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Writing with Dramatica

Posted: Oct 18, 2012 9:30 pm
by Clint541963
Okay, I have a first draft of my screenplay. I have analyzed my screenplay and have created a single story form. Now I want to align my screenplay to my story form.
I know there is not just one way to move forward from here and I've heard the advice about setting Dramatica aside because I've done the work and that is enough BUT I want to work from the idea that my first screenplay will be a learning tool. Like the painters who would copy the great masterpieces to learn. I would like to create a Grand Argument Story to see what that looks and feels like and then move on from there. I would like to hear the best or most preferred way to rewrite my screenplay aligned to my story form. @Chris Huntley, I would especially like to hear your advice…
It sounds like I should use the Plot Sequence Report and 64 scenes to give the audience the experience of being inside the story.
AND overlay on top of the "64 Scenes" the 28 "Sequences" created from the Signposts and Journeys in the Storyform.

I am going to Obsess about this until I get someone with authority to say, "That's a great way to do it." or "well, I recommend this…" I know it is silly but it's that old bastard FEAR. Fear of doing it "wrong"

Thanks, Sam

Re: Writing with Dramatica

Posted: Oct 21, 2012 7:47 pm
by SilentRuse
I know how you feel. I really enjoy using the 64 Scene's with 28 Signposts idea. I don't know how this will help you but this is kind of how I set things up.

you know how stories tend to follow a three disaster/act structure? Well, I look at each journey as that disaster break divided into fours. One for each realm of the mind. What's the overall disaster? How does that disaster trickle down into the main? the impact? The relationship between the main and impact? That type of deal.

Leading up to the four part disaster would be the initial 16 scene's (Dictated by the first four signposts and their allocated dramatic functions). I use the signpost as the starting of such exploration and the ending, that way it caps off with the signpost while still exploring the other 4 sub categories.

Then I simply rinse and repeat, it's just up to you what goes where and what makes sense. At least... That's how I decided to look at it.

Re: Writing with Dramatica

Posted: Oct 22, 2012 6:17 pm
by Clint541963
Thanks. :) I'm going to have to read that a few times to wrap my head around it. Silly of me to ask for a definitive answer. Yes, it is just up to me to make a choice, but you understand what I mean. I guess I first will have to break down my rough draft to the point where I am able to say, "this first scene is a combination of Overall story and MC through-line", etc. Thank you for your insight. I hope to get others to chime in.


Re: Writing with Dramatica

Posted: Oct 22, 2012 7:38 pm
by SilentRuse
Not a problem. Trust me when I say it takes a while getting adjusted to the program. To be honest, I think it takes a lot of failing to get it right, simply for trial and error, and that's been my problem. I want to get it perfect my first shot but because of the complexity of Dramatica it's hard to get that one shot wonder going.

Something you can do for yourself is layout the scheme of all your scene's and sequences in just Dramatica terms. Then look at your story and see what fits where. This can probably help you decide if the form for your current draft fits with what your storyform suggests, or if maybe a scene might fit better further or closer along your story.

I do find the one drawback to story writing is the absolute vagueness of writing craft and experience. It's really hard to explain how something will fit to your story because, put simply, it is your story. No one else knows it like you and won't know it like you, thus advice is hard to give because a format for one person's thinking is different from another.

Re: Writing with Dramatica

Posted: Nov 07, 2012 4:51 pm
by Clint541963
Maybe someone else will find this useful-
Here is a very helpful answer to my question as well. I found it in the Dramatica Story Expert 5.0 software under STORY GUIDE /Instant Dramatica:


Using The Plot Sequence Report is a way to build a plot outline from a storyform. Based on Chapter 18 from Dramatica for Screenwriters by Armando Saldana Mora, this topic path picks up where Instant Dramatica left off and leads you through a series of fill-in-the-blank style questions and ends with a sixty-four scene plot outline.

Armando prefaces using the Plot Sequence Report (PSR) with the following...

"So you finished your Instant Dramatica outline and decided to develop the plot further. You came to the right place to do that. Let me get you started.

First, keep in mind that your Instant Dramatica Outline is your first draft and--like all rewrites--we're going to dismantle the story, develop each part separately and put it back together in a way that gives us the effect that we were looking for.

To start with, we're only going to use the sixteen signposts for this process.

Like the name implies, this Plot Sequence Section only deals with plot. The elements of the remaining 24 scenes (theme, character and genre) will be reinserted as part of the scenes once we've finished with the "plot spine" we're about to create.

Onward. Your sixteen signposts are about to become sixty-four scenes."


Here's what Armando has to say about using the Dramatica Plot Sequence Report:

"We’re about to boldly go where no Dramatica writer has ever gone before!

