Author Archives: Melanie Anne Phillips


Just had an idea for a children’s book entitled, “If I were a sheep.” Here’s the first coupla lines:

If I were a sheep,
I’d shuffle off to sleep,
In my built-in woolen blanket.

And if I were ewe,
I’d know just what to do:
I’d grab another sheep and spank it.

Rotating Cubes and Built-In Uncompletion

There’s a virtual cube as a screensaver on my LG 3D TV. It rotates clockwise, then blinks out for a moment to reappear somewhere else on the screen, still rotating. Or is it? Does the algorithm continue the rotation pattern during the blanking phase, or does it simply repeat itself for a short span from place to place on the screen? Looking closely I see that each time it reappears, it is, in fact, already in motion, but the edge of the cube is always in the same starting point as it turns. Then, looking at where it fades out, an edge it coming around. But, if I project that motion over the time of the blanking out, like continuing a song in your mind when you walk out of a room where it is playing and then back in again, I find that the edge on the right does not have time to reach the starting point of the edge on the left for the spin algorithm to have continued during the blanking period. They might have just continued the on-screen spin but a little longer and the gap would have been right, so even if it was just a repeat of the same small segment and not a true algorithmic spin, you could never tell – it would be identical because the timing would line up perfectly. Yet they chose not to do that and just to let it not quite match up and, therefore, clearly be nothing more than a simple repeat. All that programming work and still to leave such an easily remedied flaw – a lack of completion – a jarring reset at each repetition. Why would they do that?

Storytelling and Cognitive Modeling

Recently, an associate suggested a tie-in between cognitive modeling of cultural storytelling preferences and Dramatica that might, someday, provide guidelines for “writing the next Star Wars.”

This, for me, opened the whole discussion regarding the relationship between story structure and storytelling – specifically in this case, between our Dramatica theory of narrative and cognitive modeling of audience reactions to stories.

Here is my reply to my associate:

To me, it is important to think of stories as having layers:

The first layer is the structure

The second layer is the subject matter

The third layer is the storytelling style

The fourth layer is the target audience, which will be pre-primed with its own expectations.

In Dramatica theory, Chris and I have named these stages:

1.  Storyforming

2.  Story Encoding

3.  Story Weaving

4.  Story Reception.

Returning to my earlier analogy where I referred to the Dramatica model as the DNA of story structure, these stages have the following correlation:

1.  Species Genome (human, house cat)

2.  Individual Genetics (height, hair color, predilection toward specific diseases.

3.  Clothing, body building, style, and presentation

4.  Surrounding culture, societal norms and expectations, etc.

In terms of characters:

1.  Psychology (The underlying functioning of the mind below the conscious mind – i.e. neuroses, biases)

2.  Personality (The true nature of one’s identity – charismatic, timid, natural leader, joker)

3.  Persona (The image we wish to project to others – i.e. appearing confident, though really fearful)

4.  Presentation or Perception (How the persona is tailored to a particular audience and/or how the audience is pre-loaded to perceive the persona).

Dramatica theory and the story engine function only at the first of these stages – creating a map of the dramatic potentials of a story or a character – the psychology of the story mind or the character mind.

Chris and I have written extensively on the other three in order to provide a means of connecting the raw framework of narrative psychology to the finished product of stories as they are presented to an audience.

And it is in this realm that the suggestions made in your note might be extremely useful.

What makes Dramatica unique is that all previous attempts to understand story structure looked at the way people were dressed and trying to determine from it the underlying psychology.  While there can be some generalized correlation between, for example, people who wear red and a given neurosis, Dramatica can map the psychology directly.

Yet that map is sterile and bears no passion with it.

And so, while essential for creating a sound foundation that is a true functional narrative, Dramatica can never provide all the emotive aspects that make stories (and characters) so attractive.

Conversely, while work on cognitive models of story reception can be extremely useful in establishing guidelines for storytelling, such guidelines will always shift as the culture changes and need to be updated regularly.  Attempts to find absolutes through cognitive modeling can never discover the underlying DNA of character any more than we can determine a person’s individual genome from their wardrobe.

The key to developing a fully connective methodology for “writing the next Star Wars” is to build a bridge between Dramatica and cognitive modeling from the other side of the storytelling/structure divide so that both the underlying psychological functioning of a story and the cultural/societal preferences for substance and style are maximized to create a finished work that is both accurate to human nature and responsive to human desire.

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator Dramatica

The StoryWeaver Method – Step 1

StoryWeaver is a step by step approach to developing your novel or screenplay.

StoryWeaver will help you create your story’s world, who’s in it, what happens to them, and what it all means.

In this first step, we look ahead to the process and outline the four stages of development common to all authors.

There are four stages to StoryWeaver’s story creation path:

1.  Inspiration

2.  Development

3.  Exposition

4.  Storytelling

In the Inspiration section, Storyweaver will help you come up with ideas for your Plot, Characters, Theme, and Genre.

In Development, you’ll flesh-out these ideas, adding details and making all the bits and pieces work together in harmony.

Exposition will help you determine how to reveal your story to your readers or audience, story point by story point.

The Storytelling stage is where you will develop a sequential plan for how your story should unfold, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, event by event.

By the end of the path, you’ll have a completed story, fully developed, expertly told.

Continue to next step…


The StoryWeaver method  is taken from the

StoryWeaver Story Development Software

Created by Melanie Anne Phillips


Rose’s House – Original Song

Here’s a song I wrote back in the mid-1980s, just before I came out as transgendred. The lyrics are veiled references to my inner conflicts of the time.

I credit my songs of the time to both my original and current name, as they were something of a collaboration between my two personas.