Writing With Subtext

Hi Diane and Jim,

Thanks for sharing this process. It’s fun and educational to see. And also to see that it is a real strugle. Related to this I have a few questions.

  • I see that you have the storyform already done. That is the plan for Diane’s story. How did you came to this storyform? I can’t recall that I saw it in the videos.
  • Is it a struggle to get the story into this storyform? Or is the storyform wrong for this story causing the strugle?
  • Or is it the struggle to get the concepts and the storypoints/beats right which is ‘just’ the writers part for doing the job ?
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Hi Jeri,

Thank you so much. The response to the videos has been so positive, Jim and I have both been thrilled.

This story was NEVER completely from scratch, at least as far as the videos go. I’ve been working with it for awhile.There were things that I already new about this particular story that made getting to the storyform easy.

The basic 8

MC Character Dynamics (Resolve=Steadfast, Growth=Start, MC problem-solving style=Linear

Story Dynamics (Action drivers,Optionlock, Success Good)
I knew that I wanted them (the story people to run out of options, and that I wanted a happy ending)

I didn’t really know that Layla was going to be a “be-er” I thought for sure she was a do-er, which, as an aside is one of the reasons I wasn’t getting to the correct storyform on my own. That’s one of the reasons that I asked Jim if a particular action (being defiant by standing in a doorway) on Layla’s part was a be-er or do-er thing. Not sure which episode that was.

I wasn’t positive of the goal, but took Jim’s guidance that it was obtaining and I’d also known that freedom/uncontrolled was the answer. BUT what I didn’t have a good grasp on was where it went. Which turned out to be direction,

With the answers to these particular story choices, you hone in on just one storyform.

Does that answer your question?

Hopefully Jim will clarify too, but I’m pretty sure he meant that the Driver Action or Decision scene/sequence will usually (always?) coincide with one of the signpost/PSR beats.

Here are some examples:

Example 1, Star Wars (1977): An Imperial Star Destroyer attacks a diplomatic vessel – as a validation of their ultimate power, the Empire does something that it is not permitted, making it understood they can get away with whatever they want now. (Action, Permission while Understanding, OS Problem Test)

Example 2, The Princess Bride: Buttercup and Westley suffer a twist of fate when his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never takes prisoners, so Buttercup gets the idea that her true love is dead. (Action, Fate while Conceiving, OS Problem Evaluation (i.e. making a poor evaluation of Westley’s fate))

Example 3, The Matrix: Through an investigation of Neo and his hacking activities, Morpheus decides that Neo is The One, though some of his team are skeptical*. (Decision, Investigation while Doing, OS Problem Disbelief)
* all this is implied in the first minute, in a brief conversation between Cypher and Trinity

I don’t know that this is required for a complete story, but it sure has a great feel to it. It also worked really well for something in my own story that Jim helped me with recently (see my last post above).


@mlucas - that makes complete sense. It’s been niggling in my mind today that otherwise they’d be as arbitrary as a man bursting in with a gun - just to move the story forward. Thank you for including specific examples. I presume, then, that the Final Story Driver, for consistency, will also be formed from the final OS Signpost and PSR event. In the initial and subsequent three drivers they are all the beginning of the new act, and are the thing that diverts the plot onto a new track. But, for the Final Driver, there is no new track. So, to keep with the metaphor, is it the buffers at the end of SP4?

Apologies again for diverting the thread.

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@jassnip Hi Diane, from what I’ve seen in the videos, you seemed to have a pretty good idea of what your MC’s Unique Ability is (Layla being able to see Auras), and how it was to be the key to unlocking the OS. There was a moment in one of the earlier episodes where Jim was excited that you seemed to be thinking about how the MC and OS throughlines would tie together already, but when he reviewed the Storyform, the UC variation seemed not to fit with what you had in mind.
I’m not really sure what my question is - perhaps, whether you think that the initial focus on the OS Throughline, and the choices you have to make as you work through it will mean you have to make sacrifices (of your initial ideas) in the other Throughlines to honour those OS choices?

