The Dramatica Alphabet

I’m a visual person. I tend to be able to learn more quickly when I have certain imagery or visual cues to assist in my understanding.

As such, I decided to create a series of images representing all the possible Signpost orders in Dramatica. There are 24 in total, and they look a lot like letters, so I have dubbed this set, “The Dramatica Alphabet.”

These are the 24 possible Signpost orders that can appear in a Dramatica Storyform.

They can also be used to represent the order of Variations for each Signpost, as seen in the Plot Sequence Report.

You’ll notice that the icons are arranged in a quad (6 elements in each) that are reflective of each other, both diagonally and top to bottom (flipped horizontally).

I created them all as separate files, in several resolutions, so that I can put them in any Microsoft Word documents I use with regard to any of my writing, or any study materials I create for myself with regard to Dramatica itself.

I have 5 resolutions available, all in *.png image format. The resolutions available are 32x32, 64x64, 128x128, 256x256, and 512x512. They’re all set to 300 pixels per inch for high quality printing of the larger versions.

The ones in the example above are 64x64.

If anyone would like to use them for non-commercial purposes, just send me a PM with your email and I can send them to you in a zip file. You can pick one resolution or I can send them all to you.

To give you an idea of the quality of the images, here’s an image from the 512x512 set:

Each icon has a dot representing the starting Signpost, and an arrow indicating the final Signpost and direction of the act movements.

Now that I’ve created these, I’ll be using them to visualize the bumps and slides in my stories. Hopefully someone will find them useful.



Wow @Rod this is great! It would be great if future versions of Dramatica would be able to do this for you automatically

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Thanks, Jim! Yes, I agree. It would be cool to see these in Dramatica. I’m on Windows, so I’m still waiting for the PC version of DSE… but I’m ever patient… lol.

A long time ago I created a color-coordinated version of the entire Dramatica Model and shared it on the old Dramatica Email List. Not sure if you ever saw it, but I know Chris did, and he liked it. I’ll see if I can rustle it up and put it in a separate post.

I’m also working on some other images designed to aid in learning Dramatica more visually, as well as a new graphical version of the Model itself.

I started by assigning each of the quads with a number. Top left is 0, top right is 1, bottom left is 2, and bottom right is 3. The icons in the example with all the possibilities are arranged in logical order.

I find it interesting that all of the hairpin patterns are connected to each other. I wonder if that has some significance in the Dramatica Theory… Hmm…

Very interesting. However, the alphabet may need some revisions. Because some ‘letters’ can never be used in Dramatica. I know about 2 impossible hairpin forms:

Try to create them in Dramatica. You can’t.
There also might be some impossible letters among the Z and U shaped thingies; I wouldn’t know about that.

@TerryVog thanks for your comment. I’ve noticed that too. I don’t know how to find out which ones are impossible without trying them all in every throughline, which I might do when I feel up to it.

I’ve also noticed that the OS throughline seems to have more restrictions than the others, as certain act orders that are available in other throughlines cannot be entered into the OS plot progression. I’ve been thinking about making a post asking about this, so thank you for the reminder! :slight_smile:

An example off the top of my head: The Signpost order Past, Progress, Present, Future is impossible in the OS throughline but possible in others.

Edit: I just checked, and that Signpost order is possible in all 3 of the other throughlines, but not in the OS.

Some of the ones that are impossible at the Concern level might still work at the Variation level, though. There’s no way to tell that without going through all 32768 storyforms (which I am NOT about to try, lol), unless Chris @chuntley or someone else who knows the answer decides to chime in.

I just did all the possibilities for Situation as the OS Throughline. There are only 14 possible ways to order the Signposts for OS/Situation. They are:

Past, Progress, Future, Present
Past, Future, Progress, Present
Past, Present, Progress, Future
Progress, Future, Past, Present
Progress, Future, Present, Past
Progress, Present, Past, Future
Future, Past, Progress, Present
Future, Past, Present, Progress
Future, Progress, Present, Past
Future, Present, Past, Progress
Present, Past, Progress, Future
Present, Past, Future, Progress
Present, Progress, Past, Future
Present, Progress, Future, Past

Over time, I’m going to try all the possibilities for all Domains in the OS, before moving on to the other Throughlines. This is going to take a while… ugh…

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Pattern matching won’t lead you to find what you’re looking for…

@jhull, yes, it’s too arduous a task anyway. It would be good to know for sure which Signpost orders are “illegal” but there’s just too much work to figure it out, lol.I was just hoping to find the answer so I can take out the ones that don’t work, from the set of 24.

Have you done the other throughlines to see if they are restricted to the same 14? I am interested in your result. Melanie has explained that these are missing because the model skews male. But, there are other factors as well.

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What I mean is you won’t find what you’re looking for by going through each storyform and seeing what patterns work and what ones don’t. Because you’re trying to use a Linear Problem-Solving process on something that is decidedly not Linear.

You know when Chris talks about how a Linear Main Character always screws up because they don’t see the big picture? The same picture a Holistic thinker would see? That is the same thing going on here.

Different patterns will necessarily rule out other patterns depending on the arrangement of Throughlines, choices made to dynamic questions, and selection of Story Points at the Element level. Unless you understand why the Signposts twist the way they do, you will never figure out how they twist.

And that can’t be done with pattern matching. By definition.

On a side note, it’s interesting how this discussion about how Dramatica works always happens every Summer around this time–almost as if Dramatica provides a perfect escape for avoiding actually writing.

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@crayzbrian, no I haven’t gone through all of them. I was going to limit my study to the orders of Signposts, but found even that to be too tedious. Going through all (32,768) storyforms would be even more so.

I’ll leave the “Dramatica Alphabet” as it is, for now. Since we can’t be sure a particular “letter” is disallowed in all contexts (without checking all storyforms), it would be unwise to start arbitrarily taking out certain ones.

As I mentioned earlier, a particular pattern may not be “legal” at the Signpost level, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be illegal at the variation level, or at the element level (the software gives us no information about suggested element order, anyway). If there are letters that absolutely aren’t used (in a Grand Argument Story) they could still be used when a writer wants to mix things up a little.

@jhull, thanks for your (always) informative and useful advice. There is a beauty to Dramatica which I highly respect, so I’m always desiring to understand it better. I’m satisfied knowing that there are tens of thousands of possible ways to approach any story and come up with something interesting and compelling. Just knowing that trying to figure out all the little gears and wheels is a monumental task, shows just how versatile a tool Dramatica really is.

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