Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner complete stories?

Branching off from the New films for analysis thread. Just thought I would offer my gut feel ideas. Happy to hear others’ thoughts too – please feel free to disagree.

@bobRaskoph wrote:

I can see the success in Hunger Games, but as far as I know, neither Divergent nor Maze Runner (the movies) were all that well received, and not just for being YA adaptations. Box Office success is a different matter, as Cameron’s Avatar was the most financially successful movie in recent history, but the story…?

So yeah, I would like to see a breakdown of Hunger Games, even if it wasn’t to my liking. Someone outside this community has done a superficial Dramatica Analysis before, but his other breakdowns (of Frozen and Fault in Our Stars) were heavily contested by the resident Dramatica Experts, so take it with a huge grain of salt.

Hunger Games
My gut feeling is that Hunger Games, both the movie and the book, definitely could be complete stories. It definitely seems to have all 4 throughlines, including a strong RS between Peeta and Katniss. (I’m thinking of book 1 and movie 1 here.)

I’m not sure about the rest of the series (either books or movies). One thing that’s interesting is that I felt something was missing from the final book, something definitely seemed off in the ending, and I felt let down. My wife felt the same way. Yet we both felt the final movie did a better job and really enjoyed the ending. I’m not sure what the difference was; maybe the movies did a better job with the entire-series-storyform or something. In the final movie it almost seemed like President Snow could have been the “Series IC”, but that is just a guess.

I read this book with Dramatica in mind, as I had just discovered Dramatica. I think it has all 4 throughlines, but did not feel complete at the end. I got the sense that Book 1 is not a complete storyform, i.e. that there might be a complete story but it did not finish in Book 1. (I sort of felt let down though, like it was trying to resolve something in Book 1 but failed. So, maybe there’s a problem with the structure there – maybe the other throughlines come to a resolution but the OS doesn’t?)

It’s been a while since I watched the movie, but I remember liking it. It’s quite possible it has a solid storyform.

Maze Runner
I haven’t read the book, but did try to analyze the film after watching it (at least to identify throughlines). It did not seem to be a complete story. It started off okay but seemed to devolve into meaningless action. My feeling was that if there was a complete story in the books, book 1 probably only contained the beginning of the story, and that it got lost in translation to the film.

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Of all of these, I have only seen Hunger Games. I felt like it cheated the whole premise of the story by having Katniss not kill anybody. Which, of course, makes me wonder about how it lines up with a storyform, since things of “low drama” are stories as much as things of “lots o’ drama” are.

But, I can’t help beyond that.

I agree.

I got the feeling with both Maze Runner and Divergent that they’re simply the beginning of a larger story, and don’t really stand on their own (at least not dramatica-wise). Which is kind of interesting since Divergent especially has a pretty clear argument it wants to make, even in the first movie alone.

With Hunger games I’ve only seen the first movie. I didn’t watch the rest because it just wasn’t my thing.

That’s funny, I don’t recall being bothered by that at all, or even really noticing it. If you had asked me whether she kills anyone I’d be like, um, I don’t … think … so? (Maybe a personal blind spot, having young daughters.)

Maybe the premise of the story is that even if you manage to survive a brutal killing-game without killing anyone, you can still end up being a cold-hearted bitch to the guy who loves you?

Hi Guys. In Hunger games Katniss did kill someone. She killed the guy that killed the little girl she cared about. She was forced to. So I still think the story would work for analysis. Maze runner book 1 would work too.
And like our friend suggested in the other thread, Enders Game would be a terrific review.

a) Our issue wasn’t really about it being a GAS or not in this case, but rather not holding up to the premise
b) Do you really count this as a kill? Every death that she was involved in (in the first movie) was either not her fault, or so conveniently justified that she ended up being “squeaky clean” in a battle of survival / to the death. At least, that’s how I see it.

The only thing I can say about Enders Game is that its types are probably either in the top-left or bottom-right corners. That’s my hunch anyway. Though I can see it the other ways as well.

This is how I see it too.

I know this is an old thread, but I think deserving of more consideration.

