Blog Post

A New Understanding Of Dramatica

May 28th, 2017

Experiencing difficulty connecting with Dramatica and its concepts because it seems to favor logic over passion? Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of the theory, takes us on a trip to visit The Holistic Side of Narrative Structure--the hidden, passionate side of story construction:

Linear thinking says – logic and passion are nothing alike because logic requires evidence and proof and passion does not. But from a holistic way of thinking, logic and passion are quite alike because each arrives at conclusions, and it requires both to direct and then implement logic – they are team members of the greater process.

The first part makes complete sense to me--the second requires a bit more contemplation. Passion arriving at a conclusion? How does that work?

You and I

One of the most indelible moments I remember learning Dramatica featured this montage of storytelling:

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From Dodgeball to In the Heat of the Night, the same lines of dialogue continue to show up--venturing on cliché. But as Melanie explains, their proliferation serves a purpose:

You can see how often that conversation comes up in stories. And yet we never see it as cliché, because it is the core and essence of that duality problem...Simply put, life experience shows us that under some conditions, it is better to see things as separate and other times as part of the same group. This is how we determine friend from foe, mine from yours, and even defining ourselves sometimes as individuals and sometimes as part of a family.

These concepts appear over and over again both in the elements of story structure and in the subject matter we explore in stories because choosing one view over the other is never absolute and must be determined by experience for a given context, yet is always changing, drifting, and what was best seen linearly this week (or in our childhood) may be better seen holistically (as an adult) at this time (though it might change again next week).

Conflict is context. No one solution exists. What works in one context fails in another. With story, we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate approaches.

​And then Melanie continues by defining the difference between Linear and Holistic thinking:

Linearity looks to the long-wave truths, calls them predicable, labels them as a law, sets up rules to impose the law, and defines any instance where it doesn’t work as an exception.

Holism looks to the short wave truths, calls them “evolving,” labels them as trends, breaks down barriers to encourage evolution, and defines any instance where change does not occur as an obstacle.

Both are true, neither is right.

That explanation of Holism needs to be revisited--especially for us predominantly Linear thinkers. ​

One Side Separates, The Other Blends

Bringing everything back full circle to that "You and I" montage, Melanie redefines the basis for everything in Dramatica:

Simply, it isn’t that one side divides and the other multiplies or even one side is exclusive and the other inclusive or even one side defines the differences and the other defines the similarities. No, the way to grok the equation is, one side separates and the other blends.

And with that, Melanie shifts the overwhelming complexity of Dramatica into a simple matter of context.

... point for the here and now is to open a door to an additional realm within the Dramatica theory that leads to a more sweeping and more practical appreciation of the model as it initially appears and as you have currently applied it.