The Dramatica Theory to Story Structure

Plot, climax, rising action, falling action, structure; all terms writers use when talking about stories, but often their exact definitions tend to elude us. One would think that with all the brilliant minds that have written stories over the course of history, we would have found one definitive method of writing that worked for everyone, but unfortunately, it seems we’re always finding something new, something better, something that works for us.

It was Aristotle who first defined the structure of a story.  Since then, we have seen an explosion of different methods and theories of story structure, each having its place and each being extremely useful.  We have seen the advent of the Index Card Method (, the Deep Structure Method ( and the Snowflake Method (  Personally, I have found that I prefer to use Dramatica Theory for structuring my novels.

To explain why I enjoy using Dramatica, it’s probably best to explain what it covers.  First, it is incredibly rich and detailed and breaks down story structure into the following aspects:

  1. The Grand Argument
  2. Character
  3. Plot and Plot Progression
    1. The differences between plot and storyweaving
    2. 3 and 4 Act Plots
    3. Storyforming and Dynamics
    4. Story Encoding
    5. Storyweaving

For a writer like me (e.g. not that sharp and needing gobs of help), Dramatica Theory provides a nearly step-by-step method for developing a story.  BUT!  The great thing about Dramatica Theory is that it gives the writer a tremendous amount of wiggle-room as well.

Writers can usually be grouped into one of two camps; pantsters and plotters.  Pantsters are those authors that write from the “seat of their pants”.  Plotters, on the other hand, love to plan every step of the story before getting started.

The best thing about Pantster writing is that the story can grow organically and take many amazing twists and turns that the writer never intended.  Their most formidable problem though is they tend to suffer horribly from writer’s block.

Plotters rarely suffer from writer’s block because often, they never get around to actually writing.  They spend years developing entire worlds, languages, family histories, but never writing their story.

Dramatica Theory, in my opinion, helps alleviate the problems in both camps.  I can have a novel plotted within a month but with enough room for me to let the story grow as I write, thereby allowing me to become a quasi-plotter.  I can write from the hip, but have plenty of structure available to keep me from hitting a wall.

If you are interested in trying Dramatica Theory, you can find the entire theory at the Dramatica website (  Glen Strathy has created a website that provides an excellent condensed version of Dramatica if you aren’t interested in the complete theory.  His website is available at  Give Dramatica a shot and maybe it will work for you!


Darin Elliott works as a Laboratory Technician for Leading Technology Composites.  Married for the past twelve years to his wife Misti, he is the father of three children and grandfather to one grandson (with another on the way).  Darin writes in the science fiction and horror genres with a style reflective of Clive Barker and Philip K. Dick.

His writing methods can be found at his literary blog Webgoji’s Ramblings: