Wednesday, 25. May 2005

Disclaimer

I've already made favorable mention of the Dramatica software, and will repeat this in the future. This might bring up the question of whether I'm a shill for the company that sells it. Short answer: no.

Longer answer: I bought v.2 of Dramatica about nine years ago, and it works for me. It doesn't work for everybody; I know several writers who found that it limits their options in thinking about their stories, and actually, the program is designed to do just that. If your storytelling is inspired, say, by Wim Wenders' movies, I doubt that this is the tool you might want to use. It's also only available for Windows and OS X, which will limit you some more. If you can, try the demo (full functionality, except for Save and Export).

The reason why I find Dramatica an indispensable tool for the design of interactive stories/characters (an application probably not foreseen by the developers) lies in its very limitations: both the program itself and the Storyforms that are its output are designed to work recursively, using a fixed point combinator. I had no idea what this might be, or that I would have to find out about it, when I started learning to use AIML, but my subsequent attempts to use Storyforms to help me design bots led me to the lambda calculus. It took me a while to get my head around that, but then one day, ta-daaa, the lights went on like Hapland: "So this is how it all works!"

It taught me why the Dramatica story engine works, and why each completed Storyform has to have a fixed point (for those who know Dramatica: the value of the Problem of the Subjective Character that is Steadfast is the value of the fixed point), and incidentally, it also taught me why AIML works, which taught me why LISP works - it's all based on the same idea! And - wait for this! now I'm gonna weird you out! - there's an equivalent idea at the foundation of the Meyerhold/Stanislavski complex of acting theory - where it's called "doubling" -, which grounds the all-important identification of the Actor with the Character, and is expressed in the rule "You are your material". Meyerhold used to write this rule as

Actor = Artist + Medium

but an alternative notation he used was

Actor = Actor1 + Actor2

and the latter, to me, started looking damn similar to

f(x): x -> (('x)('x))

which is a LISP expression that evaluates to itself, and the foundation of a LISP (or AIML) interpreter! Alonzo Church used this as a foundation for all computing; Meyerhold/Stanislavski used it as a foundation for all acting: (('x)('x)) is a fixed point, which means it's a point that I can base a Storyform on, which grounds the Characters, which... but by then, my brain had totally turned to cottage cheese, which might explain why this so-called Disclaimer went off the rails the way it did...

Anyway, the good folks that sell Dramatica have no idea of who I am and what I'm doing, and get their product evangelized by me free of charge.

And if you don't know, now you know.

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