Fault in Our Stars Analysis on Narrative First

I’m new to this forum, and I apologize in advance if this is a repeat question.

I’ve read the Dramatica book. I’ve not yet bought the software. I’ve read many of the articles over on Narrative First (to further understand terminology), and this particular article caught my interest (regarding The Fault in Our Stars): https://narrativefirst.com/articles/the-fault-in-our-stars-an-anatomy-of-an-analysis

If I understand correctly, the 3D structure of Dramatica should line up properly. So, for instance, if my Overall Story Goal is Conceiving an Idea (within the Psychology class), then if I go one level down (to Variations), I see a quad of Permission/Deficiency, Expediency/Need. This seems to differ (in terminology) from the Narrative First article. They assign a quad in the Mind quad (Certainty/Potentiality and Probability/Possibility) that is in a DIFFERENT TYPE.

And then I realized that there’s an app called Subtext, which may or may not have different terms from Dramatica, but they still seem related somehow, because the author of Narrative First articles seems to be an expert in Dramatica.

Have the terms changed since the Dramatica book was placed online? Is Subtext a different beast altogether?

Thank you for your help. I may be simply looking at things incorrectly.

The 3D Model aligns correctly when the world it is exploring is balanced. Since stories are about inequities, imbalances, the model twists and turns, like a 4D Rubik’s Cube*, to represent the universe of the story. That is the strangeness that you are seeing in that article.

The specifics of how this model twists and turns is proprietary knowledge to the company that created Dramatica. Thus, the Dramatica program is used to reveal the results. Within the program is a report called the Plot Sequence Report. That is where you see those results.

*No, that’s not a typo. The model combines space and time, and so you have 4 Dimensions, instead of 3.

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@Hunter OK, that makes sense. I noticed in the Dramatica book, the authors briefly touched on this, but they didn’t dwell on it long (enough to explain it). So, in other words, you need to program to do it for you?

And do you know anything about Subtext? Is this Dramatica-as-an-app or completely unrelated?

Hi @bruingirl,

Welcome to the forums!

First of all to clarify: Jim Hull (@jhull) is a Dramatica Story Expert who writes Narrative First and does the Narrative First podcast. Subtext is his app/service which is entirely based on Dramatica but adds features, functionality, masterclasses, etc. and is designed in part to simplify and make Dramatica accessible as a tool for people who just want to jump in and write in addition to helping to understanding the theory (which can take a while).

Regarding your questions on terminology, I’m not completely sure I understand your question. You’re correct that the Issues (Variations) under the Concern of Conceiving are Permission, Deficiency, Expediency, and Need.

Certainty/Potentiality are the Problem and Solution under the Psychology quad.

Sorry I just realized I cross-posted with @hunter


It’s alright. Seems that I cross-cross-posted… Plus, you answered a part of the question I missed. The fact that those articles will sometimes skip through a level, and hop to the bottom of the model. Thanks!

Subtext is run by @jhull and relies on reports from the Dramatica program, and analyses done using the Dramatica theory. If the Dramatica theory is Mathematics, then Subtext is Physics. The theory holds the information and structure, while Subtext focuses on the application. I use it for that very reason.

In addition, there are a couple of terminology changes from Narrative First and Subtext that help clarify some things:

  • MC Resolve of Change --> MC Resolve of Changed
  • Element of Uncontrolled --> Element of Free
  • Element of Non-Acceptance --> Element of Rejection
  • Problem Solving-Style --> Search this forum for information on this one.

These are the only changes that I am aware of currently, but you’ll find that they mean effectively the same thing. The truth is that some stories are more amenable to the original terminology, while others are more amenable to the switched up terminology. Overall, though, you’ll be fine using the original terminology.

As @Lakis, said, though, Jim is a Certified Dramatica Story Expert, so that’s important to know, too.


@Lakis, okay so I think I hadn’t gone far enough into the Appendices (of the Dramatica book) to see there’s a whole “floor” of Psychology Elements. Duh. I see them now.

And do you use Subtext alone? Or with Dramatica software? How do you like it/them, if you don’t mind saying?

That makes sense! Do you use Subtext alone or with Dramatica software? Thanks for all your help!

I use both but I’m a Dramatica nerd. :slight_smile:

I think purchasing the Dramatica software is a worthwhile investment if you’re going down this path at all. Aside from the proprietary stuff (like Signpost order), it’s really hard to understand the theory without plugging things in and seeing how it fits together.

Subtext has an awesome outlining feature.

You could just use Subtext if you’re okay with picking a premise/storyform from a story that has already been analyzed. (EDIT: Which is totally fine BTW and maybe even recommended).

But even then I would recommend having the Dramatica software if nothing else to help understand how it works.

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I use both. Many of the stories I write have a Storyform that is either uncommon or has not yet been written. (With the fact that I can barely find movies that I enjoy, and there are over 32,000 Storyforms, it’s no wonder that I write the odd ones out.) Thus, I need the Dramatica program to actually figure out how the model gets twisted. In other words, there are no stories analyzed in Subtext that match the Storyforms that I have.

