Blog Post

On Acts, Sequences, and Scenes in Dramatica

Oct 8th, 2016

The Dramatica theory of story offers Authors a rare opportunity to look at their story from an objective point-of-view—from the perspective of what their story means, rather than how their story plays out.

Acts, Sequences, and Scenes exist in the Storytelling Domain. They help frame and illustrate meaning. Unfortunately, the infinite variety in which they can be appreciated and observed makes them deficient for an objective framework of story.

Keep Acts, Sequences, and Scenes for those paradigms and models of story that look at presentation and Audience Reception. But when it comes to Dramatica, the theory should likely pivot to ensure greater understanding of Dramatica's unique story points and structure.

Instead of Act, use Signpost and/or Journey.

Instead of Sequence, use Range.

Instead of Scene, use Dramatic Unit.

Less sexy to be sure, but inifinitely more accurate.

Yes, Signpost and Journey already exist and communicate their functions adequately. If it ain't broke, then why fix it?

The Dramatica concept of the Throughline Issue used to be called Range with the first version of the theory back in 1994. As Sequences travel through the Variation level of the model—where the Issues of a Throughline are found—why not use the original terminology to break free from ideas like the popular film-school Sequence Method? It allows those entrenched in that paradigm and their own preconceptions about what a sequence is to use both systems without cross-interference.

As far as Scenes go—as we develop an understanding of how Dramatica Scene Construction works, it becomes apparent that the idea of an actual "scene" varies depending on when you get into the Dramatic Unit (quad) and when you get out. Again, instead of relying on the physical concept of "the scene" to communicate the smallest meaningful part of Dramatica, why not start introducing Authors to this idea of a complete Dramatic Unit?

They can still start their "scenes" late into the unit and can, of course, leave whenever they want. The important part is that Authors and producers and directors alike begin to understand the PRCO, SRCA, TKAD, and PASS of a Dramatic Unit. Combining that knowledge with whatever techniques they mastered on the other side of communicating a story will result in an effective and efficient storyteller.