I did it - first story developed with Dramatica

Well… kind of:)

For the first time, after all this years I was able to develop and write a story with Dramatica.
The story itself is nothing amazing at all but this experience is, and I’m going to use it for other stories. I had my ‘click’ moment and I was surprised for so many times how well the storyform can assist, especially when something was missing. And few times I had a scene progression in my head and I was surprised how well storyform fits in.
Maybe I was wrong in some cases, maybe I understood something or did something in wrong way. Maybe some concepts were omitted or underdeveloped. Maybe, but still I was able to use it and learn.
I will share my experience with more details here to have it as a kind of guide for myself, but also to share it. This is for sure not the only way to write a story but maybe it help some of you to answer some questions, have new ideas or make a progress. Or to correct my mistakes :wink:
In my case the story ended as a ‘broken novel’ - around 120000 characters with spaces and to be honest it’s more like raw material awaiting for additional work. At some point I decided to do it that way just to finish work in ‘proof of concept mode’ because it is to short for real novel (and taking under consideration the whole idea, it is probably not a candidate for a novel) and to long for a short story. I have a plan to redevelop it into short story with Dramatica later, to have 20K-30K characters.
Few words about tools.
The first one is Dramatica, what a surprise. Another tool is virtual card board for writers. The one I use provides feature to have multiple boards for a single cards set. This way it is possible to write a card for a scene just once and then work with the same scenes in multiple boards to find the best order - at least during brainstorming phase. The same tool has built-in editor with word counter and side pane for cards, so it is easy to maintain current work. Unfortunately there is no proofing tool for my native language, so I used regular word processor. Still card handling is magic :slight_smile:
And what is most amazing experience, possibly for newbies first, Dramatica does not kill creativity. I would say, with no creativity Dramatica means nothing. It helps but does not replace.
I would split the story in three parts:

  • pre Dramatica stage,
  • Dramatica stage,
  • post Dramatica stage,
    I have moved between the last two forth and back for a few times.
    I’ll put the story with more details in the next posts.

Let’s start with pre Dramatica stage.
I’ve started with some ide that was in fact far far away from the final concept. I just put it into single paragraph and after few weeks decided to write something more just to see what could it be and where would it lead.
The initial idea was a death of young cruel king who dies with no reason. Just nature’s whim. People are free and unhappy. He should suffer as they suffered, he should have been tortured and killed with the whole world of pain.
After typing few more paragraphs of ‘let’s see what happen’ it was kind of obvious people were free but with no ruler they were lost. And they don’t know other system than monarchy overusing power.
And there is still army that was strong arm of the king. Now it keeps the whole potential, it has commander, but has no orders, no ruler.
Ended up with an idea of satire about building democracy. King left no successors. Commander of the army and wiseman who ‘discovered’ democracy have to cooperate to build new order but for different reasons. And people who did not grow up to democracy but are given with.
And bitter ending, something like outcome success, judgment good.
Yes, finally Dramatica in here :slight_smile:
Well at this very first stage I still have in mind some basic Dramatica and non Dramatica concepts. It is Story Goal, it is main plot points (Inciting Incident, 1st Plot Point, Mid Point, 2nd Plot Point, Climax) it is outcome. Maybe not everything at the same time but these small bells rings from time to time around.
Final concept for this phase I like so much is ‘set pieces’. Scenes that I want to have in the story. It may be just idea, like: The Wiseman is surprised people use freedom to limit freedom of others. It may be part of dialogue, it may be the whole scene. Everything that can be used later.
And now Dramatica comes into stage…

