Signposts vs journeys

Hi everyone,
I have read somewhere that it takes about 18months to feel the start of an understanding of how Dramatica really works ! I think it is really true and I personally am experiencing this very long period during which all the concepts are slowly getting together. But for the moment, I stil haven’t been able to put any story together and I must admit I sometime feel a bit frustrated.
Anyway, this is my first question to this discussion group and I would like to have some of your ideas to understand an important concept of the theory : Signposts and journeys.
I need some clarifications on these two different story points.
Although it seems to be two different concepts, I don’t really understand the difference between them, especially when I look at the many examples available in the analysis available in the Dramatica database.
As I understand it, a signpost is a precise moment on a journey, it is the moment when you enter in a territory within which the signpost’s concept prevail as a fix state.
It means that as a writer, you need to encode this concepts through different story points that illustrate this concept.
On the other hand a journey is a series of event during which a concept is slowly evolving into another concept.
This is more tricky as during this period, the two concepts must co-exist, one slowly giving place to the other. This evolution is accomplished when the next signpost appears and I rather understand it as the moment when the first concepts has totally ceased to exist.
Then we enter into the exploration of the second concept until the moment the 3rd concepts start to appear (the beginning of journey 2).
So a story would then be the visit of 4 different concepts inter-cut with 3 transformations. And although the complete sequence shows a very progressive evolution. The separation of these acts are very precise, these are the moments I suspect to be the beginning of each act :

Signpost #1 : first moment of the throughline
Journey#1 : First appearance of the concept #2
Signpost#2 : Last appearance of the concept #1
Journey#2 : First appearance of the concept#3
Signpost#3 : Last appearance of the concept#2
Journey#3 : First appearance of the concept#4
Signpost#4: Last appearance of the concept#3

In this way of seeing it, the four concept are overlapping each other and explored separately as well.

Did I get it right ?

Now although this seems pretty clear in my head. I feel confused when I look at the analysis of Star Wars, in regard of Luke’s story (MC). When I look at the story point report, it seems the Signposts 1 occurs at a precise point (the two sun-down scene). As if it was at this precise moment (and not before) that we reach the signpost one (being trapped by the past). So if we only enter the area of the 1rst concept at this moment, where are we before that ? How long are we visiting this territory and when does he leave it and start the journey to signpost 2 ?

I dont’t want to make this post too long so I hope you have understood the kind of confusion I am dealing with, and I would like to read some different opinions on how to apprehend this concept and how to use it. (when done, I have some more question about it ! :wink:)

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They’re both the same thing. Signpost is just the particle view of the idea while Journey is the wave view of it. As a signpost, the whole act is addressing one area of conflict. As a journey the whole act is moving from one area of conflict to another. I prefer to think in terms of signposts only. Others may prefer to think solely in terms of journeys. Both ways are fine.

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I am not familiar with these expressions, would you give me an example ?

Basically, a particle view means you are viewing something as a single structural unit while a wave view means you are viewing how something changes over time. A common example in physics would be light. Measure how it passes through a pair of slits one way and you get an interference pattern (meaning light appears to act like a wave), but measure another way and you get a shadow (meaning light appears to act like a particle).

But you can take either view when looking at anything. You might view an animal once and see a cow. Or you might view that animal multiple times and see a calf turning into a bull turning into a steak. Or you could look outside and see a storm or a constantly changing climate.

With your question, you can see an act as 4 singular structural units dealing with a single source of conflict in each. Or you can see an act as the evolution from one source of conflict to another. Just two different ways of looking at the same thing.


To follow up on what @Greg said with a bit more practical take :slight_smile:

Having been on these boards for a while, I don’t see that many writers who focus on Journeys these days. Theoretically, the movement between Signposts is journey, but practically most of us split our story into four acts, each with one Signpost from each throughline, with each act separated by Drivers. Insofar as you are telling a story in which a source of conflict in one Signpost leads to the next signpost, you should be fine.

If you want to get more in depth, you can use the plot sequence report (which I mentioned in the other thread) to help you figure out how to explore each signpost.

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Dramatica for Screenwriters (even if you’re not a screenwriter) to understand better how to apply Dramatica practically. And of course you should check out @jhull’s Subtext app (

Trust me, we’ve all been there :slight_smile: . For writing, my advice is to take whatever parts seem to make sense or provide insight at the moment, and leave the rest as you write. You can of course continue to learn, but trying to make it all work at once in a story is virtually impossible.


Thank you both for your responses. I am literally opening my amazon package containing Dramatica for screenwriter ! So I guess and hope I will find some kind of light in it.

As for the very topic I am concerned at the moment, I like @Greg analogy with the cow or the storm. However, the storm is the signpost and the weather is the journey, right ?

Now, Melanie Anne Phillips explains in some of her videos That Signposts and journeys should follow each other like a pearl necklace.
Creating altogether with the other throughlines 28 “magic scenes”. These scenes (or should I call them Acts ?) are what I am struggling to identify in a film (as simple as Star Wars).

So in my mind, I am trying to find 7 distinct acts in each throughline. Am I wrong in doing so ?

Finally, I suppose that what @Lakis says makes sense and that is what I like with Dramatica. It is the multiple doors that it open when considering a story. Should I start with the problem ? Or with the Overall story goal ? Or with some of my objective story characters etc…

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Exactly. So if you look outside and see clouds and rain and wind and you say “that’s a storm”, then you are treating the storm as a Signpost/particle. If you look outside and see clouds gathering in the sky and then dissipating, and feel the wind picking up and swirling and then steadying, and see the morning dew evaporating and gathering and then falling back down in droplets until it’s dew on the grass again, and you say “it’s storming”, then you are viewing the storm as part of a weather cycle, or a journey/wave.

As for the 28 scenes, I don’t know how others do it, but I generally look for 16 scenes. 4 acts for each throughline. But these scenes will contain more than what is typically thought of as a single scene. And there might be a little filler around some of them for backstory and cleanup and such. But I find it a bit easier and cleaner to do it that way rather then try to look for 28 scenes.

Also, you’ll find in Dramatica for Screenwriters a method for using the PSR that should give you around 48 scenes. That’s just the 16 scenes I look for broken down into their PSR units.


It’s a mistake to mix both Signposts and Journeys into the same context, as you can’t see both at the same time (mixing metaphors). The magic “28” scenes are better understood as:

  • 16 Signposts
  • 5 Story Drivers
  • 7 Additional Storybeats (from the Plot Sequence Report) - usually from the Objective Story Perspective

My understanding is that you can really only see one or the other, so as the author, you should choose which is a better tool for you and then do only that one.

ETA: I see @jhull has beaten me to this. I also see that you have now been introduced to the particle/wave metaphor, to which I will add: a photon can only be seen as a particle or a wave, never both.

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