The Mathematical Balance Between Logic and Emotion

A scientific theory of the mind must account for both

The quest for perfect story structure often leads one to lean heavily upon scientific method. Deduction and definitions set stable ground for those uneasy beneath the umbrella of their own subjectivity. I need to see it in order to believe it is the kind of mindset that holds many back from truly understanding that we are as much a part of what is out there as what is out there.

We are story.

And the Dramatica theory of story accounts for us within its "scientific" model.

What’s interesting to me about the Dramatica is how it connects writers to their intuition through narrative structure. While Dramatica is a theory, the logical conclusions of its concepts mean far less to me to than their ability to inspire a great work of art.

Well that concludes my rampage into Dramatica. At first I was very confused reading the Theory for the first time, then I suddenly "got it", and then I made the decision to continue digging until I am as confused as ever. Now, I am actually pretty wary of it. Nothing makes sense to me, and there is not a whole lot of information out there, which is why I am here.

This sentiment is the collective experience for every single writer who encounters Dramatica.

Even me.

The initial six months of Dramatica lift the veil from the eyes of writers deluded by other paradigms of a narrative. Suddenly, one sees the Matrix of storytelling. Then, doubt sets in. One encounters a concept or relationship that touches upon the writer's deeply-held convictions or justifications, and they project their biased preconceptions onto the model.

It can't be me; it must be Dramatica.

Most abandon Dramatica. It is better to take the blue pill and stay comfortably ignorant that writing a story is magical and reserved for a select few. They might go so far as to write a bloviated post carving their beliefs in stone in the hopes that a gathering of followers will validate their unknowing.

Still, some come to see Dramatica as a means of understanding themselves; if the theory is based on our mind's ability to hide justifications from our conscious mind, what is my mind hiding from me?

A Theory of Relationships

The Dramatica Table of Story Elements is a model of the human mind, not the mind itself. Our consciousness is not literally a bunch of boxes subdivided into fours inside other boxes divided by fours. ** Dramatica's quad theory is a theory of relationships**; the specific terms are not as important as their relationship to other terms in the model.

So how come Dramatica seems to work so well? Well, maybe it doesn't. Looking at the analysis of various movies, I am kind of struck by the leeway allocated for the categories. An MC problem of Trust, for example, could mean that MC has a hard time trusting people, MC does not trust people enough, MC does not trust himself, MC trusts himself too much, people Trust MC too much or too little, MC's relationship needs more mutual Trust, MC does not value Trust enough as an idea, MC needs to Trust his feelings or instincts or Mother's advice, or perhaps even MC wishes he had a bigger Trust fund. This one category could really be many other Elements instead, especially if each has just as much leeway.

It couldn't be "many other Elements" because shifting this Storypoint would force other Storypoints to move in relation—resulting in a less accurate Storyform. In this example, Trust as a Main Character Problem is the best appreciation of this inflection point of Conflict, given all the other inflection points.

What you describe as "leeway" is a sophisticated understanding of Trust, not a nebulous one. Every single item in the Dramatica Table of Story Elements works on a sliding scale; one can experience too much Trust, not enough Trust, and just the right amount of Trust while still adhering to the concept of Trust—

in relation to Test.

Test is the Dynamic Pair to Trust, which is to say that Test is the polar opposite to Trust in the context of Conflict.


There exists a discernible difference between a lack of Trust and too much Testing. Sure, some may say that someone who overly Tests is Distrusting, but what is the story about? Is the Problem for the Main Character a lack of Trust? Or is that she Tests too much? Those are two different stories.

A woman suffering from a lack of Trust would self-sabotage every relationship; that inability to reconcile acceptance (love) without proof might drive her to expect the worst from everyone. This dysfunctional line of thinking would lead her to find excuses to leave what could be a loving relationship.

Another woman suffering from too much Test might be driven to unconsciously self-sabotage every relationship. Having been abandoned by her parents at a formidable age, she may test the boundaries of her mates' acceptable behavior. Better to find out they couldn't hack it now, rather than an experience that pain of abandonment later, right?

Both examples tell a story of self-sabotage—but they each explore a different kind of Problem. The first isn't about Testing too much anymore than the second is not about Trusting enough.

Keeping the Argument Consistent

With some clever wording, MC's problem could potentially be 10, or 15, or 30 other Elements besides Trust. It is not surprising then, when looking at many of the analyses, it honestly looks like some of the categories are a bit of a stretch, where I would have never assigned it (unless Dramatica pushed me to).

Dramatica pushes you to write complete stories. A complete story is nothing more than a complete argument. Telling one side of the story doesn't work in court—and it doesn't work in the grander court of Audience appeal. If you're going to argue for the efficacy of one particular approach to resolving problems, you need to make sure you show the other side. The Audience knows when you're hiding the whole story from them.

Of course, there isn't just one story, so a system of balances must be engineered to account for every possible permutation. Enter Dramatica. The comprehensive theory of story that is Dramatica helps Authors balance the arguments of their story.

Why wouldn't you want to be pushed in that direction?

And on top of that, Dramatica gets away with any blatant inconsistencies by saying that obviously that particular movie deviated from Dramatica's perfect theoretical structure. Dramatica is pretty tricky.

** Dramatica's "perfect theoretical structure" is nothing more than a simplistic and balanced model of the mind at work.** Those films or novels that "deviate" from this form find it difficult to maintain an Audience, let alone a timeless status. Take any of the Transformer movies (except Bumblebee), or many of Quentin Tarantino or Cohen brothers films, and you find deficient narrative structure—broken "minds" of story. Yet, these works continue to connect with a specific sub-segment of the population; they appeal to those comfortable with dysfunctional psychologies (and even then, these films play against expectation for a surprise).

The first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is beloved by billions—yet fails to convey a complete story by Dramatica's standards. Does that mean fans shouldn't adore the book to the extent that it is? Cultures value tales as many stories. There is nothing wrong with an unrealized Storymind—but if you compared Sorcerer's Stone to the final two novels of the series, and appreciated the complete story of the entire series, you would begin to understand the purpose of Dramatica theory.

I know there obviously is a concrete computer code which runs the simulations in Dramatica Pro, but that does not mean the commands are based in a concrete logical theory.

Logical and emotional. It's telling that you skipped the latter as if logic somehow reigns supreme. This oversight is the downfall for every one actively engaged in trying to decipher the scientific aspects of Dramatica through mathematics and cold-hearted deduction. For a theory to accurately model the mind's psychology, it needs to address structural and dynamic concerns: logic and emotion. While the current coded application grants preference to the former, Dramatica's theory accounts for both sides.

Because balance is a thing.

Originally published 08-17-2020

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