What is the value of knowing where types and variations fall in their "natural" state (external, conflict-free state)?

the language and similarity of structure can be confusing. confused the hell out of me for a long time. just remember: a and b, as you’ve shown them, are two different kinds of things, with two different purposes.

But, there is some function which relates them isn’t there?

I don’t know what kind of function you feel must exist there, and feel like the desire for that function comes from not really understanding the purpose of each tool. The function that unifies them is you, the writer, using each tool as you step through the writing process. A helps you do one kind of thing, that you need to do; B helps you do another kind of thing, that you also need to do, and that you need to do after A.

What does that mean? Well, how would you start playing a chess game before the board and pieces were in front of you? Answer: you wouldn’t. Even if it were a mental game, first you’d have to have a mental board.

Some of this ties back to the real world. You want to guys in a ring swinging at each other, trying to knock each other out.

Okay. First, where’s the ring? In Harlem or in Vegas. Are these black guys, or white, or one of each? is one tall and one fat? Is one a great fighter, expected to win, the other short and a former murderer. See all the potential I just set up? But no conflict yet, and no action, just description. I’m charging the story. I’m doing it for the audience, because I’m a storyteller. So think of the setup as a gesture of consideration for the audience. You can just throw two automatons swinging at each other, but isn’t it nicer if we pretend they’re real people in a real place? That’s what that painting at the beginning is all about.

If you set up the pieces on a board, it’s a chess game, otherwise it’s just pushing uncarved wood across a table, and who cares.

So, the function? Necessity. First this. Then, and only then, that.

How I do go on.

At some point, I promise you, a light will go on. It is natural that it doesn’t at first because you are learning something hard, and that deserves respect. Good for you.

I’m very well aware of poorly written stories. I worked at Dreamworks for 14 years.

Poorly-written stories are not a part of Dramatica, therefore there is no “function” or connection between the model at rest and poorly written stories. In other words, this entire thread is about nothing.

Like a painful Seinfeld episode. Only in real life.



“No conflict? Really?”


Sips his coffee. “Yeah, everyone will want to see that.”

Elaine comes in. “Did you submit that no conflict story?!” She starts hitting George. “That. Is. the WORST STORY EVER!”

George flails and escapes the booth.

Kramer comes in. “Oh yeah, that doesn’t work. Bob Saccamano tried that last year.”

“He did. What happened?”

“Oh man. They took everything. It turned out he was trying to sell them instructions for building a cabinet.”

“They caught on?”

“Oh yeah, giddyap. Now Bob sits over at the library and tells people he was Tolstoy’s dog. Oh, he’s gone.”

Elaine buries her head on the diner table. “I can’t believe I even KNOW YOU PEOPLE.”

Jerry sips his coffee. “So, you want to see Bag Lunch tonight?”

Elaine straightens up. “Yeah, I’m in. I hear there’s con-flict” she emphasizes to George as she gets up.

They leave the diner.

George and Kramer stare at each other.


There is definitely a function that relates them (i.e. that produces a particular PSR for a given storyform), but the details of it are part of Dramatica’s unpublished propietary algorithms, which also include the signpost determinations.

Part of what makes the software so worthwhile!

I take it as a given that since Dramatica is so incredibly, mind-blowing accurate on everything else – including signposts – that the PSR is usually going to be accurate too. (That said it’s definitely “optional” to use in that it’s not part of the actual storyform.)

Being curious like you however, I’ve done some PSR validation myself including for the movie Collateral. I also plan to one day do a full PSR analysis for the Princess Bride … at one point I just glanced at it and was blown away by some of the quads. e.g. the Influence Character PSR for Act 4 is Strategy, Analysis, Preconditions, and Prerequisites … Strategizing how to get into the castle while analyzing its defenses, then telling Buttercup the wedding didn’t meet the prereqs (no “I do”) and enumerating all the conditions for his “to the pain” duel with Humperdink… (I believe the order is flipped on the last two, but it’s still a hairpin)

Thank you
Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I feel like there was a lot of entirely unnecessary simmering hostility in response to my question. I appreciate your straightforward answer.

Conflict only exists because we limit our POV. Because a storyform contains all POVs and all scopes, it could be said that the storyform is conflict free. It is a holistic view.

A story is limited in POV. It explores different spaces, at different times, with different minds, and different processes. It has an order of revelation. This, and more, is where conflict arrives.

In acting, they say talent is in the choices. Well, acting and writing aren’t so different. Talent in writing is in the choices.

The storyform is all the choices.

Stories are a writer’s choices.

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I know how it feels that way, but that’s a kind of ‘noise on the line’ communication error. No one has simmering hostility: they have a lack of time, and sometimes it’s hard to understand the question. The only frustration that occurs around here is when we get frustrated when we’re trying to help someone, but we don’t seem to be able to. I didn’t really understand what you were asking until @mlucas got a handle on it. The answer is: yes, the software has an algorithm it uses to select the PSR, because it would have to, because it’s software. And thanks to both of you for bringing it up, because it’s an issue that I’ve sort of elided. The question is: so, since we understand that Obtaining, e.g., can now be put in tension with any quad at all, what makes the selection of the quad that appears in the PSR so special. It’s a really good question. It would be nice to get some insight into that, even if the algorithm must remain shrouded for business reasons.

I like your difficult questions. Keep asking them.

