Which approach works best to develop a new storyform

Since I am working with Dramatica I was using it with the intention to develop my story ideas from scratch.

For any idea I wanted to figure out first what kind of OS, MC, OC AND RS issues and other elements my idea describes best.

This takes usually some time and many trial and errors until I find a storyform which I feel is ok for my idea…

As this long process takes energy out of the writing process itself I was looking for a different approach.

As I am still astonished how close for some ideas the results „feels“ to my intention I want to share the approach.

Instead of doing it the old way I am just starting with a simple logline.

Here is how:

1. Step

For the Logline I use a simple template which I found on masterclass.com

Logline = [protagonist] + [inciting incident] + [protagonist’s goal] + [central conflict]

For my idea and try to find for each element a short paragraph.

Here is an example for an idea I just found on the net: mom and dad trade jobs for a day

Logline = [overworked and impulsive dad] + [they made a bet at their 50 birthday party] + [survive the day] + [its not a mans world]

Logline could something like: overworked and impulsive dad made a bet to trade jobs for a day with his wife. He must survive one day but what he has to face he would never have expected

2. Step

The next thing I do is looking which Dramatica Element fits my [protagonist’s goal] description. This I will use in Dramatica as the OS Solution as first selection.

In my example: survive a day. = Ability (Being able to survive a day) seems a good fit.

First selection in Dramatica is
OS Solution: Ability

Next, I select the Goal.

For my example I go for Conceptualizing has the switching of jobs seems to have a lot to do with Manipulation.

The next selections depend on the story idea and my intent as author.

  • Resolve Change
  • Outcome Failure: ends in Desaster
  • Judgment Good: Change was needed and good
  • MC Domain: Universe
  • Style: Male
  • Driver: Decision
  • Limit: Time

3. Step

Last step. I upload the form to subtext and see what the premise says.

For my example it says:

Peace of mind awaits those who get out of their way and adapt to something even if it means failing to scheme about something


With a simple logline and a few clicks in Dramatica I have a pretty good idea what most of the Dramatica elements have to do with my story.

Without looking to the OC or RS elements yet, comparing Logline, Premise and my writing intention it „feels“ good.

From my expierence it especially works well for ideas which I carried along with me quite some time. I have the “feeling” now earlier in the process hit the nail … at least much better than before ;o).

FYI: Storyform for the example

OS CONCERN: Conceptualizing
ISSUE: Sense of Self vs. State of Being

ISSUE: Interdiction vs. Prediction

ISSUE: Suspicion vs. Evidence
PROBLEM: Inequity

RS CONCERN: Understanding
ISSUE: Conditioning vs. Instinct


This looks fruitful. How I use it in the early stages:

  1. Rightly or wrongly, I try to be as inclusive as possible, so I avoid timelocks and holistic MC’s.

  2. Rightly or wrongly, many viewers and especially critics, collaborators (like actors playing the MC!), and “note givers” criticize steadfast MC stories as having a “flat arc,” so I avoid steadfast MCs. I understand the growth nuance, but many people do not. So it’s more feasible to have a change MC than it is to educate the world about Dramatica between now and the time they read/see the story. I don’t consider “flat arc-ers” philistines. I’m OK with always doing change MC’s to cater to this preconception.

  3. It’s my taste to have success/good stories (with positive goals). I appreciate other combinations, but I’m from the Michael Arndt school that a success/good climax that pops in about a minute of run time–there’s nothing better. I’m happy to leave tragedies and their variations to others who feel more strongly about following through with those. I think life has enough tragedy and variations. Coincidentally, success/good (and a positive goal) also tends to overlap with audience ratings and commercial appeal but not nihilistic “true art is angsty / ugly” critics. Thus, so far we have: change/linear/success/good/optionlock.

  4. Then I ask myself: what do I want to advocate for in the movie’s take home message or “anthem”? Since I’m always making a change/success/good story, then I make that the OS/MC solution. Or, alternatively, what do I want to advocate against? Then I make that the OS/MC problem. I enter these into dramatica, test drive the different combinations of issues for the 4 throughlines, and pick one.

Then comes the hard part. :smiley:


I like to take the approach that the more aspects of the storyform/message I arrive at subconsciously, the more the story will resonate with me. So, when I get an idea for a story, I purposely hold off thinking about Dramatica too much, though I do consider the four throughlines and their Domains (how can you not?).

I also avoid thinking about any kind of theme or message – part of the motivation to write the story is to discover what that is.

Around the time I’ve started the first draft, and outlined the important scenes in the story, some of the Elements start to stand out and I can no longer resist pulling up Dramatica and finding the storyform. It’s usually pretty easy to figure it out, except for certain aspects of the ending that I like to leave somewhat open (Outcome, Judgment, and maybe Resolve). So I end up with a few storyform variations, until about a third of the way into the draft, a single starts to become clear, due to signposts.

