Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

Dramatica, Part Two

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

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

www.dramatica. com



So how do we give the reader both the subjective experience of the novel and the objective verification that the story is logical?

We begin by developing  throughlines, and a throughline is  defined by Dramatica  as  a sequence of story points within a single perspective.

Four throughlines are needed to give the reader a sense of completeness, to incorporate both the objective and subjective viewpoints:

(1) An Objective Throughline: the journey through which the objective characters pass on their journey to obtaining or failing to obtain their goal.

(2) A Main Character Throughline: a subjective journey taken by the Main Character to reach his personal goal.

(3) An Influence/Impact Character Throughline: an alternate subjective journey which impacts the Main Character’s assessment of his goals.

(4) A Relationship Throughline: an exploration of how the relationship between the Main Character and Influence Character changes each other’s assessments of where they are in the story.

An example:

In the Great Gatsby, the goal of the objective characters in the Overall Throughline is to fulfill their Innermost

Desires by overcoming certain Fixed Attitudes they have about the world around them.  All of the objective characters are aiming to get what they really want.  They pass through four stages in trying to reach that goal:

(Stage One): Impulsive Reactions to what happens around them:

“I couldn’t guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking, but I doubt if even Miss Baker, who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy skepticism, was able utterly to put this fifth guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind.  To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing-my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police.”

(Stage Two): To a period of Contemplation:

Tom and Daisy attend one of Gatsby’s parties, which gives a new perspective of the man and his “whole caravansary” to himself, Tom, Nick, and Daisy:

“Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby’s party.  Perhaps his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness-it stands out in my memory from Gatsby’s other parties that summer.  There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before.  Or perhaps I had merely grown used  to it, grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again, through Daisy’s eyes.  It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.”

(Stage Three): To a resurfacing of Memories or past lessons:

Gatsby’s subjective view of what happened five years ago in Louisville precipitates a row that includes Daisy, Gatsby, and Tom–and causes extreme embarrassment for Nick and Jordan:

“‘She never loved you, do you hear?’  he cried.  ‘She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.  It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!’

At this point Jordan and I tried to go, but Tom and Gatsby insisted with competitive firmness that we remain-“

(Stage Four:) That finally leads to success or failure in achieving their Innermost Desires:

Gatsby’s father comes to grieve for his son:

“After a little while Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears.”


Tom tries to convince Nick of his depth of feelings for Myrtle’s death:

“‘And if you think I didn’t have my share of suffering-look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog biscuits sitting there on the sideboard, I sat down and cried like a baby.  By God it was awful-‘”


Nick realizes he cannot continue a relationship with Jordan:

“Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”

(2) In the Main Character Throughline , Nick Carraway’s goal is to change his manner of thinking in order to  overcome a certain tendency towards naivte and gullibility: a tendency to judge or to hero worship.  To do so he needs to go through four stages:

(Stage One): From  Playing a Role .

Nick is concerned with being part of the Eastern lifestyle:

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

(Stage Two): To Changing One’s Nature:

Nick is concerned with becoming a bond salesman:

“Most of the time I worked…I went upstairs to the library and studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.”

He is concerned with becoming free of a romantic entanglement back home so that he may begin a relationship with Jordan:

“I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle back home…there was a vague understanding that had to be tactfully broken off before I was free.”

(Stage Three): To Developing a Plan:

Nick visualizes his future:

“I was thirty.  Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade…Thirty-the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”

(Stage Four): To Conceiving an Idea :

Nick cannot conceive that those who had called themselves friends of Gatsby’s in life, would not honor his death by attending the funeral.

So through these four stages of Nick’s development we experience a subjective reaction to Gatsby’s quest to fulfill his Innermost Desires, (as developed in the (1) Overall Throughline).

(3) In the Impact Character Throughline, a counter subjective experience is presented by the Influence or Impact character, who is Gatsby himself. Gatsby’s subjective development counters what we are feeling by seeing the story through our Main Character and Narrator, Nick Carraway.

Gatsby feels his goal is to engage in activities that will gain him enough wealth to attract and attain Daisy Buchanan.

(Stage One): We begin with Nick being impacted by Gatsby’s, Doing:

Gatsby gives large parties, in hopes Daisy will attend.

(Stage Two): This leads Gatsby to need to Obtain something from Nick:

Gatsby wants to obtain the favor from Nick of using his cottage for Gatsby and Daisy’s rendezvous.

Gatsby believes if he can recapture (Obtain) the past–he will possess once again the romance he and Daisy shared:

“He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.  His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was…”

(Stage Three): The impact of which leads others to need to Gather Information about Gatsby.

Tom’s suspicions concerning Gatsby and his background instigate his investigation of the man:

“‘I’d like to know who he is and what he does,’ insisted Tom.  ‘And I think I’ll make a point of finding out.'”

And later:

“‘Who are you, anyhow?’  broke out Tom.  ‘You’re one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim-that much I know.  I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs-and I’ll carry it further to-morrow.”

(Stage Four): The final impact of Gatsby’s alternate view of things is for Nick to Understand:

Nick compares Gatsby’s lack of understanding the hopelessness of his dream with that of a new world explorer:

“…for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.”

(4) Our final Throughline, the Relationship Throughline, explores what do Nick and Gatsby’s alternate, changing subjective views mean. It is through the Relationship Throughline that Fitzgerald develops the theme or argument of the novel.

Nick and Gatsby both find themselves in the Situation that they have been thrown together.

They have alternate concepts of what the future can be:

Gatsby dreams of the future; Nick understands we truly never have a future, only the past:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eludes us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning-

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

(Stage One): They begin by examining that Past:

Nick is curious about Gatsby and his past:

“‘Who is he?’ I demanded.  ‘Do you know?’

“…I would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York.  That was comprehensible.  But young men didn’t-at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they didn’t-drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.”

(Stage Two): Then they want to know How Things Are Changing From  that Past:

The progress of Nick and Gatsby’s relationship is slow, as Nick feels Gatsby is not honest about himself:

“He looked at me sideways-and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying.  He hurried the phrase ‘educated at Oxford,’ or swallowed it, or choked on it, as though it had bothered him before.  And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him, after all.”

(Stage Three): Then how do these developments change their notion of the Future:

Gatsby refuses to follow Nick’s suggestion that he leave town until the implications of his involvement with Myrtle’s death have been cleared up:

“Toward dawn I heard a taxi go up Gatsby’s drive, and immediately I jumped out of bed and began to dress-I felt that I had something to tell him, something to warn him about, and morning would be too late…

‘You ought to go away,’ I said.  ‘It’s pretty certain they’ll trace your car.’

‘Go away now, old sport?’

‘Go to Atlantic City for a week, or up to Montreal.’

He wouldn’t consider it.  He couldn’t possibly leave Daisy until he knew what she was going to do.”

(Stage Four): And finally how is their Present altered.

Heeding Gatsby’s request from beyond the grave, Nick attempts to track down friends and acquaintances of Gatsby’s to honor his death.  Much to his dismay, Nick discovers that those who greedily accepted Gatsby’s hospitality in life, disappeared upon his death.

” ..As they drew back the sheet and looked at Gatsby with unmoved eyes, his protest continued in my brain:

‘Look here, old sport, you’ve got to get somebody for me.  You’ve got to try hard.  I can’t go through this alone.'”

With these four Throughlines we have summarized how human consciousness seeks to resolve conflict.

We’ll begin our next post, since this has gotten rather long, with some general statements about these throughlines, allowing us to see what a wide scope they cover.


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