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Query letters and Dramatica

Posted: May 03, 2013 7:34 am
by Contagionist
I was going through old forum posts yesterday (mainly since [sadly] this forum doesn't seem to be very active) and I came across the thread "What happens when stories get smaller?" ( ). There is something touched upon in this thread that I think could be of use to all the spec writers out there using Dramatica.

So, you've used Dramatica to help you structure your 120-page screenplay or 300-page novel. Now you need to sell it. You need a logline and a short synopsis to go in your query letter. Can Dramatica help? YES! You can use your storyform to ensure that you touch all four throughlines in your logline or synopsis. You don't have enough space to complete your "Grand Argument" in a synopsis, and certainly not in a logline, but by holding onto your original storyform, you can at least touch all the bases and hint to the reader that there is depth in the full story.

Using Star Wars as an example (since it should be familiar to everyone) here are the throughlines:

Objective Story: Destroying the Death Star (Physics)
Main Character: Luke, a farm boy with unrealized potential because he is the son of a Jedi (Universe)
Obstacle Character: Obi-Wan, a master of the ways of the Force (Mind)
Subjective Story: Training a young Jedi (Psychology)

So, the logline might read like this:

A farm boy must learn the ways of the Force from an old Jedi Master in order the save the Galactic Rebellion from a powerful new space station capable of destroying whole planets.

This may not be the best logline since it's off the top of my head, but it works all four throughlines and their Domains into a single sentence that hints at a complete story. The synopsis would go a bit deeper--going into Concerns and Issues and maybe even Problems and Solutions--depending on the required length. Keeping the storyform in mind will help you show the reader of your query that the full work will embody a complete story.

Thank you for reading. This has been a bit of a revelation to me, and I thought I'd share it.

Re: Query letters and Dramatica

Posted: May 04, 2013 12:10 pm
by Chris Huntley
Excellent example.

What I usually tell people when they want to know how to use Dramatica to pitch a script or project can be boiled down to the following points:

- Know who your audience is

- Tailor your pitch to your audience

- Do not reveal all four throughlines in the pitch (leave something implied or missing to encourage a response)

- A pitch should not be a monologue but the first salvo in a dialogue

Expanding on these points a bit:

1. Know your audience -- If you know who your audience is, you can tailor the pitch to address the audience's interest.

2. Tailor your pitch to your audience -- You are more likely to find interested listeners if your pitch is tailored to your audience's interests. If you are pitching to an actor, for example, include the MC and relationship throughline for actors interested in character, whereas you might include the MC and OS throughlines for a more action (big picture) -oriented actor. For a Michael Bay type of producer, pitch the OS with protagonist, antagonist, goal and consequence. For a indie producer, pitch the MC, IC, and relationship throughlines.

3. Do not reveal all four throughlines -- If you give them all four throughlines you give them what seems to be the entirety of your story (seen any movie trailers like this?). This does not leave them wanting more and if they don't happen to be interested in what LITTLE you've shown, a thorough pitch may not imply that there is more depth or breadth to the story. RE: point 1 above, some folks to whom you may pitch may not want all of the story elements, meaning they are interested only in what relates to them. Also, pitching them partial story material leaves room for you to show how much more you know about your story when there are follow up questions. Which leads to...

4. A pitch should not be a monologue but the first salvo in a dialogue -- The point of a pitch is to engage your audience in a conversation. There are lots of reasons why you want to pitch to someone and the story you are pitching is only ONE of the reasons. You cannot explore any of the reasons if you do not begin a dialogue with your audience. Not only are you pitching the lead story, but once you engage in dialogue you can pitch your skills and talents, other projects, etc. Use pitches as opportunities to make connections, and the only way to do that is to begin interacting with your pitch audience.

Re: Query letters and Dramatica

Posted: May 06, 2013 6:10 am
by Contagionist
From what I understand, though, queries are different from pitches. In a query, you're supposed to give the reader an idea of the complete story, since you're not going to be there to have a dialogue. You're not supposed to hide your twist ending because the reader's going to want to know if it's truly worthwhile before reading the script. After all, the reader probably reads many queries a day, and doesn't have time to request scripts only to find out "it was all a dream." However, if I am wrong in my thinking, I will be pleased to be educated. :)

I can certainly see where you're coming from regarding pitches. When you're in a room (or an elevator) with a guy, you have a greater opportunity to get someone excited about your script and that might require some omissions to pique curiosity. Since you have the people in front of you, you can gauge their reactions and give them what they want (hopefully). Of course, knowing your story inside and out is only going to help as to tailor your pitch on the fly.

Re: Query letters and Dramatica

Posted: May 07, 2013 8:48 am
by Chris Huntley
Excellent points. Thanks for the clarification.