Problems determining Twelve Essential Question Answers

Discuss the practical use of Dramatica. Have questions about how throughlines should be used, how to create Complex Characters or even the various combinations of the 12 Essential Questions and how they will affect your story go here.

Problems determining Twelve Essential Question Answers

Postby mikedoesbooks » Jun 21, 2009 8:50 pm


I met with Chris for two hours at the comic book convention last year and he suggested I contact this forum to see if the members can give me a little assistance with my story/book.

I have read the complete Dramatica Pro manual and gone through all the online lessons while using the software. The Dramatica .dsf file Chris created for me is what I have been using so far.

A brief synopsis is below. My agent is Rich Barber and the project was submitted to five New York publishers and returned for the book proposal to be re-done.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Anyone, please give me a call 11-4PM Eastern if you have some free time. Thanks

The story below is my story; a true story. The problem is I spent one WILD year on the CLINTON presidential campaign and in the White House, then TEN YEARS shooting heroin before getting clean. Currently 5 years clean. Chris explained to me that the STORY is the story of how I hit my bottom, went to 13 rehabs and got clean. But the EXCITEMENT is all of the wild and crazy things that happened on the campaign, but with no CHANGE in the character (me).

As far as the 12 essential Dramatica questions I am having trouble with questions 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11,


Main Character Resolve
Changes his way of dealing with the problem at the heart of the story: STOPS USING DRUGS (to ease emotional pain)

Main Character Growth
Main Character grows by outgrowing an old inappropriate trait: STOPS USING DRUGS

Main Character Approach
Main Character is a Be-er who mentally adapts to his environment

Main Character Problem Solving Style
Does your Main Character use a Logical problem solving style (such as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs) or an Intuitive problem solving style (such as Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides)?

I believe the character uses a LOGICAL style but am NOT SURE how to determine which style he uses.


Story Driver
Is the overall story driven by Actions first (such as the time travellers arriving in The Terminator) or Decisions first (such as Daniel Hillard's decision to impersonate a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire)?

I am totally lost on this question.


Story Limit
Overall story is brought to its climax by running out of Options: Character is facing LONG JAIL TIME if he gets arrested again for drug possession or shoplifting (to get money support his drug habit).

Story Outcome
Character's efforts achieve the overall story goal: Success, he stops using drugs

Main Character Judgment
Does the Main Character resolve his personal problems and feel Good (such as Luke finally trusting his skills in Star Wars) or not resolve them and feel Bad (such as Clarice Starling still being haunted by her childhood memories in The Silence of the Lambs)?

I am still haunted by childhood memories of being beaten and act out strongly by self sabotaging myself, but play myself off in real life as "happy."


Overall Story Throughline
If you pull back and look at the story from a bird's eye view, which general area best describes the nature of the problems ALL the characters are dealing with? Does the story's conflicts stem from a Situation, an Activity, a Fixed Attitude, or Manipulations?

TOTALLY lost on how to answer this one.


Overall Story Concern
Which area of concern are ALL the characters in your story interested in or worried about regarding the overall story goal?

VERY confused about WHO the characters are. I steal and shoot drugs and get clean. I am the protagonist. My Father is the antagonist, though he is not present in the story. I have not been able to identify a CHARACTER OF INFLUENCE, other than the memory of the LOVE I received from my Mother as a child. (This juxtaposed against the beatings I received over many years from my Father.)


Overall Story Issue
What is the thematic issue that affects all of your characters in your story ?
(Possibly Lack of LOVE and SELF LOVE)

Need help here.


Overall Story Problem
What is the source of the central problem that affects all your characters in the story?

Need help here


I sought for power and found peace

A heroin addict steals a credential to the White House, sneaks in, and while there gets a job working on the staff of Hillary Clinton. Yes, it’s a true story.

Sex, Drugs & Hillary tells the wild tale of an addict and idealistic political operative who is transformed by his experiences on the first Clinton presidential campaign, homelessness and prison, from a self-centered, fear-filled man to one who now lives his life in service of others.

Along the way, Evans uses drugs at the White House, is held at gunpoint by the Secret Service, and makes and distributes hundreds of counterfeit credentials to presidential events. He does massive amounts of drugs with the movie star Robert Downey Jr., before finally hitting bottom, going to 13 rehabs, getting clean, and beginning a life of service to others by helping newly clean addicts stay sober.

Think A Million Little Pieces by James Frey mixed with the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson backed by over 100 verifiable eyewitnesses, and 2,000 pages of medical and legal documents.

Sex, Drugs & Hillary is the first book to chronicle the entire American presidential election process from neighborhood precinct captain to White House worker by a man who is elected to represent his local Democratic party every step of the way.


It chronicles how his obsessive seeking for happiness in external objects finally crush in on him causing him to collapse and look for contentment in the only place it can be truly found—within.

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Chris Huntley
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Re: Problems determining Twelve Essential Question Answers

Postby Chris Huntley » Jun 30, 2009 4:50 pm

Hi Mike --

Here are some thoughts about the questions with which you are having trouble:

4. Main Character Problem-Solving Style
This was originally called, Main Character Mental Sex: Male or Female. So, does your MC solve problems more like a linear guy (think "cause and effect" or following clues), or does your MC solve problems more like a holistic gal (think "finding balance in the relationship between things")? My guess is Male/Logical/Linear for your character, but pick what makes sense to you.

5. Story Driver
Your story has at least five important instances of the story driver: the inciting event, three act turns (first, midpoint, and third), and the closing event. They will all be of the same nature: either an action or a decision. The difference is summed up in the following phrase: Actions happen, Decisions are made. So, if your story is kicked off (inciting event) by something that happens, it's an Action driven story. If it is kicked off by a decision someone or some group makes, it is a Decision driven story.

8. Story Judgment
Two points I'd like to make here. The first is that the answers to storyforming questions should ALWAYS reflect what is REALLY going on, not what it seems to be. Based on your still being haunted, I would say the Judgment is Bad. The second point is that stories are NOT real life, therefore it can be whatever you want it to be.

9. Overall Story Throughline
Everyone in the story will be focusing on a Story Goal, and that story goal will be tied to a situation (something stuck that needs to be unstuck, such as being trapped in a specific location), an activity (some physical activity run amok that needs to be stopped), a Fixed Attitude (a mindset that is stuck and causing trouble for everyone, such as a prejudice), or psychological Manipulation (how people think is messed up and needs to be worked out, such as most dysfunctional family stories). Picking one does not leave out the rest. Picking one aligns the Overall Story thread of your story with that particular "domain."

Rather than going on to the Concern, Issue, and Problem, I suggest you NOT use the Quick Story topic list, but use the StoryGuide Level 1 instead. It is arranged differently and you might find it easier to answer the questions there.

Best of luck.
Chris Huntley
Write Brothers Inc.

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