Friday, April 06, 2007

Screenwriting 104(1) - Dramatica's Throughlines

Dramatica is the deep theory of story, and simply put is a framework upon which you can place your story idea, themes, characters, and the suchlike, to ensure you have all your bases marked for a well-rounded story - be it a novel, film, stage play.

Consider Dramatica to be the DNA of story, where "the whole brain is having a debate about inequity".

My previous Screenwriting posts have been the analysis of film through the separate paradigms, but with Dramatica, as my tutor, Andy Conway, pointed out, to understand Dramatica you need to analyse the paradigm through film. As such, this could get complicated (but is well worth sticking with), and I might resort to regurgitating what Andy has already written... why rewrite the wheel?

Dramatica works on a principle of setting everything out into quads. There will be four of everything, arranged as four squares within a square. This provides the basis for relations between objects, such as helping to assess conflict zones.

Dramatica's first principle is tht of a Story Brain, in which exist four Throughlines (not one simple story). These four Throughlines are four separate stories integrated into the whole, providing the audience/reader with the most interesting route through the Story Brain from opening to conclusion - this is something I've pondered for some time in my own writing. That there is a need for lots of mini-stories, flashbacks, anecdotes, that flesh out the world. Though this is on a more specific level.

So, we have 4 Throughlines:
  • The Main Character throughline
  • The Impact Character throughline
  • The Overall Story throughline
  • The Main Character versus the Impact Character throughline (Subjective Story)
Here you can see that the Main Character and the Impact Character are diagonally opposed, as is the Subjective and Objective Stories - Conflict!

Think of it like this:

In Star Wars, Luke (Main Character) is taught by Obi Wan (Impact Character). Their Subjective Story is the training of Luke to become a Jedi, whilst the Objective Story is the wider world of Rebellion versus Empire and the destruction of the Deathstar.

In Casablanca, Rick (Main Character) had a love affair with Ilsa (Impact Character). Their Subjective Story is their relationship ("We'll always have Paris.") and Rick's bitterness over Ilsa leaving him, and now turning up with Laslo. The Objective Story is that everyone is trying to get visas to get out of Casablanca.

It's the relations between the Main Character and Impact Character that are most important to the story whole. The clash between the two results in 1 of them changing (Character arc), and one of the remaining the same... steadfast.

In Star Wars, Luke comes to believe in the Force, and to trust that ability within himself. Obi Wan doesn't change. In Casablanca, Rick learns to let to of his control of everything and helps Ilsa and Laslo, whilst Ilsa doesn't change. Amelie, in Amelie, learns to allow herself to help herself and not to stand in the way of her own goal, whilst, the glass man remains steadfast. In An Officer and a Gentleman, it is Zack who changes, not Paula.

That is not to say it always has to be the Main Character who must change... consider Indy Jones and most Bond films.

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