Hold your breath! No, don’t hold it. It’s no use. Wait, wait, wait! Maybe you could for a few seconds. No? That’s fine, let go. Phew!
That’s dramatic code unravelled for you.
Stories are a form of communication that expresses the dramatic code or an artistic description of how a person can evolve. You just evolved from a confused customer into a relieved one in the exercise on holding your breath, and rather quickly.
This dramatic code is not a formula. It is a process that is embedded in the human psyche, which demands a resolution, a better understanding and a clearer path to emotional and mental growth. In story-telling, the dramatic code is also ever present through its characters, event and actions. The reader looks for the insight that the dramatic code presents because he or she is programmed to evolve and grow.
Great stories reveal a dramatic code that borders on madness or a deep-rooted passion that can be highly volatile and destructive. Every story has a character whose mission is to get what he can’t have or aspire for something which is beyond his means. Conflict between desire and deprivation adds fuel to the dramatic code, and no story has ever succeeded with both. Or has it?
The ultimate goal of a good story is to provide a dramatic code that may appear similar or familiar, but at the same time fills the reader with awe or horror at the inevitability or uniqueness of the outcome. Readers don’t want to know everything, but they want to believe they know everything that you are going to tell them. At least the nature of the story. For example, is the man getting the girl back though she dumped him for a younger man a few months ago? You may be rooting for this man so you want him to get the girl back, and he will, but you still want to go on that vicarious journey with him to figure out how he would do that.
Good stories generally track one event – they follow a path with the main character or the protagonist (hero) or antagonist (anti-hero) – to extract a piece of important or life-changing insight for the reader. Will the hero find his parents? Will the villain be able to blow up the Taj Mahal? There could be multiple stories in one, but those should be all connected and linked to the path of the protagonist or the antagonist.
Drama is a code of maturity, so it is critical for a story teller to bear that in mind. In story-telling, a writer must pay attention to what the reader expects – that big moment of revelation which will lead to permanent change, and transform the character into a reformed Self. That is the reason why you have been reading the story. Why would you read a 250 pages long book if you don’t know what happens at the end though you were sure that the ending would have to be in a certain way?
The dramatic code is indispensable, not because it makes for tension and speculation in the narration, but also because it expresses the idea that people can become a better or worse version of themselves after a series of events or an incident. Have you ever read a book where nothing happens? Nothing changes and there is no series of events? That book would never get published by anyone because no one would read it.