Sequences, Scenes, and Events

Hello, all! I just created my account on here, so I hope we can have some good discussion. I’ve been picking up Dramatica for the past few months, and believe me, I’ve found it a total game-changer. I’m so excited to apply what I’ve learned to the stories I’ll write. I can even see it as applicable to real life! But anyways, on to my question.

One of the things I’ve found interesting in Dramatica’s theory are the Dynamic Story Points: Acts, Sequences, Scenes, and Events. The way Dramatica decides the order of the Acts is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I can understand, viscerally at least, how changing the order of the Acts can dramatically affect the overall feel of the story. However, what’s less clear to me is the way Sequences, Scenes, and Events work in a story. As a reminder, there are six Sequences in a story, representing the six combinations of Variations in the Concern: Issue vs. Counterpoint, Issue vs. Companion, Issue vs. Dependent, Counterpoint vs. Companion, Counterpoint vs. Dependent, and Companion vs. Dependent. Supposedly, every story will face these six comparisons before the end; however, I’ve never been able to effectively suss out which Sequence occurs when in a given movie or book. The only example on the site of a movie breakdown of the Sequences is of Witness, but I’ve never seen that movie, so that doesn’t help. Can anyone give me some pointers on how to do a Sequence breakdown like this, maybe using something I’m familiar with like Star Wars or Hamlet?

Scenes and Events are even less well represented in the Dramatica book. So in every Sequence, the story will go through all four Scenes (the Problem, the Solution, the Symptom, and the Response)? And even deeper in the fractal, each Scene will describe a Situation Event, an Activity Event, a Psychology Event, and a Fixed Attitude Event? I just can’t quite fathom how that all fits together. How long is an Event in a movie? Do Scenes ever bleed together? How does all of this work in Star Wars? (I know you can’t/don’t want to do a full 96-Event play-by-play of something, but even just a little bit could help me get the ball rolling.)

Thanks so much for any responses I get! :smiley:

pulls up a chair and a bowl of popcorn and waits for the mentors to ment Inquiring minds wanna know…

Save some for me. I can bring my own chair.

I am challenged by this as well.

It can get a bit confusing.
But that is all Storyforming.

So, while all of those are in a presented work, squeezing them out of a finished story is like taking a finely painted picture apart to see which paints were cyan and which were magenta. All of those things get emphasized differently by different authors and put together differently (which is an artform). Something to consider:

Cheers. :smile:


Did… did that say part 91? O_o I have a lot of videos to watch. :stuck_out_tongue:
But thank you, that certainly does give me a new perspective, at least a little.

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An event can be something relatively minor, from a contemplation to an action. If you’re familiar with Robert McKee’s Story, I’d say it could be exemplified as a story beat where the values change from + to - back and forth until we have a scene, the scene itself functioning with the same dynamics.

I know some don’t like mixing and matching different theories, but I think it’s appropriate here to some extent because in Dramatica, there’s the Plot Sequence Report that shows how the variations are explored using the “Z” pattern. This is important because those diagonal values are where conflict occurs and conflict being what propels a story, it’s what’s most helpful in going from good (+) to bad (-). His analysis regarding this and Casablanca is very worthwhile seeking out.

As far as scenes bleeding together, what I assume you’re talking about is whether the various throughlines can be explored via the same scene and the answer is yes. In fact, when you get adapt at finding those turning points in your scenes, you may it appropriate to “bleed” together two throughlines and wrap their major turning points around each other to create a more powerful event that has multiple implications (in Star Wars, this could be where all the throughlines come together as Luke has to take the leap of faith and trust what Ben is saying about using the force in order to blow up the Death Star; that’s essentially happening very quickly, one right after the other at the climax.)

The one thing of note with this approach - and I can’t remember where I’ve read this, but it’s true nevertheless - is that it can make your writing feel more episodic (for better or worse.)

No, here’s a piece of the PSR for the OS throughline only. Now, keep in mind you have three more throughlines to explore in each act and you can see how it adds up:

Others have found this thread helpful so I’m attaching it here (hoping it works):

No, I’ve never heard of Robert McKee (unless he was one of those theorists in the “Dramatica Compared to Other Theories” article). I’m rather attached to Dramatica, you understand, but sure, I’ll check him out. :stuck_out_tongue:

…Act One of the OS Throughline explores The Past in terms of the Memory Variations? Act Two explores The Future in terms of the Contemplation Variations? Act Three explores Progress in terms of the Impulsive Response Variations? Act Four explores The Present in terms of the Desire Variations? …Why??? I can’t make my demo version of Dramatica do that, and I definitely don’t remember anything like that in the Dramatica book. And why are they paired like that? The Past and Progress ones match up exactly, but the Present and Future ones are flipped.

I mean, there’s an article on here that has the same setup (EDIT: This one), so I know you’re not pulling my leg or anything, but I was just as mystified with those as I am now! :confused:

EDIT: Having gone and double-checked my program, I can now confirm that it was under Plot Sequence all along. Whoops. XD I’m still curious to learn, though, how it generates those Variations.

McKee was just a suggestion; if you were familiar with him it might be easier to grasp it in a slightly different context (one that you may have already known).

From the PSR itself:

Information about the relationship between plot and theme comes in two forms in Dramatica. When you begin creating your Storyform, you are presented with a perfect world view of your story in which plot is completely aligned with theme. There is no discrepancy between the two, and therefore no dramatic tension. This balanced view is most easily seen in the Theme Browser, available through a icon toolbar or Project menu. Once you arrive at a Storyform, however, you have input information about how that perfect world is twisted and warped by problems and conflicting perspectives. As a result, plot no longer matches theme, and the two are often quite out of step with one another.

As your story unfolds, it is the discrepancy between plot and theme that clues the audience in on the nature of the problem at the heart of your story and tells them much about the ways in which such a screwed up situation might be resolved.

Use this report as a guideline to the kinds of thematic considerations which should be addressed in your plot, act by act for each of the four throughlines. By developing this series of plot/theme discrepancies, the progress of your story will reflect the dramatic tension of the effort to unwind all the tentacles of the central problem.

You might want to check out Armando’s book, “Dramatica for Screenwriters,” as he goes into some detail on how it works. It’s not definitive by any means (there’s other patterns for example), I just threw it out there as I’ve found it helpful.

Thank you for being so patient with me. I’m really much too inquisitive for my own good. :stuck_out_tongue: I’ll make sure to contemplate this new wrinkle in the formula, as well as check out that book! :smile:

Hi @actingpower – welcome! Glad you found us…

Speaking from personal experience, unless you’re writing a novel, I wouldn’t worry too much about Sequences, Scenes and Events. I feel like so much of that is intuitive and completely up to the Author that getting into the minutiae of detail when it comes to Issue and Counterpoint and “six sequences” and so on, you end up losing sight of the whole for the sake of programming your story.

If you have four Throughlines, and you take them through the four Acts as Dramatica suggests (depending on other choices you’ve made) you will be way ahead of the game. Issue and Counterpoint will possibly come up in one, maybe two throughlines, but worrying about Dependent and Companions will usually slow you down.

I’m talking within the context of a screenplay and assuming you want to keep it under 110, 105 pages. A couple more pages and you might be able to add some other scenes in there, but really, you might be better off working in the Main Charater’s Unique Ability or Critical Flaw.

There was a report in the first version of Dramatica that told you exactly what character should interact with another and in what order they should interact and how those interactions should be organized within sequences and so on – imagine the Plot Progression screen but times a thousand. I think the report was 300 pages long. Impressive, but completely pointless to the purpose.

You should use Dramatica to help aid and solidify your intuition. I’m a proponent of using it as you write, instead of simply figuring it all out at once and then writing and then never going back to it. Use it to help write your first draft, and then go back in and layer in what you can given the tone of your particular narrative and the time constraints.


All right. That seems fair. It just seemed like something I might like to get further insight into. Thanks for the great reply! :smile:

I actually think this is cool and would like to see what it has to say about my storyforms. I don’t think I would ever slave myself to the dictates of a 300-page document, but there might be some useful insights to be found in such an exhaustive report.

But I can see where some may think they must follow it to the letter (like much of Dramatica), and to those people, it would seem like a burden, causing them to abandon the software and the theory behind it. Dramatica is there to fill in holes; one shouldn’t let oneself be buried by it. :wink:

I might be in the minority, but I would actually like to see this. Just to see what it would look like and to satiate my insatiable curiosity. Even if it was only using the storyform of star wars for example. Because I can’t actually find anything looking like it, just people mentioning it.

Me too. Melanie has said many times that such information is still accessible by them as the creators, but not in the software anywhere anymore. I have sought that information for weeks now. I wander if the first version is around anywhere and accessible? I would happily get a copy. :smile:

Maybe there should be a “Really Advanced Reports” menu. :wink:

It would be nice to at least be able to see one of these reports for a sample story, just to know what kind of information it contained, what relationships it recommended, especially for a story with archetypal characters. Is there a change anyone could post a PDF of this report for a sample story? Thanks.

Feedback I received:

"…the engine of Dramatica generates signposts and journeys for every quad at every level, including the PRCP for every item at every level. This creates about 300 additional data points. In the original engine, it put one data point on each page, so we ended up with about 300 pages of numbers matched to PRCP designations.

Now, unlike signposts and journeys, none of these predicted associations have ever been tested for accuracy and also they are not useful in real world narrative or fictions because much of the information is below the level of storytelling or subject matter “noise” that is “louder” than the underlying structure, making the theoretical structure at that level of detail unpredictive due to the overwhelming interference of the subject matter.


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That appeals to me not as a writer, but as a software engineer. :stuck_out_tongue:

A well-designed Python script might be able to do something with all those data points.

How about crowdsourcing?