How do I express this premise?

Nothing I try feels right. I want to say something about how it’s better to try, even if you fail, than stew in regret and frustrated longing, not knowing what could’ve been because you let fear get to you and stop you from trying things. Something about not letting fear hold you back from trying things you want to do. It’s that it’s a mistake to try and avoid all suffering because it’s impossible and sensitizes you to it, but it can be managed-- one can become desensitized and get a more realistic picture of things by actually doing instead of speculating. I think a lot about fighting one’s nature, which is related to the instinct to run from anxiety, but I don’t know what Elements those are (I think Instinct/Conditioning are Issues) but Feeling vs Logic doesn’t give me a storyform that feels right either.

I’ve got
Change, Stop, Be-er, Holistic
Action, Optionlock, Success, Good

I can’t make the OS issue be anything like Fate (inevitable suffering) because Dramatica won’t let me (I did read that article, but I can’t do much if I’m unsure at the premise level). If I try Worry… well, I’m not sure if that’s just an MC or everyone’s problem (I’m trying to strip away the kitchen sink of story telling I ended up with and just get to what I’m trying to say), and I end up with Accurate or Non-accurate, which makes no sense unless I’m talking about perfectionism (which I could argue falling under either Element). Not sure Avoid works or if too Linear. Temptation and Conscience look the same to me but I guess the Temptation to give into Conscience makes conscience the subject and not source? I don’t know.

Any ideas?

I wonder on and off whether to give up on this one-- might be too close to my heart, but that’s why I can’t just toss it even though it’s so troublesome. I don’t want to be a quitter yet again.

I had many private lessons under artist Theodore Lukits from LA, and he is in the wikipedia as a known artist, etc. He cut me off, once, when I used the verb “try” in a sentence, while discussing something with him. “Never use the word ‘try’! When you say try you are setting yourself up for failure!” That struck me at the time, and I never really knew how to interpret it, but it always gives me pause to think things over when the verb occurs. Maybe your character is fighting against a built-in mindset of eventual failure, going into something? Maybe, the MC throughline should be Mind? I was told by a Dramatica consultant, once, that Mind for MC throughline is not common. Maybe, choosing that in the program will bring some interesting choices available in the story engine. Just thoughts.

1 Like

Something about not letting fear hold you back from trying things you want to do. It’s that it’s a mistake to try and avoid all suffering because it’s impossible and sensitizes you to it, but it can be managed-- one can become desensitized and get a more realistic picture of things by actually doing instead of speculating.

I’m a bit surprised because this actually seems like a pretty solid idea for a throughline here. “Holding yourself back from trying things you want to do”, “working your way around suffering”. I think those both demonstrate a problem of Avoidance.

Then you also mention how it’s better to try and achieve the things you want in life (Seems like Pursuit to me) than to stew in regret and fear.

I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but it’s almost like you’re trying to express a premise along the lines of: Start pursuing the things you want in life and you can escape a fear of defeat (or at least desensitize yourself to a fear of defeat).

And the other interesting thing to me is that you mentioned “not knowing what could’ve been”. If you choose Subconscious as the concern, one of the issues in the below quad is Closure. “not knowing what could’ve been” sounds like a lack of Closure to me, and it sounds like the characters will be satisfied choosing Closure in the end over Denial (which would be the refusal to accept that the time for thinking has come to an end and that it is now time to take action).

In fact, my suggested problem of Avoidance is an element under the issue of Closure. So what you’ve said seems to all fit together perfectly into a throughline for your story.


This sounds like a pretty great premise to me based on what @SharkCat described!

The only think I would add would be to check out @jhull’s new approach for creating premises for holistic characters (see the last few videos in the writer’s room and the last few Narrative First articles).

It really sounds to me like this [quote=“SharkCat, post:1, topic:2517”]
it’s a mistake to try and avoid all suffering because it’s impossible and sensitizes you to it, but it can be managed

would benefit from a more holistic framing (and maybe this is why you’ve been struggling).

Dramatica does let you choose Avoid here though, even with PS style set to Holistic, so maybe you don’t need to worry too much about if it’s too Linear?

And actually Subconscious sounds like a pretty good choice of Concern as well. This:

sounds a lot like Subconscious (Innermost Desires) to me, and the rest of the quad feels pretty strong for a story like this too (Becoming, Obtaining, Future). The throughlines could be in different positions though (e.g. MC Mind).


I’ll take a stab at this:

Failure, Good, something worthwhile in the Dividend

I say Failure, because I am assuming they are also the protagonist, and if they succeed, it will be hard to get to the “even if…”

Change, Start. I imagine a character who needs to overcome some fear and start acting.

