Acts, signposts & scene order

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.
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Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Mar 17, 2012 1:07 pm

I have been fiddling around with the technique of creating scenes for my novel from the Plot Sequence Report, but I wonder if there is a strict order to the scenes. Do I have to put all the scenes of one throughline per signpost in order before I move on to other throughlines? Or can I mix up scenes from different throughlines?

More importantly, do I have to finish all scenes associated with the first signpost before I start with the scenes from the second, and so forth? I am asking this because in Dramatica For Screenwriters a lot of emphasis is placed on finishing the sequences for one act before moving to the next, but I guess that demand is not so stringent for novels.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby stephenbuck415 » Mar 17, 2012 3:42 pm

Hi motormind.

I think you've asked very good questions. I'd like to share my initial hunch, and in advance acknowledge that what I share may contain some non-accuracies (because I'm still learning the theory).

Part 1 of my response addresses the order of Signposts and Journeys. Part 2 addresses your Dramatica for Screenwriters question.

PART 1

As we look at the Plot Progression screen, there is a horizontal and vertical order of the signposts and journeys. The Objective Story (OS) Signpost (SP) 1 progresses to OS Journey 1, to OS SP2, to OS Journey 2, to OS SP3, to OS Journey 3, and to OS SP4. The same is true of the Subjective Story (SS) throughline, Main Character (MC) throughline, and Obstacle Character (OC) throughline.

All plot points within Signpost 1, that's OS SP1, SS SP1, MC SP1, and OC SP1 can be placed in any order. For example, they do not need to follow the order that was just described (as they also appear in the tool), but can also be arranged in this order:
MC SP1
SS SP1
OC SP1
OS SP1

That's only an example of a possible order.

Now, the same concept applies to journeys.

The journeys that follow SP1 follow the same initial order, OS J1, SS J1, MC J1, OC J1, but like the signposts, they can be told in any order as well, such as:
OC J1, OS J1, MC J1, and SS J1.

Signposts and Journeys may be grouped together, as long as the sequence number remains the same.

The order they appear in the Plot Progression tool is:
OS SP1
SS SP1
MC SP1
OC SP1
OS J1
SS J1
MC J1
OC J1

However, you may restructure the order of all Signposts 1 and Journeys 1 to best fit the telling of your story. For example, you may order them like this:

MC SP1
MC J1
SS J1
OS SP1
OC SP1
OS J1
OC J1
SS SP1

What's important is to keep the same group of signposts with the same set of journeys.

You may not use an order like this:
SS J1
OS SP4
MC SP2
OC J1

And the reason is simple. The story won't make sense.

PART 2

Armando encourages one scene to be developed before the next, but he also encourages the development of a Brief Synopsis, Plot Synopsis, Character Arc, titles for each throughline, and throughline summaries to be created before scenes are developed. Those areas are developed with a single sentence.

For example, here's an outline I'm using to develop a story that uses Armando's suggestions as a development guide:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:
  • 1st Sentence: Driver ( Action - Being within tolerances. ) + Consequence ( Becoming - Transforming one's nature. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Goal ( Obtaining - Achieving or possessing something. ) + Requirements ( Doing - Engaging in a physical activity. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Forewarnings ( Progress - The way things are going. ) + Limit ( Optionlock - The characters run out of options. )
  • 4th Sentence: Driver ( Action - Being within tolerances. ) + Outcome ( Success - A plan to achieve one's purpose or a plan of response. )


PLOT SYNOPSIS
  • 1st Paragraph: Driver ( Action - Being within tolerances. ) + Consequence ( Becoming - Transforming one's nature. ) + Goal ( Obtaining - Achieving or possessing something. )
  • 2nd Paragraph: Requirements ( Doing - Engaging in a physical activity. ) + Limit ( Optionlock - The characters run out of options. )
  • 3rd Paragraph: Forewarnings ( Progress - The way things are going. )
  • 4th Paragraph: Outcome ( Success - A plan to achieve one's purpose or a plan of response. )