By the way: I don’t know for sure, but as a longtime software developer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the selection of the ‘tension’ quad had to do with weighted values assigned to the selection of the static story and plot points. In other words, a tension is going to have SOMETHING to do with a concern or problem, in some way. How could it not? I would GUESS that the selected quad has the highest weighted value, but there are probably candidates close in value, as well as some outliers. What WOULD be interesting, without needing to know the algorithm, would be a way to surface, say, the top ten quads returned by that algorithm, instead of only the ‘winner.’ To see a sort of small realistic universe of the possibilities, without the distracting outliers. It would allow for a sense of freedom, perhaps, in giving the writer a wider selection. Possibly in a future version of Dramatica? Or possibly could be set up on Atomizer?

A way to test this out would be to throw the various switches in the story points, examine the PSR in each case, and see if you can spot a useful pattern in the way a selected single point in the PSR changes (reverse engineering hat on). I would bet dollars to doughnuts, not only that our state fair is the best state fair in our state, but that someone has already tried this.

Just a programmerish thought.

Also, if we called it the Tension with the Variation Quad, as opposed to the Elements of the Variation Quad, maybe that would help? Wittgenstein said that philosophy is just the process of clearing up the confusions caused by language.

Here’s an interesting one.

If I change Driver decision to action in my storyform, it changes all 4 benchmarks, and the four static points: requirements, prerequisites, preconditions, forewarnings.

That’s all.

In the PSR, the first variation in the OS was Conceiving an Idea, and for driver I got:

In act one, “coming up with an idea” (Conceiving an Idea) is explored in terms of Fact, Security, Threat, and Fantasy.

I changed the driver to action I got:

In act one, “coming up with an idea” (Conceiving an Idea) is explored in terms of Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, and Falsehood.

Comparing them, in decision-action order

Fact vs Truth
Security vs Evidence
Threat vs Suspicion
Fantasy vs Falsehood

Different shadings of similar ideas, yes? Fascinating.

The items on the right suit an action hero: he’s out there, seekin’ truth, gathering evidence, pursuing his suspicions and identifying falsehood. He is one active guy.

the decision guy is examining a fact, determining security, aware of a threat, and entertaining or rejecting a fantasy–his decision.

One of the questions that comes up with me as I compare them is, what are the peaks and valleys of the OS that lead to one shade over the other. Why ISN’T the OS story on the Truth Evidence track? More precisely, why isn’t that the tension in this variation, Conceiving an Idea? Why is it other thing rather than another? Maybe his Decision side is a way of avoiding what he SHOULD be doing on the action side, and maybe it’s what he’ll eventually have to do.

In a little more detail:

*Keeping in mind, a manner of thinking (conceiving an idea)

*Decision driver
*In act one, “coming up with an idea” (Conceiving an Idea) is explored in terms of Fact, Security, Threat, and Fantasy. How things are changing (Progress) is the Type, and situation the Domain.

*Action driver
*In act one, “coming up with an idea” (Conceiving an Idea) is explored in terms of Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, and Falsehood. Memories is their Type. Fixed attitude the domain

*This sounds to me like something bad happened in the past (memories), no one pursued the truth or took action, and now in the present they are haunted by it and are faced with fears of an attack - it’s a fact no one believes, because they are all living in a safe little fantasy. For the Types, Things Are Changing (Progressing) because of what he’s having Memories of, and how the real events effected everyone.

  • and looking at the OS problem I can see it’s ‘nonacceptance’ which fits this reading well. Might be a good way to come up with the Ghosts in the story.

I am guessing that the elements have an ‘action/decision’ weight in there, and that it’s evaluated in terms of all the other colors in the static story points.

I’d recommend this method for getting a feel for 'why was this quad chosen instead of another one–and probably is an interesting way of identifying other quads, even if these ones tend to be ‘opposites’ in terms of your particular storyform. I’d note that this only works in the context of the storyform, and isn’t an absolute of any kind.

I’d recommend making a copy of your dr5 (I call it a dirty five, so I remember the letters) and and playing with it AFTER you’ve settled on your first story form, and see if changing the PSR tension quads rings your bells in any way. You can keep the story forms and alter the quads, or keep the new quads and accept the changed story forms. Many such journeys are possible. Let Dramatica be your gateway.

Hmm here’s a question: does changing a static point always change the same throughline points?

In fact this comparison of the two quads just clarified a big story problem for me.

I have to go read the tech manual. Maybe this kind of thing is in there.

I was thinking of story forms as the skeleton of a story. Stuff (i.e. illustrations) was added to the story form to make a story.

But, really, you describe it as more like the old urban legend of Michelangelo, “You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.” You just chip away from the story form what doesn’t look like your story.

Or, you dig out from under the rock ever so carefully to start the avalanche.

Please do share whatever revelation you’ve had.

You’ve got a lot of really interesting thoughts here worth spending time on.

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My desktop as I work on understanding Dramatica and on a separate track Armando.

(That’s a letterless HHKB keyboard with custom key colors, a custom spacebar with better PBT plastic replacing the ABS plastic original, two iPad Pros, 1 brand new MacBook Pro with a 1 TB SSD and 16gb and yes the Touch Bar)

My desk has been compared to the ruins of a great Incan kingdom.


The writer of the 21st century. :grin:

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I’ve been called worse.

Also you can see my Cromulon dangling underneath one of the monitors.

I feel inadequate. Now you just need a few extra arms.

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