big moment that changes the direction of the story occurs within the IC throughline with Understanding as the signpost. No problem there.

The OS Signpost is The Past. I placed it first and it works perfectly because this particular story needs a little set-up so it works perfectly as a prologue - establishing all the events that happen in the OS Backstory.

I also knew my MC signpost of Conceiving an Idea would come just before the IC’s events, which meant the RS happens right after the opening. As I formulated a Z pattern, this is what I came up with as events according to the PSR:

State of Being
Situation - Circumstances
Sense of Self

The challenge here was the signpost is Memories and I was racking my brains for a bit on how to ensure causality between signpost events to make their order logical. Because the OS was The Past, it felt strange to jump directly into an RS focusing on Memories.

How on earth was I going to meet this requirement of creating events that are essentially the start of the story but based on the what got these two characters to the state of being they’re in now while also trying to move the story forward logically to its next progression.

That’s when it hit me. Subtext!

Dramatica actually led me to infuse subtext in the scene in a very cool way.

I wanted the events in the sequence to (mostly) focus on the present, and they do - on the surface level. By infusing subtext into these events, as the relationship in “story time” progresses, it will become evident that these characters haven’t dealt with something in their past that continually manifests in different ways in their present condition. The scene isn’t about what it’s about.

So that’s how I managed to infuse Memory into the scenes while making them in the here and now. After all, Memory is subjective and lends itself to conflicts between people all the time, and often subconsciously.

Cool stuff.


Ok, working on ACT IIa, or the second signposts. I have them aligned in order along with the z-patterns and found something similar I mentioned yesterday and thought I’d bring up here because I haven’t seen anything anywhere that goes down into this level.

Anyway, I noticed the first two Signposts in order are IC Doing (something destructive) and OS The Future (what will happen).

When I run the Plot Sequence Report and find my Z-patterns, this is what I come up with the two:

Prediction - Interdiction

Appraisal - Reappraisal

Part of doing all this for the first time is looking at how I used to do things vs. exploring a new way and I’ll be honest, when I look at IC DOING and Fate, Prediction - Interdiction, Destiny, my brain struggles to formulate single events in subsequent order where the sequences doesn’t feel like it’s forcing itself.

Instead, I see a complex pattern between these two signposts. Fate, Prediction - Interdiction and Destiny are all relevant to the OS signpost of THE FUTURE while Investigation, Appraisal - Reappraisal and Doubt are relevant to IC DOING.

So, rather than just explore the two as separate sequences, what if I were to do this:

Fate (IC)
Investigation (OS)
Prediction - Interdiction (IC)
Appraisal - Reappraisal (OS)
Destiny (IC)
Doubt (OS)

Now I see a lot more causality, particularly between the IC and the OS. Just using basic definitions, this is what I came up with:

A future situation that will befall an individual (Fate) causes everyone to gather evidence (Investigate) possibilities of their future. This causes the IC to determine the future state of affairs (Prediction), the others showing initial understanding (appraisal). As a result, an action is taken to change the predetermined course (interdiction), but it proves to be a harrowing experience and the others silently reconsider (reappraisal). Despite the sacrifice, the action works sending the IC down their intended path (destiny) while leaving the survivors questioning if it’s the right thing to do (doubt).

I could very well be doing the obvious - I really don’t know! I’ve looked through the story guide and Dramatica for Screenwriters and, unless I completely missed it, I haven’t seen anything with regards to combining two sequences into one larger one while still having the events feel like they’re pointing toward their distinctive signposts.


Following yesterday’s lead, I looked at the final two signposts and their respective PSR events for Act IIa leading up to the midpoint of the story. This is what I was given:

RS - CONTEMPLATION (Consider the meaning of life)
Commitment - Responsibility

MC - DEVELOPING A PLAN (How something difficult may be done)
Skill - Experience

I knew what was going to happen at the midpoint more or less, so I was considering just tackling these two sequences separately as is. The RS subject matter comes nicely in after the sacrifice that occurred in the previous sequence, so having the MC and the IC lock horns here felt fine.

But… having the MC then left with events pointing to how something difficult should be done felt underwhelming going into the midpoint. I could finagle my way to the event I had in mind, but was there a better way I could lay this out?

Using yesterday’s weaving pattern, I looked to see if I could find a similar theme between the two.