Okay, I’m exaggerating. The truth is the Plot Sequence Report has commonly been labeled as controversial and impenetrable, so Dramatica users see it more as a theoretical curiosity than as a creative tool. Consequently, this report has been kept buried away from the main paths of the software and is hardly ever used to create stories.

And that’s a pity. The Plot Sequence Report makes the most complex parts of developing a plot effortless. It naturally produces events that are irreversible, meaningful, and true turning points. It refines the material to create up to sixty-four scenes in as quickly as two days of writing work. It makes sure each scene has the same coherence with the whole structure, allowing us to create freely even at the scene event level. It gives the story a deep, extraordinary meaning, blending plot and theme and giving significance and progress to both. It may be considered the ultimate source of event material and the definitive map for the story lines.

Besides, using it is neither controversial nor impenetrable. We just have to follow these three, simple, progressive steps:

• Encode the Signposts.

• From the Signposts material, draw the General Concept for the scenes.

• From this General Concept, create the Actual Scenes.

Let’s see how this works...


Suppose we’re writing a Sci-Fi/Social Drama/Satire about personal computers that suddenly start to develop a soul.

We begin our project by working on the story in general and getting a broad knowledge of our plot. Then we encode the Signposts, we order them in Acts, and we give them a dramatic flow that reflects the story we want to tell.

Let’s suppose the first Signpost in our story is this:

OS Signpost 1—Obtaining: "Computers get a conscience."

Not much, but enough to develop some solid events with the help of the Plot Sequence Report.

So we look for the PSR in the depths of the Reports, and we read: "In act one, ‘achieving or possessing something’ (Obtaining) is explored in terms of Value, Confidence, Worry, and Worth."

What the heck does this mean?

It means that our First Sequence is about ‘Achieving Or Possessing Something’ (in this case ‘Computers get a conscience’) and that its First Event will be produced by "the objective usefulness of something in general" (Value). For its Second Event, the status quo will be altered by something about "Belief in the accuracy of expectations" (Confidence). For its Third Event, this new state of affairs will be revolutionized by an incident about "Concern for the future" (Worry). For its Fourth Event, this latest context will be transfigured by some happenstance about "A rating of usefulness or desirability to oneself personally" (Worth).

It gets clear when we see it in action.

According to the three progressive steps, we have our Encoded Signpost:

• "Computers get a conscience (‘Conscience’ as in ‘a personal sense of right and wrong’)."


Now, how do we draw the General Concept for its Scenes?

We do it by asking, “What does this Variation have to do with the Signpost material?” What does this item of the PSR have to do with the illustration we made for our Sequence?

Let’s say, for the Sequence’s First Event (something that has to do with Value), “What is the objective usefulness of computers getting a conscience?” What good is a computer with an opinionated sense of right and wrong—one that crashes every time we key in something that disagrees with its personal principles? We may conclude:

Scene 1: "Computers with a conscience are useless."

For the Second Event (something that has to do with Confidence) we ask, "What are the beliefs in the accuracy of expectations when computers get a conscience?" What can be expected from the machines’ new talent? Well, conscience is a strength of the intelligent mind. It should be a blessing rather than an inconvenience, and programmers have solved problems a thousand times more dire than this one. So:

Scene 2: "Programmers believe they can curb this ‘artificial conscience’ into something useful for the users."

For the Third Event (something that has to do with Worry) we ask, "What are the concerns for the future when computers get a conscience?" If computers have consciousness, what can we expect next? Free will? Ambition? Rivalry? There are oodles of fantasies about computers taking over the world, destroying or enslaving humanity, and not a single one of them features the machines coexisting peacefully with humans. Hmm...

Scene 3: "People everywhere start fearing computers."

And finally, for the Fourth Event (something that has to do with Worth): "What is the rating of personal appraisal when computers get a conscience?" Where do we stand morally about this artificial soul affair? This is the philosophical part of the Sequence. Conscience is said to be what sets us apart from animals—not to mention machines—so, how far from us is a computer with a conscience? If we consider it an ‘intelligent being’—and what stops us from doing so—why should its rights be different from ours? Do we have the authority to use freely and dispose of these intelligent beings? And if we’ve created them, where does that put us? Are we now some kind of god?

Scene 4: "Questions arise about the ethical, moral, and theological issues of having developed a computer with a conscience."

There they are, the general ideas for our four scenes, plus extra material that appeared in the process. We only need now to give it some narrative drive, tell all the material we’ve created from beginning to end—while expanding and enriching it with whatever it inspires in us—and we’ll have our Actual Scenes.