Acts, scenes and beats


Is old Dramatica Pro 4.0 compatible with this concept?

Today I have set up a Steadfast, Success, Bad story with OS Domain in Situation (Universe).
Acts are as follows: The Past, The Future, Progress, and The Present.
According to Universe chart The Past (first act) consist of: Fate, Interdiction, Destiny, Prediction)
but according to the Plot Sequence report the first act should be illustrated with Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility and Obligation - all four belongs to Becoming in Manipulation (MC).

  1. Why is that? Why Dramatica is using elements from another throughline?
  2. How the order of scenes for a particular act is decided?
  3. Is there in Dramatica Pro 4.0 a report with beats for a scene? If not is is possible to find it out (with a correct order) manually?

If some of you knows the answers to these questions it would be great.

After one sleepless night I’m even more confused.
Half of the PSR threads on this form are behind (maybe the wrong half) and some articles on narrative first as well.
I feel like I know less then before.
In Writing Your First Act with Confidence - Articles - Narrative First (based on The Shawshank Redemption) we have for the act structure:

  • Knowledge - Universe - Potential - Growth (1)
  • Ability - Activity - Resistance - Expansion (2)
  • Desire - Mentality - Current - Transformation (3)
  • Thought - Standpoint - Power - Transcendence (4)

Great, I can read it and memorize.
Later on, for the first scene:
“A conflict of Knowledge while Being” - pretty straightforward.

  • Proven - Universe - Potential - Growth (1)
  • Result - Activity - Resistance - Expansion (2)
  • Process - Mentality - Current - Transformation (3)
  • Presumption - Standpoint - Power - Transcendence (4)

OK, Manipulation → Being. First scene method is Knowledge and it is split into Proven/Unproven, Result/Process.

  1. Elements of being are in fact Knowledge/Though, Ability/Desire. Elements of Knowledge are Proven/Unproven, Result/Process. So, is that specific for this act and this scene or general for every act and for every scene.
    After all in Writing Perfect Scene Structure with Dramatica - Articles - Narrative First we have:

In Dramatica, every quad is really another way of looking at Thought, Knowledge, Ability, and Desire (TKAD).

So, on scene level… should we follow the same path? TKAD?
And finally for The Shawshank Redemption PSR states that MC’s first act is Being in terms of Obligation, Rationalization, Commitment and Responsibility. Not even a word on this in the first example of the first article. Moreover on the scene level Z pattern for Obligation would be Logic, Help/Hinder, Feeling. Again, not a ward in the article.

Well. Were get I lost?
Help me before I go crazy, please…

Your focus and thoughtful use was quite fascinating to read. I loved Dramatica V1.6 and for sure Dramatica Pro 4.0 could be used to ponder and bounce into writing ideas. I never thought of things in such detail as you experienced, so I would need a lot of time to bring out my Dramatica Pro 4 in my SurfacePro6 and try these things out. It won’t be soon, for sure, but it might be fun. I shyly confess that I just fiddle around and like some combination (only a part of a storyform) so much, I play around with that in the writing.

The table of elements is “at rest”. Once you have a storyform, it’s “wound up” which means sometimes the PSR elements under the Singpost are from a different area.

I think the order is “secret sauce”. The only other thing I would say about this is that I think Jim Hull over at Subtxt has made some behind-the-scene modifications which sometimes yield different signpost orders and definitely a different PSR order. Many of us who subscribe to Subtxt feel like that order is a little more accurate (it feels more accurate) – but your mileage may vary.

As far as I know, no. I think the only way to get the beats (element level) is with Subtxt.

However, the specific elements of a scene are really only one part of it. If you want a generic approach to figuring out how a scene “turns”, you could either just use TKAD, or per Jim’s recent advice to me, Situation-Activity-Mentality-Standpoint (which is basically the top of the model again – Universe, Physics, Psychology, Mind).

I don’t know what to say about the PSR. If I were doing this myself now without a Subtxt subscription and just access to Dramatica, I would:

  • Focus on really illustrating the static story points well. On a scene level, focus on how the throughline Problem drives conflict, and how the characters oscillate between Focus and Direction
  • For plotting the OS, focus on the drivers – how do Actions drive Decisions or vice versa? You can think of the Drivers as really similar to a lot of other story paradigms … first plot point, midpoint, second plot point, etc. Use the Signposts only if they make sense.
  • For MC and IC, focus on illustrating how the arc moves from beginning to end, for the change character Problem to Solution, for the Steadfast Problem to Problem.
  • For RS, focus on how the relationship grows and changes.

