Aligning of Snowflake Scene Method vs PRCO

I’m reading How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method. As others have said, there is a lot of overlap with the Dramatica theory of story. I guess we’re all wanting the same thing: story with meaning.

I wanted to know how you/Dramatic theory would interpret what he says about two TYPES of scenes. This is similar to Swain, of course.

Proactive scene: goal, conflict, setback
Reactive Scene: reaction, dilemma, decision

Having just gone through the first of @JohnDusenberry’s Conflict Corner discussions, I suspect Randy Ingermanson has PR (as Proactive) and CO (as Reactive). In other words, he groups them at the cross-over from R to C. I think the tension in this approach comes from leaving it hanging right there. On the other hand, as Jim said in that class, we tend to “merge” Reaction and Current–in fact it’s even built into Subtext.

Of course, he has them divided into three, ending with a decision. Is this how we’d address it?

Goal: Outcome/Potential
Conflict Potential

Setback Resistance

Reaction Current

Dilemma Current/Outcome
Decision Outcome

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This is always an interesting topic.

I tried for a while to integrate (conceptually, for myself) the Scene/Sequel (action/reaction) approach with my (developing) understanding of PRCO but concluded that they don’t necessarily mesh. Part of that is that PRCO isn’t necessarily one “scene”, and I’m not sure that it always follows that CO will be a reaction beat. I could easily see the full PRCO as either a scene or a reaction.

The other thought I had at one point was that maybe there’s a correlation between Drivers and Scene/Sequel – Actions driving Decisions sounds a bit like Action/Reaction, but again, the concepts don’t seem to map exactly.

However, reading your post I just wondered if it might be more productive to look for Scene/Sequel connection in KTAD (Situation/Activity/Manner of Thinking/Fixed Attitude) at the scene level (instead of PRCO).

I guess the question I would ask you @didomachiatto (and myself), is, what structural, process or storytelling benefit does Scene/Sequel provide that PRCO/KTAD doesn’t offer?


I’ve given this a lot of thought too. I think there is some amount of correlation but not as much as you describe @didomachiatto. My current understanding is like this (and note that Randy Ingermanson got this entirely from Dwight Swain, so I’m just going to call it Swain’s):

Swain Scene

  • Generally tends to line up with a Dramatica PRCO scene
  • The scene “goal” MAY be related to one of the PRCO elements, most likely the Potential.
  • The scene “conflict” as described by Swain is often related to the Resistance and/or Current.
  • The scene “setback” aka “disaster” is very closely related to the Outcome.

Swain Sequel

  • I think the important thing to take away from Swain here is that you should show your characters thinking about what’s happening and making decisions. (Maybe not always, but when it makes sense for pacing, characterization, and reader comprehension.) And that the Reaction/Dilemma/Decision is a good way to do that.
  • I think a lot of the time a Sequel does NOT match up to a Dramatica Scene. It’s often too quick for that.
  • Sometimes a Sequel is more drawn out and DOES match up to a Dramatica Scene and contains KTAD (Situation, Attitude, Activity, Manner of Thinking) and a PRCO quad.

I’m trying to get my mind around this. Stepping back, we are all trying to accomplish the same thing. So what is the essential difference in output? Dramatica includes thematic issues, and revs the scene not by reaction itself but by the tension between the first and last element of the quad?

I reviewed what you said, @mlucas Mike, and realize you just mean the SEQUEL often doesn’t have a place with Dramatica, so perhaps what we mean is that the Sequel is a figment of the connection between PSR elements. Taking the PRCO from a gist level into the next gist.

P (gist) includes PRCO
R (gist) includes PRCO
C (gist) includes PRCO
O (gist) includes PRCO

I suspect he notices there is a relationship between the first O and the R, O and the C, O and the O…

I do remember being told a year or so ago that it’s always bad form to try to match up Dramatica with the lesser models. :wink:

Anyhow, I’ll set this on the shelf. I think I found my answer.

