Story as mosaic: using Dramatica as nucleation sites for the individual tiles

ennucleation/nucleation* sites

I don’t see a lot of people talking on the self-publishing forums about using Dramatica to plot their novels. I do.

As I’m re-writing/revising/editing/re-visioning my novel-in-progress, I’m returning to the Dramatica text boxes I blithely filled in (encoded) years ago with the ideas that came from the story-as-it-was, and deepening my understanding of each of these items, as the scenes I assigned the ‘apps’ – the Dramatica appreciations (elements) – to come up for review.

Some appreciations got moved around in The Great Reorganization of a few years back (the one and only – I’m not going through that again). In some scenes I have the old appreciations and the new ones, and I have to consider whether they are in the right place in the story to get used (a process called Storyweaving).

And dang it if they don’t hold together.

Dramatica is serving for me as an ennucleator, a creator of nucleation sites.

What is that?

Here’s the science of snowflakes and ice crystals, mineral and gem formation, and many other things from the Fibonacci patterns evidenced in sunflower seeds to the beautiful images provided by fractals and Mandlebrot sequences.

What the heck am I talking about?

In short, each of these natural beauties requires a starting point – and the starting point is the odd point. The different one. The beginning. The nexus.

The nucleus.

Ice crystals will not form, even if the conditions are perfect, if there is not a speck of dust for the first water molecule to attach itself to. Rain and snow won’t form and fall (this is the reason for seeding clouds: providing nucleation sites). The sunflower spiral of seeds start from a single point in the center. A gem is formed by crystallization from a single speck.

Dramatica does that for me: it provides those nuclei for ideas to start from. It pulls the actual story part out of a fog of ideas and condenses it into ‘Forewarning’ or ‘Unique Ability’ or ‘Crucial Element’ or ‘Catalyst.’

It is not an entirely logical process – after I read the prompts, my subconscious takes over and pushes my conscious mind away, makes its connections, and says ‘Dang it – but that fits perfectly!’

It serves, for me and my CFS brain-fog damaged mind, as a way to get the story down in little tiny pieces, onto paper (or screen). I keep finding, as I complete or update a tiny hexagonal tile, that Dramatica has a place in the overall mosaic of the story for that tiny tile.

I have learned to surrender to the process. It is eerie at times – but Dramatica never gives me even one piece: I have to create each one myself. The prompts guide, instigate, provoke. I let it flow. The tile happens. My answer fits. I marvel.

Whether this is the way it works for the professional screenwriters who use Dramatica, I don’t know. Whether it works for normal novel writers – if there is such a thing – I don’t know. Whether it would even work for me were I my former, ‘well,’ self, I’ll never know.

The learning curve has been long and steep – but since I undertook it already ill, that’s another thing I won’t know if it could have been shorter or easier. I’m slow – but amazingly stubborn. We suit each other, Dramatica and me. It helps me figure out the pieces I need, and how many, and then sets me up with possible frameworks to fit the individual tiles into, to create a giant mosaic. I like it – it really helps me revise.

And danged if the story doesn’t hold together. Credit where credit is due.

*’Nucleation sites’ means the places where the nucleus, a particle such as a dust mote, starts crystallization for a single raindrop, snowflake, or crystal.

‘Ennucleation sites’ has been used in the sense of the PLACES you obtain these nuclei (in one patent, a screen that produces tiny bubbles to create the beginnings of bigger bubbles for aeration).

I changed the title because it is a little too complex to explain each time; for the purpose of an analogy, either will work, and ‘Nucleation’ is better known.

(‘Enucleation’ refers to the process of REMOVING a nucleus, say, from an egg, to replace it later with a nucleus from a different egg; it is also, in medicine, used to indicate the removal of an eye.)

My Scene Template includes a place for the Dramatica appreciations as part of the ‘stuff’ that goes into each scene.


2 thoughts on “Story as mosaic: using Dramatica as nucleation sites for the individual tiles

  1. Pam Turner

    I’ve found myself going back to Dramatica again and again to improve my stories. There’s so much more I need to learn about it, having only scratched the proverbial surface, but I recommend it to other writers, whether they write screenplays or novels.


    1. ABE Post author

      I keep the Dramatica file open as I write, so I can pop in for a quick idea about something. I don’t know if it’s my sense of completion, or the fact of actually completing something, but once I illustrate a point, it seems to fit.

      I think of it as places where my ideas start to gel or set or chrystallize. It is difficult enough because it is not logical or linear, but it’s part of the process – and you don’t mess with process that works.

      Don’t you love how you can tell any story with it?



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