Heya Rob,

Umm…part of it is a balance between adjusting the ideas that I’ve already had to fit the context the storyform is providing. I might have to let go of an idea/concept, but I will only be able to do that IF I think of something better. So no harm, no foul from that aspect. The last part is part of the whole learning experience – the part that I’m getting out of this endeavor – learning how to apply dramatica to my ideas. That’s honing my skills (or writing chops, as I like to call them) to be an artist/creative. Structure, in any art form, is always the difference between a novice, a journeyman, and a master.

This is kind of new territory, but I think so. Also note, I think the various Act Turn Drivers could coincide with EITHER the first PSR item of the next signpost, OR the last PSR item of the previous signpost.

HI @jassnip @jhull how are things going with this venture? Are people on holiday, hiatus, or just busy right now? I’m

This was so helpful to watch and learn. Thank you so much for sharing these vids!

OMG another gem! I already have more clarity on how to use the Decision driver in my own story. I was a little worried that decision drivers could be less action packed but it can be quite the opposite. Lots of action can follow (and usually follows) the Decision driver. Good stuff. Thanks!

That’s a fantastic illustration of the story points in action! Thanks, @mlucas.

Am I right in thinking this is similar for most other opening Act scenes?

Hi Everybody,

We have another video that I need to edit today and then get up. I’ll let you know when I post it. I usually have to fight the video to keep the picture and sound synched so it takes me a while to go through one…

I apologize for the delay. This has been an insane month for my family as we moved two of my birds out of the house and down to So. Cal. My nest feels so empty. sobs a mother’s tears


Ooh, if it’s possible to crank up the volume, that would be great, @jassnip. If it ends up being too much hassle, don’t worry. It is hear-able.

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I do have the ability to up the volume a bit. Can do. :slight_smile:

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BTW, so looking forward to seeing the next video and how your conflict is coming along! :slight_smile:

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These are some great examples, and I just want to throw my two cents in.

Most story points won’t get a moment to themselves. Almost every moment in a story has multiple appreciations.

Anything that gets a moment to itself is likely to feel like a Deus ex Machina. (This is a theory, but it sounds right.)

Still, I recommend against thinking that there is something that must happen 100% of the time with any single part of Dramatica. Anything that you think must happen 100% of the time–use it as a bridge towards understanding, and then abandon it.


But, it’s a very helpful and manageable way to utilise or kickstart an idea that can be used in the story. Personally, I’d encourage more examples like @mlucas shared. It’s an intermediate level use of Dramatica, and it’s really cool to see Dramatica in action like that.

We gotta learn the basics before we can fly, and @mlucas’s fine examples are very helpful in that way.


Bump. As promised Episode 7 is now up. Hope y’all enjoy it.


This is what I’ve found when I’m writing, but I think the point doesn’t get emphasized enough, and I think failure to understand this can create to unnecessary doubt/paralysis when trying to get into the flow state of drafting.

Can you elaborate on this? I think I understand what you mean but I want to be sure.

I’d be happy to elaborate on it. This is still going to be all theory, because I haven’t thought of a concrete example.

Let’s just say we are in a Decision driver.

I decide to run for President of some club at my graduate school. This leads to the actions of campaigning, etc. and then the Second Driver is a bunch of people deliberating whether or not they think I’ll be a good President. Some say yes, some say no, and this leads to a bunch of actions (like interrupting classes to promote me and hanging big signs on buildings to embarrass me).

Then the campaign manager for Obama decides to help me.

This will obviously shift the perspective of the story, as Drivers are supposed to do. But it comes out of nowhere. It would be extremely jarring–assuming (like I am) that the story is small and contained to the university. How would this guy even know?? Why would he want to help me??

More specific to my point, it’s not the effect of any cause, nor is it the world trying to rebalance. It just kind of happens, unrelated to anything else.

I am probably opening a can of worms here, but I have an example from Stranger Things 3 that feels tacked on that really pulled me out of the story and I would guess that they would have a tenuous tie to the three-pronged storyform of that season of the show. I’m going to resist putting it here, under my “everything deserves a month before spoilers are allowed” policy.

Also, he’s a ghost. He’s been dead the whole time.


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