THROUGHLINE TITLES
  • OS Throughline Title: Domain ( Physics - An activity or endeavor. ) + Concern ( Obtaining - Achieving or possessing something. ) + Problem ( Feeling - An emotional sense of how things are going. )
  • SS Throughline Title: Domain ( Psychology - A manner of thinking or demeanor. ) + Concern ( Becoming - Transforming one's nature. ) + Problem ( Oppose - An indirect detraction from another's effort. )
  • MC Throughline Title: Domain ( Universe - A situation or environment. ) + Concern ( The Future - What will happen or will be. ) + Problem ( Feeling - An emotional sense of how things are going. )
  • OC Throughline Title: Domain ( Mind - A fixed attitude or outlook. ) + Concern ( The Subconscious - Basic drives and desires. ) + Problem ( Avoidance - Stepping around, preventing or escaping from a problem. )


CHARACTER ARC SYNOPSIS
  • 1st Sentence: Character Arc Synopsis MC Crucial ( Feeling - An emotional sense of how things are going. ) + OC Crucial ( Logic - A rational sense of how things are related. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Character Arc Synopsis MC Growth ( Stop - One's true nature. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Character Arc Synopsis MC Resolve ( Change - An alteration of a state or process. ) + OC Resolve ( Steadfast - One's true nature. )
  • 4th Sentence: Character Arc Synopsis MC Judgment ( Good - The main character ultimately succeeds in resolving his personal problems. )


OS SUMMARY
  • 1st Sentence: Domain ( Physics - An activity or endeavor. ) + Concern ( Obtaining - Achieving or possessing something. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Issue ( Approach - One's methodology of doing or being. ) + Counterpoint ( Attitude - Demeanor or outlook. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Focus ( Reconsider - Thinking through again. ) + Direction ( Consider - Weigh pros and cons. )
  • 4th Sentence: Problem ( Feeling - An emotional sense of how things are going. ) + Solution ( Logic - A rational sense of how things are related. )


SS SUMMARY
  • 1st Sentence: Domain ( Psychology - A manner of thinking or demeanor. ) + Concern ( Becoming - Transforming one's nature. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Issue ( Rationalization - An alternative explanation used to mask the real reason. ) + Counterpoint ( Obligation - Accepting a task or situation in exchange for someone's earlier or potential favors. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Focus ( Reconsider - Thinking through again. ) + Direction ( Consider - Weigh pros and cons. )
  • 4th Sentence: ( Oppose - An indirect detraction from another's effort. ) + Solution ( Support - Indirect assistance given to another's efforts. )


MC SUMMARY
  • 1st Sentence: Domain ( Universe - A situation or environment. ) + Concern ( The Future - What will happen or will be. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Issue ( Choice - Making a decision. ) + Counterpoint ( Delay - Putting off until later. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Focus ( Temptation - The urge to embrace immediate benefits despite possible consequences. ) + Direction ( Conscience - Forgoing an immediate pleasure or benefit because of future consequences. )
  • 4th Sentence: Problem ( Feeling - An emotional sense of how things are going. ) + Solution ( Logic - A rational sense of how things are related. )


OC SUMMARY
  • 1st Sentence: Domain ( Mind - A fixed attitude or outlook. ) + Concern ( The Subconscious - Basic drives and desires. )
  • 2nd Sentence: Issue ( Dream - A desired future that does not fall within reasonable expectations. ) + Counterpoint ( Hope - A desired future that falls within reasonable expectations. )
  • 3rd Sentence: Focus ( Reconsider - Thinking through again. ) + Direction ( Consider - Weigh pros and cons. )
  • 4th Sentence: Problem ( Avoidance - Stepping around, preventing or escaping from a problem. ) + Solution ( Pursuit - The drive to seek after. )


So, to create the Brief Synopsis, I will write four sentences:

Driver + Consequence. Goal + Requirements. Forewarnings + Limit. Driver + Outcome.

Although it may seem to be natural to write the first sentence first, the second, second, the third, third, and the fourth, last, I prefer to write the last sentence first because it's the end of my story.

The end of my story is the answer, and everything before that is the Grand Argument that is explored.

I expand the four sentences from the Brief Synopsis into sentences for everything below it in the order I figure it out.

Sometimes that involves writing a sentence for the Plot Synopsis, the OS Throughline, the OC Throughline, the SS Character Arc, whatever.

I write the sentences in whatever order comes to me before I begin to develop the scenes because that allows me to structure the scenes better than otherwise.

