Is it allowed to cheat?

Before I run into specifics, the answer is: no. Of course it is not allowed.
Unfortunately the same applies to exceeding speed limits. And (again unfortunately) it happens from time to time.

Last week I was developing a storyform for a short story I have in my mind. The story is about parents trying to save their children during disastrous war episode. There is a way to do this but it is risky, to say the least. Father believes there is no other way, mother thinks it is crazy and moreover for all of them it means final separation.

For the first time in a long time I had a feeling it works. It works for me and it works in Dramatica. So many storypoints was ‘obvious’. OS domain and concern, OS Problem, Limit, Outcome, Resolve and more. After two minutes I was down to something like 8 storyforms and I had a feeling I’m in the right place.
And there I have approached the cheating idea.

The end of the story (just in case I will finish it and someone translate it - SPOILER ALERT) is: parents succeed. Kids are kind of safe and for sure they left the danger behind. Outcome: success. But the question was what is a judgment? Parents cannot follow the same way. They have to stay. In a few minutes they will sacrifice their lives. And they are happy. So, my initial idea was the judgment is Good.

I have finished the storyform and… well… I wasn’t happy with requirements and with plot progression. It is not my story. So after clearing the engine I have started once again but with small differences. I have set the expected Requirements and other ‘obvious’ story points. And after next two minutes I get the story form, that was almost the same like for the first time but with few small differences - and that was it. Plot progression now makes sense, othere story points as well. But… up to engine decision the judgment is now: Bad.

I still believe in the same ending but my understanding evolved. After all it is a bitter sweet story. They are hapy because kids are safe. On the other hand they are going to die in few minutes, so I’m sad.

Taking under consideration above, I’m confused. To be honest they are going to die so it is not a typical happy ending (success/good). Is it possible the engine is smarter than me?
Do you have a similar experience? You have your feeling but engine sets oposite and you accept all other storypoints but for this one you stick to your ‘heart’?

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My guess would be that you have a tale in your head that you want to tell, but not an argument. And that tale looks like it could make one argument or another depending on which perspective you take-that is, depending on which storypoints you see as “obvious”. What you are entering into the Dramatica storyform engine, then, are the points that are “obvious” to one direction the tale could take.

Dramatica is giving you the course of the argument for the entry you made. When you see something in the storyform that you do not think fits with your story, what you’re seeing is where the argument in your story goes off the rails, where the argument gets muddy, where another argument starts to take over. And so when you enter the “obvious” points for the other way the story could go, Dramatica gives you a new storyform based on those entries, but now that exposes the muddiness of the first part of the argument that you looked at before.

If by “cheat” you mean “abandon the storyform and tell the story I want to tell” then of course you can do that. That doesn’t make your story wrong. It just means that your story lands outside of what is, from a Dramatica point-of-view, a complete story, or a complete argument. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you already know what you want to have happen in the story, I’d suggest you write it that way. If you don’t, you’re going to feel a lot of tension as you are pulled in two directions between the story you want to tell and the argument that Dramatica has laid out for you.

Once you get the story written, if you are satisfied, then that’s good. If you are not, maybe that would be the time to use Dramatica to make rewrites. That might mean cutting out half the story that makes a different argument, or it might mean changing the context of certain events to better make the argument you want to make.

Just a thought about the story itself, the Outcome can be handed to the main character. If the main character is someone other than the parents, it’s possible that the parents die happy with their sacrifice and happy with how things turned out, but the main character continues to carry their angst. For instance, if one of the children is the main character and has been left traumatized by the events of the story, the ending could still be bad despite how the parents feel.

Keep in mind, too, that the argument Dramatica is helping you with does not necessarily equate to what the characters think, do, or feel. In the book 1984, I vaguely remember the ending being that the main character had been tortured and brainwashed by the government until he accepted what they were doing, agreed with it, knew he was going to die for what he had done, and was happy to do so. That he accepted big brother and was happy to die at their hands for his past transgressions means that he as a character feels good about the way things turned out. But the authors intent, i believe, was for the audience to feel like this was a bad thing. Note: I do not know off the top of my head what the storyform for 1984 is. The example is only meant to show that author intent can differ from character feelings.

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I think you can just write your story following the storyform you think fits best (Success/Good). I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about Requirements and plot progression, especially prior to writing the first draft. You may find when you’re done that you can see the Requirements in a totally different light. Or you may realize at the end that the Judgement of Bad fits after all.

I definitely think you have a complete story (argument) in mind and a great understanding of your throughlines. This is a fantastic place from which to start your draft.

I think this 1984 example seems to be close to what I think. Father is MC in this story and the goal is reached - Success. And yes, audience should feel bad at the end. In other words Dramatica enginee outsmarted me this time. It helped me to better understand my story.

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I think it’s worth remembering that you can use Dramatica to help you think, and then write whatever you want.

I find that the story engine outsmarts me frequently. But I have also written entire movies based on one storyform only to find out that my finished product has a wildly different storyform. Somehow, our brains also outsmart us.

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