Dramatica's Drivers -- What? Where? How?

by Dane Tyler

Question: I've read your article series "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps" and it revolutionized my outlining. I'm a stronger plotter now than I ever was, and I thank you.

But I've had a harder time implementing Dramatica than I'd like, and one of the things which helps me is to fall back -- once I've figured out my four signposts -- to a more traditional 4-part structure so I can hang the signposts on or around the milestone markers at their respective junctures.

I know this isn't necessary, but I couldn't figure out what I was missing in Dramatica until I saw your comparison with the W-story model structure. I realized from your analysis the Dramatica "drivers" were missing from my stories, which would give me the anchor points around which the signposts hinge. Or, so I think.

Where along the 8-step process do the drivers come? Where in the Dramatica structure do they fall? Can you elaborate on them so I can try and follow this through better?

Thank you!
Dane Tyler

Answer: The 8 steps are about the 8 static plot elements. They are static because it doesn't matter what order they appear in the story, as long as they are there. They can also be illustrated in different ways at different points in the story. For instance, you may have a series of requirements, or you may drive home the story goal once per act, etc.

The signposts and drivers are progressive plot elements because they must go in a certain order. For instance, the resolution must come after the crisis, chronologically, otherwise it wouldn't make sense.

When making a complete plot outline, you would lay out the progressive elements in sequence and then insert the static elements where they make sense (usually as part of the overall throughline).

The article on the 8 Easy Steps was designed to give you an easy way to get a simple outline and to think about what the story as a whole is about, before perhaps moving on to the progressive plot elements.

As you'll see in the W-plot, the drivers are the turning points between each act. The acts themselves include the signposts (whether you make the signposts single events or sequences is up to you), along with any static elements, or other material (subplots, character interactions, theme illustrations, transition scenes, exposition, etc.) that belongs in that act.

So the first driver is the inciting incident that begins act one. Act one then explores all the #1 signposts, the beginnings of each throughline.

Once these are fully explored, the 2nd driver sends the story in a new direction in act 2. Once all the 2nd signposts are explored, the 3rd driver sends the story in another new direction, beginning act 3.

This pattern continues until the end of the 4th act. At that point, the 5th and final driver, determines the outcome.

I hope that's clearer.

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