Screenwriting Secrets by John Scott Lewinski

Screenwriting Secrets » Dramatica

Dramatica by Burbank, CA's Screenplay Systems promises to help any screenwriter (either novice or expert) to "develop unbelievable characters, seamless plots and passionate themes into fully realized stories. And, it delivers.

Screenplay Systems also makes popular organizing, planning and bookkeeping software for motion picture and television production managers and line producers. Dramatica is their entry in the story development race and offers the most graphically friendly environment for Mac and PC users.

After gliding through an easy installation program, users move directly to an easy, tile-based, point and click menu screen that allows the writer to either start a new story or pick up analysis of an old story at any point in its development. The initial options include: StoryGuide, Open Story, Characters, Plot Progression, Theme Browser, Query System, Story Engine, Story Points, Reports and Brainstorming.

If not initially familiar with Dramatica's working structure, you can jump directly to the StoryGuide section that allows you to jump into a quick start on your new story. This overview of the program also offers access to more advanced function and could become a favorite of a veteran Dramatica user.

The Open Story command obviously allows you to access a story you've been working on in the past. But, it also presents the interesting opportunity to breakdown and analyze a pre-existing story included in the software with Dramatica's functions. This option gives the less-experienced writer a great insight into how legitimate, big-time, professional scripts work before they move into the hard work on their own products.

The Characters tile helps you to develop and flesh-out your characters. The function allows you to go much deeper than mere name, appearance, sex or age. It allows you to figure out the character's needs and function with the narrative. Finally, the Character tool allows you to define immediately the relationships between your characters -- an essential tool because those relationships invariable will drive most screenplays.

The Plot Progression command outlines a linear view of a given story's throughlines, plot points (called sign posts in Dramatica's parlance). Dramatica builds its storyline structure around the model of four throughlines, each with four Signposts, and three Journeys (the acts between the signposts). While this model isn't unique to Dramatica, and while not every writer might choose to construct their movie script in this manner, it works well enough for the software's purposes.

Theme Browser gives the user a 3D look at a story's dramatic elements (characters, plot signposts, etc.), offering an overview of how they all work together to build an effective script. If you see something not quite working here, simply go back to the main tile menu and attack the weakness there.

The Query System offers a sort of test to work out where you want a story to go. The function asks a series of multiple choice and fill-in questions. How you answer those queries will define how you will tell your story.

The most advanced Dramatica user can go directly to the Story Engine to access the master controls for creating a plot. In one of the most interesting factors in Dramatica, this function lets you play with different possibilities and twists in your story by shuffling the one or two elements and seeing how the plot settles after that.

The Story Points section offers a more linear, text-based table interface to examine dramatic elements, their order and their arrangement. You can enter new data into the table or move elements around into new orders and patterns.

The Reports tile allows you to look at detailed results on your plot, characters, theme, etc. You can then print out those reports or export them into a word processor or screenwriting program.

Finally, the Brainstorming function presents the Spin the Model option. It takes the story choices made so far and randomly fills in more data to round out the rest of a plot to offer ideas a writer may not have originally conceived. It can come in handy in the case of writer's block or indecision.

For less experienced users, Dramatica offers a Help menu and a Dictionary of terms and concepts to make the software easier to use from beginning to end.

With its very simple, click-and-play, text-entering interface, even the techno-phobic writer can employ Dramatica to help organize and develop a better screenplay.

To order the latest version of Dramatica, click here.

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