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Dramatica is everywhere :slight_smile:
It was around during first stage but now it i main role in this play.
You know it all, sometimes choices are hard and it takes days, sometimes it is obvious. After one hour or so I had a storyform that worked for me.
Story Goal/OS Concern: Future
How to protect future with no king?
Outcome: Success
Judgment: Bad
MC (Commander) Resolve: Steadfast.
And so on.
It took me three attempts to find a storyform that worked for me.
Every promising storyform ends with Armando’s Instant Dramatica test and that was the case this time as well.
Driver + Consequence: Action + Innermost Desires
Kind dies leaving no successors. It may lead to chaos in a kingdom. People feel unsecured and General, head of the army can loose his position.
Goal + Requirement: The Future + The Progress
To preserve safe Future it is necessary to implement a new order with no king. The vote goes to new concept of old sage - democracy.
Forewarning + Limit: Playing a Role + Options
There is a party that wants to use democratic elections to take the power and kill all competitors. The only solution seems to be: kill them first.
Driver + Outcome: Action + Success
The Wiseman agrees and General does his job. Party led by sage and protected by army wins the election. The Democracy has been established and protected. New order of the future has come.
Character Arc:
MC Crucial Element vs IC Crucial Element: Hinder vs Help
General needs help of the Wiseman but at the same time he needs to hinder him to build a real democracy, he needs democracy that helps to maintain the future and at the same time leaves things as it is.
MC Growth: Start
General starts to cooperate with the Wiseman promising to do what is right and to stop the terror.
MC Resolve: Steadfast, IC Resolve: Change
General convinces the Wiseman freedom has to be protected with all tools.
Judgement: Bad
Democracy has been protected but in fact it is not a real democracy.
Well, if you live in EU you can name at least two countries that would be a good stage for this play :wink:
At the end it is good to mix Plot progression with Character Arc to have one point of each per act.
I have a winner. Now real Dramatica part begins.


Here is where real fun begins.
Having storyform, plot progression and character arc it is time to develop throughlines.
There is four lines with four signpost each - sixteen signpost. Additionally I would like to start with another Armando’s concept of line title developed from domain, concern and problem.
At this stage card tool seems to be a good solution with 4x5 grid.
Four columns for four throughlines. First row for title cards and four rows for four acts.
This way I can handle the whole picture on a single screen and see lines vertically and acts horizontally. Nice.
Let’s start with titles.
OS: Situation, The Future, Uncontrolled.
So, everyone is concerned about future of the kingdom left with no king.
New order for the kingdom.
MC: Manipulation, Changing One’s Nature, Feeling.
General is afraid of losing his powers because everyone is aware he was a strong arm of the king. Without king, without superior order people may no longer fear of him.
Keep the position.
IC: Activity, Obtaining, Uncontrolled.
The Wiseman wants to develop a Democracy to prevent another ruler who will overuse his power with no control.
Built a democracy.
RS: Fixed Attitude, Innermost Desires, Temptation.
This one was a challenge :slight_smile:
MC and IC are conflicted in area of what they want the most and the source of the conflict is General wants to have immediate benefit from the Democracy despite the consequences.
Do what you want as long as it is what I want.
Now it is time to develop story on act level.
At this stage :

  • I like to remember about Knowledge, Ability, Desire Thought modality,
  • I need Dramatica dictionary,
  • I use a concept I call conclusion.
    At scene or act level there is some activity that illustrates a storypoint but it also has a potential to move story to another point (scene or act). In old Dramatica theory there was a concept of Journeys between signposts. Maybe it is the same.
    For example in Cars,
    Lightening McQueen is a selfish racecar competing for Piston Cup. He needs to win last race but (here is the twist/conclusion/journey) he lands in Radiator Springs and has to fix the road.
    McQueen tries to finish his job as soon as possible or escape but in the meantime he finds out Hudson Hornet is a mayor of the city.
    McQueen finds new friends, love interest, and he really likes the city but racing business discovers where he is, and he has to go back for a racing.
    McQueen starts the final race but he discovers his new friends are with him. He prefers relationships over achievements.
    Tu sum it up final sentence describes the new direction… or something like that.
    Let’s start with OS.
  1. The Past (Knowledge)
    The king has died. Hi killed or exile all successors. He destroyed everything that would threat his position. He left a kingdom dry, with no future. But people need the future because with no ruler there will be chaos and destruction.
  2. The Future (Ability)
    General and Wiseman proclaim democracy and start to build it. People don’t understand it, don’t know how to live with freedom. Free elections are announced.
  3. The Progress (Desire)
    Those, who benefited of the old system create a party that wants to take the power but they are populistic and want to kill opponents after winning. They make ridiculous promises just to get votes. The wiseman tries convinced by General forms his own party and educates people but they prefer immediate benefits. Populistic party has huge advantage.
  4. The Present (Thought)
    Wiseman wants to exclude populistic party from elections but they protest as it is against freedom. Wiseman finally accepts General’s proposition. Populistic leaders are assassinated. Wiseman party wins the election and General becomes strongarm of the new ‘democratic’ order.