Honestly, I think this might be the best approach overall anyway. The beats stuff is really in the weeds – it’s easy to waste too much time on that. Trust your intuition … (Just my biased advice :slight_smile: )


You can find a couple different descriptions of why this is. I think somewhere it’s explained that the storyform is a view from outside of the story while the PSR is more of what it looks like within the story.
I can’t remember exactly how it’s worded, but there’s also an article or two that say to use the PSR as plot, or maybe it says to use it for structure, and the storyform as meaning or something. And I think it means the PSR describes what happens in the story while the storyform describes why things happen. In your example, then, you might see characters dealing directly with rationalizatoin, commitment, etc, and the reason behind why they are dealing with those things would be The Past. Something to that effect anyway.

That’s specifically for that act and scene. After exploring Proven, Unproven, Process, Result, the throughline would move from Knowledge under Being to Ability under Being. Once Knowledge, Ability, Desire, Thought are fully explored, it moves to the next act and explores Becoming in the same manner.

I’m not sure any of the Dramatica pros would suggest taking the PSR to that level, but I think there’s an argument to be made for it if you want to. I remember reading that article and trying to see where Logic, Help, Hinder, and Feeling would come into play as PSR material and coming up with a slightly different interpretation of that scene. I think the article saw the scene as starting with Red walking into the parole hearing and ending when his form was rejected while I saw the scene as starting with Red walking into the parole hearing and ending when Red walks into the yard and has a short back and forth with some of the other inmates about being rejected for parole. I can’t remember exactly how I was breaking it down, but something like this…

Red is a convicted (proven?) felon going in for parole. Parole, as we learn later, has Proven to be extremely difficult to achieve. Because of this, Red does what he thinks is Logical. He tries to act repentant and, logically, tells the board what he thinks they want to hear. He is acting (Being) in such a way that he hopes the board will see him as rehabilitated (Becoming).

Result - Help
Red and the board discuss the results of his time in prison. Has his time in prison resulted in him being rehabilitated? Red tries to help his chances by helping the board see him as rehabilitated by reciting what feels like a rehearsed speech about how his time has done exactly what it was supposed to do and how he is a changed man.

Process - Hinder
His parole form is processed (Process) with a stamp. His parole is denied (Hinder).

Unproven - Feeling
Can’t remember how I was interpreting unproven…something about Red being Unproven as rehabilitated? Or maybe the inmates suspecting Reds parole was rejected, but, not knowing, they ask how it went? Something like that? In reply, he acts (assuming it’s an act because we’re still under Being) like he doesn’t care (Feeling) by saying “Same old s#!t, just a different day” or whatever. Then the other inmates say they know how he Feels as one was recently rejected or one is up for rejection next week or whatever.

Then a new scene begins as Red’s starts narrating.

A lot of the Logic Hinder Help Feeling can feel like a bit of a stretch there, but I think it can work. I also think that’s such a detailed level of looking at a story that you’re trying to write that it’s likely to kill any creativity you’re trying to bring to it if you’re looking at that before writing the scene. If you really want to break it down to that level, maybe write an interesting scene for Knowledge-Obligation first and then mold it fit all the rest of it.

I believe the Narrative First article you linked to treats the element level (Proven, Help, Hinder, Unproven) as happening in sequential order. First Red is going to a parole hearing that has proven to reject him, then he’s asked about the results, then he describes the process of his time in prison, then he gets rejected.

But when doing all of this on your own, I believe there are theoretically sound arguments for having all four elements playing out simultaneously. For instance…

The whole scene is about the situation of Red being up for parole which has been proven to be notoriously difficult. From Red entering the hearing to Red exiting the hearing and being asked how it went.

Result - Activity.
The whole scene is about the act of discussing or showing the results of Reds time, from the time he walks in hat in hand and saying yes sir, no sir, all the way through to telling the other inmates “same s#!t, different day”.

Process - Mentality
The whole scene is about the Red’s mentality regarding being rehabilitated (Processed/transformed into a rehabilitated man). His mentality is that he was put in for life and life is what they took. His mentality is that being dependent on the prison walls is what makes someone rehabilitated.

Unproven - Standpoint
The whole scene is about whether the board believes Red to be rehabilitated. His mentality is not the mentality they are looking for in a prisoner and thus they deny him parole. The whole insincere act that Red goes through remains an unproven way of getting parole. He remains unproven as a rehabilitated man.

Now, all that said, keep in mind that my breakdown of the scene and use of Logic, Help, Hinder, Feeling differs from how Narrative First and Subtxt look at any of that. So it’s all just suggestion and best to defer to Narrative First and Subtxt.