I have a much better idea of what to foreshadow where by creating a detailed step outline before I write the scenes, and that's saving me a tremendous amount of time rewriting old scenes to fit new scenes.

Basically, once I write a sentence as recommended by Armando, I write the scenes in any order--and that's usually the order they come to me in.

I hope this helps.
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Mar 18, 2012 12:55 am

Thanks for your response, but it doesn't really answer my question. Let me elaborate on what I try to do.

I don't want to use signposts and journeys. I want to use Armando's technique of making a sequence of scenes for each signpost. For instance, I have deduced these:

(I use letters for the separate scenes per signpost)

OS SP1: A - B - C -D
MC SP1: A - B - C - D
IC SP1: A - B - C - D
SS SP1: A - B - C - D

So the sequence, according to Armando, would be the set of 4 scenes in the order A - B - C - D (since I am not using the Z-pattern). Now, I would like to put everything in a order like this:

OS SP1 A
MC SP1 A
OS SP1 B
IC SP1 A
IC SP1 B
OS SP1 B
MC SP1 B
SS SP1 A
MC SP1 C

... and so on ...

So in effect I shuffle the scenes over the throughlines, but I keep them in the same order as before. Is this allowed?

Also, after I constructed the sequences of scenes, can I already start with scenes for the the next signpost before finish all the scenes of the previous one? For instance:

IC SP1 A
IC SP1 B
OS SP1 B
MC SP1 B
SS SP1 A
MC SP1 C
MC SP1 D
OS SP1 C
MC SP2 A
OS SP1 D
SS SP1 B
OS SP2 A
IC SP1 C
MC SP2 B
SS SP1 C

.. and so on ....

So in effect, I keep shuffling the scenes, ignoring the alignment between classical acts and signposts. Can this be done?

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby stephenbuck415 » Mar 18, 2012 1:51 am

Oh, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

Based on my understanding of the KTAD model, I believe the answer to both of your questions is yes--but I am interested to read what Chris has to say.

Meanwhile, I did a little searching and found these items that may help find an answer to your question (before Chris responds):

Changing Dramatica’s Suggested Act Order
http://dramaticapedia.com/2011/09/26/changing-dramaticas-suggested-act-order

The 28 Magic Scenes (Part 1)
http://youtu.be/3NMy2itJ8Hs

Story Goals and Act Order
http://www.dramatica.com/theory/tip_of_month/tips/tip0408.html

Signposts & Scenes
http://www.dramatica.com/theory/tip_of_month/tips/tip0108.html

The Four Throughlines
http://youtu.be/V3gN4f7H2rY

The Four Throughlines (2)
http://youtu.be/FAUddB4xpXs

DRAMATICA SIGNPOSTS AND JOURNEYS
http://www.dramatica.com/theory/addl_materials/dact_structures/dact05.html

Act Order – Sign Posts, Journeys & Throughlines
http://dramaticapedia.com/2011/10/05/act-order-sign-posts-journeys-throughlines/

PUTTING THE THROUGHLINE ACT TRANSITION INTO TIMELINE FORM
http://www.dramatica.com/theory/addl_materials/dact_structures/dact16.html
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby stephenbuck415 » Mar 20, 2012 1:22 pm

I found two additional articles that I believe are relevant to your question:

How Scenes Relate to Dramatica’s Story Elements
http://dramaticapedia.com/2010/04/08/how-scenes-relate-to-dramaticas-story-elements/

The Dramatica Structure: Elements
http://dramaticapedia.com/2010/04/08/the-dramatica-structure-elements/
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Mar 22, 2012 1:20 am

Thank you for your responses.

What I generally gather is that I am free to write the scenes in any order, as long as I have addressed all story points in the end. I also see that it is better to change the order of acts, but not to mingle scenes from different acts in one throughline.

Well, let's see what I can do wit this information.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby stephenbuck415 » Mar 22, 2012 2:53 am

Melanie is in the process of releasing her entire Dramatica Unplugged course onto YouTube. The 28 Magic Scenes link posted above is in four parts -- right now only part 1 is available, but in the near future the remainder will become available. I believe that Melanie best answers your question in that set.

