Subtxt Settings

While a Dramatica storyform identifies 75 touch-points between Author and Audience, Subtxt’s Premise sees FOUR (and one of those is hidden by default). Moreover, these items reference the relationship between the Author and the work—not the Author and Audience. Think of these Appreciations as a means by which we understand a Dramatica storyform, and therefore better appreciate your story's argument.

In short, Premise Appreciations are shortcuts to your Artistic Intent.


The purpose of a Premise operates under one of two guiding principles: Achieiving a Goal or Setting an Intention. With Achieving a Goal, the message of the story revolves around problem-solving (Star Wars, Marriage Story, the first season of Barry, and Of Mice and Men). In stories that focus around Setting an Intention, the purpose is to emphasize some aspect of self-actualization (like Elf, Mean Girls, The Social Network, and Platoon).

Setting the Mental Sex of Your Story


The primary function of a story is to challenge, or obstacle, one’s preconceptions and biases. A Premise invites someone to re-consider their justifications against an alternative perspective. The Crux of the Argument, or point, of the Premise takes one of two different paths.

If you chose Achieving a Goal for the Purpose of your Premise, your choices are to Abandon or to Maintain. With Abandon, the Premise of your story will advocate someone abandon, or give up, an inequitable way of approaching problems. With Maintain, the Premise will argue the importance of holding onto an inequitable way of approaching problems.

If you choose Setting an Intention for the Crux of your Premise, the choices for the point of your story shifts to reflect that intent.

Stories that structure themselves around Setting Intentions are less concerned with abandoning or maintaining a particular approach to solving problems, and instead focus on a direction of Balance or Growth. With an intent to Balance, the Premise of your story will advocate managing alternative approaches to inequity. With an intent of Growth, the focus is on allowing--or moving through--inequity as direction to point one's purpose.

Everything in Subtxt is related--if you make one choice in one section of the application, choices and views in others will shift to accomodate your choices. If, for some reason, you don't see--or aren't able--to make the kinds of choice you want, you will need to un-select your last choices to open up selections elsewhere.

The combination of both Structure and Intent opens up several different kinds of Premises. You can see your changes as you make your selections by looking to the Premise window in the upper right hand corner of the Premise Builder. Note how stories structured around Achieving a Goal look to cause and effect for answers:

Abandon avoiding responsibility, and you can free someone.

Stories structured around Setting an Intention look to balancing and managing as means of manifesting intent:

Address being self-interested by balancing your overwhelming avoidance of responsibility with your being pursued by someone.

When designing your Premise, choose the one that connects with you the most--NOT the one you think is more sophisticated or complex. Too often, writers choose the Setting an Intention story when--if they were honest with themselves--mean to write a story about structured around Achieiving Goals.

The Crux of a Premise sets the Resolve of a Storyform to either Changed (Realign or Adjust) or Steadfast (Maintain or Grow).

Ending or Direction

The last, and probably most significant, impact to the Premise of a story is the Ending or Direction Appreciation.

A Premise seeks to educate the Audience on a particular path towards solving problems or managing inequities. This thematic message wraps up the Premise into a singular meaningful argument.

If you choose Reason for the Structure of your Premise, you will find four alternate Endings:

  • Triumph
  • Virtuous
  • Bleak
  • Tragedy

Stories of Triumph argue what happens when the "good guys" win and the Main Character returns home happy (like Star Wars, Top Gun, Casablanca, and Back to the Future). Virtuous stories feature Main Character who return home happy, but fall short of an objective "win." (like Rocky, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Roman Holiday). Bleak stories find Main Characters who win--but at a great personal cost (like Unforgiven, Memento, and the first season of Cobra Kai). Stories of Tragedy argue what happens when both failure and emotional angst combine (like Hamlet, Amadeus, and Hamilton).

For a more elaborate explanation of these four Endings, along with video clips, visit Narrative First and its Series of Articles entitled Meaningful Endings.

Stories of Relationships are less about their Endings, and more about the Direction they advocate. Subtxt accomodates this reality by adjusting this final Setting to reflect four alternate Directions:

  • Composure
  • Present
  • Stagnant
  • Disconnect

Stories with a Direction of Composure strike a gentle chord between two inequitable motivations (like The Matrix, The Farewell, or Call Me By Your Name). Stories with a Direction of staying Present manage external challenges with a personal knowing (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, her, and A Doll's House). Stories where the Direction is Stagnant find personal uncertainty clashing with external growth (like Election, The Social Network, and Witness). And lastly, those stories of Disconnection find the Premise separating the personal from the impersonal (like Snowpiercer, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Platoon).