Not as lucky. I was stuck on rationalization. I should say here that I’m merely going through and finding the heart of the events at this point. I’m not outlining the events in a strict term, rather, I’m letting Dramatica guide me through the thinking process (not to mention one of my big concerns is actually finding physical events that conceptualize these, such as rationalizing. Having characters “talk” about them is something that I’m trying to avoid).

So stuck at rationalization I be… until it hit me.

Rationalization is part of the RS. It’s false justification and it needs to point toward the consideration of the meaning of life. BINGO! Great way to bring forth that subtext from the RS Signpost 1. From there I started looking at the events and trying to find a logical way to the end and wouldn’t you know it, what I had in my head fits perfectly with bringing that subtext back to the front.

Lemme 'splain this bizarre pattern that I think will work:

Wisdom (MC event 1)
Rationalization (RS event 1)
Commitment (RS event 2)
Responsibility (RS event 3)
Skill (MC event 2)
Experience (MC event 3)
Enlightenment (MC event 4)
Obligation (RS event 4)

That’s a pretty funky pattern, but here’s why I think it works: the two sequences have the MC as common denominator. While it appears I’ve come up with 4 events for each, in reality the dynamic pairs are back to back (Commitment - Responsibility and Skill - Experience), so having RS2 and 3 happen back to back makes sense before jumping to MC2 and MC3.

So how does this look writing it out with the definitions? Not bad at all if I throw in a few story points to help guide the way:

The MC demonstrates a lack of understanding of how to apply knowledge (Wisdom) when he uses the doubts of others as a means for a false justification attack (Rationalization) against the IC (the RS signpost, meaning of life, harkens back to the subtext in Act I).

Undeterred, the IC contends they need to stick with the plan because of the individual sacrifices made to date (Commitment), but the MC doesn’t believe it’s her (Responsibility) to take on, that she’s not the best one suited for the task.

At odds, the MC stalks off and is primed when his lack of ability (Skill) serves him badly as he fires upon a peer due to the unfamiliarity of how their symptoms are associated with other problems (Experience). (I should mention here those symptoms are directly related to the event in his own past that is the source of issue between the IC and he.)

The incident proves to be a calamity worse than the preceding sequence (yesterday’s post), but the MC comes away understanding death with meaning is greater than death by accident/suicide (Enlightenment), enabling him to realize sacrifice is how one goes about doing something difficult.

As a result, he accepts the IC’s task, hoping to find redemption (Obligation) for his costly error.

As I’ve reached the midpoint, the time is ticking away but the options for delaying the time lock itself have diminished significantly.


Is there any way you could make the post title longer? :wink:

Moving right along to the end of ACT II - the bleakest of the bleak or where we go from the frying pan into the fire.

The four signposts and their events to be explored are:

Confidence - Worry

Self-interest - Morality

Security - Threat

Need - Expediency

As I looked at this, I did so knowing once again I wanted to start with the climax (ending) of the sequence(s) based on what I had in my head.
Both the MC and IC signposts looked like they would fit nicely toward the climax, but could I find a way to weave them together to make sense again?

This is what I came up with:

Fact (IC)
Approach (MC)
Security (IC)
Self-interest (MC)
Threat (IC)
Morality (MC)
Fantasy (IC)
Attitude (MC)

Using the definitions again (along with some story points to make it a bit more coherent), this is how it turned out:

Encountering X, the IC believes other survivors must exist (fact). This causes the MC to temporary change his preferred method of problem solving (approach) as he now must use discretion when shooting as he doesn’t have enough ammo and doesn’t want to use it on a survivor by accident.

Soon outnumbered by X (security) and facing certain doom, the MC contemplates using his last bullet on himself (self interest). But just then - as the IC believed - a band of survivors saves them, but quickly pose a new problem to the IC’s vulnerability (threat) of being infected, their savors quickly proven to be their captors.

This forces the MC to do what’s best for others (morality), going from guardian to playing the role of prisoner. Due to the vulnerability issue, he coerces the IC to avoid detection by playing dead amongst the corpses. The IC tells him she will wait there for him to escape (fantasy), knowing she can’t afford to as the clock ticks. This causes the MC to completely surrender to the role of prisoner (attitude) as it’s the only way to ensure both their survival… for the moment.

