First attempt at Story Weaving from a Story Form. Looking for feedback

Hello. I’m fairly new to fiction writing and Dramatica. I read, commented and posted on a few posts when you all were over at Google+. Glad to see you all are still active here at this new location.

My writing has been focused mostly on very short works. This is my first attempt at making something longer, even if it’s just a longer short story.

The Story I’m working on currently, called Bingo Night at St. Stephen’s, has this form:

“Bingo Night at St. Stephen’s”

MC RESOLVE: Steadfast

DRIVER: Decision
LIMIT: Timelock
OUTCOME: Success

OVERALL STORY (Doris can’t win 'em all, can she?)
DOMAIN: Situation/Being Winners
CONCERN: The Future
ISSUE: Being Biased vs. Openness
SYMPTOM: Uncontrolled
CATALYST: Openness
INHIBITOR: Self-Interest
BENCHMARK: HavingSomeone’s Condition Grow Progressively Worse OR Slowing Someone OR Advancing
SIGNPOST 1: The Past
SIGNPOST 2: How Things Are Changing
SIGNPOST 3: The Future
SIGNPOST 4: The Present

INFLUENCE CHARACTER (Doris (Bernice’s friend))
DOMAIN: Manipulation
CONCERN: Changing One’s Nature
ISSUE: Commitment

MAIN CHARACTER (Bernice Johnson)
DOMAIN: Activity
CONCERN: Obtaining
ISSUE: Self-Interest
PROBLEM: Avoidance
SYMPTOM: Uncontrolled
SIGNPOST2: Obtaining
SIGNPOST 3: Gathering Information
SIGNPOST 4: Understanding

GOAL: The Future
CONSEQUENCE: Innermost desires
COST: Changing One’s Nature
DIVIDEND: Obtaining
REQUIREMENT:How Thing’s Are Changing
PREREQUISITE: Impulsive Responses
PRECONDITION: Playing a role

Getting to the actual Story Weaving, I decided to use the Signposts in the Plot Progression Report as a method of crafting out scenes. My intention is not to make this into a full length novel, nor look to create 64 scenes (i.e. 4 story through lines X 4 signposts X 4 sequence events). So I used the Plot Progressions in a way that might be different than intended. Instead of crafting 4 separate scenes for each Signpost, the signpost is a single scene that moves through 4 phases. In this case the signpost (and also the scene) is “The Past” and it moves from “Value” to “Confidence” to “Worry” to “Worth”. This might not be what the model was intended for, but I found it an interesting way to write a scene that moves through dynamics. Just wondering if this dynamic translates into the written scene. I’d enjoy any and all feedback, either Dramatica based or otherwise.

So here goes what equates to a draft chapter, or first portion of a short story, dealing with the OS Story Signpost 1 “The Past”, and that moves from “Value” to “Confidence” to “Worry” to “Worth”:


The warm, sweet smell of peanut butter cookies baking in the oven permeated the kitchen. Bernice Johnson sat at a blue Formica table, one hand fumbling in a small bowl filled with peanut slivers, the other held a phone pressed against her ear. Into it she said, “I know, Mabel. Doris has been very lucky over the last few weeks.”

“You know, I’ve kept a tally?” said Mabel.

Bernice reckoned Mabel had too much free time on her hands, then said, "Really? You have? "

“Mmm-huh. I’ve been keeping track of it in a little notebook I bought at the Big Y, 'bout a month ago. Now, where is that little sh…?" Mabel’s phone clunked on her kitchen countertop and her voice drifted away. Sounds of her rummaging echoed through the phone receiver.

Bernice waited. She pulled a peanut sliver from the bowl, nibbled on it and wondered whether Mabel was keeping records on her too. Perhaps an inventory of baked goods she brought each week to St. Stephen’s? An analysis of the ratio between the number of fruit pies vs. cream pies? Or how many times she put nuts in her chocolate chip cookies versus not?

Mabel’s voice returned, now huffing. “Here it is… Over the last five weeks… Doris has won a total of… eighteen times.”