I found a Dramatica-based analysis of Hunger Games:

** Scroll down to the bottom for the Throughlines **

I was disappointed by the ending scene with the arrow shot. It was sooo contrived. YA is no excuse for bad writing.

And I agree with those mentioning her pacifism. She is a warrior that only kills squirrels and conniving woman. Solid message for the kiddies. O_o

No one seems interested in storyform analysis of Divergent or Maze Runner. Few hits.

Maze Runner and the sequel were far from complete stories. I watched them but it was a struggle. I watch movies on 1.5x speed if they are lame, it can sometimes make the difference as the speed of the action and dialog seems an overlooked factor. The whole premise of maze runner is ridiculous. It was a tale of the minotar at best.

Divergent was ok, but it seems broken somewhere. I think the MC was a Be-er which created some interesting scenes in the first movie with her being tested by her faction. But either the writing or the actress just didn’t pull off the driver mode. The MC seemed wispy throughout. Hardly in line with her chosen faction. Lesson: Don’t cast a Be-er in your action movie, unless they are going to evolve quickly into a Do-er.

  1. the person running the site you linked usually diagrees with the analysis of resident story experts, so take it with a grain of salt.
  2. Katniss is not a warrior. I do not have a problem with pacifism (and Katniss is no pacifist). The problem was that her “kills” were not her fault, or completely justified.
  3. A Be-er can still be a good action star. Their personal issues can be temporarily put aside for the action.

Join us on another theoretic adventure… Will Tris Prior accept the Dramatica theory as the one true theory and analyze her own character throughline correctly or will she diverge into the quagmire of misinterpretation and be cast out beyond the wall into the badlands of

Tune in tomorrow… for an all new episode of As Dramatica Turns…

Just having fun… I think there can be more than one interpretation since unless a writer used Dramatica to structure a story, its very likely not going to align well. Map versus territory.

This is actually not entirely accurate – if the story “works” and tells complete argument then it will map perfectly within the Dramatica theory of story. Shakespeare didn’t have access to Dramatica but he did have access to the entirety of processes of problem-solving narrative works through.

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Forgive me for stumbling across this discussion late, but since I’m being referred to…

With due respect, I don’t think it’s a very defensible position to say there is only one way to interpret a story, nor to presume all people using Dramatica (or any other theory for that matter) will see a story exactly the same way.

Nor do I think it furthers the cause of popularizing Dramatica to condemn someone for daring to have a different interpretation. An openness to diversity of opinion and lively debate would make for a more robust and healthier community. For the record, I’ve only knowingly disagreed with the interpretation of one story (Frozen) and there were already published disagreements by others. In other cases, I’ve written my interpretation and people have disagreed with me afterward, which I have no problem with.

I suggest people read what I’ve written at along with those of other people. Then make up your own mind which ones are useful in making sense of your reaction to the stories, or create your own interpretation that makes sense to you. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. But grant me the right to have and express my own opinion.

Hey @GlenStrathy – I’m sure it wasn’t fun to stumble across a thread where someone says, “Yeah, that guy is usually wrong.” It’s no fun being talked about in the third person.

Anyway, I’m just going to react to this:

I don’t think anyone is saying that there is only one way to interpret a story. There are other theories out there to consider, and they shed light on different aspects of any given narrative.

Sticking to just Dramatica, however, I think it’s a pretty defensible position, and it means that any given GAS will have one specific storyform that fits it best.

Will there be stories that don’t have one spot-on storyform? Sure, and these tend to be weaker stories, though not always. And broken stories, of course, are malleable but they’re broken, so… so what? Still, most often, when people differ on storyforms for a story, it’s because they have latched on to one mis-interpretation at the beginning of their analysis and it works well enough that they then feel they have sufficient proof from implied choices that they’re on the right track, at which point it takes a lot to unwind it and go find a better storyform. It’s why the podcasts are done in groups.

Look, though, maybe it doesn’t matter. The end goal is to write better things. So if someone misinterprets Dramatica and it turns them into James Patterson, good for them. But just because something can be misinterpreted doesn’t mean that we should decide any reasonable interpretation is okay. Things that are wrong are still wrong.