This brings me to the end of Act II, the remaining characters facing their grimmest challenge yet. The IC has a journey to complete before her infection completely kills her; she’s on her own with no more options for delaying the timelock left and the person providing for her safety - the MC (along with the remaining survivors) - have been captured.

Mission impossible just got all the more so… but not with Dramatica! :slight_smile:
Now I’ve got to figure out the two preceding sequences. Piece of cake, right?


ACT III - ok, this was a fun one! Challenging to figure out how to weave, but fun - like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together and saying a-ha!

From where I left off on ACT II, I knew I would require a handoff for the IC as they would not be physically present. Turns out the character I had in mind is also female and the issue in the RS backstory can be related through her perfectly - especially in light of the circumstances, which by the way, is OS signpost # 4. Wonderful!

So, going to the Plot Sequence Report once again, here’s what I found

Dream - Hope

Ability - Desire

Strategy - Analysis

Choice - Delay

Because I knew I had a handoff, it felt appropriate that the IC part be first. In fact, it made sense to have it as its own sequence, but I was struggling with the order until I actually put it in reverse:

Delay - Choice

This actually made sense for where I wanted the scene to go, particularly with it being a handoff because the character in the handoff experiences an epiphany - the key is to find the event that causes the conflict between Delay and Choice and luckily I already had that in mind.

As a result, this is the weave I came up with:

(IC) Openness
(IC) Delay - Choice
(IC) Preconception
(MC) Prerequisites
(OS) Denial
(RS) Knowledge
(MC) Strategy
(OS) Dream
(RS) Ability
(MC) Analysis
(RS) Desire
(OS) Hope
(RS) Thought
(MC) Precondition
(OS) Closure

Writing the definitions with minor story points, this comes out as:

A willingness to reevaluate (openness) causes a decision to be put off until later (delay), but an action occurs, forcing a (choice) that allows one to no longer adhere to their previously held views (preconception).

The response by the handoff character allows the MC to become free to fulfill a number of (prerequisites) to get back to the IC. The circumstances, however, prove to be difficult and make it hard and the MC refuses to admit a previously held view is no longer true (denial).

Upon finding the IC, she suggests what she knows to be true - she will not survive (knowledge). But the MC tries a new plan (strategy) involving a slight sacrifice on his behalf as a response. Alas, both of them surviving is a desired future that doesn’t fit within reason (dream).

The IC relays her faith in being able to do any of this (ability) was found in him - knowing that if she couldn’t make it, he would. She also relays faith as being the cornerstone of her view for the issue in their backstory. As a result, the MC evaluates the situation and circumstances (analysis) from her viewpoint as the IC tries to motivate him toward something better (desire)…

…a desired future that does fall within reasonable expectations, all things considered (hope).

The new knowledge/insight allows for the MC to consider (thought) all the sacrifices and their meaning and makes the leap of faith, but not without certain restrictions imposed on his effort (preconditions).

The precondition being fulfilled ends up providing the solution to the OS Story and the MC’s problem, allowing for (closure) on both ends.

Sounds like it fits to me!

While I have a good amount of the story in my head and this helps to provide a solid framework, my next step will be to go back and begin exploring the conflict within each sequence and building those scenes with characters. This process itself has mainly focused on the MC/IC and their relationship between each other and how it, in the bigger picture, relates to the OS - but it’s also brought life to a few of the other supporting characters as well, characters I’ll be eager to go spend some more time with as I start chiseling away more and more until they’re fully realized and fleshed out.


Haha. Haven’t looked at it as I was copying and pasting. I’ll figure something shorter if I can edit it.

As mentioned in the other thread asking for an example, this is how I built an easy template in Apple’s Numbers, color coding the Acts and the various throughlines. I weaved the various variations from the Plot Sequence Report into a “Z” pattern, finding those moments for a turning point between the diagonals. In some cases, I was able to weave two throughlines together to have a greater impact, the four variations working together nicely to create a “super z,” so to speak.

Behind each line for the variation I expanded with more story detail that can be viewed when I scroll over it - otherwise, it’s simple-looking and uncluttered of all the extraneous detail, helping me to see the basic skeleton of the storyform come to life, so to speak.


All in all, I started outlining all of the above in July of 2012. It took perhaps a month to complete, then I began writing, finishing approximately six weeks later (which would have been sooner but my mother had fallen and was hospitalized downstate.) Mid September I sent the first draft out to ScriptShark and the below was part of their response (enough to give a sense of how well it all came together for them…with the help of Dramatica, of course!)