I have developed other throughlines in the same way… more or less.


@Seener ~ Where can I view the storyform?
I’m brand new using Dramatica and don’t know what button to push.
Thanks a lot! :slightly_smiling_face:


Yes, I’m going to share more, including PSR and some scene building consideration. Maybe part of the story as well.
Now I’m off for a week. Be back in a middle of November.

:smirk: That’s fine, I’m really not interested anymore.

Last time I was in MC line.
I did the same with other lines. To save the time here I just put description of first act for MC, IC and RS.

Playing a role
General know without ruler and without commonly accepted order everything collapse. He wants to keep position and power but he does not want to be the face of the new order. He wants to be the one behind - as it was before.
His choice is democracy.

The wise man ‘discovered’ foundations of freedom, equality and democracy but was arrested by the king. Now he wants to build it in a real world.

After the death of the king General recalls story of the Wiseman arrested by the knig some time ago. He wants to use him and his idea. He convinces him to cooperate.

At that point I have decided to extend my cards grid and add one more column on the left side.
This way I have 5x5 grid. In the first filed I have general story description. On the right side of this field I have four fields with throughlines description and below four fields with act’s description. This is useful in later part to blend throughlines. And finally I have 4x4 part with one card per throughline per act.
General description in first card. Vertically progress of the story, horizontally good view on every act.

At this stage we have good understanding of the story, at least plotting. Meaning is manageable on the ‘Armando’s Instant Dramatica’ stage.

This is also good point to plan, review and adjust plot points.
Depends on knowledge, experience, mood and maybe even weather outside we can just flow, start with basic three (end of each act) or end up with any given number of plot points (depends on what we want and what we believe is right).
I like to start with Inciting Incident (even if it is not a part of Dramatica theory it is good let reader know what is an inequity in this regular world). And another part is climax. I know what is a story goal, what is a Outcome and Judgment. Let’s try to sell it.
Now we can work with Plot Point 1 (lock in), mid point and Plot Point 2 (crisis which does not have to be a real crisis, it may be early success in success bad or failure good stories).
So it is five main Plot Points and for sure we can work on it in any order that works for us.
The main result for us is here:
Removing Inciting Incident we have now four plot points to end four Acts. At this stage we may have first idea on what throughline would be good as a culmination of each act (Act I - Plot Point 1, Act 2a - Mid Point, Act 2b - Crisis, Act 3 - Climax). In case of Act three there maybe some aftermath but still Climax is the brightest part of the plot.
Usually OS is main candidate to break the story into parts but… it does not have to be or at least not in every act ending.
For example in The Godfather first act ends up with attempt to kill the Godfather - that seems to be part of the OS, but the Midpoint - killing the Turk is part of the MC story. Well in this story all four throughlines does not run within the same speed. That’s why sometimes reviewers not familiar with Dramatica tends to write the first Plot Point in The Godfather is the scene where Michael kills the Turk and the Cop. Yes, for MC story possibly yes, but not for OS. And blending the throughlines and it’s own plot points results with story split into four more or less equal parts. Nice job. Well above my skills :(.
Well, it probably depends on the content but in most mainstream movies at the end of the act there is some dynamic scene (in terms of activity or manipulation) but the real plot point for any given throughline may be somewhere around (scene before or after) and it may be just sentence or short dialogue that changes something. At the end, to not to make it to complex I just wanted to decide end of acts and play it out with scenes later, and adjust it, having some material written.
One important thing that came into my mind at this stage. Plot Point is not a point. It’s scene. It has some point that is most important and it will be necessary to emphasize it in some way but in general it is a scene that lasts for some time. It is not a point.
I decided to end first act with RS - General convinces wiseman to cooperate and OS - democracy is announced to the people.
Mid Point is announcing the free election. I need to put some dynamic scene around probably.
Crisis - Populistic party wants to kill opponents (including Wiseman and General) after wining the election.
Climax - Wiseman agrees to use military power ‘to save the democracy’ and leaders of opposition are being eliminated.

