PowerStructure and Dramatica Pro

I read in a previous post from Lord Lightning that some Scrivener users find PowerStructure and Dramatica Pro helpful. After checking out those sites I don’t see why you would then bother with Scrivener. They offer so much structural guidance and the ability to export to a word processor etc. that it seems redundant to then import into Scrivener. What am I missing? And perhaps users of either could briefly say why they are worth the price–especially the costly, though intriguing, PowerStructure. I’m interested in them from a writing a novel, not screen writing, by the way.

It’s some years since I looked at or used either. But (first point) their rates of development are very slow - much, much slower than, say, Scrivener so I doubt my comments are out of date.

Second point: both are more prescriptive than Scrivener - PS slightly more, DP very much more. In other words, each has (different) definite views about how a novel or script should be written and is designed around those views. Scrivener is much more of a freeform writing tool.

Third point: Power Structure is basically an outliner of a fairly traditional sort with, if I remember correctly, various traditional templates such as the Hero’s Journey and the Three-Act structure. It has a fairly old-fashioned user interface, and is designed to be coupled with a simple word-processor/fiction project manager called Power Writer. I suppose Storyist is the nearest contemporary equivalent of them both.

DP is more interesting, in my view. Unlike Scrivener, it too is fundamentally an outliner. But it’s much more than that. It’s built on a unique theory of storytelling which is quite complicated, hard to understand - and some would say, wildly eccentric (as was its interface when I used it). Like others, it claims to have cracked what we all want to know - the universal secret of good storytelling. It claims to offer what is effectively a formula for narrative success. (Don’t we all wish…?)

If you use it, you effectively buy into its theory. I don’t. But in playing around with it, I found it did reinforce one essential for me - that a piece of fiction that is fully satisfying to the reader can have much more going on underneath the words than initially the writer might plan. DP reminds you to put into your story material which you might otherwise leave out. It’s also good at distinguishing between the two processes of outlining a plot and separately weaving that into an interesting narrative.

Neither PS or DP is a replacement for Scrivener; either could be used alongside it as a pre-outliner (or even both together if you feel rich and unintuitive and want the full analytical whammy).


I have moved this to Software by Other Folk.

I cannot speak for DP, but PS is extremely novel centric. In a way it is like Scrivener in that the bits that make up a story are all parcelled up into components which can be easily moved about. Unlike Scrivener, it has a lot of tools for tracking characters in scenes, tension, plot arc, and the like. There is an abundance of “fill out the form” style things. How does this scene change character X; how does it move the plot forward. So, if you subscribe to the standard structure of how novels work, and all you write is novels—it might be of use.

It’s biggest drawback is the interface, which is decidedly OS 9-ish, and as Hugh said, what you buy is basically what you’ll get for eternity. Development is basically done, and has been for years.

There is a trial for DP, so you can give it a shot if you like. I bought a licence years ago, before I found Ulysses. Honestly I haven’t had it installed since I formally switched to a Mac. If it is the type of application you are looking for: My recommendation is to try StoryMill first, or Super Note Card. Both are significantly cheaper and will provide nearly as much in the way of novel support.

I bought Dramatica Pro (version 4, I think) years ago but found it frustrating and annoying. It is a story development tool that is 180 degrees out of sync with how I do things, so haven’t looked at it in eons. I don’t know what the most recent version is like (or even if there is one). IIRC, it is in no way similar to Scrivener. They are very different kinds of tools.

Never bought Powerstructure. I always bypassed it for both the reasons Amber gives - it hasn’t been updated in a long long time - and pretty much the same reasons I didn’t like DP. It was just too structured for how I write. Scrivener provides the balance I need between structure and free-form writing.

Obviously, it’s a very personal decision.

I worked some time with Powerstructure while being in the Windows world, and in spite of a lot of quirks and minor bugs, I kind of liked it. But unfortunately, I missed to keep all versions while updating - because from a certain point on, every update was more unstable than before. They definitely must have lost the one developer who knew what he did. I tried to go back to a previous version (and told them so!!), but as I said, I’ve had lost the version that (almost) worked.

This regards the Windows version. I tried the Mac version - horrible. Whatever font you chose, you almost cannot read anything, and a lot of features the Windows version has never made it into the Mac version.

My advice would be to stay away from it.

