Storyforming

A key concept of traditional narrative theory is that the narrative itself is transportable among media. The narrative is not the complete story, but simply the essential dramatics of the deep structure. In Dramatica, we call this the Storyform. Dramatica is very precise about what this underlying dramatic argument contains.

Each of the elements that must appear in a complete storyform is called an appreciation, because it is necessary for the audience to appreciate the story from that perspective to prevent a hole in the dramatic argument. Some appreciations are structural in nature, such as the story's goal, or the Main Character's unique ability. Others are more dynamic, such as the Main Character's mental sex, or the story's limit through the imposition of a timelock or an optionlock.

When analyzing a work to be adapted, it is sometimes difficult to separate the storyform from the storytelling. A good rule of thumb is to think of the storyform as the author's logistic argument and the storytelling as the emotional argument.

A good example of this can be seen by comparing Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story, Cyrano de Bergerac to Roxanne, or Heart of Darkness to Apocalypse Now. In each pair, the storyform is very nearly the same, while the storytelling is quite different.

An example of a poor adaptation that failed at the storyforming level was the translation of A Christmas Carol into the motion picture Scrooged, starring Bill Murray.

In the original Dickens story, Scrooge is a character who must start doing something, rather than stop doing something. Scrooge is not best described as pro-actively hurting people but more as allowing suffering to continue due to his lack of action. He has a hole in his heart. The ghost of Christmas Present presents him with two children, Want and Need. They serve to illustrate the problems Scrooge perpetuates through his lack of generosity.

In the modern adaptation, Bill Murray's character is portrayed as someone who must stop doing something. He is show as pro-actively harmful to a number of people. But when the argument is made for him to change, he is still presented with those who want and are needy. That argument is simply not appropriate to a character who needs to stop. As a result, the attempt to make a more proactive villain, updated for our time, failed because the supporting argument contained in the remainder of the storyform was not adjusted accordingly.

Use your Dramatica software to arrive at the single storyform that best describes the work you are adapting, and then make sure that if you decide to change anything, you run another storyform to learn what else must be changed as well. You may discover that only minor changes need to be accommodated, or you may find out that the storyform needs to be altered so heavily that the item you intended to change would scuttle any sense of familiarity with the original.

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