On Writing : Dramatic Devices in a story by Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell

Dramatic Devices in a story


Conflict: Every scene must have conflict and these should express the central conflict of the story. The main conflict of the story most often is a back and forth escalating struggle between Character A and Character B.

Suspense: What will happen next? Develop a main suspense line based on the big values, goals and problem of your protagonist.

Mystery: What doesn’t the audience (and most often a character) know that they are anxious to learn and which is important to the story?

Deception: The disguise, lie, secret, con or betrayal of a major character that the audience often knows so it enjoys all the consequent irony and humour.

Twists: Big surprises that are shocking but logical (set up and believable). Often employed at the end of sequences/acts and which send the story into a new direction.

Dramatic Irony/Superior Position: When the audience knows more than a major character and so sees irony, humour and danger where the character does not.

If you use these dramatic devices, and imaginatively, your story will be much more effective and seductive.

Any questions?


Former producer Scott McConnell is now a story coach

Karen "Kay" Ross

Thanks so much for sharing this, Scott! Is this part of a book or lecture? This seems like a good start to a Stage32 blog post, even! If you're interested, you should email our Director of Content, Taylor C. Baker: Taylor@stage32.com

Ugo Cavallo

Thank you for sharing this!!

William 'JPop' Schumpert

Good list. Even as an author I studied Development Psychology to know how people think. As a horror author I follow the quote from H.P. Lovecraft- “Man’s greatest fear is fear of the unknown.”

Daisy White

This is so cool!

David M Stamps

Wow! That’s so “dead on” and I’ve never heard it explained quite that way. Now when you say mystery, are we talking about the central question which comes up at the end of each act and is ultimately answered in the resolution of the piece?

Scott McConnell

Hi David, a mystery in a story can be big or small (short or long?). It generally is not the question at the end of each act/sequence, etc, that is I think more related to suspense. A mystery and suspense are opposites. The first is where information is missing. The second is where information is given. Every story must have a suspense/worry line but not every story demands a mystery, but very often these are a great way to pull in an audience. Hope that helps, Scott

A. S. Templeton

The diktat that conflict must be present in every scene too often leads to contrivance, i.e. conflict for conflict's sake, a hallmark of mediocre drama writing that I see in almost every scene of, say, The Expanse.

Other topics in Authoring & Playwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In