Theme relevance

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Farnsworth
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Theme relevance

Postby Farnsworth » Aug 12, 2010 5:21 pm

I've been superficially familiar with Dramatica until I recently stumbled across StoryFanatic and loved it. Now I'm digging deeper into Dramatica and finding it fascinating. I had numerous "a ha!" moments reading through the character section of the book.

But it lost me a bit when I got to the Theme section. Specifically, where it drills down to specifics on the "Star Wars" example. It claims that the overall story problem is "Test" because the Empire has a test run of the death star on Alderaan, and because the rebels test the validity of the death star plans by waiting until they have them in their hands, etc. I'm sorry, but I don't buy that at all. Yeah, the Empire needed to test the Death Star, and yeah, the rebels needed the plans. But was the empire's testing of the death star really the overall story problem, the be-all end-all story concern for the overall story characters? No. Nor does it have anything to do with the theme of this film. And the rebels weren't "testing" the plans. They didn't know what was in them until they got them. That has nothing to do with testing at all, and certainly nothing to do with the movie's theme.

Same goes for the other throughline examples in this section. They just feel like someone is trying to force the story to fit the paradigm, and it makes me doubt the validity of the paradigm itself. Which is sad, because the character paradigm worked so well for me.

I'd appreciate any insight on this. Am I out to lunch? :)

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Chris Huntley
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Re: Theme relevance

Postby Chris Huntley » Aug 17, 2010 8:39 am

Expanding on the Overall Story Problem of Test in "Star Wars" a bit, you might include the following:

The Empire tests its growing powers by attacking Senator Organa's ship and abducting her after they discover she is transporting stolen data about the Empire's secret new planet-killing weapon. This causes trouble for the Rebellion, since Leia is an important ally and is transporting the stolen data to the Rebels. This causes trouble for the Empire because it forces the Empire to go public with its plans of domination earlier than expected. It is arguable that the Empire's intent was to locate the rebel base and use their base as the test for their new weapon and to announce to the rest of the universe that they are taking over. All troubles seem to grow from that, including the need to destroy Alderaan while attempting to blackmail information from Senator Organa, completely destroying the secrecy of their new weapon.

It is difficult to distill complex storytelling from finished works into single story points. Some of our examples are better than others. I think you will find that the more you look at the variety of examples and various story points, the "proof" of Dramatica's accuracy will accumulate.
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phillybudd
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Re: Theme relevance

Postby phillybudd » Aug 18, 2010 7:50 am

Chris, wouldn't it also be true that the theme of "Test" is present in many other places in the story, certainly in Luke Skywalker's throughline? His entire story is about being Tested, which comes to a climax during the final battle when he turns off his targeting computer and uses the Force to know when to fire his missle.

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Re: Theme relevance

Postby Chris Huntley » Aug 20, 2010 4:20 pm

Yes, but Test in the Main Character throughline (MC Problem) will show up as it relates to Luke's personal issues. This is a different context than that of the Overall Story throughline. They are related (no accident) and provide a connection to the Crucial Element, but their specific expressions mean something different based on the context.

Using your example, Luke turns off the targeting computer once he trusts in himself, the Force, et al. He can only do this once he stops testing himself (such as rescuing R2D2 when the robot runs away, which leads to his capture by the Sand people, or rushing to rescue Princess Leia without figuring out what to do once he's freed her and ending up trapped in battle with the Stormtroopers). These are illustrations of him testing himself personally, which fit in nicely with the larger context of the battles between the Empire and the Rebels.
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Re: Theme relevance

Postby Farnsworth » Aug 23, 2010 5:17 am

Chris Huntley wrote:Expanding on the Overall Story Problem of Test in "Star Wars" a bit, you might include the following:

The Empire tests its growing powers by attacking Senator Organa's ship and abducting her after they discover she is transporting stolen data about the Empire's secret new planet-killing weapon.


Weellll... they're not really testing their growing powers. They're just intercepting some stolen plans out of necessity. BUT I have to allow that Star Wars was written before Dramatica existed, so it's entirely possible Lucas didn't hit all the theme points precisely. It might be futile to try to retro-fit.

