Starting a storyform before answering 12 essential questions

Very good. Much more information to work with.

You’ll notice the narrative arguments found on Subtext look a little different. They don’t normally mention specific characters because the whole storyform (not just the MC) is needed to prove the argument. But that’s really just an aside.

Not because there’s anything wrong with how you have it, but just to make it simpler for myself, I’m going to reword it as “By accepting that Sadie doesn’t love him, Mitch is able to get his life back.”

From here, I’d start pulling out whatever points I thought I could find.

“By accepting that Sadie doesn’t love him…” This sounds like a Change to me (although, to be fair, the entire story could be Mitch accepting this and it finally works out in the end—in that case I’d change the argument to ‘keep accepting’) so I’ll go ahead and select Change for the Resolve. Does ‘accepting’ also suggest a solution of Acceptance? Or maybe a crucial element of Acceptance? Definitely something to keep in mind, though I don’t know that we need to lock it down just yet.

“…get his life back” sounds like it could be a judgment of Good. What do you think?


To start getting it closer to Subtext terms, maybe it could be:

“Start accepting that the girl of your dreams doesn’t love you, and you can get your life back.”


“Stop pursuing someone who doesn’t love you, and you can get your life back.”


@emm This is assuming that by “narrative argument” you’re referring to @jhull’s (of Subtext) approach. That involves:

Main Character Growth
Story Goal
Story Outcome
Story Judgment
Main Character Crucial Element

If you have a subscription, the conflict builder on that site is a great way to find storyforms from existing narratives that have similar conflicts as your story.

Chapter 3 of Dramatica for Screenwriters has a different approach which involves taking a premise (essentially a narrative argument) and breaking it down into character, plot and theme. I haven’t tried to use it much. Maybe we can convince @ArmandoSaldanamora to explain it a bit. :slight_smile:


Yes … I see how your mind is working … But if you can push my boat out a tab further before I tackle the 12 essentials I would be very grateful. I have a lot of material to use but applying it correctly to the storyform, I suppose, comes with experience. Thanx

You all make it look so easy. In a way it is, I guess. I like the first suggestion. Thanx. Emm.

Out of curiosity, what about the 12 questions is causing you problems? Are you having trouble answering the questions based on your material? (Not sure if Greg was trying to lead you straight there or not. :slight_smile: )

One of the things I keep learning is that because Dramatica is a holistic model, you can really approach a storyform from a lot of different angles. This can actually be pretty frustrating – you have to figure out not only which approach works for you as a writer but also for the material you already have.

It seems to me if you’re starting from a strong sense of what you want to say (narrative argument) and you could translate it into one of Jim’s narrative argument patterns, that would be a pretty fast shortcut.

But that might not be where you are. You could also approach it from a genre perspective:

Or start at the Concern/Quad level:


I just don’t seem to be able to work out what material I have fits in with what story point. I don’t seem to have a system for doing it. For instance, if this is Mitch’s theoughline, would it be an internal process or state?

For me that’s a tricky way to approach it. Maybe start with this: it sounds like Mitch is a Change character. Is that right?

Yes, he is a change character - it’s Sadie’s youth and vibrancy and her ability to embrace life and live for today ( the present) which finally impacts Mitch to realise he has settled for so little in life in terms of relationships and personal achievements and that he should not live in the past or daydream about his future but her on with the ‘here and now’ and live for today.

So of course there are many options but this sounds a little like a coming of age story. I could see an OS in Psychology and a Concern of Becoming - will they become a couple? Depending on the feeling you want it could be either Failure/Good or Success/Good.

Sorry to clarify – I think the next question should be Outcome and Judgement.

As @Greg said it sounds like the Judgement is Good (Mitch resolves his inner angst).

As for the goal, is the story more of a Personal Triumph, (Failure/Good) or a Triumph Triumph (Success/Good)? This is a bit of a blind spot for me (see the Cars analysis where I incorrectly thought it was Failure/Good) but it depends on how you articulate the goal.

Anyway, I could see this story either way depending on what you’re going for. If the OS Goal is about Mitch pursuing his dream girl then it could be a Failure (he fails to get the girl) Good (he gets his life back). Or it could be that the story goal is really something else that the Mitch doesn’t understand until he achieves it (Success/Good).

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At this point it’s up to you. Which story do you want to tell? The one where Mitch is fixed on something, or the one where Mitch’s attitude grows and changes? Assuming you don’t have the entire story planned out, you should be able to put things where you want them. I know when I first got into Dramatica that idea didn’t seem particularly helpful, but try to embrace it. It’s so much harder for me to analyze a half formed idea until I get the perfect storyform than it is to start with what I know and mold the rest as I go.

To give you what probably feels like a more helpful answer, this part

Talks about youth and vibrancy and the present, but it also talks about her ability to embrace life. So ask yourself, does she affect others by being youthful, or by embracing life? It’s up to you. I don’t want to steer you in any direction you don’t want to go, but if we’re talking strictly Mitch as the MC and Sadie as IC and not looking at OS, I’d want to go with Sadie in Physics (influence through embracing life) and Mitch in Psychology (a desire to be loved). But I could also totally see a story where Sadie’s state of being youthful affects Mitch who believes that Sadie is in love with him. The difference might look like a scene where Mitch causes conflict by assuming Sadie loves him vs Mitch causing conflict by giving Sadie a chance to show Mitch that she loves him.

Now, to make what I just said about Mitch being in Psychology a little more difficult, if we are talkin about the OS…

I could also see an OS in Psychology and it would probably be a pretty smart move as many love stories have an OS of Psychology.

A final note, I don’t know what you’re going for and, as I said, you can really take it any direction you want right now, but what stands out to me is Conceiving. Mitch, whether as an OS character or an MC, has the idea that Sadie loves him. I can see this idea being the root of a lot of conflict. The goal of the storymind, even though Mitch doesn’t know this from within the story, might be for Mitch to stop having that idea. That would mean accepting that she doesn’t love him could be Success if OS or Good if MC.


It’s definitely a personal triumph. I don’t want Sadie to be aware that Mitch ‘has a thing for her’. She sees him a!most everyday in the bookshop where she works but only considers him in terms of a frequent customer who sits in the fiction area (where she works). But she impacts Mitch through her interactions with her colleagues and customers. In the end, her impact makes him aware of his failings and how he’s settled for so little in life, which he now intends to do something about. The love for Sadie turns out to be an infatuation of an older man for a younger woman, in a vain attempt to regain his youth.

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But during the story, he imagines going on a first date with her, the planning, asking her out, where they go, and the date itself. But he bottles out when he considers the age diffetence, so he imagines how it would be if he sent his younger self. Which he does (in his mind) but he discovers he had success with girls in his youth, but realises he was not a good person and the three or relationships that ment anything to him he ruined because of his jealous nature and insecurity.

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Greg, your guess that it could be Sadie influences him through embracing life, and Mitch wanting to be loved is close to the mark. I feel like with this kind, insightful help from both you and Lakis, I’m fishing close to the bank and I might just get a bite soon. The bait you chaps using should get me a catch soon. Thanx.

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This sounds like Psychology to me. Being jealous leads to conflict in his relationships.[quote=“Emm, post:24, topic:2063”]
But he bottles out when he considers the age diffetence
And this again sounds like Concieving to me. The idea that he could go on a date with someone so much younger creates an internal conflict for him that causes him to bottle out.
[Edit: I spoke of this as if Concieving is the MC Concern, but this could also just be a single Sign Post. You mention earlier something about him trying to regain his youth, which might signify a Concern of Being, which would put Sadie in Doing.]

If that’s the case, that would put Sadie in Physics-Learning. That one seems a bit trickier at first, but if you use the terminology of Gathering Info or Experience, then Sadie has an influence on Mitch in the way she Gathers Experience or, in the terminology We’ve already used, embraces life. The way she embraces life influences Mitch to take another look at himself, to see how he might embrace life as well.

Just my thoughts here, but this seems like it might be more RS than OS, so it wouldn’t necessarily apply to the Failure part of a Personal Triumph.

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Sorry Greg, my fault. “It’s definitely a personal triumph”. and “I don’t want Sadie to be aware that Mitch ‘has a thing for her’” are not connected, they should be read seperately. One is about Mitch the other is just explaining Sadie does not interact with Mitch throughout the story, only on Mitch’s imaginary dates, which we are privey too.


@greg Something I have trouble with in a story like this – if everything is happening in the MCs head/memories, how do you separate the OS from the MC throughline? What is the “battlefield” perspective?

I guess keeping your arrangement I wonder if the OS could be Mind – everyone thinks that relationships with such age differences are inappropriate. But I’m not sure about that.

we see him contemplating asking her out. We see him asking her out and her accepting the date. We see him on the date with Sadie, although it’s all happening in his head. Etc .

I’ll throw a disclaimer out here, more for @Emm than for you because I know you already know, but I’m making suggestions based on what’s presented and what I think Emm is going for, but I’m no expert and could be way off base.

In this case, I didn’t read it as the entire story taking place in Mitch’s imagination, just part of the story. I may not have a good picture of what’s going on with that. I don’t know if there’s a right answer for it, but I suppose I’d try to keep his imaginary stuff mostly for MC stuff and maybe show how his imagination changes with influence from the IC. I don’t see why Mitch couldn’t also imagine OS stuff from his perspective as well, though. Just depends on the story.

I wrote one where the main character sometimes seemed to be in a normal office job and would imagine himself traversing a zombie apocalypse to escape the dullness of the real world, but later he appeared to actually be in a zombie apocalypse and dreaming about being back in a boring old office job to escape the horrors of the real world. The reader isn’t supposed to really be able to figure out which world he’s actually in, but I knew and I knew what was going on in the OS, but presented it all from the main characters eyes in a way that made sense to him. All that to say if you’re writing a first person story with an unreliable narrator, you the author just need to know what’s going on in the OS and present it in a way that makes sense within the story. As info, if anyone else ever read my zombie story, I’m not sure they’d say I succeeded in what I was going for, so, you know, make of that what you will.