Blog Post

Understanding The Dramatica Table Of Story Elements

Jan 11th, 2016

The Dramatica Table of Story Elements intimidates upon first glance. Prerequisites. Induction. Reduction. Raitionalization and Obligation. Strategy and Analysis. What the heck do any of these have to do with writing a great story? And how the heck am I supposed to understand the difference between Fate and Destiny?

This last one stumped me for a bit when I was first learning Dramatica theory. Even worse, the latest version of Dramatica—Dramatica Story Expert—offers gists for these terms and one of the gists for Destiny is Being Doomed. How is Being Doomed any different from Fate?

Table of Story Elements

Like many, I have always felt Destiny and Fate interchangeable, and for the most part they are in everyday conversation. My fate is my destiny and my destiny is my fate. Why does Dramatica differentiate between the two? To many it seems a case of overcomplicating things like the concept of splitting the Main Character from the Protagonist.

Trust me on this: Dramatica always has a legitimate reason for overcomplicating things.

When one delves into the nature of narrative and the comparing of various approaches characters can take, one needs a more concrete and refined way of looking at the Issues that arise in everyday problem-solving. Substituting fate for desinty and vice versa just doesn't cut it anymore. That line of thinking that says Main Character and Protagonist are the same blinds one to the realities of what is really happening.

Fate is what happens. Think bad luck, or a bad day, or being run over by a truck because you looked left when you should have looked right. Fate is that singular moment.

Destiny—or Being Doomed—is the sense that your life's path is doomed for failure; that feeling that the direction your life is headed (or the Energy of that path) is not looking good for you.

There is a difference between the fate that happens and the destiny that those fates lead to. And this is an important distinction to make when you're evaluating issues of the past and whether or not it was simply something that happened or something that happened along a predetermined path.

That is why you overcomplicate things. That overcomplication is really a move towards greater accuracy.

How the Model Was Built

When looking at these Story Points it might hep to understand that every quad is based on the four elements of Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire. In the external world these are known as Mass, Energy, Space, and Time. Every quad is simply these four things, but seen from a different perspective.

The Past Quad

In the quad labeled The Past (where you will find Fate and Destiny), Mass is in the upper left hand corner and Energy is in the lower right. So Fate is the Mass of the Past and Destiny is the Energy of the Past. The Mass is that singular moment or instance and the Energy is the movement of that singular moment.

This arrangement of Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire will shift depending on the Domain and is beyond the scope of this article. Simply understand that these are not arbitrary terms and that they don't overcomplicate for the sake of overcomplication. Their purpose to provide the tools necessary for a writer to craft a cohesive and complete argument for their Audience to embrace.