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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Using Dramatica for a How-To Book

A Dramatica user recently asked:

I bought your Dramatica Pro software a couple of weeks ago and am finding it difficult to figure out how to use it for writing a how-to type of book. I’ve developed a few imaginary characters just so that I could work through your software and learn how it works, but now I’d like to drop these imaginary characters so I can better focus on all the topics I’d like to cover in my book and the sequence they need to have so that the audience can understand what I want to show them. Essentially I’m writing about the mind and behavior and happiness and destiny which is all very abstract, so I’m trying to make it concrete and understandable by linking cause and effect.
Any suggestions of how I can use your software to help me write this type of book?

My reply:

Hi, Sharon

One of the best places to explore those kinds of topics are in the Theme Browser, which shows you sort of a Period Table of Thematic Topics. In the Theme Browser, you can zoom in from a generalized topic to progressively detailed topics. You can also see how the concepts relate by their position in the grid, relative to one another.

Then, in the Dramatica Dictionary, you can find extended definitions and descriptions of each of these thematic items including synonyms and antonyms.

Another place to look is in the StoryGuide question paths. There, along the middle of the window from left to right is a “HelpView” bar with several buttons on it. These allow you to see all the thematic terms used in context as well as real-world examples of how they might come into play in life (or in stories).

Essentially, I would skip working with characters at the beginning and focus on building theme first. Then go to plot. then genre, then theme.

Now if you click on the Start Here tile on the main Dramatica desktop when you open the program, select the longer of the paths. Then, follow the instructions and make heavy use of the HelpView buttons which provide so much context and exploration of how these topics work with the mind and with inter-socialization. Skip anything that has to do with Characters the first time through. Then, after completing the path go to the Reports area and read some of the thematic reports to get a feel for the topics you’ve selected.

Finally, go back to the StoryGuide and create a Main Character to represent your own views of the information you’ve selected. Your Impact Character will be your audience that you hope to convince of your views. Answer the questions for the Main Character describing how you feel about the material, and for the Impact Character about how you want to focus them. Then check the reports for both characters and for the plot lines that have been laid out. These plot lines will provide a sequential guide that describes the progression of topics and sub-topics you will want to use to explore your subjects.

It is often handy to then reverse the process and adopt the role of the Obstacle Character and answering how you want to impact your reader who is now cast as the Main Character. In this way, you can see what things look at from your readers’ point of view and how you are coming across to them, topic-wise.

In the end, though the reports and structures are tremendous guides, the greatest value of this approach is that you have come to know your material in great detail, including contextual information about the perspectives of each topic you wish to explore and the order you’d like to approach it, as well as the impact you’d like to have.

That’s probably enough to get you started. Let me know if you have any further questions along the way.