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Having good picture of the whole story and every act we can start with scenes. At this stage we are talking about Dramatica scenes.
Time to take a look on PSR report and… another grid.
5x4 seems to be good once again - for every act. Four columns for throughlines. Card with act description from in the first row and four scenes in the rows below. Everything in one screen.
OS Signpost 1 is The past and is explored in terms of Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility and Obligation.
MC Signpost 1 is Playing a Role and is explored in terms of Instinct, Senses, Interpretation and Conditioning.
Same story for IC and RS.
Now I have 16 cards for Act I. Time to real work.
So, scene 1 for Act 1 of MC i Rationalization.
I’m not sure if this is the right way but having no better idea I just get Z pattern for it.
Additionally I like to put two modalities… sometimes it helps but more like guidelines and not a strict rules. And I like to have short (few words) excerpt from Dramatica dictionary.
Here is what I have on this card:
The Past: Rationalization (a logical alternative used to mask the real reason):

  • Consideration (Knowledge, Universe), weighing pros and cons.
  • Support (Ability, Action), indirect assistance,
  • Oppose (Desire, Manipulation), indirect detraction,
  • Reconsider (Though, Standpoint), questioning a conclusion based on additional information.
    Below this information I have some general ideas what would be possible illustration of the scene but more like short description and not detailed info. Well whatever you wish. It may be one of my ‘set pieces’, one sentence or I can leave it blank and think later.
    At the end I have 16 scenes for the first Act.
    It is ok to do this for the other acts but I was so exited and inpatient, so I 've started dig deeper with this Act :).
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This is interesting point to take a breath and rethink further steps.
On one hand there is a complete storyform, Dramatica scenes breakdown and good understanding of what every throughline is about. On the other hand I have few pages of text, few scenes ideas and, what seems to be the most important in this hand, idea of how every act is going to end.
Now the main goal is to use Dramatica scenes as a foundation of real story, put scenes and ideas and look for what is missing.
I know in the first: scene king is death and in the end of Act I General and Wiseman decide to cooperate to build democracy. They probably need to meet for the first time, they need to argue in some way, they need a reason to make a decision to cooperate, and so on.
Now really important question is, what type of story we are going do develop with 64 Dramatica scenes. It may be screenplay, it may be novel, it may be short story. In every case the development process may differ.
Short story approach is described in so many past threads in this forum. I will leave it for the end.
Screenplay is probably the most ‘codified’ art. 90 to 120 pages, acts, sequences, plot points, 10th minute, 17th minute, and so on.
Novel seems to be the most open case. Years ago it was enough to have like 100 or 150 pages. I remember a lot of crime stories and thrillers between 200 and 300 pages in late 80s and early 90. Few years ago I heard about publisher expecting at least 400 pages from new author to have book thick enough, to put bold letters on the spine, to make it better visible in the book store. But also well known authors have 600+ pages book with more than one complete story inside or one main complete story and few short stories working as a B, C, D plots.
In other word we can fill in 64 Dramatica scenes with ideas but:

  • in case of short story we need to make it 5 to 30 pages (or so),
  • in case of script it is 120 pages and possibly around 40 scenes (or so),
  • in case of novel… well everything is possible.
    For me it was clear the story I have is ironic short story on democracy and society. But it means to cut off some parts - reduce number of throughlines or depth of exploration. But it worked so good till now and I wanted to check how the big picture can work. Screenplay is out of question. I decided t develop it as a novel - just as an exercise - to experience developing the whole complete story.
    But how to organize a novel?
    Having no better idea I decided to morph screenplay into novel.
    It is not a strict science but let’s say screenplay is 90-120 pages long and is split into four acts. There is one more concept we can utilize to organize the story - sequences. Simply saying - every act is divided into two parts. Having 8 sequences we need to organize 8 Dramatica scenes into one sequence and it may be easier to manage.
    Every sequence has its purpose. Every sequence has its cumulation. We just need to know what to put where.
    For Act 1 (two first sequences) there is four or five points we need to have. The weight of these points is different.
  1. Opening image - something that can show the normal world and at the same time keeps audience attention. In 007 movies it is action scene. In Shrek it’s character/theme scene (reading fairytale) followed by action scene (folks hunting for Shrek). In Cars it’s race. In The Da Vinci Code it is murder in Museum. It does not have to be action packed but it has to be interesting. In Twilight (book) it is foreshadowing of the crisis. Someone is going to kill me but I die for a love.
    In screenplay and in novel it is in the same place, at the beginning.
  2. Inciting Incident preparation. That’s interesting point I have learned some time ago. You have to be happy to find the pro who mention that because most of the ‘best Internet guides’ does not mention it. This is a scene before Inciting Incident that prepares meaning of Inciting Incident. In The New Hope Luke accepts waiting for another year. In Blade Runner Deckard is happy to be out of business. In Cars McQueen does not care about Team. In The Godfather Michael calls Tom to say he will be late for Christmas. It’s part of portraying MC usually, to make Inciting Incident more meaningful.
    In screenplay and in novel it has to be between Opening Image and Inciting Incident.
  3. Inciting Incident.
    Most of the screenplay guides calls for 10th minute/page. Inequity arises, the plot begins. For screenplay it’s a math. Having 120 pages script, every act is around 30 pages, and sequence is 15 pages.
    In 90 pages script acts are around 23 pages long and sequences are like 11 or 12 minutes. Sequences does not have to be perfectly equal. It leaves us with a lot of options. Inciting Incident can be setup, revelation or even aftermath of the last scene of the first sequence. In longer scripts it can be part of a earlier scene followed by final culminative scene for the sequence. In shorter script it may be even a beginning of the second sequence, after first sequence culmination. In Shrek the first meeting of Ogre and Donkey is end of a chase at the end of the first sequence. But Donkey decides to follow Shrek at the beginning of the second sequence.
    A lot of choices here. In 400 pages novel sequence is like 50 pages long. But starting with a novel it may be hard to foreseen the number of pages at the end. On one hand we don’t want to play it to early, on the other hand we can’t wait, because reader may be bored. My vote goes to the latest part of the first sequence and results with possible culmination in the very next scene.
    In The Da Vinci Code (450 pages) first code is at the begging of chapter 8. Page 44. In the very next chapter Sophie arrives and escape begins - page 53 is where Langdon gets an info something is wrong. Fist sequence culmination takes few chapters more. Brown is able to keep attention from prologue to page 44.
    Seems like good order for me: Opening Image, Inciting Incident preparation, Inciting Incident, Sequence 1 culmination.
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4. Culmination.
Usually every sequence ends up with something special. It can be Inciting Incident but it des not have to. In Shrek Donkey is chased and meets Ogre. Inciting Incident and culmination combined. In The Godfather it is dead horse head scene.
5. Consequence.
Yes. It is also in Instant Dramatica. Driver + consequence. It has to be in the first act. It can be in first or second sequence. It can be in both. In The Godfather Tom Hagen explains what will happen in ten years if family rejects the offer. And attempt of Don Corleone assassination is consequence as well. In Shrek it is Donkey saying ‘I like you’ for the very first time and the whole crowd of fairytale creatures screaming happily when Shrek tells them he is going to talk to Farqaad. Both in the second sequence.
In the second sequence, called also ‘think-think’ or dilemma sequence there are at least 3 points.

