New User Anxiety: Clarification Needed

It seems as though if I am not careful, Dramatica can change my stories in light of the decisions that I make. Is it better not to start using the software with this first draft of my current novel until I finish studying my copy of “Dramatica: A New Theory of Story Special Tenth Anniversary Edition” by Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley (425 pages, paperback)?

I don’t necessarily think you need to read the whole book to understand the basic principles. Understanding the 12 Points and how to read the Dramatica Table of Story Elements will get you most of the way there. Have you read the comic? The comic is way more digestible than the full book, even if it is a bit 90s cheese. :laughing:

As to Dramatica changing your story, here’s my maybe-hot take: don’t change anything you don’t want to. There’s only one thing that, if a story lacked it, I would tell you to go back to the drawing board and completely rewrite it. That’s having an Influence Character. Everything else is helpful to know and think about as you plan out your story, but if you don’t have an Influence Character, your story is missing its heart and soul.


Dramatica can’t change your story. Only you can do that.

Dramatica tells you how to explore the underlying problem of your story by looking at it from every perspective. Essentially, it’s telling you how to present the argument you want to make to the audience.

If you want your story to start with a murder and explore the physics of tracking down the killer, then Dramatica says your story should start with a murder and see physics as a source of conflict as the story works to resolve the inequity.

If you want your story to start with a murder and explore the psychology of tracking down the killer, then Dramatica says your story should start with a murder and see psychology as a source of conflict as the story works to resolve the inequity.

Dramatica terms like Physics and Psychology do not describe what happens in the story. They describe the stories perspective on what happens in the story.

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I assume she’s talking about the Dramatica program itself, which can get pretty granular in its recommendations, especially with the Act Structure. Structuring Act 2 around a major flashback, only to discover Act 2 is supposed to be Present and Act 3 is Past, is changing the story. Or discovering that the Influence Character arc about letting go of the past should actually be about dreaming about the impossible payout.

I am reading/studying the Comic Book now that came in the software box :+1:t3:
(I opted for the physical Disc instead of the digital download)
Thanks for the PDF link (I have put it on my personal writing website).

:sparkles:Here are my Primary Characters:

Protagonist (MC)- John Steven Carmichael
Antagonist/Villain - Seth Andras “Blake”

Influence/Impact - Rabbi Solomon Yaakov Horowitz
Contagonist - Jodie Wheeler

Sidekick - Amy Lou Ann Carmichael (MC’s daughter)
Sidekick - Mathias “Ray” (Raymond) Carmichael (MC’s brother)

Emotion/Lover - Marie Messina-Carmichael (MC’s wife)

Reason - Gabe Tobias Charmichael (MC’s son)
Skeptic - Logan Messina (MC’s wife’s brother)

It’s good to know that I can use the software with a major work before I have completed studying the whole Theory book.

I really appreciate your help, it means everything when you have someone knowledgable willing to help you. Thank you so much :smiley:.

Well, I better get back to this cool comic book, I actually like it :nerd_face: :joy:

@Greg Thanks for the examples, you broke it down in a simple way. Dramatica breaks everything down as well: adds specific elements and mechanics via unique concepts. I like that. Right now, I realize I’m at the easy foundation stage of Dramatica.

Thank you so much for your help :+1:t3:

Flashbacks aren’t inherently illustrations of Past. Consider a flashback showing someone signing for a mysterious package and Oh no! That means the bomb is present in the building with us right now!!!

Dramatica isn’t changing the story you already have. You may be changing aspects of the story to fit what Dramatica tells you to do based on what you told Dramatica. But what Dramatica is doing is telling you how the story should perceive the meaning of the events of the story based on the argument you told it you want to tell.

If you already have a story and Dramatica says that the perspective should be different, then you didn’t tell Dramatica what your story was about. Or maybe you’re not telling a Dramatica style story. If your IC signposts go from Progress to Past to Present to Future, maybe that just means there will be less conflict built into the story than if another order were used, or maybe that the argument you’re making will be a bit muddier, but it doesn’t mean you have to change the story.

What I’m saying is that if you already have events of a story lined out, Dramatica isn’t going to ask you to change those events. It may suggest a different meaning behind those events based on your input.
Your IC can still talk about letting go of the past while the underlying conflict is about dreaming about the payout.

Ic “Can you imagine what we’ll do with the money? I suppose we’ll leave our pasts behind”
Other character “It’s ok to feel like you need to leave the past behind, but dreaming about the payout creates conflict by making people feel like you can’t wait to get away from them.”

It may feel like I’m being…I don’t know, there’s a word for it….pedantic?…but there is a difference between what happens in the story and why things happen in the story.

All that said, you’re not wrong. If you saw conflict as coming from the Past in what you wanted to be act 2 and Dramatica says it should be coming from the Future and you want to align with Dramatica, then you either need to move that section of story, or recontextual it to be about the Future in order to change the perspective of the story, and thus you are changing the story as you saw it.