Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Come here to ask questions or give advice about the theory that forms the basis of Dramatica.
Posts: 20
Joined: Aug 27, 2008 11:47 am

Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Postby motormind » Apr 29, 2012 3:57 am

I have been reading about the techniques of Dwight Swain, in which he talks about setting up a Scene, which is followed by a Sequel, in which characters respond to what happened in the Scene. How does this relate to Dramatica? For instance, should some of the "28 magical scenes" be Scenes and other ones Sequels? Or is a "magical scene" a mix of those two, so you get 28 Scenes followed by a Sequel each?

User avatar
Best-Selling Writer
Posts: 132
Joined: Sep 27, 2009 11:41 am
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Postby stephenbuck415 » Apr 29, 2012 7:36 am

Hi motormind.

motormind wrote:I have been reading about the techniques of Dwight Swain, in which he talks about setting up a Scene, which is followed by a Sequel, in which characters respond to what happened in the Scene. How does this relate to Dramatica?

I had very similar struggles while attempting to understand Dramatica Theory. When I first began to study Dramatica I didn't get it, at all, so I studied other story writing techniques. Later, I returned to Dramatica, didn't get it, and then went on to study other techniques. I continued that process for a good 5 years, and then I suddenly "got it" and the glass barrier preventing my full understanding was shattered—but there was still a shard of glass remaining that I couldn't figure out. The barrier of my misunderstanding was only mostly broken, until one day I had a conversation with the StoryFanatic, Jim Hull.

I was seeking stories that had been created through Dramatica so that I could do an analysis and better my understanding of the theory, and remove that tiny shard of glass that represented what I didn't understand about the theory. Jim told me that it was going to be very difficult to find stories with a perfect storyform, and that I should use Dramatica to look at the story rather than try to get the story to fit to Dramatica.

The result of that conversation was somewhere between a brick shattering that tiny shard of glass into atoms and one of Homer Simpson's "DOH!" moments.

All of that time I had been looking at Dramatica from the outside, trying to understand it through my understanding of other story writing techniques, and that was the mistake. I needed to be looking at everything else through the lens of Dramatica, through the Story Mind.

If I try to apply Dwight's story writing techniques to Dramatica, I will fail because that is a system of "techniques" to write a story.

In comparison, Dramatica is a theory of concepts and symbols necessary to develop a Grand Argument Story (definition provided below).

Looking at Dramatica through Dwight's system is like comparing a Snicker's bar to an organic orange.

The core structure of Dramatica is based on a system of external states and internal processes shown in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements and illustrated in the Dramatica Charts ( )

The four Classes of Dramatica are made of up of:
Universe – External State
Physics – External Processes
Psychology – Internal Processes
Mind – Internal States

Those classes are sub-divided into Types of problems, Variations of those problems, and Elements that make up those variations.

That being said, Dwight says Scenes include a Goal, Conflict, and Disaster, and Sequels include a Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision.

Scenes are External.

Sequels are Internal.

That's the extent to which Dwight's story writing techniques applies to Dramatica.

If we look at Dwight's system through Dramatica, a great deal of additional insight about the story can be determined and then applied using his approach.

Scenes are external, so we can look to Universe and Physics to find types, variations, and elements of story that affect the characters externally.

Sequels are internal, so we can look to Psychology and Mind to find types, variations, and elements of story that affect the characters internally.

motormind wrote: For instance, should some of the "28 magical scenes" be Scenes and other ones Sequels? Or is a "magical scene" a mix of those two, so you get 28 Scenes followed by a Sequel each?