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There’s a pretty big difference between the engine of your story and the storytelling of your story. As some others have pointed out here, there may not be a 1:1 comparison between the two.

The main thing here is that the PRCO of a “scene” can be different than the “PRCO” of the conflict driving that scene. In Subtext, we break up the story’s structure into dramatic beats. One may find that a dramatic beat describes a single written scene from start to finish, or any number of scenes that the author chooses to tell that story beat.

Using Dramatica, the idea of a Proactive vs. Reactive scene is wrapped up in so many other dynamics that those terms (as I understand them) are intertwined with the storyform as a whole, rather than anything seen at the scene level.

That being said, I do think a single, contained scene (or sequence) in a story contains PRCO.

Potential for an overall conflict
Resistance to that Potential which pushes or pulls that potential toward…
Conflict, where the overall conflict reaches its zenith until finally there is an…
Outcome to that initial potential for conflict.

But usually, your outcome will describe some inequity as well… which helps to set the potential for your next beat.


What I was trying to say before is, what Swain/Ingermanson define as a Sequel (reaction, dilemma, decision), can end up as like one paragraph. Or it can end up as a multiple page “scene” where characters discuss their options. Both are equally valid, but in most cases only the latter will have enough space for a true conflict that has its own PRCO movement.

I don’t think about Sequels when I write, I just let them come up naturally. (Maybe it’s something I need to improve on … not sure!)

@Lakis might be right that Drivers may also come into play. e.g. in a Decision-driven story, Sequels might have more focus.

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Very interesting discussion, guys.

First I think the choice of using scene and sequel depends on the form of one’s story.
The scene/sequel approach lends itself best to the novel form. I personally don’t think screenplays benefit from it as much.

For my own scenes though, what I look at is the set-up, pay-off and iteration of any storypoint(s) while bearing the action/decision cycles in mind.
I use a spreadsheet to track them. :grin:

I find this method to naturally encapsulate the essence of scene and sequel, while ensuring the character reactions seem less contrived.

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Context is everything.

For the “Scene and Sequel” concept -

If you look at just a “Scene” then the Goal, Conflict, Disaster sequence is:

  • Goal = Potential
  • Conflict = Resistance and Current
  • Disaster = Outcome

If you look at a “Sequel” then the Reaction, Dilemma, Decision sequence is:

  • Reaction = Potential
  • Dilemma = Resistance and Current
  • Decision = Outcome

If you look at “Scene and Sequel” as if they are two parts of one then:

  • Goal & Conflict = Potential
  • Disaster & Reaction = Resistance and Current
  • Dilemma & Decision = Outcome

It’s the same sort of contextual shift you find when you look at two Variations within a single context (Storybeat):

e.g. Senses and Interpretation while Memory

In one context Senses contains its own PRCO, and Interpretation its own as well. In another, Senses is the PR and Interpretation is the CO.

It’s all a function of context.

As with most subjective appreciations of story structure, there is significant blending going on, which is why “Scene and Sequel” is ultimately useless when it comes to understanding the dramatic potentials driving a story.


Hmm… I wouldn’t say “useless” tbh. I find that Scene and Sequel are best used for the Storytelling part of the story. Again, best for novels, where emotional cadence is more finely metered out. The intimacy of the form (with access to thoughts and so on) lends itself to the scene/sequel paradigm. Especially when writers apply them for storytelling.

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Thanks for that Jim. Agree with you 100%. I don’t think I’d ever considered the third context (scene and sequel as two parts of one), but that makes total sense. And sorry @didomachiatto – I think this third context is what you were getting at and I just couldn’t parse it.

@Khodu I think that’s what Jim’s saying – that it’s useful for storytelling but when you try to apply it to dramatic potentials it ends up confusing you. That jibes with my experience – I’ve thought about and discussed Scene/Sequel and how it might relate to Dramatica/PRCO a few times, and it’s always interesting theoretically, but never really gives you anything useful. Except to show that the two concepts are best applied separately.