Leveling Up Your Dramatica Intuition

Hey everyone!

In case you’re unaware, there’s been a really great discussion about elements, gists and accuracy vs. inspiration going on. I wanted to share the process I went through yesterday when trying to come up with examples for “Becoming”, because I think it is really a fun and fast way to get your head around an element that you might be struggling with.

Pick An Element

This is easy.

Pick an item, any item, from the chart. The higher up on the chart you are, the easier or more obvious this whole exercise will feel. The lower, the more specific. Because the purpose of this exercise to increase your understanding and “feel” for an element, I’d recommend something that seems slippery or just plain obtuse to you.

Read The Definition

Using the application, Dramatica.com Dictionary or Subtext, find the original definition for the term. This might be immediately illuminating or might leave you scratching your head. Regardless, make your best effort to wrap your mind around the original intent of the term.

Copy and paste it into a document so you can reference it!

Check In On The Family

No item is an island. The relationships in the model help define and clarify the item.

Where does the item sit within it’s respective quad?

  • The upper left is the Knowledge position
  • The lower right is the Thought position
  • The upper right is the Ability position
  • The lower left is the Desire position

Does the item have a parent that it sits inside? This parent will provide some “flavor” for the element.

Does the item have children that sit inside of it? If so, the item should imply or give rise to those children.

Jot these down into your document for reference!

Get Your Gist On

So, you now have all the ingredients for your recipe, time to start cooking.

You can set a timer and Iron Chef it or you can keep a note pad and let it simmer like a Crockpot, adding things as they come to you. The main thing is, keeping the context in your mind, to generate as many gists as you can. The more the merrier.

Refine Your Work

After you have a pretty nice collection going, take a step back and evaluate them.

  • Do you get the sense of the parent’s flavor?
  • Could you push the gist to feel more in line with it’s position it’s quad?
  • How does it feel when comparing your gist to the original definition?
  • When you consider your gist with it’s children, do they feel connected? Could you see how those items could spring forth from your gist?

The more honest with yourself you are here, the further you’ll grow. Keep massaging something until it really clicks for you.

Bend Over Backwards

Once you’re feeling really confident in your gists, you can broaden your mind further by twisting them. This allows you to find the edges of an item and will probably spur even more ideas!

  • How does turning a gist from a negative thing to a positive thing feel?
  • Does changing the nouns or adjectives feel? Do some sit well with you and others don’t? Try to think about why that is.
  • Try to push everything as far as you can. See if you can stretch a gist so far that it starts to sag, then pull it back just enough that it’s recognizable again.

Share The Love

What better way to wrap up than to share everything you’ve learned? If you can, submit your gist ideas to Subtext so that everyone can use them. Or share them here on the forum, so that other’s can critique and benefit from your efforts!


Awesome stuff!!!

One thing I might add, or stress… is that the Elements work on a sliding scale. And they can be a two way street.

Like what we realized with Memory-ing lately, it goes both ways and there’s a whole range of possibilities.

Jim’s got a great article about the Sliding Scale, about how that scale will range the two extremes until it tips over to its opposite element.

Example: Attraction <–> Repulsion

lack of Attraction: being ambivalent
Attraction: gravitating toward something
too much Attraction: having an oedipus complex
(beyond this point it flips to the opposite)
too much Repulsion: being hated
Repulsion: being unattractive/unattracted
lack of Repulsion: being unfazed by something repulsive

Thinking of this sliding scale when considering Elements really helps me double-check my work. Make sure I’ve exhausted all possible uses of that Element, Zero in on whether the element is what I think it is.


I would try and stay away from the KTAD stuff below Genre. It’s great in a general sense, but when you get more specific like that you start having to figure out:

The knowledge of desire of ability of thought

Which will drive you completely loopy.

This is where we all thank Chris and Melanie for locking themselves in a room for a year and a half and figuring out that the answer to the knowledge of desire of ability of thought is Consider.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and wonder how helpful it might be to actually try and figure out the 256 elements.

I started with Consider because of the other post and found some interesting things:

Consider an approach for obtaining in physics:
Weighing options

Consider openness for the future in universe
Weighing opportunities

Consider a rationalization for becoming in psychology
Weighing justifications

Consider a closure of subconscious in mind
Weighing dissonances

Which means you can probably be considered being inconsiderate in terms of not weighing options. Not the way I was originally thinking about, but likely how others could see it.

I can see this being a part of the definition. You still wouldn’t want to lose Consider altogether, since you want to see how they hook up in other Throughlines.


I’ve actually been thinking about this since I made the post. :smile:

I realized the whole process would get you different answers for each element at the element level, which completely makes sense.

I think this would be really valuable to know how, say, Pursuit and Avoid work at the bottom of each Domain. I would totally throw my vote in for at least exploring it.


But also… does this open them up too much?

I.E. If things like “inconsiderate” are now on the table, would that make it more difficult to arrive at a definitive storyform?

OR, would defining all the terms hyper-specifically like this actually help narrow things down? Where one can discard a certain interpretation of the term based on where it sits in the model?

(I’m erring toward the latter, and itching to help the crazy task of figuring out alternative definitions for each iteration of the 256 :sweat_smile:)


I’d lean toward the latter too! I think this could be a really cool and important next step in theory development.

For example, I went back to the original Star Wars storyform (where it all began :smile:) and just wrote out the “formula” for the Test element.

  • Test-ing Skill while Doing in Physics
  • Test-ing Fantasy while Progress in Universe
  • Test-ing Desire while Being in Psychology
  • Test-ing Confidence while Preconscious in Mind

Just looking at them without having new terms you can see how similar, yet totally different they all feel! :astonished: :boom:


These are awesome because I can totally see them being ‘testing the Force while targeting the port in attacking the Death Star’ and ‘testing believability (I can make that shot, I shoot womp rats at home-as if shooting womp rats and attacking the Death Star are the same) while becoming a Jedi in escaping a dessert planet. ‘ …or something to that effect.