Story Limit

the restricted amount of time or options that, by running out, forces the story to a climax


You know those films, novels, and plays that seem to go on and on and on with no end in sight? That's because they don't have in place a strong and consistent Story Limit. Set up whether the story is limited by Options or Time in the very first Act, remind us in the subsequent Acts, and have the final Option or Second tick away in the last Act. That is how the Audience will know a story is over. Oh. Break the Story Limit by changing it or disrespecting it and the Audience will not forgive you.

Narrative First

Story Limit




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Official Dramatica® Definition:

The Limit is what forces the story to a close. One of the functions of a story is to give the audience the value of experiences it has not had itself by living through the Main Character. As such, the Main Character in the story Changes or Remains Steadfast and hopes for the best, and we learn from his accomplishments or disappointments. Yet, even a Main Character would not jump into the void and commit to a course of action or decision unless forced into it. To force the Main Character to decide, the story provides all the necessary information to make an educated guess while progressively closing in on the Main Character until he has no alternative but to choose. This closing in can be accomplished in either of two ways: either running out of places to look for the solution or running out of time to work one out. Running out of options is accomplished by an Optionlock; a deadline is accomplished by a Timelock. Both of these means of limiting the story and forcing the Main Character to decide are felt from early on in the story and get stronger until the climax. Optionlocks need not be claustrophobic so much as they only provide limited pieces with which to solve the problem. Timelocks need not be hurried so much as limiting the interval during which something can happen. Once an established Limit is reached, however, the story must end and assessments be made: is the Outcome Success or Failure? is the Judgment Good or Bad? is the Main Character Resolve Change or Steadfast? etc.