Bernice stopped her chewing. “Eighteen?”

“Yes, you heard right: eight-teen.”

“Sure about that?”

“Mmm-huh, and I’ll tell you what they all were. Got it all written down right here… Let’s see, over the last five Fridays, Doris has won: three Diagonals, two Inside Diamonds, one Outside Diamonds, two Four Corners, one Inside Four Corners, two Postage Stamps, one Roving ‘L’, two Straight Line Across’s, three Straight Line Downs and one ‘X’. Now, I’m not a statistician, but what are the odds of that? And with, what is it, 80 to 100 people each night?” Mabel griped some more. “Do you want me to tell you how much she’s won?”

Bernice said nothing, sipped from her coffee and waited. It didn’t matter whether she’d said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Mabel was going to tell her anyway.

“Between cash and prizes, and factoring in her entry fees and cards, Doris has walked away with — are you ready for this? — forty-three hundred dollars.”

Bernice swallowed the peanut. “Sweet Jesus. That’s a lot.”

“Mmm-huh. You beat your sweet baby aspirin it is.” Mabel grumbled, “So Bernie, what do you think?”

“Well, Mabel. I guess Doris Freeman had a retirement plan after all — and BINGO was it’s name-O.”

Mabel roared with laughter. “Oh Bernie, you’re a hoot". Her laugh was contagious and Bernie couldn’t help but catch it. The two friends reeled in hilarity, infectious and rhythmic, and it took awhile for Bernice to catch her breath. As she did, she drew in the aroma of her baking cookies: almost done.

There was always something baking in Bernice’s kitchen. Bernice knew that nothing, at least nothing sweet nor confectionery, was baking in Mabel’s (Mabel was a cook, not a baker). But Bernice sensed something was cooking in Mabel’s mind, when, after their boiling laughter had simmered down, Mabel asked, “Do you think Doris has been cheating?”

"I’m not sure how anyone can cheat at Bingo,” Bernice said. “Why? Do you think maybe her little sweetie, Harry, is fixing the numbers for her, before he calls them up for the rest of us?

“Could be.”

“Still, how could anyone pull that off? It sounds kind of far-fetched, don’t you think? Plus, it just doesn’t sound like Doris. She can’t even plan a dinner party right. Who serves rice with pasta? How do you expect her to organize The Great St. Stephen’s Bingo Racket? I mean really, we sound ridiculous, don’t we? She’s just not capable of something like that. She might be a bit of a loon. But she’s not a criminal.”

Lacking any real evidence, nor confidence, that something fishy was going on, Bernice decided it must have been just blind luck that Doris was winning. But she wanted to have some fun with Mabel’s growing suspicion. So she proposed, “I guess, Mabel, we’ll just have to beat her at her own game. Figure out some way to win, ourselves. And if not, then we’ll have to figure out a way to…", she paused, then drawled, “… a way that she can’t win — could never win again. You know… put an end to it.” Bernice smirked and listened to Mabel’s protracted, awkward silence, waiting for her reaction to unfold.

“Do you mean cheating, Bernie? That we should cheat? You’re kidding, right? I could never—”

“Not exactly, Mabel. And I don’t mean cheating. I’m thinking of something else.” Bernice paused, then said, “Let’s see… there’s poison. Rat poison. I think I’ve got some in the cupboard under the sink. You could put it in a pot roast. Or, I could bake it in something like a pumpkin pie—”


"Or, Clarence has a gun upstairs and some saws down in the basement—”


“And you’ve got all those large plastic bags to wrap up the body. Betty has her farm and all that land. I’m sure we can find someplace to bury her— "


Bernice chortled, her large body shifted in the chair and the blue plastic upholstery squeaked underneath her. “Oh, Mabel. Of course, I’m kidding. What do you think I am? Some kind of crazed lunatic? I am not going to murder Doris!”

