One thing I've been wrestling with for a couple of weeks now - why?

To add to what Mike said, it’s also about exploring metaphorical problems from every direction. The reason it doesn’t matter how the point is illustrated (as long as it illustrates conflict) is because it’s a metophor for a problematic process of Thought (or Knowledge, Ability, or Desire). The reason it needs to be explored is so that your story can prove its point to the audience by exploring the problem from every direction. If your story tells the audience the best way to solve Physics problems, but doesn’t explore a Physics problem from all four directions, then there’s a hole that will keep your story from offering a complete message. It’s like telling someone the best way to get someplace is to buy a car. If that’s all you say, then they’ll reply with, wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to take a taxi? The idea is that covering all four areas of KTAD prevents your audience from doing this because you are already covering “take a taxi” in some form.


Okay, so it isn’t enough to illustrate conflict. It has to illustrate the core conflict of the throughline. That’s a revelation for me. Thanks. :slight_smile:

So, a related question… Why does Gathering Information have to be SP1 instead of SP2, SP3, or SP4?

It isn’t always in that spot. It’s in that spot in your storyform because that’s the order that is needed to make sense. Please note that weaving order may vary.

For example in one of my stories learning (gathering information) is in SP 2 and understanding is in SP 1

The OS characters must understand that one of the characters is exhibiting a particular characteristic BEFORE they can learn about which of them it is. It would be impossible to do the learning without the understanding IN MY PARTICULAR STORY.

Not exactly. If you’re thinking I meant Knowledge, Thought, Ability, And Desire to refer to Physics, Universe, etc, then no. That’s not what I meant. Understanding, Learning, Doing, and Obtaining are what Knowledge, Thought, Ability, And Desire (those aren’t necessarily matched up by order there) look like when viewed through the lens of Phsics. Every quad at every level is some form of KTAD. It just doesn’t say KTAD in every quad because it’s chamged by the lens you’re using to view it.

Because the order changes the meaning. Melanie’s example is a slap followed by a scream means something different than a scream followed by a slap.

Oh, I know. But, I was just trying to express something complicated in as simple a manner as I could. I could have said something like “SPx instead of SP anything but x,” but I thought that would be more confusing.

That’s really easy in Melanie’s example, but I’m having real trouble understanding how it applies to one of the Throughlines with four stopping points.

There’s a great example of something like this from one of @jhull’s archived posts. It’s kind of hard to transcribe/recall from memory, but basically, it goes something like: consider this order.


The characters manage to obtain something. They learn what it is, which leads to a greater understanding. In a climactic ending, they use their understanding to do something.

Now look at this one.


The characters manage to obtain something. They begin to understand it, which leads to them gathering more information. In a climactic ending, they use what they’ve learned to do something.

Maybe just imagining these two Throughlines, you can envision that the second feels a little more hopeful, even if they both sound tragic. Plug them into the program, and you’ll find the first is Failure-Bad, while the second is Failure-Good. So there’s something primordial, something close to heart, that resonates with these signpost orders in some way.

(How did Melanie and Chris come up with these orders? How did they determine that, for example, any story with an Objective Signpost 1 of Obtaining must end up with Failure–and likewise for Memory in Signpost 3? I have no idea! The Act Order is my white whale of understanding the theory behind Dramatica. Every time I dig into it, I find more fascinating and inscrutable facets of it–more glimmers of the hidden rules beneath them. As I’ve mentioned before, I understand it’s proprietary, and they don’t want to give away all their secrets, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. :microscope:)


@actingpower, I’m pretty sure you’re talking about the same article I’m thinking of. I haven’t had a chance to look for it yet, but hopefully somebody finds it and posts a link.

@YellowSuspenders, I didn’t mean to post the last post yet. I was going to take some time to think about it and look for the article that @actingpower is referencing because I think that’ll explain it better than I could.

I found this one. I don’t think it’s the exact article referenced, but it covers the concepts with the same Types. I don’t know. Maybe it is the one you were looking for.

Here’s another one.


I think that article was part of what I was remembering. But I think maybe there’s another article i was combining it with. I think maybe it talked about putting Obtaining and Doing fist and then compared it to putting Understanding and Learning first? In one you have to Do to find out if you would Learn, something to that effect. I’m wondering if it was one of those articles about building acts around a question, and what questions a 2, 3, or 4 act story would ask, or how a 2 act story was about consequence and goal, and a three act was about consequence, precondition, and goal(or something like that).

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Cross posted. I found another, and added it to my post.

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I think these are the Narrative First articles you guys were looking for (they’re in the Blog section but my Google search-fu was able to dig them up). They’re pretty involved with an in-depth spy story example, worth printing out and reading carefully.

