Review: Dramatica

Published on Sunday, July 23, 2006 in , , , ,

Dramatica: A New Theory of StoryStorytelling is an important part of creating any type of performance art. It's also very scary to look at a blank page, and try and create something complete enough to satisfy an audience. How exactly can you get from point A (blank page) to point B (a coherent and consistent story)?

One of the best guides I have run across is the Dramatica theory of story. Unlike most oversimplified theories of story creation, this one is very complete, and even a little complex. However, there is such a wide variety of potential in storytelling, the complexity actually works for it, not against it.

Dramatica is intended solely as a way of creating what are called “Grand Argument Stories” A Grand Argument Story is a logically and emotionally comprehensive story in which many ways of considering an argument are considered, and it is finally shown that only one approach solves the argument for the characters.

The complete approach is taught in the book Dramatica: A New Theory of Story. The new edition is available for less than US$20, but the original edition is available as a free PDF file!

I highly recommend downloading and taking the time to read the book. It's broken into two main parts. The first part teaches the Dramatica approach to characters, themes, plots and genres. Once you understand those parts, the second part of the book teaches you how to form, weave and “encode” your story.

If a 343-page PDF file seems daunting, you can ease into the theory with the Dramatica comic book, which presents the story theory in the course of the adventures of a writer. Speaking of comic books, another great storytelling resource presented in comic book form is the classic Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud, but for now I'm returning to Dramatica.

Once you've gained familiarity with the theory, it can still seem daunting to apply, even though you have a strong set of guidelines. One thing that makes it easier is support from the Dramatica community, including such things as the Daily Dramatica blog.

Of course, if you really want to get hands-on experience with the theory, there is software available to help you work through the Dramatica theory! Their main program is Dramatica Pro, which goes for about US$270. However, the same story engine is also available in the Writer's DreamKit software, which is available for less than US$60, and focuses more on the main story and characters and less on the minute details of the story.

Take some time to explore these links and the Dramatica website itself, and if you're interested in good storytelling, I think you'll find it will be time well spent.

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