The DAGMAR Approach, which stands for Dependent Arising Goal Markers, is a creative and practical tool for assessing how the major storylines of your story may be working together or against one another in terms of causality. The term “DAGMAR Approach” was coined by author and filmmaker Jeff Bercovici.
In this article, we will look at how the DAGMAR Approach can help you to determine which storylines are working well together and how you can use this information to guide your story in a more productive direction. The DAGMAR Approach is a very creative tool for organizing narrative structure because it takes into account the way cause and effect usually work together in any story. However, the DAGMAR Approach is also useful for mapping out the plot of a movie or book from scene to scene.
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What Is DAGMAR?
DAGMAR stands for Dependent Arising Goal Markers. This approach takes into account the way goals and events work together to produce cause and effect in a story. The goal, or end point of our narrative, is what we are striving toward. The events or steps we take on the way to this goal are known as dependent arising goal markers, which simply means our goals will give rise to any number of dependent steps in order to achieve that objective.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say I want to go home and fetch some milk. The goal is to get home, and the dependent steps are going to be getting my keys, unlocking the door, going to the refrigerator where I will find a carton of milk, and then going back out into the hallway where I will push my carton back out the door.
In DAGMAR this sequence of dependent steps would be broken down into a series of goal markers.
Where is DAGMAR approach used?
DAGMAR Approach is a great tool for mapping out the plot of a movie or book from scene to scene. If you do a simple exercise, outlining your story with DAGMAR, you’ll discover that different meaning and significance are placed on the events in your story as they unfold.
You’ll also see that there are moments when things seem to just happen without any apparent explanation. This happens because the events in a story are connected, whether you know it or not. It’s all part of the narrative structure working together.
What does DAGMAR do?
DAGMAR Approach does three things. First, it makes you aware of the overall objective or goal of your story. The goal is always present in any story and is usually something that can be seen as a long-term objective, like winning a championship or getting married or taking revenge on an enemy. Since our goals are what drive our stories forward, they must be included as part of our plot structure.
Second, DAGMAR makes you aware that each step on the road to this goal will give rise to a certain number of events that will need to occur in order for us to achieve it. If the goal is for me to get home and get some milk, then the first step I need to achieve is getting my keys. The next step will be unlocking the door, and then going to the refrigerator where I’ll find a carton of milk. After I get my milk, I need to get back out into the hallway where I’m going to push my carton back into the refrigerator.
This idea was important enough that John Steinbeck used it in his book Tortilla Flat. When his protagonist comes home after a day’s work he is able to make these connections in his head and realize that he has somehow been framed. He is able to do this because he has been thinking out loud as he goes through these steps and explaining what he’s going to do as he’s doing it.
Goals are a great way of putting your character into the moment. Instead of thinking ahead to what needs to be done next, you have your character reacting in the moment, achieving each step along the way.
Third, using the DAGMAR Approach lets you see that there are moments when things seem to just happen without any apparent explanation. The second and third steps of our example are going to be very important in determining how events unfold, regardless of whether we understand why.
All of the steps we take will give rise to certain effects and consequences, many of which will absolutely surprise us as writers. It makes sense that these events can take place without the conscious knowledge of our characters. As they accomplish each goal they will not be thinking about the next one until they get there.
This reminds me of the “Aha” moments we have when we are learning new things, because in these moments our mind is taking in information without us actively trying to understand it. This is exactly how our unconscious mind works when it comes to narrative structure. Things just happen naturally, even if we aren’t consciously aware of why they are happening.
The DAGMAR Approach has helped me plot out a number of different stories. It helped me think about how each character was connected to the overall objective of the story, which is usually the goal. Then I could see that each step would lead to a series of events that were related to the intended outcome.
As I systematically thought through each event that would need to happen in order for my characters to achieve their goals, I began to work out which ones seemed to be more important than others.
Who gave DAGMAR approach?
The DAGMAR approach was an important tool in the book “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Syd Field, who is widely regarded as the most influential script consultant in Hollywood today.
He stressed that the best stories have a very logical dramatic structure. He said that a story is best when it’s balanced and does not imitate life, but instead imitates other stories that we recognize as being great.
In the DAGMAR Approach, Syd Field was taking the goal and events approach of Aristotle’s Poetics and applying it to script writing. Field wrote a number of books on screenwriting, but Screenplay is probably his most important work. He did not use the words “Dependent Arising Goals and Markers” in his book, but he did stress that all good stories are built on a series of key plot points or events.
Why is DAGMAR concept criticized?
There are a number of supposed flaws to DAGMAR. First, you can’t take someone who wants something and always make that their goal. In the case of Han Solo, he didn’t have a goal going into Star Wars: A New Hope. He had it at the very end, when he was reunited with Princess Leia after destroying the Death Star. This is an important point: if you have your character chasing after something all throughout your story, then it really isn’t a goal anymore.