Based on my understanding of the theory thus far, Signposts and Journeys of a set (#1, #2, #3, & #4) need to remain within that set... but the scenes within those sets can be structured in any order.

Pulp Fiction may appear to have a very unique sequence, but each of the characters have their own independent storyline that starts at point A and ends at point Z. However, the telling of those character stories is structured in a way that makes it seem like time is acting funny, when it's not... it's just the storytelling or storyweaving that makes the characters stories even more interesting. However, even though Pulp Fiction character timelines in the story appear to be out of order, they are grouped in a way that makes them correspond to the same signpost/journey numbers in a set--certain actions happen at certain times (the signposts and journeys) that ties the entire story together.

The movie "Go" is another example of scenes that are seemingly out of order (but later come together).

I think that if you were writing a screenplay, my answer would be "good luck," and I would wish you the best in your endevour. But like you, I'm writing novels. I'm also using each of the elements as guides or writing prompts, which is helping me create very complete stories. Because it is only a single element that you are positioning before the others of a signpost or journey, I think it's possible to accomplish what you are asking.

I seem to recall hearing/reading Chris and Melanie say on numerous occasions that when the Dramatica rules don't work, then don't use them! The rules are meant to be a guide to develop a complete story, but they are not rigid rules to be strictly adhered to. The rules are a good guide to develop a complete story that fits within the definition of the Grand Argument Story, but the final layout of those scenes is really what's woven by the author.
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Mar 22, 2012 6:46 am

stephenbuck415 wrote:Based on my understanding of the theory thus far, Signposts and Journeys of a set (#1, #2, #3, & #4) need to remain within that set... but the scenes within those sets can be structured in any order.


That's odd, since in one of the links you handed it is implied that you can change the order of acts per throughline according to a quad pattern:

http://www.dramatica.com/theory/addl_materials/dact_structures/index.html

stephenbuck415 wrote:Pulp Fiction may appear to have a very unique sequence, but each of the characters have their own independent storyline that starts at point A and ends at point Z. However, the telling of those character stories is structured in a way that makes it seem like time is acting funny, when it's not... it's just the storytelling or storyweaving that makes the characters stories even more interesting. However, even though Pulp Fiction character timelines in the story appear to be out of order, they are grouped in a way that makes them correspond to the same signpost/journey numbers in a set--certain actions happen at certain times (the signposts and journeys) that ties the entire story together.


But does that grouping mean that all scenes have to be linked to the same signpost per act? What definition of "act" do you use anyway? Is it a classical act on a time-line the audience sees, or is it the act in the Dramatica sense?

stephenbuck415 wrote:I seem to recall hearing/reading Chris and Melanie say on numerous occasions that when the Dramatica rules don't work, then don't use them! The rules are meant to be a guide to develop a complete story, but they are not rigid rules to be strictly adhered to. The rules are a good guide to develop a complete story that fits within the definition of the Grand Argument Story, but the final layout of those scenes is really what's woven by the author.


If so, then what is the use of the order of signposts as seen in the storyform? Is it only there for illustrative purposes? Is it a "best practice", or is it the most logical way to unfold the theme per throughline? Render me rather confused at this point.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby stephenbuck415 » Mar 27, 2012 6:48 pm

motormind wrote:That's odd, since in one of the links you handed it is implied that you can change the order of acts per throughline according to a quad pattern:

http://www.dramatica.com/theory/addl_materials/dact_structures/index.html


I'm afraid that's one for Chris or Melanie to address.


motormind wrote:But does that grouping mean that all scenes have to be linked to the same signpost per act? What definition of "act" do you use anyway? Is it a classical act on a time-line the audience sees, or is it the act in the Dramatica sense?


I believe all scenes should be "developed" in the same signpost per act, but the story teller may choose to place those scenes where they feel it is best for the story.

I use Original Dramatica Terms:
http://dramatica.com/theory/d_dictionary/dictionary/a.htm

motormind wrote:If so, then what is the use of the order of signposts as seen in the storyform? Is it only there for illustrative purposes? Is it a "best practice", or is it the most logical way to unfold the theme per throughline? Render me rather confused at this point.


Again I must defer to Chris and Melanie.

Melanie's website, Dramaticapedia.com, is excellent. A bit of a read not unlike the Theory book, but it is an excellent resource.

