Chris Huntley is a multi-talented man. He creates software for writers, is an expert in story development, and gives presentations to help fellow writers. He is also a big presence at the con as his company Write Brothers is a long time exhibitor and he hosted the “Heroes, Villains, and Dramatica Archetypes” panel at last year’s convention. I interviewed Chris about his career and involvement with the con. Take a look!
1. Can you tell me a little bit about you and what you specialize in?
My name is Chris Huntley. I am Vice President and co-founder of Write Brothers Inc. , developers of Academy Award-winning software such as Scriptor, Movie Magic, and more. I am also co-creator of the Dramatica theory of story, a theory rich in explanations for how and why stories work the way they do. I spend a great deal of my time writing and lecturing on story structure and story development.
2. How did you get involved with Comic-Con?
In 2000, we were invited to participate in a Comic-Con booth hosted by the San Diego Asian Film Festival. We loved the show and got our own booth the next year and every year since.
3. How was your experience hosting the “Heroes, Villains, and Dramatica Archetypes” panel?
Fantastic! I didn’t know what to expect because I had the first panel slot on Day 1 of Comic-Con. I got to the room a half hour early to set up and the Comic-Con staff was already there and ready for me – so was half a room of audience. The staff got me set up in less than five minutes, so I took the remaining twenty-five minutes for Q & A before my panel began. By the time the panel officially started, the room was packed and we had a great time. Some friends of mine were turned away because we’d reached capacity. Maybe next time they’ll get there earlier!
4. How is Comic-Con different then the other events where you give presentations?
There is an eagerness and earnestness in the audience’s interest in story that is refreshing and invigorating. There is also a great mix of writing experience, from writers just beginning, to seasoned professionals. I find that this mix works particularly well since my presentations are interactive and designed to give writers tools and techniques they can use in their own work — immediately.
5. What are your plans for this year’s Con?
Many people who attended my panel last year approached me afterward and told me how surprised they were by how much they learned. For some it was a real eye-opener. This year I am going to delve even deeper into story and expand beyond heroes, villains, and Dramatica character archetypes. I hope to get more into character development, as well as its connection to plot, theme and genre. Most importantly, I plan to continue to emphasize practical application so that writers who attend walk away with real tools to find and fix real story problems. We have yet to be told when or where the panel will be, but as the Con informs us, we will let everyone know via our Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/write.brothers) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/Write_Brothers) pages. So sign up and stay informed.
UPDATE: Chris recently learned that his panel this year is called “Writing Action Packed and Character Driven Stories” and is on Saturday in Marriott Hall 1&2.
6. You are the co-creator of the writing software and technique Dramatica, can you explain what Dramatica is and how it has evolved?
Dramatica is a theory that tries to explain how stories work, and Dramatica Pro is a story development software program based on the Dramatica theory. The basic idea is that stories are models of human psychology. Stories, or what we like to call Grand Argument Stories, are analogies to a single human mind attempting to resolve an inequity (i.e. solve a problem).
My writing partner, Melanie Anne Phillips, and I began working on a screenwriting book back in 1980-81. We were looking for common elements in stories, particularly Action/Adventure stories. We came up with a couple key concepts but then got stuck. We worked with the ideas over the next decade, and kicked it into high gear in 1990. We didn’t have any intention to develop an entire theory of story, but that is where we ended up. The further we got into story, not settling for half answers, the further we seemed to move away from story and into psychology. That was a big surprise to us. By 1994, we had a deeply developed theory of story and released our book, “Dramatica: A New Theory of Story.” Write Brothers released the Dramatica Pro software the same year.
Since then, we have continued to develop the theory and the software with a large national and international following. Since Dramatica is about story, it works for developing novels, screenplays, television shows, stage plays, comic books and graphic novels, video games, and even role-playing games. Writers on movies, such as Contact, used Dramatica, as well as TV shows such as Dead Like Me and Star Trek Voyager. Author Tracy Hickman has used Dramatica on several books (e.g. Bronze Canticles Trilogy) and RPG projects, such as his Serenity RPG: Out in the Black, and his newest RPG, Dragon’s Bard (http://www.xtremedungeonmaster.com/).
7. How are Dramatica and your company Write Brothers represented at the con?
Write Brothers has a booth at the con, Booth #1429. Dramatica Pro and our other software will be demonstrated at the booth and for sale at special low show prices, of course. We’ll also be demonstrating our comic/graphic novel script template for Movie Magic Screenwriter. I will be signing books and answering story development questions at the booth for the duration of the con.
8. What is the experience of being an exhibitor at such a massive convention?
Comic-Con gives us huge exposure to an enormous audience and a cross-section of many entertainment-related industries. It has been a boon for us to participate at the con for the last decade, especially since there has been such an exciting convergence of film and television with Comic-Con’s more traditional comic/graphic novel roots.
9. Write Brothers is also a sponsor of the Comic-Con International: Film Festival. Can you tell me how it got involved with that?
When Comic-Con International decided to expand to include a film festival, it was a natural fit for us. We jumped at the opportunity to support Comic-Con, the film festival, and the filmmakers. It has turned into a great success. It is great when you see such quality at an event. I encourage people to take the time to catch the films at the con.
10. What is it about the Film Festival that motivates your company to sponsor it?
My business partner, Stephen Greenfield, and I are USC film school graduates and have been developing screenwriting software since 1982. We LOVE filmmaking, and won a technical achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for developing Scriptor, the first professional screenplay formatting software. Sponsoring the Comic-Con International Film Festival is a way for us to give back to the community that has given us our careers.
You can learn more about Chris Huntley, Write Brothers Software and The Dramatica Story Theory at:
Thanks to Chris for the awesome interview opportunity and make sure to check out the “Writing Action Packed and Character Driven Stories” panel at Marriott Hall 1&2 on Saturday!
Involved with SDCC and interested in getting interviewed for the site? Send an email to [email protected] explaining why you would make an interesting interview subject.