The two laughed some more as they drank their Taster’s Choice and recounted stories of them and Doris together. Reminiscing seemed to dispel their immediate concerns about her. But when the laughter subsided at last, Mabel confided, “I don’t know if I want to go to Bingo anymore if Doris is just going to win, win, win all the time. I mean, what’s the point? And it’s getting expensive, Bernie. I don’t know if I can afford it anymore. Doris can’t win 'em all, can she?”

Bernice breathed in more of the air around her — the smell of her own baking always calmed her — and she said, “Aw, Mabel. It’s just been some dumb luck, that’s all. At some point she’ll have to lose. Eventually, she’ll suffer a losing streak like we’re having right now. And we’ll, all three of us, laugh about it. So let’s just put it out of our minds—” Bernice’s oven timer clanged. “Oh, Mabel. Gotta go. Cookies are done. Don’t want 'em to burn. Bye.”

“Bye, Bernie.”

Bernice hung up the phone, got up from the table and pulled the cookies out of the oven, putting them on a wire rack to cool. She sat back down at the kitchen table to finish her coffee. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Forty-three hundred dollars. Oh, what I could do with that extra money. I’d buy Clarence a new TV to start with: one of those flat ones, with all the bells and whistles.

She leaned out from her squeaky chair, opened the junk drawer and pulled out her calculator. She clicked on its keys, tallying up her last five weeks of Bingo: $20 (entry plus 12 card fee) times five weeks, that’s $100; Then her winnings, $30 + $20 + $15 + $30 + $40 = $135; Minus her entry costs of $100, leaves her a $35 gain; Minus the costs to make the baked goods she brought each week, say about $6 a week; leaving Bernice a profit of $5, total. Peanuts. Hardly worth it.

Bernice considered the bowl of peanuts she’d been munching on, grabbed a handful from it, raised it into her mouth and chewed. She glanced up at the ubiquitous painted portrait of Jesus over her table, recalled all this business about Doris and swallowed. She wiped her hands on the sides of her apron, got up from the table and set off to bake some more things for tonight — including, she decided, something special for Doris.


The encoding you did for the signpost seems to be good to me. I certainly recognized the Variations although I think the Confidence part was a little weak by that I mean we should get a sense that Bernice is damn near certain she’s cheating but has no evidence and therefore appears to be talked out of it by passing it off as a joke. Then the payoff later where we see she’s actually going to poison her could come off a little stronger. It’s good as written but that was an idea I had. Despite that, this definitely feels like a full scene to me.

I can see some of the other appreciations in there as well i.e. Problem and Issue. Sorry I don’t have any other criticisms about it but it looks good to me! Maybe someone else can shed some light on it.

Thanks for the feedback Dan310. Its good to hear that the Variations are translating. It certainly feels that way when writing it. I really enjoy this method, because it really gives one somewhere to go, somewhere to move in scenes. For those that say Dramatica is solely for analysis and not a creativity too, I would beg to differ. I think riffing off of these variations is a lot of fun.

I could look at the confidence passage again. I was playing with Mabel being more suspicious of Doris and Bernice struggling with her feelings of ill-will, suppressing her true feelings of suspicion, couching them in her humor or piety. The ultimate plan will be an poisoning of sorts, that I will not divulge at the moment, and hope it to be a comical one.

I’m kind of tickled about this story now. Just ran into a friend with whom I shared that I was writing this. She reminded me that another mutual friend has volunteered at Bingo nights at a local church for a decade or so, and would have countless stories to tell, vast amounts of information on logistics, prize amounts, typical attendance, and other general and specific background. I feel I just hit the goldmine. This will be fun to develop. My first real story. Woohoo!

In the context of this post, I’m hoping we could discuss the method of using the plot progression in story weaving. Is it valid to use the plot progression structure (in the order it is reported in the DSE software) as the actual story woven form? Like this (as I’m doing only a short story I’m only using the OS and MC throughlines here):

OS Signpost 1: Variations 1
OS Signpost 1: Variations 2
OS Signpost 1: Variations 3
OS Signpost 1: Variations 4
MC Signpost 1: Variations 1
MC Signpost 1: Variations 2
MC Signpost 1: Variations 3
MC Signpost 1: Variations 4
OS Signpost 2: Variations 1
OS Signpost 2: Variations 2
OS Signpost 2: Variations 3
OS Signpost 2: Variations 4
MC Signpost 2: Variations 1
MC Signpost 2: Variations 2
MC Signpost 2: Variations 3
MC Signpost 2: Variations 4
and so on.