I see no need for Holistic, Action, Optionlock. As a male, I want to say the character should be Linear (If I fail, then I will regret it) and they will change to Holistic (On the whole, it was better to have tried).

At the element level, there are still a lot of options. You will probably want to solve this problem by plugging in the subject matter, instead of what you want to say about the subject matter–and that is where playing with the storyform won’t give you answers. It can only guide brainstorming.


I know Resolve changes, not I don’t think necessarily PS Style does. I’m inclined to see it as someone moving from trying to avoid a bunch of things to thinking bigger, more holistic. I think all that stuff swirls around to me feeling like a holistic problem, at least for myself.

I wrote down Optionlock since there’s no timer in my story. I wrote Action because my character is a Be-er and I want him to be a fish out of water, which was some kind of audience appreciation I can’t remember where to find in Story Expert anymore.

I have tried approaching from brainstorming and then I can’t choose because I’ve already got a kitchen sink of ideas that got horrendously complicated and I can’t tell what to cut or develop further. I’m afraid of getting attached to a bunch of stuff I’ll have to throw out or wasting even more time on stuff I can’t use in the story.

What I had before was linear-style “Stop avoiding your fears and you can reduce your emotional suffering” but that holistic stuff feels right to me personally. Then again, now I’m feeling my mind change again on what my story should be like every other story decision, and then I just keep questioning from the ground up over and over.

MC isn’t protagonist. He’s being talked into things by the IC. I never had a strong OS for this thing since I’ve been in my MC’s shoes, so that’s what part ensnares me. I had OS plot stuff about trying to get fame, stuff about envy, but I don’t know… my throat gets all tight and sometimes you can’t just “face a fear” because fears have a purpose and mine are usually urging me not to become absorbed in time sinks like chasing the wrong idea, so I keep wondering when a person should bend to instinct or fight it, making me wonder if that’s what my story is about…

My initial thought had been Failure/Good, but it was brought to my attention that I sometimes confused story structure and story telling, so regardless of Outcome, the characters got to have some failed attempts before succeeding at something.

This is an important point to remember and I often struggle when I lose sight of it. Dramatica tells you where and how to shift the story spotlight, but it doesn’t tell you what actually happens. You can tell multiple stories about the same events which is why I think the most common advice is to write the story first then look at it through the Dramtica lens.

It would be so much easier if it would give us a detailed road map, but its really more of a compass heading where you have multiple ways of getting to those key points.

It does sound a lot like the MC/OS Problem is Avoid, with the MC in Mind/Subconscious (you keep talking about fear). Conquering fears or finding love might be examples of the Dividend. (This also fits the “too close to your heart” comment since the Focus/Direction are Consider/Reconsider, which seems a lot like what you’ve been going through with this story.)

I agree with Mike on Start & Failure. So similar storyform to Collateral, but Failure. So now down to 4 storyforms, remaining choices being Linear vs. Holistic (UA/CF might help you choose between Linear and Holistic), and could be either Story Driver.

It should work perfectly well to start writing when you have 4 candidate storyforms. Either pick one and run with it; or do what I do, and don’t rely on signposts/PSR until you’re more certain. Even if it turns out you got something big wrong, proceeding as though you know exactly what you’re doing should help give your draft authority – and help you understand your story sooner.


So just to be clear–you create some candidate storyforms and then just encode/illustrate the static storypoints and then start writing? I guess you could also create a “non-Dramatica” outline at this point (i.e. one that doesn’t rely on the Signposts and PSR).

1 Like

Right, generally the candidate storyforms are the same except for some smaller items, like maybe Focus and Problem are switched, or I’m not sure on Driver. So I would go ahead and encode the stuff I’m sure about, just enough to get a good understanding of where the throughline is coming from. And yeah, outlining some major events (especially Drivers / Act Turns) can help you get a good grasp of what you’re aiming for, even when you don’t know the Signpost order yet.

1 Like

I tend to write this inside th program, which is not exactly ideal because when I change the storyform later…

1 Like

@MWollaeger Do you use the PSR?

And do you often find at the end that your storyform was a bit off – and does it matter, or does the “storymind” work it all out?

I infrequently use the PSR officially, but I’l look at it to brainstorm.

I almost always find that my storyform was off, especially in early drafts. But generally, because I think using the principles are Dramatica, there is a storyform.


I wonder if my conclusion that this is Holistic is correct. I’m thinking the premise statement would be something like “To address anxiety (a lack of Closure since it’s impossible to get rid of anxiety permanently), balance Avoiding fears with Pursuing desires.”

Does that sound right for something saying that excessive anxiety should be neutralized by acting despite fear?

1 Like

That sounds great! “Address your inability to end your struggles over anxiety by balancing avoiding fears with pursuing desires.”