© 2003, Jennifer Dunne
is a comprehensive, all-encompassing program for story analysis and story
creation. Supporters of the program
think the multitude of options and analytical functions makes it robust enough
to be useful in real-world writing applications. Detractors claim it is too confusing, and allows would-be
writers to spend their time making charts about their story without ever needing
to actually write the prose.
truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between.
Yes, the program in its entirety is confusing, but writers can use small
subsets of its functions to enhance their fiction. Once those subsets are mastered, the writers can move on to
more advanced features.
simplest and most straightforward of Dramatica's principles is the assignment of
archetypal character traits to your story's characters.
The writer then uses the inherent conflict between those types to power
the story's movement, adding depth and complexity to what might otherwise be a
first book I ever plotted with Dramatica was my fantasy novel Shadow Prince.
It has since gone on to win a number of awards, and I've always thought
the underlying structure provided by Dramatica was one of the reasons for its
to Shadow Prince, I'd written a number of romances according to the genre
rules I'd internalized after a lifetime of reading them.
But internalized genre rules were no help when writing a fantasy, because
I floundered when I got to the rule that went something on the order of,
"The party travels across the countryside, having a series of fantastic
adventures." How could I
choose adventures that would build to my ultimate showdown between the forces of
good and evil, rather than sounding like a fantasy version of "The Perils
of Pauline"? My answer was to
turn to Dramatica.
eight archetypes used by Dramatica are divided into the big four and the little
four. Each of the big four will
have a single character (or group of characters) associated with it.
These archetypes are mutually exclusive.
The little four may be associated with some of the same characters as the
big four, as facets of their personalities, or may be associated with new
characters, as their defining character traits.
The same character may have two different archetypes from the little
four, so long as those archetypes are not in opposition.
big four character archetypes are the Protagonist (the character who is trying
to do something), the Antagonist (the character who is trying to prevent that
something), the Contagonist (the character who makes it harder to do that
something), and the Guardian (the character who makes it easier to do that
something). The Protagonist and
Antagonist are in direct conflict, as are the Guardian and Contagonist, but the
Contagonist is not necessarily in conflict with the Protagonist.
the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Buffy is obviously the Protagonist, and the Antagonist is the Big Bad of
the season or the episode's featured monster.
Giles is the Guardian. Buffy's
Mom, and in later seasons, her sister Dawn, are the Contagonists.
They made it more difficult for Buffy to defeat the bad guys by forcing
her either to sneak around or to use her energies for defense and protection
rather than attack.
little four archetype pairs are Reason/Emotion and Sidekick/Skeptic.
Reason is the cold, logical voice of ultimate control, while Emotion is
the out-of-control voice of feelings. Sidekicks
enthusiastically offer support, while Skeptics steadfastly insist something will
never work. Again, using the Buffy
example, members of the Scooby Gang, in their various incarnations, have
fulfilled these four roles, which is why their meetings so often degenerated
use these contrasts for outlining, decide what conflict each pair of archetypes
faces. The Protagonist and
Antagonist conflict will be the central question of your story, but all of the
others are free for you to choose. In
my Shadow Prince, for example, the Contagonist/Guardian conflict was
whether or not to save the Contagonist's homeland.
The conflict between Reason and Emotion (illustrated as a conflict
between control and lack of control) was how to interpret the past. And the Sidekick and Skeptic argued about how much commitment
is required to be a successful artist. All
of this was on top of the story question of whether or not the heroine would
reunite body and spirit. This
created four very different conflicts that interwove to give the story depth and
you've established your conflicts, you need to illustrate them in scenes.
In the first set of scenes, you will introduce your characters by showing
them acting in accordance with their archetypes (the Protagonist takes action,
the Guardian offers assistance, the Sidekick supports, etc.) and by illustrating
their positions on the conflict they share.
next set of scenes will feature each pair of archetypes squaring off against
each other, for their first interaction. That's
followed with a second interaction that ups the stakes of the conflict, and a
third interaction in which the conflict is decided in one or the other's favor. The
final set of scenes resolves what happens to each of the archetypes as a result
of winning or losing their conflict.
don't have to have a strict one-to-one ratio of conflict scenarios and
conflicting archetypes. You could,
for example, introduce three of your archetypes in one scene, followed by
introducing one in the next. If you
have one of the big four archetypes also associated with one of the little four
archetypes, you can have a three-character scene that illustrates two separate
conflicts, perhaps with one being the recurring argument that draws the
character's attention away from the issue he or she is trying to focus upon. There can also be scenes in which no conflict is advanced,
but some key external plot activity occurs that will enable the next level of
possibilities are endless. But with
a solid grasp of the archetypal character dynamics, whichever possibilities you
choose will create a strong, multidimensional story.
Web site: http://www.dramatica.com/
Prince, by Jennifer Dunne. New
Concepts Publishing. ISBN
the Vampire Killer, UPN Television, March, 1997 through May, 2003