Nobody has called the Internet to tell it to take your site down.

I appreciate most of what you are saying. Though I think that determining which storyform for a story is the best fit, which stories are broken, and what is a mis-interpretation have a more subjective element than sometimes gets acknowledged. If the story is created between the product and the viewer (as Melanie’s take on reader-response theory suggests), then the story will be different for different viewers. Consensus of a small group is not necessarily definitive, since communities have their own subjectivity. I have at times come across analyses on the dramatica site that I felt had misread what for me was an essential element of my personal response to a story. While the simplest solution is to defer to the majority, or authority (and there are certainly times when they are persuasive), there are other occasions in which it’s more productive to look for an alternative interpretation that better explains what makes a story more meaningful to oneself. I believe that putting differing views into the marketplace can engage and empower others by inviting them to use their own critical thinking to evaluate the different views and find their own personal interpretation.

All that said, we can certainly agree that the goal is to write better things. I would suggest it’s also to empower the writer. That has certainly been my aim since I began writing about dramatica.

Hi Glen. I agree that subjectively one can massively misinterpret the source of conflict in a story. This usually occurs because the story points are seen as indications of storytelling, not storyforming and/or because the person doing the analysis has their own interpretations of the touch points of narrative.

If the analysts understand Dramatica with accuracy–and don’t fall back on the “well, that’s just how I see it” defense–then yes, they will come to the same storyform. If you want proof of this, just listen to the latest La La Land podcast–there you will hear me try my hardest to convince everyone that the Story Outcome of the story is Failure.

I know Dramatica better than anyone on this forum, and I still subjectively misinterpreted this story point. Like hugely. I look back on it now and I wonder, “How the heck could I ever see that dream sequence as anything else but a fairy tale?” I was seeing it as an indication of a Story Outcome of Success, but there wasn’t an argument being made there – no one was actually changing their perspective, a requirement for a complete story.

So I was really wrong.

Now, I could have said “Well, that’s just how I see it. I have so much more experience than everyone here in the room and I’m entitled to my opinion, besides there really isn’t one way to interpret a story” but all that would have done was soothe my ego and ruin the chances of anyone else coming to the storyform in the future of actually finding the most accurate account of story points in the film and thereby improving their understanding of story.

By falling back on feeling good about myself, I would have screwed things up for everyone after me.

But I didn’t. I listened to what EXPERTS in the room we’re saying–writers who spend a considerable amount of time learning & understanding what Dramatica is all about–and I finally gave in.

Prior to the meeting I uploaded “my” version of the storyform to the Atomizer–a service where I maintain the most accurate catalog of Dramatica storyforms. Did I leave that version up because my subjective interpretation of the film was just as important?? No–because that’s silly and completely counter-productive to the whole purpose of offering such a service.

I changed it, recorded why, and now when anyone goes to check into the story points of the film they won’t be confused by my mistake.

A Dramatica storyform is not subjective interpretation – the suggestion that there are “many ways to interpret a story” reveals a deficiency in your understanding of the theory.

Why is “popularizing” Dramatica the purpose here? Are we here to gather up “Likes” and “Hearts”? Or are we here to learn story?

Isn’t it more important that writers actually learn to use the theory correctly? Dramatica is not a theory of making writers feel good about themselves, it’s a theory of narrative–the most accurate and comprehensive of narrative structure around–IF used correctly.

@MWollaeger already addressed this, but where do you get the idea that you’re not free to express your opinions on the Internet? You definitely have the right to be hugely wrong about Dramatica–and we have the right to point it out so that writers new to the theory or those struggling with it come to a better understanding of the theory.

9/10 this is an indication that you are misinterpreting a story point or you are projecting your life experience onto the story. The rare moments when that isn’t the case, writers are encouraged to write in here and find a defensible explanation as to why they argue with the storyform. Occasionally the official storyforms are changed to reflect that (The Sixth Sense, Captain America:Civil War, The Terminator) but more often than not the one doing the challenging often learns something about Dramatica that they misunderstood.