Is it boring to just write it that way?
Obviously, one needs to encoded the other story and character points within all this, but in general is the that (above) a valid way to weave a story?

As I’m writing I’m beginning to see a more complex weave involving simultaneous weavings, for instance:

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 4)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 1)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 2)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 3)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 4)

Within a context like that, could one if desired introduce hints of the IC and RS info into a short story (albeit with a light touch) still focusing mainly on the OS and MC? Like this for instance?

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 2) with hint of IC Signpost 1(Variation 1)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 3) with hint of IC Signpost 1(Variation 2) and RS Signpost 1 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 1 (Variation 4)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 1) with hint of RS Signpost 1(Variation 2)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 2) with hint of RS Signpost 1(Variation 3)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 3) with hint of IC Signpost 1 (Variation 3)

MC Signpost 1 (Variation 4) with hint of RS Signpost 1 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 1) with hint of IC Signpost 1 (Variation 4) and IC Signpost 2 (Variation 1) and RS Signpost 2 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 2) with hint of IC Signpost 2 (Variation 2) and RS Signpost 2 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 3) with hint of IC Signpost 2 (Variation 3) and RS Signpost 2 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 2 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 2 (Variation 4) with hint of IC Signpost 2 (Variation 4) and RS Signpost 2 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 1) with hint of IC Signpost 3 (Variation 1) and RS Signpost 3 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 2) with hint of IC Signpost 3 (Variation 2) and RS Signpost 3 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 3) with hint of IC Signpost 3 (Variation 3) and RS Signpost 3 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 3 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 3 (Variation 4) with hint of IC Signpost 3 (Variation 4) and RS Signpost 3 (Variation 4)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 1) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 1) with hint of IC Signpost 4 (Variation 1) and RS Signpost 4 (Variation 1)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 2) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 2) with hint of IC Signpost 4 (Variation 2) and RS Signpost 4 (Variation 2)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 3) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 3) with hint of IC Signpost 4 (Variation 3) and RS Signpost 4 (Variation 3)

OS Signpost 4 (Variation 4) and MC Signpost 4 (Variation 4) with hint of IC Signpost 4 (Variation 4) and RS Signpost 4 (Variation 4)

Of course, other story points would be woven in and threaded throughout to fully render the story encoded within the structure.

Do the signposts need to be told in order? Isn’t a story like Pulp Fiction told out of Order? Do the variations of each signpost (still not sure if that’s the correct term) have to be told in their particular order with the signpost (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4)? Or can they be told out of order (say 1, 3, 4, 2)?

As a Dramatica newbie, I’ve got lots of questions and so I’m not sure that this is an appropriate way to look at the Plot Progressions, and an interweaving of them. So any cautions, clarification or insight from the more experienced out there would help to clarify as I experiment and learn. Sometimes, playing with Dramatica feels like getting a Ferrari for one’s 16th birthday when you still only have a learner’s permit.

Coming from a spatial and visual arts background (architectural designer and visual artist) it occurs to me that this method really does feel like a weaving or tapestry. The Signposts and variations seem to be rendering the background forms of the weaving - the overall mood, the feel and setting with their colors and contrasts. Then the other story and character points (of the OS, MC, IC and RS throughlines) overlay and thread through the background information here and there, providing the more figural forms to the weaving. One way to look at it I suppose.

I know there’s a lot here in this post. Yet it all centers around Plot Progression translating to Story Weaving. So any insight into this would be greatly appreciated.

