Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

Dramatica, Part Three

DramaticaI am indebted to the Dramatica software and to The Dramatica Theory of Story as presented by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley.

They are not responsible for my understanding or lack thereof of such theory.  For the real deal, please go to




Let’s review where we are in terms of our four throughlines:

The Main Character Throughline:

Nick Carraway’s subjective experience is colored by his belief that if he could understand Jay Gatsby’s  Psychology (Manner of Thinking or Manner of Manipulating the way other characters think), then he Nick could reconcile the contradictions in  his feelings about Gatsby.

This reconciliation occurs in four stages:

1) Nick is  Playing a Role in an attempt to understand Gatsby.

2) Which leads to Nick making a fundamental Change in  His Nature when playing a role fails.

3) To Developing a Plan

4) To finally abandoning Manipulation or psyching out Gatsby when he Conceives Gatsby in a new way.

The Objective Story Throughline:

The world of the Objective Story is a world of  Fixed Attitudes, Mind Sets, or Biases. The objective characters have all seen the world in one way for so long, it’s hard for them to get a new perspective: one that will allow them to change.

Their  transformations  occur through the four stages of :

1) Responding Impulsively, because of  their biases.

2) The consequences of their impulses lead to  Contemplation.

3) Which causes them  to examine their Memories.

4) Until they finally realize what their Innermost Desires really are, and they understand (or not) how their Fixed Attitudes have been a hindrance.

The Influence or Impact Character Throughline:

Now, while Nick Carraway’s focus is on the Psychology of Jay’s interactions with  others.  Jay Gatsby–the Influence or Impact Character–is focused on Activity, on Doing.  Jay acts, while Nick thinks.

Gatsby’s Activity impacts Nick’s assessment, and colors his narration, through four stages:

1) Jay’s Doing  leads to

2) Nick Obtaining a glimpse into Jay’s true character

3) Which leads Nick to Gather Information  about what Jay really wants and who he is, until

4) Finally Nick Understands  Jay.

The Relationship Throughline:

The Relationship between Nick and Gatsby is framed by the Situation they find themselves in.  Their understanding of that Situation has developed over the years they’ve known each.

The growth of their coming to grips with the Situation also passes through four stages:

1) From a consideration of their Past Relationship to

2) Examining How that Relationship is Changing,

3) To considering what their Future Relationship might be

4) To  finally accepting what the relationship  is in the Present.

Our four throughlines determine character growth throughout the story.  These throughlines pair up with one of the four  domains or realms of the Human Universe, two of which are objective, two subjective:

Objective: Situation

Objective: Activity

Subjective: Fixed Attitudes

Subjective: Psychology

The pairings we have in Gatsby are:

  • Objective Situation with Subjective Relationship Throughline
  • Objective Activity with Subjective Impact Character Throughline
  • Subjective Fixed Attitudes with Objective Throughline
  • Subjective Psychology with Subjective Main Character Throughline

There are many subtleties of the Dramatica theory beyond this.  For example, characters each react and interact from four levels:


  • Standards of Evaluation
  • Motivation
  • Methodology

Understanding how these differ, especially for your major characters, adds incredible depth of understanding.  For anyone interested, I suggest you explore further, using the links I give at the beginning of this post.

This foundation has admittedly been abstract.  In my next post, I’ll try to bring theory to the practice of actually structuring a story.

There are 12 Essential Questions we’ll examine next time.

Join the club


Membership: Free or low price offers, community of thriller lovers, get the books before anyone else!

Leave a Reply