Is Dramatica Compatible With My Worldview?

Hello everyone. Long-time reader, first time poster. My issue is this: I believe in objective reality. More than that, I believe in objective morality. Some things are right or wrong, independent of what we may think. So, if, say, every person were brainwashed to think murder were good, that would not make it good. I get the sense that Dramatica promotes a moral relativism which I reject. Is that true?

Now, I don’t completely reject the concept of “personal truth”. If you like vanilla ice cream, that’s true for you! But many things are not like that.

Thank you for reading, and I hope we have an enlightening discussion!

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Right and Wrong… does that factor in to how to solve a problem?

I think killing the Terminator is the only way to stop him!
No, don’t do that, killing a sentient being is wrong!

Then they don’t kill him and the movie ends in Failure.

I mean, that works as a story.

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Actually, I think killing in self-defense is acceptable.

Out of curiosity, where did you get this idea (to make sure we’re talking about the same thing)?

Ironically, one of the things that rubs some people the wrong way about Dramatica is the idea that any given complete story has one and only one “objective” storyform.


Also, I would say yes. Morality always factors into problem solving.

I got it from reading Narrative First. For example, in the article Writing Complete Stories, Jim says:

All meaning is derived from context . The idea that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is based on the chasm that exists between two opposing contexts. I may see the world differently than you, but from my perspective I am right. Likewise, from where you stand the way you see the world is correct. Meaning depends on the perspective we take.”

He also says:

" Stories offer us something we cannot get in real life , namely - meaning."

I don’t think Dramatica is pro-relativism or anti-relativism. This will make more sense in about 30 seconds.

First, let’s dispense with trying to rassle weighty philosophical issues to the ground. I’ve never heard any grown person over say, 30, exclaim, “Wow, your argument changed my mind about a deep issue!” So, I won’t comment on the merits of actual philosophies.

I think Dramatica provides you with tools to help you write a story that says something specific. What you say is up to you. You could make a “pro-relativism, pro-mystical, pro-contradiction” story that argues the benefits of perception, faith, or feelings. You could make a “pro-objectivism, pro-realism, pro-coherence” story that argues the benefits of actuality, disbelief, or logic.

A big part of Dramatica is that there are different perspectives of how to solve a problem. That is, a perspective that leads to an attempt at the truth doesn’t imply that “there is no truth” or that “reality is unknowable.” On the contrary, Dramatica is a model of one mind trying to solve a problem. It presupposes an actual problem and an actual solution. That’s not necessarily relativistic by itself. Think of these explorations of perspectives as considering all the possible answers before discovering the truth. Thinking is hard work. Problem solving is hard work. Dramatica reflects this. This is more compatible with “reality is knowable” than not. But you could still use Dramatica tools to write a story that argues (or “knows”) that reality is unknowable, however self-contradictory that is.

More meagerly, think of one perspective as one observation, one data point. You often need more than one data point to discover a profound truth. In other words, I would not say that recognizing the limitations of incomplete data equals moral relativism or any other relativism.

In some ways, Dramatica is anti-postmodern because the story actually makes a coherent statement. An extremely ambiguous or meaningless narrative would not have a Dramatica storyform. Dramatica depends on a minimum amount of clarity.

In short, I interpret “stories offer perspectives / meaning that we can’t get in real life” to simply mean that you can learn a lot by viewing a problem from many perspectives. I do NOT think Dramatica theory argues that “meaning doesn’t exist except in stories” or “reality is unknowable.”

I claim no expertise, but I hope this clarifies Dramatica theory. I caution all of us (especially me!) not to debate non-Dramatica capital-p Philosophy on this dramatica site because there are many other excellent avenues for that and because it will seem rude to our host, Chris Huntley, to hijack his site for non-Dramatica debates.


Thinking of making the above part of the Rules of Conduct for this site. Thank you. :pray:t3:

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Well, I’m sorry if it came off like I was trying to “hijack” the forum. My intention was to talk about Dramatica.

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I feel like we should be able to discuss the philosophy that underlies Dramatica, as well as criticize it, though.

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So, there you go. A story about Self-Interest vs. Morality.

You can tell it with Dramatica.

Here is a long addendum, because consecutive posts are verboten. I’m tagging you in case you have already come and seen my un-edited reply @HNorman :

FWIW, I don’t think you came off as trying to discuss capital-P Philosophy, but rather to ask if you could imbue your personal beliefs into a story built on the foundations of Dramatica.

So if you cut that last part off of @HaroldLloyd’s response and look at the rest of it, it is a TERRIFIC essay on what Dramatica is and isn’t. (Bravo, @HaroldLloyd.)

I also think we should be able to explore the philosophy underlying Dramatica, but I say that because I think it’s pretty neutral. It’s not about a philosophy and more than the machinery in a car is about a philosophy. The machinery just makes the car run. You can do whatever you want with the car.

Likewise, I second @Lakis when he points out the irony of your comment, though I would put it another way, which is simply that since Dramatica is neutral, it’s ironic that you see it somehow possibly running contrary to objective morality. And I mean it sincerely when I say that you can tell a pretty bang up story about objective morality with Dramatica.


Dramatica theory gives the writer ways to tell a story about the vanilla ice cream.

That caution was mainly to help me. I’d much rather discuss philosophy than make progress writing, so I’m trying to stop myself. I even let it slip in the above post when jabbed at the self-contradictory nature of many modern philosophies. See, I can’t stop myself. :cocktail: :tropical_drink: :clinking_glasses:


The biggest drawback to the combination of Dramatica and people who like Dramatica is how interested we are in the theory. It wants to take precedence over the writing!


At least put it off … haha … but for a good reason. Cognition.

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So true, and it feeds the urge for perfection … and you never want be able to finish your story.

This is a good reminder to myself to fight the inclination of perfection and keep my philosophical tendencies in check. Dramatica is »just« a tool which helps to illustrate how to solve a specific (identified and defined by myself) problem and write my story.

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Ack, this. I always want to push Dramatica to its fullest, when I know that the reason movies are so hard to analyze is that most story appreciations are lightly touched.


Yesterday in my novel revision I was going over some dialogue which seemed good on the surface, but something felt wrong. Took me a while to realize it was because the character was directly calling out the OS Focus of Logic. “Our methods may seem irrational, but…” By cutting that line, it let the other less obvious aspects of Logic (if-then, questioning why, stuff that’s illogical or nonsensical without me saying it is) shine through.

Sometimes it’s nicer for the reader to make the associations themselves.

On the other hand, the odd in joke can be pretty cool, like the “no expectations” graffiti in Spidey Verse. :slight_smile:


Take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I’m not a Dramatica Story Expert like some of the other great people in this thread. I only share these thoughts because you raised a question, and I happen to have some opinions that I’ve formulated to answer that question. And I would like to understand the error of my ways if any of my conclusions are faulty. So here they are:

(1): This statement is actually what I would consider a good example of why it’s true that meaning is derived from context. Killing is unacceptable, except for when done in self-defense. There’s an exception within that line of thought, or in other words, there’s an alternative context where the truism that “Killing is unacceptable” can no longer be considered true. Self-defense is a context where killing is acceptable.

If you attempt to be conscious of all the potential exceptions to a particular truth, you can then try to invent more specific and accurate truisms, such as “Murder is unacceptable”. But there’s always the danger that an exception to the rule hasn’t yet been considered. Can you truly, objectively know what’s true without exploring each and every context and finding the truths within?

(2): One thing to remember, however, is that many contexts are fictional. For example, superheroes and their worlds aren’t “real”. So, while Dramatica might consider the argument of Black Panther or Captain America: Civil War to be without holes, the context in which the argument is being made might have dozens of fabricated elements. In that case, the argument being made doesn’t really translate to our “real world” context.

Although, yes, you can analogize fictional contexts to real world contexts. But they don’t always translate perfectly.

(3): And take a look at stories people create based off of different news reports. Some of those stories can end up being false narratives. This is because statistics can be faulty, and eye witness accounts can be inaccurate. In other words, the context can be fabricated. Even within that fabricated context, you can still make a truthful argument for just about anything, and the inner logic of that argument can be 100% perfect. However, the moment you try to apply that argument to a real world context, you create a false narrative.

Basically, in the context of the statistics and eyewitnesses being correct, the argument (or story) will hold true. But in the context of reality, where the statistics and eyewitnesses are incorrect, then obviously that argument won’t hold up, because while the argument is “true”, the context is fabricated.

So, to conclude, I would posit that:

  1. Yes, anything can be true, depending on the context
  2. No, not every context is objectively real. We live in an objectively real world, with a limited number of contexts (assuming you believe in an objectively real world)
  3. Either way, a Dramatica Storyform isn’t about the context, it’s about the argument made within that context. If you can fabricate a context where killing is okay, then Dramatica will allow you to argue that killing is okay (within that context).

I’ve wondered about this! I didn’t know Melanie had written an essay.