So for a compelling story, all one needs is conflict, drama and resolution right? Right? Okay, character development. Character development, conflict, resolution, drama and plot. Wait . . . yeah, plot, character . . . oh, but wait a second. Ever notice how one story can have all those elements and, for some reason, just not be compelling? Other stories though, may not have remarkable characters or detailed conflict, but for some reason, there is something that makes them exciting? Something about those stories that makes you not want to put them down?
Super Glue. http://www.supergluecorp.com/
Actually, Dramatica Theory addresses a level of the story that most people never actually see, but . . . feel. This level of story is called “The Grand Argument”. Without a compelling Grand Argument, a story has the potential to fall flat, become lifeless and then whither away.
So just what is the Grand Argument? The first step down the road of Dramatica is to develop a Grand Argument for your story. Now this is different than the story goal, it is something under the story, something under the text. It is a question that is being asked and the story must answer. Thus . . . the story mind.
Underneath every great story, there is a story mind that is struggling to answer a question that the writer has asked. This isn’t something that is ever expressed through dialog or narration. One could say that this is the theme, but they would not be correct as theme is one element of the Grand Argument. In whole, these elements are as follows:
- Structure – The underlying relationship between the parts of the story
- Dynamics – The moving, growing, changing parts of the story
- Character – Including overall and subjective characters
- Theme (aha!, here it is) – The biases and perspectives necessary to convey the story’s subject matter or meaning
- Plot – The sequence in which the thematic structure is explored
- Genre – In a Grand Argument story, it explains the reader’s experience of the story
In my manuscript The Seraphim Protocol, the Grand Argument can be defined in one simple sentence:
Is there a point at which suffering becomes some mentally and physically pervasive that life is lived without hope?
The story structure of The Seraphim Protocol is such that it allows the story to answer this question.
Oh no, I ain’t gonna tell ya what the answer is. You have to read it to find out. But that is the base key for a story in Dramatica; a compelling Grand Argument that the story mind is exploring and the story structure is designed to detail and finally answer.
Now that we understand a story written in Dramatica requires a compelling Grand Argument, we can begin to explore the elements of a Grand Argument story.
Next time . . . Character and how characters fill dramatic roles (I think you’ll find this the most unique approach to character design you’ve ever read).