Note that a Premise structured around Relationships and focused on an Intent of Growth will see the Direction of Composure as a Direction of Transcendence. For a more elaborate explanation of these four Directions, along with video clips, visit Narrative First and its Series of Articles entitled The Female Mental Sex Premise.

By setting the Ending or Direction of your Premise, you focus the minds of your Audience on familiar aspects of what it means to face both internal and external challenges, granting them a strong vantage point from which to understand what it is you are trying to say with your story.

The four Endings, or Directions, correlate with a combination of the Story Outcome and Story Judgment. From left to right, this would be Success/Good (Triumph/Composure/Transcend), Failure/Good (Virtuous/Present), Success/Bad (Bleak/Stagnant), and Failure/Bad (Tragedy/Disconnect).

True to form, a Female Mental Sex narrative structure with a Steadfast Main Character Resolve requires a bit of an alteration to this idea of Direction over Ending:

As the Female Mental Sexed mind in a state of justification cares little for notions of Success or Failure, the two Directions available to this type of narrative are Transcendence or Inertia, growth or lack of growth. The measure of difference between a Steadfast/Female/Success/Good story and a Steadfast/Female/Failure/Good story is so minute, that any appreciable meaning is lost in the reductive approach of the Premise. Choosing one or the other will not have any noticeable effect on the order of events in the story.


If you would like to mess around with the space-time continuum of your story (yes, Subtxt can do that), feel free to press Ctrl + E on your keyboard to reveal the Continuum Setting.

Hidden from view on purpose, selecting one or the other will determine whether the structure of your story reads space first on its way towards interpreting time OR reads time first on its way towards interpreting space.

Yes, pretty heady stuff.

We hide this selection from view for most users because 9 times out of 10, the Continuum of a typical story is focused around Spacetime (Space first, and then Time). There are some stories, however, that call for the alternate point of view (Time and then Space). Stories like Sideways, Nebraska, Ex Machina, and 12 Angry Men entertain temporal progressions on their way towards appreciating spatial concerns.

If this is too much, feel free to press CMD + E and return back to your normal life. 🙂

If there ever was an Expert setting in Subtxt this would be it. The Continuum of a story matches the Story Limit found in Dramatica: Spacetime is an Optionlock, Timespace is a Timelock. While you won't see this different played out in Dramatica, when you set your Continuum to Timespace, Subtxt compensates for your selection by re-ordering and re-arranging the Scene Storybeats of your narrative. You can learn more about the thinking behind this concept in the article, Time and Space in Dramatica: Rewriting the Story Limit.

Video: Writing Stories of Virtue

The combination of a Failure Story Outcome and a Story Judgment of Good oftens confounds writers. How can the Main Character argue the Solution when they start with the Problem? The answer lies in understanding the relativistic nature of the Dramatica storyform.

These two videos are a great starting point in understanding why this initiall appears incorrect:

It's helpful to remember that the polar aspects of a Dramatic Argument are not absolutes. Faith is not simply the "opposite" of Disbelief, and neither is Conscience the opposite of Temptation.

Note that between these two poles exist a sliding scale, or continuum:

  • too much Conscience
  • Conscience
  • not enough Conscience
  • not enough Temptation
  • Temptation
  • too much Temptation

Knowing this helps when you find yourself struggling between what appear to be two incompatible possibilities for your story.

For example, in a story where a group of characters find themselves chasing down a valuable artifact, the argument might lie somewhere between Conscience and Temptation. The Author may see Temptation as a Problem, and Conscience the Solution. But in plugging this into Subtxt's Premise Builder, and setting the Ending to Virtuous, the Premise seems to run counter-intuitive to and understanding of Temptation as "bad," and Conscience as "good."

The sliding scale above is the answer.

The story could argue that "Virtuous are those who become something by not giving into temptation." and set Temptation as the Solution of the story. That would still carry the Author's argument as "Not giving into temptation" is not the same as "Conscience". It may sound like a cheat, but what you're doing is focusing the story on not doing Temptation rather than engaging in doing the right thing.

Alternatively, the Author could set the Problem of the story to Temptation, and then illustrate the IC's position as being against Temptation (against taking the easy way out, or not thinking of consequences), as that is still not Conscience.

It doesn’t make logical sense at first because most writers think in the traditional linear sense of "Act one, then Act two, then Act three." This Failure/Good Solution/Problem issue (a Virtuous story) is a means of understanding the whole story all at once.

Once the writer grasps this concept, everything else should fall more readily into place.

© 2023 Narrative First, Inc.