Visit Our Web Site at

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Can You Skip Questions in Dramatica?

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

A Writer Asks...

Can you skip over some of the story encoding questions to answer one’s further down the list that you know or at least understand? Also, do you have to answer all the story encoding questions, or does Dramatica fill in the blanks at a certain point?

My Reply…

Because the Dramatica Story Engine is non-linear, it is more like a Rubik’s Cube of Story Elements you can twist and turn by answering questions. The pattern you create is completely in your control, yet you may not be able to predict what is going to happen on the backside of the cube after a few moves until you look to see what’s there.

As a result of this holistic approach to a model of story, you can answer the questions in any order and skip over any questions you would like. As you answer questions, Dramatica fills in the answers to other questions you have already chosen by your previous answers in a round about way. When you have answered enough questions, the cube "freezes" because you have made enough choices about your pattern that only one combination of pieces can do the job. That is your Storyform.

As for filling in the encoding (storytelling), Dramatica will never do that. It can fill in the Storyforming to make sure the "cube" is accurate, but since any given dramatic appreciation (story point) can be encoded in an infinite number of ways, there is no way for Dramatica to draw on that potential without a huge database. In fact, Dramatica is not driven by database at all, but by a Story Engine which is based on the relationships among essential dramatic elements.

In contrast, at the MIT Media Lab, they have worked toward building such a mammoth database, effectively trying to create viable story structures with the electronic equivalent of one million monkeys pounding on one million typewriters. Looking to the future, someday this approach might come to work in conjunction with the story structuring capacity of Dramatica, but for now, what MIT’s Cray supercomputer models need gigabytes of databases to do for Storyencoding (storytelling), Dramatica is able to do for Storyforming (structure) on your desktop with its revolutionary Story Engine core that is actually only 27 kilobytes in size! (Keep in mind, a Rubik’s Cube has only 27 pieces, but creates forty trillion trillion combinations!)