Since then I’ve written a few drafts, changed it from zombies to people simply infected (but with the same effects); I’ve found there’s a BIG backlash in the industry at the moment with zombie scripts and the market is apparently over saturated, hence my attempts to distance myself from the term. The last draft was a bit darker, added a new character to help with it thematically, but Jay, who was a HUGE fan of the first draft, was, in his words, “stunned” that I could change so much (which I really didn’t think I did, merely fleshed it out) while maintaining the core emotional story (and enhancing it, “admirably so.”)

It still needs some work in the first act because of exposition (explaining the science involved has proven to be tricky, but important for the audience to understand so that when Faith deliberately infects herself, they immediately know what’s at stake.)


Monumental examples of sharing. Thanks!!!

Thank you so much for posting this. Your experience with the theory + the thought processes you laid out totally sling shots me forward in my understanding. Totally appreciate you taking the time to help everyone out here!

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You’re welcome! Happy to help!

i second dan310’s appreciation - thanks, really good stuff, your halo is shiny!

WOW. Awesome post, JIm. It answers a lot of the questions I was hovering around in my post, re: the weaving of it all. Wish I perused through your post beforehand. Armed with this knowledge, I’m going to go back to my story and tweak, tweak, tweak; though I think the overall form feels solid.

By the way, you refer to the Z-pattern. Is that a Dramatica thing? Or a Dramatica for Screenwriters thing? Or something else entirely?

Thanks for this brilliant post/thread.

You’re welcome! The z-pattern is found in the software when running the plot sequence report. When looking at the variations it proposes, it gives a pattern of “Z” which is significant in that the diagonal represents direct conflict of elements (faith/disbelief for instance).

The report itself represents a view of the story “from the inside,” though you can find much better descriptions elsewhere, particularly in Armando’s book which is recommended reading.

@JBarker: Excellent Article. However I have a question regarding changing the order of events for IC signpost. Your explanation was:

Choice - Delay

Because I knew I had a handoff, it felt appropriate that the IC part be first. In fact, it made sense to have it as its own sequence, but I was struggling with the order until I actually put it in reverse:

Delay - Choice

This actually made sense for where I wanted the scene to go, particularly with it being a handoff because the character in the handoff experiences an epiphany - the key is to find the event that causes the conflict between Delay and Choice and luckily I already had that in mind.

Im still not convinced that order of exploration is permitted.Is it ok to change the order of the events of a signpost but not the order of signposts. More explanation should really help.

@kmkvarma, with regards to what I had written, I reversed it from what the report gave because it’s ultimately what worked best once I started weaving the throughlines together. I also had a hand-off where the IC was not present and I needed the influence felt. To do this, I needed the hand-off character to change and become “the voice” of the IC. That change occurs naturally in the Z pattern between choice-delay because they’re diagonally opposed to one another, but for my story, because I was dealing with a character who was going to change in the scene and subsequently influence the main character, reversing the order made more sense.

You’ll notice that in just about all analysis done using Dramatica, it’s never done to this level. Just coming up with a storyform is hard enough while many people using Dramatica for writing rely more on intuition once they have their storyform in place. I think as long as you’re exploring the variations and doing so in a compelling way - with turning points and irreversible events that have a logical, causal effect - no one’s going to notice or care if a variation isn’t explored fully or if something isn’t in order; again, nobody analyzes story to THAT level and very few even bother to use the PSR - something I think Armando implies in his book I linked to above when he notes the PSR has commonly been referred to as “controversial and impenetrable.” If you have’t read the book, I’d strongly recommend it.

Ultimately, your signposts are ordered by ACT, but aren’t necessarily ordered in any way within those acts (in other words, all Act I signposts need to be explored completely before moving onto any in Act II - but it doesn’t matter what order you explore them in with regards to weaving. That’s where your creativity takes over to give meaning to what you’re saying.

Hope this helps!

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The order of thematic Issues within the PSR is not prescriptive – you don’t HAVE to explore them in the order presented. As long as you explore the quad of them within the context of the greater Concern presented (as @JBarker did) the storyform will maintain its integrity.


My understanding of Dramatica was little shaky but after JBakers article and your answers helped me a lot to clear all those questions…Thank you