Blog Post

Dramatica is Never Wrong

Sep 30th, 2016

From time to time, bloggers give up and quit. Sadly, it seems as if the "Screenwriting Screenwriter", an occasional Dramatica blogger--and one I linked to in the past with my article Dramatica: Mad Libs or Madly Accurate--is now defunct.

I hate seeing stuff like this disappear off the grid.

So now it won't:

From May 15, 2011, at 12:33pm: Another Dramatica post because, frankly, I like it. It has transformed the way I write. It also drives me nuts, but for all the right reasons.

Case in point: I've been working on a story for, like, a year now. I'm convinced it's good. I can see the movie in my head. For whatever reason, though, I just can't write it.

So I lean on Dramatica to help me. I run it through the software's alchemical algorithms over and over. I ask the guys on the Convore discussion group for help, and they are patient with my ignorance. And then I run it through again and again. And it never works. I can get one throughline right, but the others never fit.

This is what's maddening about Dramatica sometimes. You get your main storyline worked out exactly the way you want, and Dramatica tells you "okay, so your main character's problem should have something to do with Perception vs. Actuality". And you thought your main character's problem was about flesh eating bacteria, so you want to kick Dramatica hard in the stupid face it doesn't have.

But here's the thing... somehow, magically, insanely... Dramatica is never wrong. I'm wrong. It just occurred to me this morning... the movie I've been seeing in my head has no middle. It's a bunch of characters discovering something, doing something vague for about an hour, and then wrapping things up. The Underpants Gnomes of stories.

It occurred to me that I don't even really have a clear sense of the what the story's central problem is. I was getting ready to throw Dramatica aside and start writing this thing, and I don't even know what the story's about. It would have been a horrendous waste of effort.

And that is the reason why my Dramatica experiments were not working. If I'm getting the very first question wrong--the Story Problem--how can I possibly expect it to help me with the answers that follow? I need to really stop and think about these answers, not just throw something in that sort of feels like it fits.

I'm sure a lot of people try out Dramatica briefly, get frustrated just as I have, and then discard it forever. I can almost guarantee you, it wasn't Dramatica's fault. It is not madlibs; it demands a lot of a writer to use it properly. And if it's not giving you the answers you want, you really need to stop and examine why that is. It will be worth it.

I'll stop with these posts. Jim Hull is much better at them than I am.

That's right.

The part about Dramatica that is. Dramatica is never wrong. I can guarantee too that it is never Dramatica's fault.

Welcome back, Screenwriting Screenwriter!