  1. Dilemma.
    They call it ‘what it is all about’. It is the way MC follows, the truth MC believes. It is a beginning of Character Arc. Armando’s Instant Dramatica advices to use Crucial Elements for this one. In some guides it is defined as a 17th minute point. “I stick my neck for nobody”, “Replicants are like any other machine. They can be benefit or hazard. If they are benefit that’s not my business”, “It’s my family Kay, not me”. It does not have to statement. Taking under consideration 17th minute is after 10th minute (what a surprise) dilemma is a result of Inciting Incident. Depends of the length it may be before or after first sequence culmination but novel is a novel… Let’s say first sequence culmination is a result of Inciting Incident and after this culmination, in the first or second scene of the second sequence there is a main dilemma. This dilemma is also played in Pinch Points and in the Mid Point later.
  2. Mentor, Supernatural aid.
    It’s from different story paradigms but if we have no better idea for the second sequence of the first act we can use it. Someone who knows the special world (in this sequence we are still in the normal world but door is open after Inciting Incident) and shares the weapon or knowledge with MC. It can be Clemenza teaching Michael or Donkey telling the story of hard life with no friends. The first one is fourth sequence of godfather but it is still the first act of MC story. Oh… and Gandalf, and Obi One, and so many more.
  3. First Plot Point. Lock in.
    Into the special world. Usually first act and second sequence culmination. Well known. Sometimes lock in and 1st act culmination can be two different scenes following each other. Let’s not make it to complex at this stage. MC don’t want or can’t move back to the normal world.
    In the next post I will blend it with my idea to compose the first act. With confidence ;).
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Ok, So my decision is to split first act into two sequences to simplify plot and arc management.
There is 16 Dramatica scenes for the first Act. By math it is 8 scenes per sequence, but… we can be flexible.
For the first sequence I had:

  • scene of kings death (the idea was to have it as I kind of old chronicles, so it was more like discovering the king is death and have some considerations out of it),
  • scene where king learns about the Wiseman who discovered democracy,
  • scene with General recalls the Democracy concept and decides it could be a good solution in current circumstances.
    The first one is good candidate for opening.
    I did start to review scene cards, first sequence ‘must haves’ and scene ideas I have noted.
    During the first attempt I was still sure it could be a short story so I decided to blend few Dramatica scenes into one scene, if necessary or mention some story points with on sentence or paragraph.
    I have selected five Dramatica scenes for the first Act. Seems like I have eleven scenes left for the second sequence… seems like imbalance in this universe that needs some action:)
    And then Dramatica’s magic started to work. Every decision resulted with question. And it was possible to answer the question with another Dramatica scene. After one day of work I had first sequence of 8 Dramatica scenes and strong idea of the second sequence.
    I had something more - believe, I can develop other sequences in similar way.
    For the first scene of the story my choice was OS 1.1 - Rationalization (king is dead and new king is needed) and MC 1.1 - Instinct (I need to do something to survive).
    For the second scene it was blending of two first Dramatica scenes of IC and RS - Truth, Evidence, Fact, Security.
    And for the last scene of the first sequence it was again OS and MC blended - Senses and Commitment.
    The plan of three scenes ended up with five during writing. I told you. Dramatica does not kill creativity it helps to find a direction if you feel lost.
    Few thoughts that I had during that work.
    For the first scene - Rationalization - the Z pattern is Consider, Support, Oppose, Reconsider. Pairs like Support-Oppose and Consider-Reconsider (or other in ither quads) are good candidates for Revelation-Conflict and Setup-Aftermath. For me the first scene plays good with Oppose-Consider-Reconsider-Support order. King dies leaving kingdom with no ruler-new king is needed-there is no successor-we need someone to solve the problem but in the way we want it.
    Hmmm, there is a chance I got some Dramatica concept wrong, but… anyway it helped me a lot.
    In the first ACT RS Signpost is Memories. I have introduced the IC by what MC remembered of him with idea of play the second sequence with what IC remembers. Not sure if ‘Memories’ can be played like this.
    I decided to use the king (in memories he was still alive) as MC in RS for the first sequence, and starting from the second sequence have this role for General exclusively.
    Well, other sequences went similar way. Knowing it’s not going to be a real novel I just started to shorten the scenes in most cases just to move on. A lot of fun:) And great lesson, by the way.
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The first sequence is available here:

Feel free to read it and share your thoughts.
Oh, by the way - translated with Google to English. There may be some errors or ‘lost in translation’…