The end game for this is mass confusion and dissolution of the accuracy of the model. The “authorities” here are persuasive because they’re required to defend their perspective. They’re also completely open to being dissuaded if a convincing argument is presented to them–see the aforementioned La La Land. Come to think of it, the Ida podcast is another one that I totally missed the Main Character Resolve, but again–I’m more than willing to see with better eyes because the storyform is infinitely more important than my own self-worth.

This idea of “alternative interpretations” also makes everything think they can come up with whatever they want–they certainly can, they just can’t call it Dramatica. The “there isn’t one way to interpret a story” defense always indicates a person who refuses to learn.

Putting views into the “marketplace” is one thing - being able to defend them consistently and coherently is another. Putting the label of “Dramatica” on it when it is grossly inaccurate does a disservice to other writers. It leads them down the wrong path, fooling themselves into thinking they’re using Dramatica when really they’re just inventing their own theory–no better off than they were without it.

Definitely. Dramatica has the ability to help improve the quality of storytelling if the theory is actually used as intended.


Oh dear. There is much I could say in response, but let me try to limit it to two things.

  1. Again, it’s fine with me if people disagree with how I see a story. My only concern here is that discouraging divergent opinions by labeling them “wrong,” “inaccurate,” or “misinterpretations” shows an excessive concern with consensus and seems overly authoritarian.

  2. Let me draw your attention to the one point I attempted to make earlier, which I’m sure you are familiar with. The storymind is created at the intersection of the product (novel, film, etc) and the viewer/reader. The story does not exist independently. It only exists when it is being read/viewed/thought by a person. It is impossible for anyone to exclude their subjective life experience, personality, etc from the meaning they derive from a story. This is true of writers as well as readers, and of groups (which always develop their own culture). Consequently, everyone sees a story a little or a lot differently than others. This is not “misinterpretation.” It is how interpretation works and is inescapable. (The training and experience one has in a disciple is also part of one’s life experience and colours how one interprets.) One can be persuaded to embrace a different or broader interpretation, but there is no way to exclude the subjective. Changing your mind does not remove your mind from the equation.

Of course, some interpretations will be more broadly persuasive than others. (That’s how cultures develop.) I also understand that if the goal of a group is to teach a theory and how to apply it, developing a shared understanding has value. And I can understand why you would feel that letting people be completely free to have their own interpretations could threaten the status of interpretations you find more thoughtful and persuasive.

But honestly, you shouldn’t worry. People will make meaning their own way no matter what. In any critical discipline students only truly graduate when they learn to think for themselves and formulate their own unique contributions. This “mass confusion and dissolution” you seem to fear can often be fertile and healthy ground.

Though I’m not saying it is the case here (don’t shoot me for saying this), nor would I presume to suggest the dramatica community do things differently… consensus can also have a dark side, for instance if people stop thinking for themselves, stop making their own meaning, and simply toe the party line. That would be the definition of disempowerment.

You can’t write or make any art without being empowered to make meaning. The biggest mistake people make with dramatica is believing that they have to follow the theory or a given storyform to the letter, and in doing so lose touch with their own creative, meaning-making process. People give up on dramatica when they feel they have to choose between the theory and their own creativity.

Okay, I’ve probably probably poked enough bears and offended enough people for today (not that it was my intent). My apologies.

When I was in high school, I tutored people in math and physics and whatnot. One day, I was explaining to someone gravity and acceleration, and was going through how a ball falling from Height X would hit the ground in Y Time, and a ball falling from Height 4X would hit the ground in 2Y Time, and Height 9X in 3Y Time.

As a tutor, my point was that Height and Time are exponentially proportional.
As a tutee, her takeaway was “I don’t like physics.”

Her experience was fully valid, but it has no effect on the math.

Point being, wherever Melanie says the story is created, it has no effect on the underlying storyform.

It seems like you are not fully understanding that distinction, and it’s a cornerstone to Dramatica.