From here, I use Subtext to work out the feel of more difficult parts of my story. By using Subtext, I can load up the reports from Dramatica, and get a basic outline. I modify that outline with the tools in Subtext, using gists and re-arranging story beats to better match my idea. Since Jim’s service divides up a story into a structurally appropriate outline, it can also ensure that you don’t move things in a way that would break that structure. Once I’ve finished with that, I may or may not move to a more free-form program, depending on the story I’m writing.

The treatment that you can get from Subtext can be very useful, and for some stories, I’ll actually use that. For others, I’ll need a deeper outline than the treatment provided by Subtext, but it makes for a good starting point in those cases. Thus, there is use in both.

Also, I totally agree with @lakis. I think we are, in effect, saying the same thing from different points of view and experience.


Good to know! It’s always good to hear people enjoy using something. I’m more apt to purchase it then, if it will help me learn the theory! Thank you for your help!


OK, yes, I think you and @Lakis are saying the same thing, which is a good thing. Thanks so much for your help. I think I’d need both to flesh out the stories I’m trying to tell…


Hi @bruingirl, welcome!

@Lakis and @Hunter already did a great job of answering your questions (which is fun to read as I prep a brand new rollout of Subtext this weekend!), but just some clarifications:

While I did switch to Changed for Main Character Resolve (because it makes more sense to me when you look at the end of the story to determine the resolve, is it Steadfast, or is it Changed? Plus, it helps to differentiate it from the narrative Element of Change, something altogether different), I have yet to make those other changes to terms Hunter marks down. Things like Uncontrolled to Free or Non-Acceptance to Rejection. Eventually, I’ll have an option to do that, but not quite yet.

The whole purpose of Subtext is to provide a practical approach to using Dramatica. I have a ton of experience helping writers across all mediums (screenplays, novels, games) and wanted to put that in a form that could benefit everyone. The theory is not all that complicated, and you can see a significant improvement in your writing, IF you concentrate on the big parts first–that’s what Subtext does.

The one thing that was briefly mentioned that I need to write about more are the weekly classes (the Writers Room). Every week on Thursday we get together for an hour to go over intricacies of the theory or like we did this last week, analyze a script on the Blacklist and figure out why it’s there and not in theaters. I had no idea this would turn out to be as fruitful and as exciting as I though it would be when I started. We learn so much in the open forum discussion that just isn’t possible here or in a podcast. We already have 40+ hours in the archives, and I have no intention of stopping!


@jhull Yes, I think Subtext would help me re-outline my novel. I’ve already written it, but I’ve failed in ways that I already have reasons for (ugh), and I think the Dramatica theory would help to set a strong foundation for a major rewrite. So, I guess the last question I would have for you (and @Hunter already answered this a little, I believe) is: do I start with Subtext, or start with Dramatica to get the theory down, then export into Subtext? Am I thinking of this correctly?

And sadly, I don’t live in LA (I’m assuming the writers’ group is there?), so I’ll have to follow online.

Thank you for all your help! I’m enjoying your articles on Narrative First…

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The Writers Room class I was talking about is online in Subtext - everyone from Guyana to the Netherlands is welcome :slight_smile:

I would start with Subtext–Dramatica isn’t really something you get down, it takes a long time to become proficient with it. Subtext short-changes that process by making a lot of assumptions about what you want to write and the kind of outline you’re looking for. Then, once you’re feeling strong with it and want and/or need complete control over everything, I would move to Dramatica.

Subtext is designed for beginners, but has the tools available for more seasoned writers.


@jhull, Perfect. Thank you!

@jhull, I’ve subscribed to Subtext, but I don’t see Fault in Our Stars as a movie example (I think this is the closest example I can come up with, in regards to my novel), and I can’t seem to work from scratch in Subtext (to fill in the details myself), so this requires Dramatica, correct?

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If Fault isn’t there, it’s an oversight on my part. I’ve done a lot of analyses over the years on Narrative First, but some I’ve overlooked.

I can easily upload that one quickly this afternoon for you.

But yes, if you want to start completely from scratch, and not rely on genre or premise to find your story’s structure, Dramatica is what you want.

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@jhull, oh, that’s so generous! Yes, I would love for you to upload that for me, if you don’t mind, but I know it’s a lot of work. If you can’t fit it in, I’m planning on buying Dramatica anyway. I just wanted to be sure this works for me (I’m sure it will!) before I splurge on everything. :slight_smile:

It would probably take me longer than it would take you, since I’m new to this, but that’s okay. I’m planning on learning everything for several weeks, just so I feel secure in what I’m doing.

My last name is Elliott, and I just signed up today (for Subtext) if you’d rather email me! You can find me in your database, I’m sure!


And you should definitely buy Dramatica–speaking from personal experience, it’s a small investment in what will eventually become a greater understanding of how story works and by proxy–how we work.

It more than pays for itself 1000x–externally and internally.

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@jhull, just purchased Dramatica, so I’m on my way! :slight_smile:

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