Blog Post

Binary And Analog Pairs In Dramatica

Feb 16th, 2016

On the #dramatica Slack channel for Narrative First, I was asked about the relative nature of Temptation and Conscience and the idea that all story elements can be seen as negative or positive instances of themselves:

If something like "faith" is the problem in one of the throughlines, is it equally valid that the problem might be "lack of faith" as "too much faith"? In other words, are the presence, absence, or excess of the element all equally valid as possible problems? If this is true, then some pairs, like Temptation and Conscience, become very difficult to choose between, don't they?

The key lies in understanding the framework of the Dramatica Table of Story Elements and how it was constructed.

Binary and Analog Elements

Every point on the Dramatica Table of Story Elements can be seen as existing on a range from positive (too much) to negative (a lack of). The example of Faith above is spot on--the lack of Faith is not the same as too much Disbelief. There is a point at the extremes of both dynamic pairs where they almost crossover but still, if you look close enough, you can see the distinction.

Same with Temptation and Conscience. Too much Temptation is not the same as a lack of Conscience. It may sound like it because culturally we have been led to believe that the two are one and the same, but there still exists a distinction. If you look to a film like Moulin Rouge!, the emphasis of the narrative is on too much temptation, not on the lack of conscience as it is in something like Splendor in the Grass. Deanie is not doing enough of the right thing; Satine is doing too much of the wrong thing. They may sound similar, yet if you really think about you can see a slight difference between the two.

Dramatica Situation Quad

Also note that for every quad of elements in the table there will be one dynamic pair that seems more binary in nature while the other appears to be more analog; the first pair will have a more obvious switch from one to the other (Past to Present) while the other will look more like a sliding scale (Progress to Future).

A Consistent Framework

Understanding this, you can now look to the quad of elements under Morality and see Faith, Disbelief, Temptation, and Conscience. The first pair of Faith and Disbelief is more binary whereas the second pair of Temptation and Conscience acts more like a sliding scale. Same with the quad of elements under Denial: Help and Hinder take the binary position while Temptation and Conscience take the analog approach. Help goes in one direction, Hinder the opposite--just like the dynamic pair of Pursuit and Avoid.

Obtaining Quad

Speaking of Pursuit and Avoid, if you look under Self Interest you will find Pursuit and Avoid matched up with Control and Uncontrolled. The first pair is binary, the second analog. Where does a lack of control differ from an excess of freedom (Uncontrolled)? That is why Control seems to slide into Uncontrolled while Pursuit pops into Avoid.

This relationship becomes harder to see the more you move towards the bottom left of the table. Looking under Responsibility you'll see Control and Uncontrolled matched with Temptation and Conscience. Now which one is binary and which one is analog? In the examples above, both pairs were seen as analog scales.

Within the context of assuming responsibility one could see The Control/Uncontrolled pair functioning as the binary pair, but it is not as clear as the previous examples. This gray area arises due to Responsibility's position in the table (severe lower left) and the dramatic forces inherent in the structure (and perhaps a bit of my own Linear-thinking prejudice). Knowing which one is binary and which one is analog really doesn't help with the writing of your story as much as it helps understanding how Dramatica was built. As long as you the writer stays consistent in your portrayal of the elements throughout your story, the narrative will remain solid in the minds of the Audience.