The storyform is not the Storymind - again, another indication your understanding of Dramatica is deficient.[quote=“GlenStrathy, post:16, topic:791”]
The biggest mistake people make with dramatica is believing that they have to follow the theory or a given storyform to the letter, and in doing so lose touch with their own creative, meaning-making process. People give up on dramatica when they feel they have to choose between the theory and their own creativity.

They also give up when they think there isn’t an objective basis by which to measure the various storypoints when constructing their story. That’s why your “well, there isn’t one way to interpret a story” is so bad for the theory.

Losing touch with the creative process isn’t the issue here–inaccurate storyform analysis is.

It doesn’t threaten anything–it just leads people off wildly in the wrong direction.

As long as they don’t pretend it’s Dramatica, they’re free to do whatever they want.

Clearly we have different agendas. Yours appears to be consensus and consistency in the use of dramatica to interpret stories, to limit the range of interpretation to what you perceive as “correct.” That strikes me as an unhealthy approach to a creative endeavour.

To me, the usefulness of dramatica is measured by the extent to which it empowers people to make meaning – whether that is making stories or interpreting stories.

If a story is meaningful to me, and dramatica helps me figure out why, or helps me find even greater meaning, that makes it a useful tool. On the other hand, if it is used by others to convince me to accept an interpretation that renders the story less meaningful to me (as would be the case if I accepted the consensus view for a number of stories), that would not be helpful. Nor is it helpful if it discourages me from trusting my own process of making meaning to the point that I rely on the consensus to tell me what a story means. In such a case, I would be allowing my own creativity and critical thought process to be sidelined, and myself to be disempowered.

This is not to say that listening to other people’s interpretations cannot be helpful. But it is far more helpful to have an environment open to a variety of views, so that one is invited to compare them and use one’s own critical thinking to create meaning for oneself – rather than an environment where one interpretation is held definitive and any differing view is labeled “wrong” by definition.

Similarly, if I am writing a story and dramatica helps me make the story more meaningful both to me and others, if it stimulates new ideas, that is helpful. If I start worrying about doing everything “right” according to the theory or the software, or if it compels me to replace meaningful ideas with bland ones, and as a consequence I experience writer’s block or end up with a less meaningful story, then dramatica has ceased to be helpful.

In all of this, my personal subjectivity is inextricably involved – as it is for any person or group that engages in making meaning.

I am saddened by this thread, and by the repeated application of labels such as “deficient,” “wrong,” “misinterpretation,” “inaccurate” etc. as a substitute for real engagement. If I present my view of a story, and someone else then presents an opposing view that people find more meaningful or insightful, great. In fact, why not have a dozen or more alternative views? That would create a healthy atmosphere. But simply saying I (or anyone else) must be wrong because I disagree with someone, to me, smacks of a closed system that is not conducive to creativity.

To get back to the original topic, which was The Hunger Games, I actually used a minimal number of dramatica terms in my article, in hope that non-dramatica users would be able to engage with it, get some insight into story structure, and feel empowered as a result, without having their own meaning-making process overwhelmed by a mass of theory. I wasn’t attempting to create a complete and definitive dramatica analysis of the story (nor would I want to).

I have spent a good many years in the effort to help aspiring writers find empowerment through the use of story theory and dramatica in particular. In that, I have kept myself largely an outsider to the dramatica community, because certain approaches I saw in the community seemed counter-productive.

But perhaps you find my efforts counterproductive to your agenda? I can appreciate that you’ve invested considerably your a particular approach, and may see me as a presumptuous outsider. Alas.

Clearly, I’m not going to win the argument here, nor do I find yours persuasive. So it may be best if I go my separate way.

The reason Dramatica demands a single correct storyform to the exclusion of others is that it claims a story is an argument being made. If this is accurate, and the story is saying the best way to solve this problem is A, it wouldn’t make sense to allow one to interpret that message to mean the best way to solve the problem is whatever works best for you. If I say I want McDonalds for lunch, you’d be free to interpret that to mean that I want Burger King, but it wouldn’t be particularly useful for dialogue or changing minds.