But having played with Dramatica a bit now, I've come to a related question. The Plot Sequence Report gives me this: "In act one, 'appreciating the meaning of something' (Understanding) is explored in terms of Closure, Hope, Dream, and Denial". So, say I come up with a scene that pertains to closure. That's easy enough, and seems to fit my story quite well. But it's really just a scene about closure and understanding. It's unrelated to the story's overarching theme, which relates to Temptation vs. Conscience. When constructing this scene about closure and understanding, should I be thinking of the target theme for the whole film, or is it enough that the scene is about closure? Should every nitty gritty scene pertain the main theme somehow?

And while we're at it, how did the theory come up with the idea that Understanding is explored in terms of Closure, Hope, Dream, and Denial? They're not even in the same class as Understanding. Understanding is in the Activity class, while those four elements are in the Fixed Attitude class. How are they related?

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Re: Theme relevance

Postby phillybudd » Aug 23, 2010 6:13 am

See this Tip of the Month article... it explains it well.

http://dramatica.com/theory/tip_of_month/tips/tip1203.html

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Re: Theme relevance

Postby Farnsworth » Aug 23, 2010 11:13 am

There's some insight there for sure. Thank you. It seems to me like there's some mysterious mathematical magic going on in how Dramatica figures out what elements go where, and this magic is not easily understood. I confess that as I put my story together, the pieces do seem to fit. It's oddly disconcerting. :)

But what of my first question? When I am directed to explore "closure" for instance, is it enough that the scene is just about closure of some kind, or does it have to refer back to the crucial elements of "temptation vs. morality" somehow? Does the closure have to be motivated by temptation and/or morality, or explore those concepts in some way, for the scene to fit? Or is that the kind of thing that happens intuitively?

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Re: Theme relevance

Postby phillybudd » Aug 23, 2010 1:17 pm

Farnsworth wrote:There's some insight there for sure. Thank you. It seems to me like there's some mysterious mathematical magic going on in how Dramatica figures out what elements go where, and this magic is not easily understood. I confess that as I put my story together, the pieces do seem to fit. It's oddly disconcerting. :)


Yes, I also feel that the Dramatica book doesn't go into this "twisting" in much depth, but once I caught onto it, I came to understand how it really spices up the thematic energy.

Farnsworth wrote:But what of my first question? When I am directed to explore "closure" for instance, is it enough that the scene is just about closure of some kind, or does it have to refer back to the crucial elements of "temptation vs. morality" somehow? Does the closure have to be motivated by temptation and/or morality, or explore those concepts in some way, for the scene to fit? Or is that the kind of thing that happens intuitively?


Read it again: You are directed to explore Understanding "in terms of" closure etc, not explore closure.

Here is an example from my own story, Signpost 1 for my MC (please forgive the goofy names, this is a fantasy). Note that I am to explore Conceiving an Idea with regard to Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation (caused by the "twisting" provided in the Plot Sequence Report):

SIGNPOST 1: Conceiving an Idea (Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation)
Tyrlak comes up with an idea. What false pretense does he offer for his idea? With what level of commitment or zeal does Tyrlak put forth this idea, and how does it contrast with his sense of responsibility? What pledge or emotional contract does Tyrlak make in exchange for support of his rationalization?


Tyrlak remembers that the ancient texts contain the spells to be able to slip through time, and comes up with the idea that he can do this and prevent the King from being assassinated (Conceiving an Idea) He argues that doing so will solve all their problems, because if the King is not assassinated then the Brr'desee would not be attacking in the first place (rationalization) -- his real reason is his love for the King and his desire to have him back. In spite of the resistence of the Tolamuq Council to his idea, he plans to go ahead with the idea regardless of the consequences (Commitment). Tyrlak assumes control of the plan at the exclusion of the others (Responsibility), and in doing so relinquishes his responsibilities to the Tolamuq. His rationalization has now led him to obligate himself to Wygaharr, who has offered to help Tyrlak implement his idea if Tyrlak will support Wygaharr in taking control the Tolamuq Council (Obligation).


I think the important thing to keep in mind here is that in this signpost I am "exploring" Conceiving an Idea "in terms of" Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation. I don't think what I have here is perfect, but it's on the right track so far. It is also important to remember that Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, and Obligation form a quad and so they also have dynamic relationships to one another.

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Re: Theme relevance

Postby Farnsworth » Aug 23, 2010 4:36 pm

Very interesting! I will look at that with a new perspective.

I hadn't really gone into the Advanced Reports in Dramatica, but I'm finding their plain English summaries very useful indeed.


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