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Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Story’s "Limit"

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

A Writer asks...

What changes within the Story’s structure when you switch the Limit from Optionlock - to Timelock or vice versa?

My reply...

The story’s Limit (Optionlock or Timelock) determines whether your story will draw to a climax because the characters run out of options or run out of time.

The quick answer to your question is that the story’s Limit, like most Dramatica story points, is not dependent on only one thing, but on several. So, there is not a one to one correlation between Limit and any other single story point. In other words, there is no simple answer to the question, "What happens to the story overall if you change the Limit from Optionlock to Timelock.

In fact, in some storyforms, the choices you make for other story points may create a condition in which a Limit of either Option Lock OR Time Lock will equally satisfy the contributing story points.

In such a case, the Limit becomes a "dealer’s choice" for the author, and one may select either option or time without impacting the overall storyform in any way, other than to determine the "feel" of the constraints imposed directly by the kind of Limit to the story’s scope. You have clearly created such a storyform.

In other storyforms, the choices for other story points would create conditions in which Option Lock or Time Lock will be predetermined by the collective impact of the contributing story points. In those cases, you would not be able to simply change from one kind of Limit to the other directly, but would need to unravel the entire group of story points that determined the choice for you.

As it turns out, the choice of Limit is determined by a great number of interrelated factors, so it is not really practical to list the scores of arrangements that would choose one or the other. Rather, if you find in a future storyform that the Limit (or any other story point) is "locked in" and cannot be directly changed, it is better to open a new storyform file and select the Limit (or other story point) first. That way you will be sure to get the one you want. Then, "re-make" the choices you had originally selected.

Of course, since you have now changed the Limit, you will find that the exact same combination of other choices will no longer be possible. Therefore, it is best to prioritize your choices, so that you begin with the story point most important to you and work your way down to the ones that are less important. In this way, you will get all of your key dramatic elements exactly as you want them, and will only encounter the constraints caused by the different choice for Limit when you are down to less important items.