I think that the confusion here is caused by the two systems using different definitions of the word "scene".
Grand Argument Story (GAS) -- [Dramatica Term] -- A story that illustrates all four throughlines (Overall Story, Main vs. Impact Story, Main Character, and Impact Character) in their every story point so that no holes are left in either the passionate or dispassionate arguments of that story -- A Grand Argument Story covers all the bases so that it cannot be disproved. From the perspective that it creates, it is right. There are four views in a complete story which look at all the possible ways the story could be resolved from all the possible perspectives allowed; these are represented by the perspectives created by matching the four Throughlines with the four Classes(the Overall Story, Main vs. Impact Story, Main Character, and Impact Character Throughlines matched up with the Classes of Situation (Universe), Activities (Physics), Manipulation (Psychology), and Fixed Attitudes (Mind) to create the four perspectives of the particular story they are operating in). Every complete storyform explores each of these perspectives entirely so that their views of the story's problem are consistent and that they arrive at the only solution that could possibly work, allowing the givens built into the story from the start. When this is done, a Grand Argument has been made and there is no disproving it on its own terms. You may disagree with they story's givens, but as an argument it has no holes.
Scene• [Storyweaving] -- A temporal unit of dramatic construction usually employed in Plays, Screenplays, and Teleplays. -- Although there is some variation, Scene is usually defined as all of the dramatic events which occur in a single place and time until either place or time changes. In Screenplays and Teleplays, Scenes are numbered in the original draft sequentially according to every change in location or time. For example, each scene would begin with the format, INT or EXT (for Interior or Exterior) followed by the location's name, such as JOE'S GARAGE. The final information is the time, which in Screenplays is usually limited to DAY or NIGHT, although other variations occur if absolutely necessary to convey specifics. Most Stage Plays are divided into Acts, which represent complete dramatic movements in the overall story. Each Act is usually sub-divided into two or three Scenes, which are identified as all the action and dialog which takes place in a single location and time. So, Act 1, Scene 2 might be: Joe's Garage ~ later that evening. A less common usage of "Scene" is as a unit representing a complete dramatic movement, such as an argument that begins, develops, and resolves. Although in a dramatic sense this is a useful application of the word, in practice, complete dramatic movements are often segmented and intermixed for storytelling purposes to create parallel action, delayed payoffs, and many other interest generating techniques. In keeping with the most common definition, Dramatica uses "Scene" to mean everything that takes place consecutively in a single place and time.
Dramatica E-Mail Discussion List:

User avatar
Best-Selling Writer
Posts: 140
Joined: Dec 12, 2009 3:24 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Postby phillybudd » Apr 29, 2012 2:55 pm

I agree with everything Stephen said.

One thing I have said here many times (but is worth repeating) is that Dramatica is providing a CONTEXT from which to tell your story. I have also used other books on story telling (too many to mention), and some of them mesh well with the Dramatica concept of context and structure.

It is entirely possible to map other story-telling techniques onto the Dramatica story form you've come up with, if that feels right to you.

I think one of the most difficult thing to get about Dramatica is its neutrality where thematic ideas are concerned. Chris made this clear in his answer to a question I posted a while back about my main character's critical flaw, which was showing up as "falsehood". I knew my character wasn't a liar, so what did this mean? Chris explained that "falsehood" in this case could mean that he was a liar, or that he was the object of lies, or that he was depending on information that was false, or was unable to indentify information that was false... the idea being that "falsehood", in whatever manifestation, was the thing holding him back from reaching the goal.

You can also stand these things on their heads. Think of a movie like "Liar, Liar" -- where the main character's inability to tell lies is what gets him into trouble. It's still falsehood, as far as the theory is concerned.

User avatar
Posts: 15
Joined: Apr 24, 2012 2:18 pm

Re: Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Postby SilentRuse » May 02, 2012 5:31 pm

From my knowledge, a sequel is kind of like the portion of your story in which you explore a certain topic, and the scene's are the smaller area's that help amplify that topic exploration. Something else to keep in mind while using Dramatica, is that it's simply a guide, a means to say "If you plan to write in these area's, these topics will help you demonstrate what you're trying to get across." But in no way are you obligated to put them in your story.

I just got started with the program but from what I see (And what I've heard/read in these forums) is dramatica is more like a close friend who tries to give you a lot of advice without telling you how to write your story. You can then look at your friend and say "Hey, i like 90% of the things you're suggesting, but I think I'm going to use about 10% of that, just to see how it goes".

The amazing thing about writing is that we're allowed to write a full draft, complete it, edit it, then at the end if we don't like it or something seems off, it's not wrong to start over or change anything (Much like a lot of other stuff in life where once we make a decision we're almost stuck with it.)

If you don't understand something, try it out to the best of your knowledge, and if you got a slight grasp, go with it. Chances are you'll make a mistake or you may nail it right on the head, the important part is that you attempted something new, and learned from it. Every writer has a different approach and because of that there is no one set way to expose a story to have dramatic elements. One person could use the magical 28 scene's to do exactly what he wanted due to his style, while another could use a 60 scene set up and give the same effect with a different approach.

Sorry about that, went off on a little tangent, I'll stop now before I start exploring other off-topic area's. Hope the insight helps!

Posts: 6
Joined: Jan 20, 2012 12:13 pm

Re: Scene & Sequel in Dramatica

Postby LLou » May 26, 2012 8:29 pm

I wondered where the Swain suggestions came in also, and I finally decided that those are writing techniques that fit inside whatever structure you've decided on with Dramatica. The Swain "scenes" and "sequels" fit inside the Dramatica Journey's or signposts. They're not incompatible at all; they supplement one another.

Return to “Dramatica Theory”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest