What do I do now?

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Chris Huntley
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What do I do now?

Postby Chris Huntley » May 30, 2008 10:03 am

DennisB -- What do I do now?

I am brand new to Dramatica. I have done the suggested level one entry of a fairy tale and printed the report. Now what? How do I use this report?

I am working on a story, the details of which I will enter into the program. But until I understand how to use the report/reports, it's sort of a useless exercise. So I need help. Please!

Chris Huntley Re: What do I do now? #1

Now that you've gone through the process once it should be easier for you to use it on one of your own stories. Even though the StoryGuide is presented in a linear order, you CAN use much of it non-linearly by answering questions about your story that you know FIRST and going back to the topics you're not as sure about later.

The value of Dramatica is two-fold. The first is the process of going through storyforming, storytelling (illustrating), and storyweaving your story. During that process, you learn more about your story than you probably would otherwise.

The second benefit are the reports. If you've created scenes or chapters, the Treatment report collects them into a story treatment or step outline. The other reports are valuable in different ways. Some organize the material you entered which is useful as reference material for writing the finished work. Other reports make observations about your story. Like any set of tools, use the reports that work for you and ignore the rest. You'll find that you end up with favorites and hardly use some others.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers

Chris Huntley Re: What do I do now? #2
The following is from the Dramatica Listserv. Dramatica User Shawn Scarber makes the following observations about using Dramatica:

Some of my advice after three years of using Dramatica

1. Take your time.

I know that sometimes you want to sit down and get as much as you can into Dramatica as quickly as you can, because you think that the faster you get the information in, the faster you'll get a complete story back. Such is not always the case, my friend. Dramatica asks tough questions about your story, your genre, your characters, and it asks these questions with various levels in mind. Don't be in a hurry to go from one question to the next only filling out a sentence or two. Really spend some time building your storyform. When I first started using Dramatica it took me about three hours to fill a storyform. Three years later and it takes me weeks. During those weeks I'm making revisions, thinking of better examples, going through multiple options. I'll even write little treatment style scenes in as examples. The information Dramatica gives me back now is helpful, far more helpful than what I received during my first year using Dramatica.

2. Start with the characters first.

Even if you have what you think is a pretty solid plot idea in your head, build your characters and their relationships as thoroughly as you can. Again, take your time. Get to know they character and try to really discover who they are, how they think, what they need, how they act, and what they want in context to the storyform. When you're trying to think of examples for the way characters do these things, don't limit those examples to your preconceived plot. Filling in the gaps is part of the application's job. If you don't already have something in mind to fit a Dramatica question that's a good thing. It means the software is working. When developing with archetypes try your best to stay away from stereotypes. In fact, I would encourage you to always question using straight archetypes. IMHO, complex characters are the way to go.

3. Take your time after you've finished your storyform.

One of the things that initially frustrated me about Dramatica when I first used it was that it seemed to give you all this information, but it was difficult to tell how to apply it. The templates are almost deceptive because you get a nice little outline. Sometimes it's harder to try and write to the outline than to just come up with a story and ignore Dramatica all together. Well my suggestion is to ignore the outlines and templates. Enter as much information as you can and then use the reports to tell and retell your story. Almost every report in Dramatica can help you find new meanings in your story, help you see new ways of describing or showing something, and can introduce multiple orders from which to approach the sequential telling. Do this with as many reports as you can. Pick one and tell the story from it. Even if the story is different from what you originally had in mind, it's okay, because the idea is to get to know your story and your characters from multiple angles. Normally I write short treatments using the following reports as my guides: 12 Essential Questions, Build Characters, Main vs. Impact Story Character, Plot Dynamics, Plot Sequence, Story Points Plot, and Four Throughline Themes. Take your time going through these and you'll find more story material and richer detail. Write these out into a larger treatment and let that be your story guide.

4. You don't have to grasp the theory 100% to appreciate and use the tool.

This was one of the hardest things for me to come to grips
with. Dramatica seems so advanced and its storyforms seem to so accurately represent well formed film structures that I believed if I understood the theory 100% I would suddenly have the key to never ending story production success. Well, after three years I understand a lot about the theory. But I've also been actively writing novels and short stories in the time period so I understand a lot more about story in general. I'm not a master of either, but there is a truth I've learned that I'll share. Those who understand will just nod their heads knowingly, and those who don't might be in for a big disappointment. There is no easy path to a great story. No matter how advanced Dramatica, or any other story tool is, you will only arrive at a great story through hard work and dedication to the craft and the tale. If you believe that if you were to just master Dramatica you'd master the fictional universe, you're wasting your time.

5. Dramatica can work like Photoshop.

Some images only need for you to filter the redeye out. Some images need even greater repairs. Sometimes you want to create a whole new image from cratch. Dramatica can work the same way.

6. Always question Dramatica's output.

Don't worry it won't bite you if you do. Those questions spark some great ideas.

I think of Dramatic much more as a story telling philosophy than a piece of software. I don't expect that I'll get a complete work of fiction from it, because I know and understand better that that is not the software's job. Its job is character exploration, deep structural analysis, theme analysis, and a whole host of other solutions. I think if you keep this in mind when you're creating a new work of fiction you'll find you spend a lot more time coming up with useful material and words on paper. You'll also spend a lot less time frustrated at a wonderful tool that is really only trying to help you write a better story.


Shawn Scarber

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DennisB What do I do next #3

Thanks for the information, Chris. It's frustrating not knowing for sure how to proceed. So I appreciate your response
Chris Huntley
Write Brothers Inc.

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