Writing an Essay using Dramatica/Subtext - Beginning with Author Intent

I am intrigued by the possibility of using my “tendencies” as a writer to more quickly identify the story form for both my stories and my essays. (At this point I’m willing to delay any one-off ideas for a future date.) Most of my ideas seem to involve awareness/self-awareness, ability/desire, logic/feeling and maybe support/oppose.

Because I am still new to the Dramatica/Subtext process, my approach (after reading lots of Subtext articles and DUG posts) was to start by defining my general intent and trusting my subconscious knows what I want to say. (let’s hope!:grin:)

Overall Author Intent: Expand awareness of how we talk to/act towards others as well as how we talk to /act towards ourselves. (the sliding scale between awareness and self-awareness)

STEP ONE: Define My Essay Specific intent: Stop offering support to one at the expense of others, unless support for the “one” comes at the expense of the “one’s” past-self.

  • Problem Example 1: We compliment a co-worker but in the process diminish the efforts of others on the team. This could create rifts between team members (direct/indirect knowledge of the praise/compsrison), cause the co-worker to doubt themselves in areas you didn’t compliment them, lower the co-worker’s opinion of you for disparaging other members of the team.

  • Problem Example 2: We try to boost our child’s self-worth by telling them they are the best in their class, better than the other kids on the team, or any other the other -ers (faster, prettier, smarter, etc). The child sees her value based on outcomes and only in comparison to others which can cause unhealthy competition, performance-based self-worth, and perceived conditions placed on the parent’s love for the child.

  • Solution example 1: Finding awareness for how seemingly positive praise can have negative consequences. Instead offer the praise without the comparison to others or offer the praise with comparison to the person’s past-self (10 years ago or 10 minutes ago).

  • Solution example 2: Finding awareness for how seemingly positive phrase can have negative consequences to a child’s self worth. Instead praise the child’s actions and effort in comparison to the child’s past self (10 days ago or 10 seconds ago)

STEP TWO: Identify story drivers

MC Resolve: Changed
MC Growth: Stop (I think)
MC Approach: Do-er (? may depend on answer to who MC is question below)
MC PS Style: Holistic (? may depend on answer to who MC is question below)

OS Driver: Decision
OS Limit: Option
Outcome: Success
Judgement: Good

STEP THREE: Let the confusion swirl and questions begin! :joy:


  1. When writing an essay, is the MC the audience, the author, or both? I’m bracing for the “it depends” answer, so will appreciate any clarity on that.:wink:
  2. Who then represents the IC? In the examples above would it be the co-worker and the child in sort of a hand-off situation as I share each of their stories?
  3. For the RS, is it the negative supporter-supportee to positive supporter-supportee and the authority figure-subordinate to parent-child?
  4. For the OS, it seems the MC/IC have objective roles, but also the comparison-victims (other co-workers and other children) would have roles as well.
  5. My gut says this is MC: Universe and OS:Psychology with the OS Goal of “Becoming” a Better Human (ah the irony of the use of an -er word) or possibly OS Goal of “Conceptualizing” how to implement a different approach to complimenting/praising someone.
  6. Is this a reasonable approach for starters or am I off-track?
  7. Any suggestions as to how I pin down the problem/solution?

I greatly appreciate any thoughts on the above. Each point is merely a stake in the ground for this moment and I’m open to changing their locations. I am here to learn! Thanks!

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It doesn’t matter. You Just want your audience to have a personal experience of the problem. How you do that is up to you. If you let the audience fill in the MC role with their own personal experience as opposed to giving to them, you’re engaging in Dramatica’s version of propaganda. Seems like you risk not getting your message across if not done properly. I’m sure there are ways to lead the audience to filling in this role for themselves, but I wouldn’t know any of them. I would suggest maybe giving the reader a hypothetical situation where they actively engage in imagining themselves in the story, but where you’re still guiding them through the process or just giving them a fictional MC to look at.

If you want to use yourself as an MC character, that’s fine. You just need to make sure that when you express this in the essay you’re doing it in such a way that it gives the audience a personal perspective on the problem.

Basically the same answer in that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you give the audience a perspective to consider that is not the one that the MC of the essay has. A hypothetical situation where the audience imagines themselves in the story can work as long as you give them an alternate perspective to consider in the hypothetical. You can cast yourself as the IC. Only here you won’t be giving the audience a personal view into your stories, but asking them to consider another perspective with your stories. And then, again, you can give them a fictional IC.

