Epic Fantasy Storyform(s) regarding Character Elements

by Joshua

Question: Hey there! Thanks for all of the wonderful and enlightening information you provide on this site.

My question:

How do you allocate Character Elements to an extensive cast, particularly in the Epic Fantasy genre? With only 64 Elements, and potentially more than 64 Characters, even 1 or 2 distributed Elements does not cover the whole cast and their respective roles in contribution to the Grand Story Argument. Would I need to create more storyforms/GSAs and tie them to an overall storyform? I think a network of storyforms would be quite confusing, although I am curious as to how one might approach this issue. Any methods are appreciated!

Bonus question(s), if you have the time:

Do we explore 6 theme sequences PER Act (the nested themes within the 4 Types, in respect to the 4 Acts) or 6 theme sequences (nested themes within 1 Type) throughout the 4 Acts?

If the latter, do we ONLY focus on that Type's themes throughout the 4 Acts, or can we highlight those themes while touching on the themes within the other 3 Types consisting of the remaining 3 Acts?


First, you don't need to assign character elements to every character in the story. You may only need to assign them to the major characters.

Second, in subplots you may assign the elements differently. A character who has a very minor role in the overall story may play a big part (e.g. protagonist) in a subplot.

Third, the rule of thumb is that no two characters should represent the same element at the same time (in the same scene). However, in a big story these elements can be traded among characters at different times.

For instance, in the Harry Potter series, which has many characters and spans seven books, there are a number of characters who function as contagonists. Vernon Dursley, Dobby, Delores Umbridge, and Aberforth Dumbledore all take a turn -- just not at the same time.

You don't need to create separate storyforms for subplots, though in a series you might create a separate storyform for each book. If you want to write a complex novel (like an epic) with multiple point-of-view characters, each of whom has their own fully developed story, you might develop their stories independently. But then your challenge is how to tie all the stories together under one overall story.

Next, regarding sequences...

There are several ways you can use Dramatica to plot out each event in a full-length story, depending on whether you are writing a novel or a screenplay. Screenplays for a feature film are limited to between 48-56 scenes or events on average. This may sound like a lot, but it's not. Screenwriters often struggle to tell a complete story within that limit. Novels are more flexible, especially epic stories or series with many subplots, but even still there are only so many pages you can fill before the story is just too long for a first novel.

However, I caution you not to get hung up on the numbers. The point of theory is to open up possibilities,
to give you a roadmap when you feel lost, and to stimulate ideas that can help you make a better story. It is not to limit your creativity by forcing your story like a square peg into a round hole. Again, don't worry about the math. It's more important that your story carry the reader on an emotional and intellectual journey. No one will be checking that you have the right number of scenes.

It's worth remembering too that there is a lot of flexibility built into the model. In a plot-driven story, you may decide to develop each signpost of the overall plot into a sequence of 6-8 events, while keeping the signposts of the other throughlines as single events. In a Romance, it will likely be the relationship throughline that gets more development while the overall throughline is kept on the back burner. Or you may decide to develop all the throughlines evenly and divide all 16 signposts (4 signposts x 4 throughlines) into sequences with 4 events each.

Some of the easiest ways to plot all the events in a story using Dramatica are found in Armando Saldana-Mora's book Dramatica for Screenwriters.

Saldana-Mora first shows you how to create a 40-part outline that incorporates all the important elements of the Dramatica model.

Later, he shows you how to take the 16 signposts and develop them into sequences of 3-4 events each to get 48-64 scenes.

Melanie Anne Phillips takes a different approach in recommending theme sequences.

However, to answer your question...

If you were writing a typical screenplay, you would have 48 events.

In a four-act model, that would be 12 events per act.
(A three act model would have 12 events in act one, 24 in act two, and 12 in act three.)

Each act contains one signpost for each of the four throughlines, which means the signposts could be divided into sequences of 3 events each (12 / 4). The three events of each sequence would be...

1. Setup (potential trouble).
2. Conflict.
3. Resolution.

The 5 drivers located at the beginning and end of each act provide another 5 events for a total of 53.

All the other Dramatica elements would be incorporated into these events.

If you prefer you can use Phillips' approach, which is based on 6 theme sequences per throughline, each of which may be divided into 4 events (setup, complidation, crisis, and resolution). Note that this is a 3-act model, with two sequences per act.

4 events x 2 sequences x 3 acts x 4 throughlines = 96 events.

All the other Dramatica elements must then fit into these sequences.

Add in the 5 drivers and you get 101 events. But if you ask me, that's a lot of events to plan. Besides, you may not need to develop all four throughlines equally. You might only want to develop the overall throughline in such detail.

Fortunately, any sequence can usually be replaced with a single event. And any event can be divided into a sequence. It all depends on the needs of your story.

Best of luck

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.