There’s one technique I kind of stumbled on that was really powerful. Even after I was 95% sure of my storyform and followed it for most of the draft, as I reached the ending I had a bit of doubt about the Judgment of Good, wondering if it might be Bad instead. I did everything I did to encourage that doubt as I wrote the ending, even looking at the Bad version of my storyform with an open mind. Although I was aiming for the Good ending, I wasn’t sure if I would get there, and that made it a lot more powerful emotionally for me as I wrote. I’m hopeful that it will keep the tension alive for the reader, too (esp. since the OS is already concluded by this point – the Judgement gets solidified in 2nd last scene of denouement).


I tend to focus on the OS and what the MC needs to be at peace.

This leads to me Growth, Approach, Limit, Outcome, and Judgment. I usually have a good sense of Resolve and Driver but I don’t force it unless I know.

The Domains and Concerns are usually fairly obvious, and I can limit the Issues to 2.

I set the PS-Style to Male because who am I kidding? (Though one of my projects currently is Female.)

At this point, I focus entirely on character and the less I can see the storyform, the better. I can’t write from the storyform (though I edit from it) so I tinker around with it as I write. I usually want to know the storyform, though, and if it’s important I ask for outside help to guide me.

I’m going to reiterate this part of my experience, from when I was less well versed in Dramatica: it doesn’t matter what storyform you write from. If you pick a storyform, then you have put in the mental effort to understand the story and you will write a GAS. The danger comes from using the storyform of the first draft to write the second draft. They aren’t always the same.


I think we all have different approaches that work best for each individual author!

For me, what I want to say with my story (the message/theme) is the most important thing I identify first. So I build around that message. Often for me, that means identifying the MC’s Domain, Concern, Problem, etc first, but not always. It’s a pretty organic process for me, and the ability to upload the storyform into Subtext and see the premise helps me tremendously. It helps me see if I ended up saying what I meant to say, or if I need to tweak some things to get the message right.

  1. I start with the thematic Mood I want for the story. This means I refer to the quadrant. I also consider the Contextual Subgenres people were talking about, both with Issue and Consequence and see if it sounds similar to the mood I want.

Here’s my go-to for sorting the mood out.

  1. Then I consider the flow of the story. What will happen at the beginning, what will happen at the end? What is the thing that needs to happen? Generally by then I can figure out the Domains and Concerns.

  2. I need to know the final THOUGHT (outcome/judgment), but that doesn’t always come naturally. If my story is open-ended, I leave this and move to Issues and Problem.

  3. RESEARCH a) I go to Subtext’s CONNECTIONS options and survey the different types of stories that have different types of problems and investigate the themes. b) I go to Subtext’s GENRE-based PREMISE builder and see what is common. Two tabs: researching the books I see on Connections and their premise/judgment/problem.

  4. If I’m starting totally new, I choose one I “Like” to work with. If I’m already into a story it’s a bit harder to nail it down, since you can really make any Problem work with any story. The shadows and shading of the story confuse me more.

  5. Then I look at the premises and tweak them (referring to Connections) to the OS/MC Issue/Problem combination I’m most comfortable with.

  6. With Dramatica, I think about the Catalyst/Inhibitor/Unique Ability/Flaw, if any stand out to me (yet)

  7. Then I download Dramatica for Screenwriters
    by Armando Saldaña Mora on Kindle Unlimited, and refer to his walk-through for thinking about some thematic issues under that.

Then I recognize I’m probably totally overthinking this and will never get to writing if I don’t just decide and move forward.

I’m starting my third novel with Dramatica. I’ve also written a prize-winning short story with Subtext using a speed-version of the things above. I’ve been using Dramatica for 13 years, and maybe this year I have a better handle on it. Some bits come easy, some are still difficult. I’m not a guru, but for myself I understand enough about it to kinda know what I’m doing. But I still need Subtext and Fernando’s Book, and the Dramatica Software to help me.

  1. I should add, I do use @bobRaskoph’s Table of Scenes Generator, which helps me identify the PSR needed in each Act. Then Subtext walks me through identifying the specific gists for this.

I guess you could say I do hybrid with Subtext. I want more Dramatica, and the functionality of the software, but I need the hand-holding :woman_facepalming: of Subtext. And of course the amazing Discuss.Dramatica forum.

I am glad Subtext offers an upload feature to be able to bring Dramatica into the app, in case my story is not standard.

  1. After I upload to Subtext I look at the premise, then weigh if that’s the story premise that will carry my story. If not, I know I need to adjust the problem/solution level or the judgment/resolve.

Congratulations! Link to the story??

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It’s going to be announced and come out in the next week or so. Will share it, for sure.

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