@YellowSuspenders, is the Act Order the only thing you were wondering about? What about something like, if the MC Concern is Conceiving why does that mean the IC Concern must be Learning? That kind of thing is much easier to explain!

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Those definitely look like the one’s I was thinking of, but you’re a better Google-fu artist than I. Thank you.

Honestly I didn’t even notice that was the case until you mentioned it! But, yes, please explain that.

The underlying answer to this question, more than anything, is what makes Dramatica different from every other narrative theory/system/hypothesis (whatever you want to call it). Dramatica is the only system that indicates both the context within which to explore your story (the collection of story points) and the nature of the discussion for each story point (the storyform).


So, why Gathering Information? Because a series of choices about the underlying meaning in the story indicates that gathering information is best suited to reveal the underlying meaning inherent in your story’s storyform.


Inherent in your question is the assumption that a structural item is part of a storyform and has an association with a particular story point.

“Gathering Information” is important to know because the story points are connected to a table of dramatic elements combined into a storyform. Storyforms represent an organization of structure and dynamics that hold meaning when explored in the context of a limited set of predefined story reference points (i.e. story points). Story points give the storyform a consistent context within which meaning may be revealed.


My amateur answer:

  1. An illustration can’t be literally “anything.” For example, learning isn’t illustrated solely by “being biased against something.”
  2. Every grand argument story has all 16 concerns in some context and in some order. I think about it like this: an activity throughline has to explore each of the 4 activity concerns in order to try different approaches to the problem. It’s roughly like looking on all 4 floors of the building. If you don’t visit one or more floors, then your exploration is incomplete.

True, but only one of the rooms in each of the upper floor’s four wings leads to the basement where the ‘monsters’ (i.e. problems) are hiding. :wink:


Well, the MC and IC represent perspectives, and those perspectives are always like mirror images of each other. As soon as you can find the way that they are the same you can see how they differ on external vs. internal. (This is why those perspectives will always be based on Universe <-> Mind or Psychology <-> Physics.)

But for them to be proper mirror images of each other they need to be the same within their domains. Otherwise, the IC will not be able to suitably challenge the MC properly; his influence will glance off because it won’t be entirely relevant to the MC.

Let’s say you have an MC who is struggling to find a purpose in life. He feels he is supposed to do something important with his life, that he has an important future bigger than his corporate job, but he can’t quite find it. Something seems wrong with the world so he uses his computer skills to hack into systems around the world, searching…

Meanwhile, the IC has a deep belief, an obsession, that he will be the one to find a new messiah to lead people out of slavery. And he has come to believe the MC is that messiah. This belief is so deep-rooted (subconscious) that he is willing to sacrifice his life for the MC, and this challenges the MC to see that maybe everything he was looking for is already within him.

Well, I’m sure you can tell what movie that’s from. But can you see how those perspectives are really the same, except flipped on the axis of external vs. internal? One senses he is somehow special but is stuck searching for a purpose out in a world he can’t quite grasp; the other is utterly convinced of his own purpose.

If you had a different match-up, keeping MC Future but going with say IC Memories, the IC’s influence would be off target and the story would miss its mark. “You’re telling me I can dodge bullets?” “No, I’m telling you that when you can remember your sister, you won’t have to.” Yuck. :stuck_out_tongue:

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What a great illustration of those two throughlines - thanks!

That mirror image analogy is applicable to the RS and OS too. I was playing with that idea when I was illustrating the RS in my storyform (which I’m still working through). Because the RS is the trickiest of the throughlines (IMO), I find it helpful to bounce it against the OS to keep the RS perspective ‘on track’.

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Interesting… did a little brain storming … just sharing some of my examples

MC/IC both looking for (a new) purpose in life

(OS Ma) Everybody seeks to change themselves to another person
(MC Ui) I have no purpose anymore
(IC Mi) You are my father
(RS Ac) After a terrible accident a father and his daughter have to learn how to find a new purpose in life

MC/IC both want to survive

(OS Mi) Everybody has to make a life-changing decision
(MC Ac) I do what I can working in my little shop
(IC Ma) You should rather invest your money somewhere else
(RS Ui) A single parent with her son trying to survive an economic crisis

MC/IC both want to have a unforgettable party

(OS Ac) Everybody is trying to understand what an great party looks like
(MC Mi) I can’t see how to have fun in this place
(IC Ui) Lets do our best, we can’t change it
(RS Ma) Two friends join forces to organize their weddings together

MC/IC both want to get over the situation

(OS Ui) An empty train is stuck in a dessert
(MC Ma) I am tyring to be nice
(IC Ac) Just get over it
(RS Mi) Two rivals are forced to stay over a long weekend together