Whichever would do the best job of getting your point across. You can pick one relationship, both relationship, or all relationships. You can speak to the relationship between you and the audience or the audience and the people in their lives. Doesn’t matter. (It seems there is a pattern emerging here, haha)

I can’t get the quote button to work at the moment, so…
4.In a story, the MC and IC players typically have an objective role in the OS. But the MC And IC throughlines are about a perspective, not a player. Perspectives are not characters and characters are not perspectives. That said, there is no “MC in the OS” per se. So again, you could cast yourself and audience into an OS role or not. You could speak of a family unit or corporation that does or doesn’t include you audience. You could use names (Gary, Cynthia, you-here meaning the audience) or titles (wife, boss, employee). By speaking of a group in an all-encompassing manner, in a way that includes all within that group, you should be able to create An OS perspective.
5.Then put that in the storyform. If the MC throughline is about a personal perspective on the problem, and the IC throughline is about considering a different perspective on the problem, then the OS is about the type of problem that has you considering change to begin with. An OS in psychology, then, suggests that a problem with how everyone thinks should cause them to take another look at things. An OS Concern of Conceptualizing suggests too much engagement in Conceptualizing, not enough engagement in Conceptualizing, or that there is in some way a problem with our Conceptualizing process. By placing the MC in Universe, you suggest that the audience currently personally views the problem as an external one, as a feature of the universe to be dealt with as opposed to an internal issue. Your IC material, then, should be geared toward influencing the audience to consider that this is an internal issue. By setting the Resolve to Change, your argument will set the MC up to tend toward adapting another perspective, which makes since id you want someone to move from Aware to Self Aware or vice versa.

Problem is setting growth to Stop. If the OS is Psych and Growth is Stop, the MC would have to go in Mind rather than Universe. The earliest method I used to know which one I would get was to look back and forth several times between the OS Domain and the MC Domain. If doing this causes you to shake your head No, it’s like your saying “No, you need to stop”. If it causes you to nod yes, then it’s like saying “yes, you can start doing that”.
7. By looking for the driving motivation. And yes, that was repetitive. It sounds like you want to discuss Aware and Self Aware. Looking at your examples, I might suggest that a lack of Aware (or Self Aware) drives or motivates one to offer compliments that lead to conflict and that one embracing Self Aware (or Aware) will alleviate the conflict.

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If you want to directly get the reader involved, as Greg said, that’s what we call Propaganda. And I have no advice.

If you want to do it all inside a story, then you have to tell a specific story. You won’t be making a general case, but “in this instance, Aware was better than Self-aware”, for instance.


Thank you @Greg for taking the time to respond in such detail. You gave me lots of ideas to consider.

Yes, the personal example I would offer from my situation should do this and then I would offer another perspective from within my example or create a hypothetical example.

Yes! This is exactly what I want them to consider. The issue is not simply an external one, but one that involves looking inward.

Love this! And taking this approach led me to change my MS Growth to Start.

Definitely want to avoid propaganda. I’ll make sure to be aware of that as I build this essay. Thanks!

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This is probably the best point in the thread. By using Dramatica, you’re setting a specific context for your audience who may read your essay and say (in non Dramatica terms, of course) “that’s fine advice, but I see the OS as being Physics, not Psychology.”

I think calling it Propaganda probably brings some negative connotations into the equation that aren’t necessarily deserved. It’s not the same type of propaganda that you might find some evil dictator using to so awful things. It’s just leaving some parts out of the story to let your audience fill in the gap with something more personal to them. When perfectly successful, it can probably be really powerful and good. But when not perfectly successful, I think there’s a good chance it could weaken the argument. I don’t know what either of those would look like, though.


I’m not sure you want to avoid Propaganda. Like most words, this has a specific, not-colloquial use in Dramatica. You can find it explained in the book.

The use of “let” here makes it seem like something that gives the audience agency. I think it’s more akin to leaving a hole in the story that the pattern-making mind of the audience fills in automatically—with something more personal to them.


Yes, initially I failed to understand Propaganda as defined by Dramatica. Thanks to the comments above, I looked into it a bit more and have a better understanding of it. However, at this point in my Dramatica journey, I want to focus on creating a complete story and intentionally including all parts. Maybe someday I will understand the patterns enough to know how to intentionally leave parts out so as to let the audience fill in the holes with something more personal to them. That’s a challenge for another story.:wink: