Identifying the "Crucial Element"?

Finally purchased Armando Saldaña-Mora’s Dramatica for Screenwriters and I’m using his recommended outline method, but I’m bumping on how to properly identify the MC and IC Crucial Elements.

In the software, does the Motivations Quad of the Characteristics Menu indicate the MC Crucial Element by putting a red MC triangle in the upper left-hand corner of that square and a blue IC triangle indicating the IC Crucial Element? I’ve attached a screen shot here where “Control” has the red MC triangle and “Uncontrolled” has the blue IC triangle. Or do these indicate something else?

yes, that is the case

Finding the MC Crucial Element:

  • Change/Success - OS Problem is the MC Crucial Element
  • Change/Failure - OS Solution is the MC Crucial Element
  • Steadfast/Stop - OS Focus is the MC Crucial Element
  • Steadfast/Start - OS Direction is the MC Crucial Element

Change stories find the Crucial Element in Problem or Solution because they focus on the Dilemma in resolving the inequity.
Steafast stories find the Crucial Element in Focus or Direction because they focus on the Work in resolving the inequity.


Thanks, Jim! I’m pasting your guidelines into my Outline Template right now!

Thanks for confirming, Bob!

This is really striking. I had to stumble on your post to discover about this explanation, about the concept of Work and Dilemma.

I’ve read Dramatica Fourth Edition 2001, and I have just checked where the concepts of Work and Dilemma are treated : in the dictionnary. Nowhere in the text body are these concepts treated. Actually, there is no text body entry at all treating of Overview Appreciations I now realize…

So thanks for putting this here !

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Hi Jim,
I’ve been looking at those diagrams in Dramatica v4 p 158 and p192-3.

It looks like there are more combo’s, no ? A Steadfast MC can succeed or fail, and a Change MC can Start or Stop…

I cite (p193) : "When a Main Character solves a problem by changing, [if] he restores balance […] by taking an Element from himself and placing it back in the environment where it belongs […] he contains the solution to the problem. "
So a Change MC who succeeds by Stopping contains the Solution and give it back, no ?

Thus, a Change MC who succeeds by Starting contains the Problem and must receive the Solution.

I assume that failing for both Change and Steadfast MC’s inverse their Crucial Elements accordingly?

Start or Stop won’t affect a Dilemma—what would that mean?

Same with Sucess or Failure with a Work story, how would the Outcome have any meaningful connection to the Work done?

Just those 4 relationships exist in regards to the Crucial Element.

Hi Jim,
(citation from p158 of Dramatica). “the Change character can grow either by adding a characteristic he lacks (Start) or by dropping a characteristic he has (Stop).”

Your answer unsettles me :slight_smile: because I am trying to apply Dramatica from the books (the pdf documents I downloaded on this site last year). It is very easy to check that there, p 158 and 192-3, Phillips and Huntley clearly list Start and Stop examples for both Change and Steadfast characters.

If there is a more recent revision of those texts that removed those meanings for Start and Stop, I’d like to know about it, because that would mean that I am trying to learn from the wrong source…

You can find meaning from the audience appreciations. But, they won’t likely connect the throughlines to each other like the crucial elements.

Resolve Growth is Character Arc
Resolve Outcome is Story Nature

You can go test to see if the opposite dynamic pairs to the cruicial pairs have some sort of relation to something like protagonist and antagonist in a crucial quad or some other connection. But, be prepared to convince us there is an application for it as it is uncarted territory at best.

I suspect that Jim means that Start and Stop are not part of the consideration for whether or not that particular Audience Appreciation results in a term with Dilemma.

However, Start and Stop can and will affect the Storyform (as whether you choose Start or Stop is a part of the Storyform), and thus the feel of a story.

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In other words, if you’re facing s Dilemma, what would the meaning of Stop or Start have on that dilemma? It’s either Problem or Solution. The Focus or Direction doesn’t play into it.

That’s why Growth is not integral in regards to the Crucial Element of a Dilemma Story.

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this is incredibly helpful. what wld the IC crucial element be?

The Dynamic Pair to the MC Crucial Element.

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