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December 7, 2007

Dramatica Pro

    We've all experienced it. Some writers think it's a myth, others know the dark reality of it every time they sit at their computer. Writer's block.

    Lucky for writers, there is a treatment for the block that ails you. Dramatica Pro. It is a software designed by writers to help writers organize their stories, generate ideas, build characters, and map plots. In short, it is a very handy story development tool.

    Here are just some of the features Dramatica Pro has to offer:

Design your characters from scratch. Or as they say in the film biz, cast them. Give them hair color, skin tone, and clothing style, then the software will create an image of your character for you. (While you'll likely have a more accurate description of your character in your head, it's helpful to have a tangible image of who s/he is for added inspiration when you're writing your next scene.)

Develop your characters. Dramatica can help you find your character's motivation, detail their biographies, define their relationships with other characters, and assign themes for each character to represent. (This is usually most helpful in writing genre stories such as Fantasy or Sci-fi which tend to use characters to represent various traits or ideas such as brute strength or freedom. Dramatica can help you keep all of this in order and remind you of the significance of your character as you're writing.)

Use Dramatica Pro's story engine to help create scenarios if you feel stuck. Don't worry about it taking your story away from you. It works by taking all the information you've given it so far in order to create plots that are most accurate to your characters, themes, and concepts. (Again, this is handy if you don't mind following a certain genre pattern, or it could be a great jumping off point if you have a really bad case of writer's block.)

The Dramatica Pro Story Status option will inform you if you're straying from the beaten track and have forgotten one of your main characters, or have not addressed one of your main themes. So smart! (Of course, remember that you're always smarter. So if it's telling you you've strayed, consider it constructive criticism rather than straight fact. Perhaps you mean to stray. But if not, Story Status can be a useful tool for the wanderers among us.)

    The downside of Dramatic Pro is the cost. It is $250 from

Apple.com or $270 at Dramatica.com. However, there is a cheaper $60 one available called Writer's Dream Kit that doesn't have all the goodies that Dramatica Pro has, but it can still prove useful.

    With thousands of these products out on the market, including how-to books that are meant to tell other writers how to write, it is smart to be wary. Dramatica Pro is not smarter than a writer's intuition, and it does not have the full use of beautiful language like you do. However, as a technical tool it can really help writers who find it difficult to generate ideas or develop a plot. Especially if you're a new writer, it can teach you technique so that eventually you won't need a program, just a blank piece of paper.

    Check out www.dramatica.com for more info and help on writing.

    P.S. In April Teen Ink is doing a special College issue, so send us your college essays, personal statements, or college reviews. Tell us about what it was like visiting a certain campus, or about how stressful or inspiring it is to apply to colege. You can submit your work by clicking here.

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