The only thing I would like to relay is that a Signpost is supposed to traverse more ground. Since you are working on a short it’s not a problem but if you were to encode each Signpost this way for a longer form novel you would end up with 16 1-page chapters. Ideally The Past would last a few chapters in and of itself.

As to your other concern about the order, yes, the Signposts are there in the order presented for a reason and it would be wise to follow that order but as far as the Variations, JBarker wrote a fantastic post that I think will answer you questions:

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The signposts can be weaved however, the only hard rule is you don’t move onto any #2 before completing all of the #1. The Apple Numbers graph I included in that one thread shows how I weaved the signposts (it might go OS, RS, OS, MC, etc.) - but I think one can get a sense of how to make sense of them via exploring the various options of weaving them together with the ending scene of the act in mind. If you figure this out first, you’ll know what you’re building to and how everything else falls in line with it.

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Also, though, if you are given: Past, Progress. Future, Present in your OS Signpost order you want to follow that order as it is important to the meaning of the Storyform. But as JBarker said you can mix it up so that the Overall Story throughline isn’t always the first scene in the Act. or any of the throughlines for that matter.

Thank you Dan and Jim. I’ll read the “Far End of Black” post when I have a good chance to focus on it tomorrow. Thanks for mentioning that Dan.

I see your point Dan about spreading it out more for a longer form novel. Though, I kind of like this experiment in a tightly woven short form; like a little jewel box. Let’s see where it goes.

Jim: I see your point about completing all the Signpost #1 before starting any #2’s and will take heed.

Wondering what you’d both say about the order of the 4 variations/explorations within the Signposts? Does the order for those needs to be respected too?

Another bunch of questions or really just one (which be forewarned, I realize I restate in various different ways, as I’m trying to interpolate around my limited late-newbie knowledge): Dramatica theory describes both Signposts and Journeys. And I understand that Journeys are the movements between 1 and 2, 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. So, therefore, there are 4 Signposts and 3 Journeys. So is there a Journey structure in addition to the 4 Signposts (with variations/explorations) structure? Or is Journey 1 simply the 4 variations/explorations of Signpost 1 that get us to Signpost 2? Journey 2 = the 4 variations/explorations that get us to Signpost 3? And Journey 3 = the 4 variations/explorations that get us to Signpost 4? If so, then what exactly are the 4 variations/exploration of Signpost 4 doing? Or do I have this all wrong. Is there some other Journey weaving device in addition to the 4 Signposts (with their 4 variations/explorations)? Or is the Journeying the illustrating and storyweaving that threads through the Signpost Structure?

So far, I’ve been basically treating the 4 signposts (each with their variations/explorations within them) as 4 Acts. So besides the 4 Signposts structures, and encoding the other story points within them (once for every signpost/act), does there also need to be a journey device too? Or is perhaps the Journeying being provided by the peppering of the other story points through each Signpost structure? Or am I missing something here?

Postscript: Realizing now the answer to what I’m getting at is perhaps related to the 4 Act vs. 7 Act structure question. So I gather in 4 Act structure one finds Signpost-Signpost-Signpost-Signpost. And in 7 Act structure one has Signpost-Journey-Signpost-Journey-Signpost-Journey-Signpost. So now within that it’s fairly clear how to structure a Signpost (with the 4 variations/explorations), but how does one structure a Journey?

So many questions. :smile:

@MiggsEye: Regarding the order in which they must be told, if I’m not wrong, it is necessary that they be developed in that order but when it comes to weaving, you can change the order.

Regarding your other question about hinting at 2 other secondary througlines while fully developing the primary througlines, Dramatica’s creator does suggest that, for short stories, if you are focusing on 1-2 throughlines, it is suggested that you dont hint about signposts from other storylines or the audience might think you are making a full argument. However that is the case, if you dont develop other signposts. For example, you hint at SS Signpost 1 and 2 but forget about Signpost 3 and Signpost 4. Since you are hinting at all the secondary througlines in the right order, I think that can be done too.

However advice from someone who has more experience with Dramatica should help.

neat, and thank you for posting an example. helpful to newbies (like moi)