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July 6, 2002

Folly is fractal
Posted by Teresa at 12:27 AM *

In the comments section following my post about Viable Paradise and the Evil Overlord Plot Generator, we’ve been kicking around a piece of story-creation software called Dramatica. Let’s just say it isn’t being hailed as the second coming of sliced bread.

Now Jim Macdonald has dug up some movie reviews on the Dramatica site, where the analysis uses Dramatica’s unique brand of literary theory.

1. Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is particularly strong in its objective story range of choice vs. delay. It is also strong in its objective story problem (temptation) and solution (conscience). … As a side note, Jane Austen is considered one of the first “Regency” romance authors.
2. Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan, screenplay (principally) by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg, is an epic WWII film without a Dramatica grand argument story. It contains an objective story throughline and an implied main character, stoic protagonist Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks). Unfortunately, like the eight American soldiers under his command, we are not allowed into his heart enough to become emotionally attached—essential for audience identification with the main character. (…)

There is no readily apparent obstacle character to aid in defining the main character’s drive. (…) Without clearly developed main and obstacle character throughlines, a passionate relationship (subjective story) cannot be explored.

3. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project, co-writer/director/editors Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick’s faux documentary about an urban legend, has created its own mythology. (…) Survival of the fittest is one take on the story…
4. Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love, a fictional account of the life that inspired the art—Romeo and Juliet, is an excellent and lamentable original screenplay by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, its every word and staged action a tribute to the Bard.
5. The Phantom Menace
The real menace in the latest Star Wars saga is the non-existent Dramatica grand argument story. There is an objective story, although I’m not quite sure if the problems stem from Queen Amidala and her planet Naboo’s intolerable situation (universe), or the action packed endeavor (physics) to restore “peace and prosperity.” Unfortunately, I fell asleep during the battle scenes and spaceship chases (heresy!) exhausted from the effort of determining: Who is the main character?
It’s squarely in the running for second-worst review site on the web, right after that unsupplantable champion, allreaders.com.

It’s the Dramatica crew’s analysis of Saving Private Ryan that really makes me want to beat my head against a wall. The only reason to think we can’t get inside the head of the character played by Tom Hanks is that the character says so—but you don’t take a character’s word for that, especially when the rest of the work says otherwise. And if there’s no obstacle character present, what do you call the entire German Army—chopped liver?

Comments on Folly is fractal:
#1 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2002, 01:08 PM:

What's the worst review site on the web?

#2 ::: Trent ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2002, 05:28 PM:

I'm going to take a wild stab and guess the worst review site is... Capalert?

#3 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2002, 05:40 PM:

God, if I could have a time machine and visit Jane Austen to question her about the importance of "choice versus delay." Just to see the look on her face...

Speaking of time machines, every time I drive to New York on 95, and see the sign for the Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island (or is it CT?), I wonder how the old boy would have reacted in his deepest crises if a cloaked time traveler had approached him one day and said, "Hey, they're going to name a f%@#ing zoo after you..."

Best,

John F

#4 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2002, 05:22 AM:

Trent: CapAlert isn't the worst review site on the web, they're among the best! Where else can you find ringing endorsements like "another movie straight from the smoking pits of Hell", complete cluelessness about what the movies are actually about, and an aid for people looking for excessive sex, violence, foul language, or any combination of them?

#5 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2002, 07:14 PM:

Wow. Quite the impressive and subtle subversion of multi-word links you have there. Is there a precedent for that trick, or are you just a genius?

#6 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2002, 08:34 PM:

Lawrence, she's a genius. There may be precedent for this particular trick, but she's definitely a genius. Orcae ita.

#7 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2002, 01:06 AM:

I think I started this line of inquiry, but I have to admit that all the negative comments actually have encouraged me to spend the $40 for the Dramatica Writer's Dreamkit. I reckon that the return in amusement might well be worth the relatively small cost of the software.

#8 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2002, 01:53 PM:

Reading her Phantom Menace review, it occurs to me that George Lucas may be one of the few people in the world whom Dramatica could actually help.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2002, 12:17 AM:

Lawrence, you noticed! I invented that style, but I wouldn't bet I'm the first one who's invented it.

The worst review site on the web is, in my opinion, http://www.allreaders.com/. To see why, go there and try to post a short review of a work you know well.

#10 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2002, 11:54 AM:

Sorry, I didn't make it that far on allreaders.com. I saw Harriet Klausner's name at the top of a list called "Top Ten Scholars," and I had to bail before the laughter drew attention from the rest of the office.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2002, 07:24 PM:

I think I'll add a link to allreaders.com to the main story. It really belongs there, not here.

#12 ::: yog@sff.net ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2002, 11:54 PM:

Bob, when you get the Writer's Dreamkit, would you be good enough to post a review?

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 03:57 PM:

Yes, do please.

#14 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2002, 09:08 PM:

My first writing assignment! Oh boy!

Do you suppose I could promote a free copy of the Writer's Dreamkit or even Dramatica through iNet Reviews?

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