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First of all I would like to thank all of you for help and hints.

Well. That is all true and I’m falling into this trap more often then I would like to. I have some idea, few pages of text, some scenes… and then I’m trying to organize it and fill the holes. And then… Do I save the cat, is there 8 sequences, do I have ‘Woman as a Temptress’, what is MC Crucial Element… My head explodes and instead of writing I read.
I’ll write my story this or that way anyway:) I was lucky to publish two short stories on paper and… both of it was written without opening Dramatica software for a second. (Not the best advertisement in this forum, but the stories seemed to work fine and I had the knowledge gathered in here in my head).
But let’s move back to the main topic.
I like both of these modalities.
Universe - Activity - Mentality - Standpoint.
We have some established situation (universe), and then something happens, that put’s status quo in question (Activity). Now it is necessary to deal with this and decide what is right and what is wrong approach (Mentality). Finally we end up with conclusion (Standpoint).
Knowledge - Ability/Desire - Thought also ‘talks to me’.
We know something and we are doing things basing on our abilities. But it may be not enough to get what we desire. Here lies the conflict and than we have to think if we should extend our abilities or reduce our desire.
Moreover it fits into 1-2-3-4 progression (at least in my head).
This line with universe seems to describe external world and the one with Knowledge seems to be more for internal world.
But that’s just my feeling and understanding.
Unfortunately I would like to dig deeper with one example just to see what is true and what is not or what works and what does not.

Let’s say I would like to write a script titled ‘The Godfather’. Let’s assume there is no movie yet just to focus on the theory and not to be distracted with looking for answers in the real movie. And the story form and the PSR is easily available to work with.
MC story deals with Situation and The Future is The concern.
The signpost are as follows (including modalities:

  1. The Present - Universe - Knowledge.
    fe. Hero is a son of a Godfather but he is out of the business because of his conscious decision and lives happily with his girlfriend and family. As long as there is assassination attempt to his beloved father.
  2. The Future - Activity - Ability.
    fe. Hero tries to protect his father to have him alive using all his abilities. That leads him to commit murder as the only choice.
  3. The Past - Mentality - Desire.
    fe. Hero wants to leave the past behind and have a new living in new place and with new wife (family) but the past does not want to leave him. He cannot join his family back because he is accused of murder, there is a lot of violence and his brother is killed. Finally there is an attempt to assassinate himself and his new wife dies.
  4. The Progress - Standpoint - Thought.
    fe. Hero thinks and understands escape is not the solution. He seizes the swords and kills them all. In other way they would kill him.
    Sounds interesting for me… I see Oscar award for the screenplay :wink:

Starting from that point I’m walking in shadows.

Let’s move to the scene level.
For the first act in PSR we have:
The Present: State of Being, Situation, Circumstances, and Sense of Self.
So for the first scene we have a conflict of State of Being in relation to The Present, for the second it is Situation, and so on.
Including modalities is it like:

  1. State of Being - Universe - Knowledge
  2. Situation - Activity - Ability
  3. Circumstances - Mentality - Desire
  4. Sens of Self - Standpoint - Though
    And for the second act (The Future) (modality equals PSR here):
  5. Knowledge - Universe - Knowledge
  6. Ability - Activity - Ability
  7. Desire - Mentality - Desire
  8. Though - Standpoint - Though.

Or maybe on scene level it is:
Act I - The present:

  1. State of Being - Universe - Proven
  2. Situation - Activity - Result
  3. Circumstances - Mentality - Process
  4. Sens of Self - Standpoint - Unproven
    Act II - The Future:
  5. Knowledge - Universe - Proven
  6. Ability - Activity - Result
  7. Desire - Mentality - Process
  8. Though - Standpoint - Unproven

Or maybe something different?
The question is about theory. What is true?.

There are Narrative First articles about each of the modalities. I think they might give you an idea of how to order them, but in order to get the “official” order, you might have to go to Subtxt and plug your storyform in.
It may be close enough for the audience to just have something in each scene that feels like Universe, Activity, Mentality and Standpoint.


Looking at one my stories again on Subtxt, it seems like it’s usually (always?):



I think you might be confusing things too much here – I would focus on Situation/Activity/Mentality/
Standpoint at the scene level (under PSR Variations, if you’re using those).

FWIW, the Subtxt Signpost order for the Godfather is Present/Past/Progress/Future, which I might illustrate as:

Present: Michael is just focused on getting by day-to-day with his new girlfriend.
Past: His past (the family) comes back to haunt him.
Progress: He is inevitably and inescapably drawn more and more into the family business
Future: He takes over and becomes the next Godfather.