I work with Dramatica for a time. Its concept is very abstract, I think, but it helps lot in thinking logically through the story and balance what others call the heart and the action throughlines. The important difference to Scrivener is, Dramatica helps with the plot, nothing more. Scrivener organizes the whole writing project. I’m new to Scrivener, so pardon me if I got it wrong. But if I am writing a historical novel, I can put all website research on my subject as well as all scientific articles into Scrivener. I can add random ideas and concepts and so on. Once, my vision of the novel becomes clearer and I start seeing a protagonist and beginnings of a story, I can switch to Dramatica and soundly develop it. Once it is fleshed out, I have scene material and lots of material for the story. I export this stuff to PDF and import it into Scrivener. There, I can arrange the scene material and start developing sound scenes and, of course, I can write them in Scrivener. So, I have all information on my story in Scrivener as well as the story itself. And Dramatica helps me in one of the many tasks of a writer: thinking through the story from beginning to end, including all characters and subplots.

That’s how Scrivener and Dramatica can interact.

As far as Dramatica itself is concerned: Yes, it’s different, it’s complex, partly hard to understand and sometimes yields problems you wouldn’t have if you didn’t use Dramatica. However, I don’t see writing or developing a story as some kind of right-or-wrong-science. I actually don’t care very much if the theory behind Dramatica is right or if it is wrong, and I don’t think that it matters. What matters is if Dramatica can help you getting all the story chaos in your head down on paper in some fair structured way. And for me, so it does most of the time. But this doesn’t mean that everybody can or should work with it. If you can’t, well then don’t. Every writer is different and works differently - and that’s good.

I just think that if you work with Dramatica, Scrivener can be a great help in organising research material as well as Dramatica reports on the story and above that, it seems to be a sound writing tool but, well, I’m still testing Scrivener, I can’t really say.

i was using Power Structure before I found Scrivener. It looks cool and it very exciting when you first get it. Here’s the problem. It’s not intuitive, you must be working with their theory ie; writer’s journey etc. it’s really about asking questions and filling in answers. you can do that on your own with scrivener but do it the way you want with scrivener. there is no comparison. forget the price. i would pay for anything that works and scrivener hands down blows it away. for another example of power structure you can look at Save the Cat. This is another program that is based on it’s creator’s theory. thus if you use his theory it works. if you wanted to used parts of his theory you could work that into scrivener ie; the beat sheet.

I used Power Writer (the word processor that works with Power Structure) a while back and it was a lot like a very simple version of Scrivener in that it allowed outlining and tagging. It was nowhere near as feature-rich as Scrivener. Dramatica Pro is a program I’ve tried to get into on and off over the last ten years and I just can’t get used to it. Its whole premise is based on a very specific structuralist approach to stories and it does feel like it’s forcing you down a narrow path determined by the creators. You end up with situations along the lines of ‘In element 6 of scene 5 of part 2 describe how the contagonist moves from deduction to induction’. It drives me nuts. There are a few interesting nuggets to be gleaned about different perspectives on a story etc but I find the program’s bizarre use of terminology confusing. If you want to write a very specific type of narrative geared towards a standard Hollywood model then it may help but it seems to posit a very reactionary approach to stories (character centered, non-experimental, with closure). It’s like painting by numbers. For me it takes the a lot of the fun out of writing - spending 5 days answering questions like ‘Show how Avoidance would satisfy the Impact Character’s personal drive’ is enough to kill the muse stone dead. I’d rather spend the time describing titanic space battles.

Since I’ve studied a bit the theory behind Dramatica, I have the feeling that maybe this software is largely used by Hollywood screenwriters and the reason why all the movies feel so alike the last years. Maybe it’s because they all ‘Show how Avoidance would satisfy the Impact Character’s personal drive’… :open_mouth:

I approached Dramatica with an open mind, and as I say above I found it interesting - in the way that many theories of “story” are interesting. For me it also provided a useful reminder, which I appreciated at the time, that, say, “Gone with the Wind” isn’t just the story of Rhett and Scarlett, but also the stories of Rhett and Scarlett individually and the story of the conflict that is the backdrop, all of which are woven together. And, yes, it provided quite a useful way of getting the bare bones down. But, no, I couldn’t be doing with all the jargon and the imperceptible distinctions.