I wish I could be more helpful.
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Aug 07, 2012 10:08 am

So, does anybody have anymore insights on this?

ve7tcc

Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby ve7tcc » Aug 08, 2012 8:08 pm

I'd go with the signposts in the order that Dramatica spits out, and fill in the journeys/signposts.
It usually takes me a couple of attempts to get it to make sense.

Then you can tell the story in whatever order makes sense.
For example using flashbacks can let you start in the middle and then bring up some earlier bits later.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Aug 09, 2012 11:56 pm

As I already stated, I am not using the journeys, but the series of scenes or events per signpost as proposed in "Dramatica for Screenwriters". I just wonder whether I have to write such a sequence of events it its entirety after each signpost, or whether I can mix and match them. Saldana-Mora doesn't address this in his book at all, hence my question.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby phillybudd » Aug 12, 2012 3:21 pm

I think your question has been answered multiple times and in great detail.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby Chris Huntley » Aug 13, 2012 9:31 am

All great suggestions. Here are some supplementary thoughts:

PLOT is the order of events as they happen within the storyform. This means signposts (and journeys) are part of the plot. Technically, they ALWAYS go in order with the four Signpost 1's happening first and simultaneously, Signposts 2's next, etc.

Acts are part of storyweaving and frequently -- but often not always -- follow the plot order.

Scenes also are part of the storyweaving, though frequently they are less tied to signpost order and may incorporate multiple throughlines exploring similar and/or dissimilar points in the plot (storyform). You have a LOT of freedom when it comes to putting together scenes in your storyweaving.

There is one significant advantage to having your storyweaving closely follow the plot order: it is the EASIEST WAY TO FOLLOW AND UNDERSTAND the storyform, both intellectually and emotionally. The downside is that following the plot order can make the storyweaving predictable. It is often best to use this technique when "plot" is of less importance or less emphasised than character, theme, and/or genre.

The significant advantage to having your storyweaving mix up the order of events by comparison to their plot order is that it makes the storyweaving LESS PREDICTABLE AND POSSIBLY MORE ENTERTAINING. The downside is that it can also make the story confusing to your audience if they cannot unweave the events to determine the plot order. It is often best to use this technique if you are emphasizing/exploring plot or wish to surprise your audience with plot twists and reveals.

Any story can have it both ways by having some of the storyweaving follow plot order and some of the storyweaving mixing it up a bit. A Mystery is only a mystery because a plot event is withheld from the audience until a latter time (e.g. "The butler did it!").

Every author must find the right mix for each of their stories by creating scenes that balance the predictability of following plot order with the entertainment value of using storyweaving techniques designed to mix it up a bit.
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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby motormind » Aug 13, 2012 10:29 am

Chris Huntley wrote:The significant advantage to having your storyweaving mix up the order of events by comparison to their plot order


But I am not even talking about mixing up the order of events. I am talking about mixing the scenes which are derived from the Plot Sequence Report, without necessarily changing their order.

Either my question is not clear, or I am too stupid to understand the answers. Let me try once more:

In chapter 18 of "Dramatica For Screenwriters" Saldaña-Mora states that you can use the Plot Sequence Report to create a sequence of 4 scenes for every signpost in each throughline (which would make for 64 scenes in total). With this he also forgoes the use of journeys. I merely wondered if you have to keep those four scenes together, i.e. write them one after the other in blocks of four (as Saldaña-Mora does in the book), or whether you can mix up the events from the four different throughlines to make for a more interesting narrative. Again, my question is not necessarily about changing the order of those scenes.

I was hoping to using Saldaña-Mora's approach as a way to get from story-encoding to storyweaving, but it doesn't sound appealing to me if I have to keep scenes together in fixed sequences of four. All the answers about Dramatica's general approach to story events and order are all fine, but I am talking about this specific case, since Saldaña-Mora doesn't elaborate on this.

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Re: Acts, signposts & scene order

Postby Chris Huntley » Aug 16, 2012 7:27 am

Sorry, I guess I lost you real question in all the commentary.

No, you do not have to keep them together in the storyweaving as outlined in Dramatica for Screenwriters. Armando presented that as one way to weave them together out of all the possible combinaitons. Mixing them up is fine so long as the audience understands what is going on.
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