Using Dramatica in a short story which is part of a bigger series

Hi everyone,

the reason why I came to Dramatica is that I’m stuck on book 2 of my trilogy. After much deliberation and many different attempts, I decided to write a kind of short story which would bridge books 1 and 2. You could consider it a prologue of sorts for book 2, except it’s longer than usual prologues (7-8K words) and tells a complete little story. Or perhaps tale? That is the whole question.

After reading and reflecting on what the IC and the RS throughlines mean, I realized my first choice for an IC was probably wrong. While he does block the MC’s path to his goal (MC is also protagonist) and force him to react, I figured this is more an effect of his function in the OS (skeptic). The real IC, the one who actually adds a new dimension to the conflict and ultimate choice the MC makes, is a character who is mostly offstage in this episode, and as a result, we do not see his “influence” played out to its resolution (hence my initial mixup).

For the anecdote, one of my beta readers for this short story commented that the MC doesn’t seem like the right guy for the job. At least she couldn’t feel that he was, from what I had written. I decided to give Dramatica a shot because it addresses this necessity very explicitly and precisely: how does the MC relate to the OS? (I’ve been reading up everything on the crucial element.)

Now, my question is: should I treat this short story as a tale? Is it unreasonable to try and fit a grand argument in 7K words?

According to what I’ve read/listened to, it would be more appropriate to pick a single throughline and consider this story as a tale. Maybe the OS throughline, then? It’s the only one that clearly comes to a close at the end.

At the same time, it’s clear to me that the MC, IC and relationship perspectives all play a role, short as the story is (and my personal diagnosis is that they were all underdeveloped and inconsistent in my last version). The story is even told in first person. I can absolutely not ignore them.

An idea I’ve had, is that perhaps this “prologue” only tells the beginning of those throughlines. It sets up the stage for future conflict (the MC “betrays” the IC), but I’m not exploring this conflict per se, much less coming to a definite conclusion, because it’s outside the scope of this short story. We’re supposed to see the fallout in book 2.

So, essentially, I was wondering if you’ve ever had to deal with something like that before, or if you know of an example that successfully achieves what I’ve described. Is it at all possible that throughlines do not map each other? Is the end of those specific throughlines (MC, IC, RS) simply subject to an ellipsis? As in, we’re just not shown their resolution in the text, but book 2 will reveal them as backstory?

(Just writing that up has helped me see the situation more clearly, but I’m still interested in your thoughts.)

Start with this article on Piper.

In telling a short story if you use a single quad, you will get what “feels” like a complete story.

Piper starts and ends with OS, but the middle is very much MC and IC.

Here’s the video

Thank you for the link! It’s very interesting.

So, as I understand it, you can skip some resolution levels so as to tighten the argument.

I guess my question is: is it possible for the signposts of different throughlines to happen in different time frames? Say, the OS has reached Signpost 4, but the IC and RS are still at Signpost 2 at the same moment in time.

I understand that it won’t feel like a complete story if I cut it off in this way, but that’s kind of the point (creating a cliffhanger).

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Technically, you’re not supposed to do this (though obviously you can do whatever you want).

I’m not totally sure I’m visualizing what problem you’re trying to solve with this prologue. If you have a cliffhanger, that sounds like the whole thing might just be part of the bigger story…

Anyway, this is a great topic for conversation that comes up occasionally.

Some other examples you might want to look at:

Iron Man (the first one) has two sequential storyforms. The first one is shorter: Tony Stark is a changed main character and his fellow prisoner Yinsen is the IC. In the second storyform, (after Tony escapes and becomes Iron Man), he becomes a Steadfast character, with Rhodes as the changed IC. This is good way to connect storyforms BTW – have a changed character become steadfast, or vice versa.

In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, episode one has a complete storyform that ends up serving as a kind of first driver to the rest of the series. I think she changes in the first storyform, and is steadfast through the season. @jhull analyzed episode one in this article but I’m not sure where the one connecting the two stories is.

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