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Monday, January 26, 2009

Slicing and Dicing Stories

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator, Dramatica

A writer asks:

On the FAQ's of the dramatica website, it explains short stories as (condensed):

Short stories typically do not go to the depth of a full story and epics usually

have one "main" story embellished with lots of short sub stories

There are basically two different approaches to using Dramatica with "short

form" works:

1. Cover all of the story points quickly (time wise). Or.

2. Spend more time illustrating the story points, but limit the scope.

My question is:

When you say "limit the scope" do you mean limit the amount of "story points

that you explore" ?

I guess that is how I am taking it ... as being the opposite of #1 where you

cover all the points but with less detail (quickly)



My reply:

Hi, Kyle.

Limiting the scope is what we call "slicing and dicing" the Dramatica model.

Are you familiar with the "3-D" tower version of the Dramatica Structural chart? It looks like a cross between a Rubik's Cube and a 3-D chess set. It has four levels, split into four separate "towers." Well, the four vertical levels provide depth to a story and the four individual areas covered by the towers provide breadth.

So, you can "limit" a story to keep it short by either cutting it down to two or even one tower (like having just a Main and Impact character, but no overall story or subjective personal story, or vice versa), or you can cut it short by limiting the depth (such as having a plot and characters, but no thematic issues.)

The important thing to remember is that if you limit a story, don't step out of those limits, even a little bit. The minute you move into a larger or deeper area, the audience will assume your message is bigger and expect your argument to cover all that ground. If you only dabble with a few story points in that area, then it will look as if you are failing to make a complete argument, rather than just adding a little extra breadth or depth.

It is much more powerful to make a complete argument within the scope you have outlined for your story, than to appear to make an incomplete argument with a larger scope.

Hope this helps.

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