Another thought on the RS

Perhaps not. Heck, I might have moved things backward. But all I’m trying to do is put a mind behind the movement of the RS so that when we talk about what the RS wants, it doesn’t feel so strange.

Yeah, I was hoping to lead to something more practical than what I wrote. Sometimes an intuitive grasp isn’t enough for that… :sweat:

My intent was to answer these questions, at least, in the manner that I go about it. For the pure RS scenes that I can write about, I do place my mind into the scene. I can feel those dynamics and colors I mentioned before, in the same way you would feel what the MC player feels. I use that to write the mood, the physical movements made, perhaps dialogue, if it belongs. Often, when dialogue is there, it’s full of the word “we”, but this is true even if it’s only one character thinking about the relationship.

I’m not sure that trying to remove the strangeness of the RS is the right move for the “problem” we seem to be facing. Personally, I think we should embrace the strangeness in order to find some “solution” here, but I could very well be wrong.

In other Dramatica language, this is the subjective view of the subjective view. Maybe it’s going to feel abstract no matter what we do.

I think there are multiple solutions, and this is certainly one of them.

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As an actor and a writer, I would put myself (the character) into an emotional state of being why the RS is important to me. I’m living the dynamic, even though I might not be aware of it in detail overview as I, the writer.
improv time place and circumstances - just thoughts


Thinking this all over last night, I’m remembering that I don’t really care about “agency” so much as I want to find the best method to understand and use the RS.

The gold standard that occurred to me yesterday was a two person play. It’s easy to see them engaged in all four throughlines in the abstract. But how do you strengthen the RS when everything is so blended together?

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One technique I’ve tried is to “chart” the RS, making a graph where the y-axis is something like “togetherness” or “relationship fulfilment” (I think intuitively we know what this is even if it’s hard to define). The x-axis is the story timeframe, marked into 4 equal parts so you can see the signposts / driver points.

I don’t think that there’s any particular shape of curve you’re aiming for, though you definitely want to avoid a straight horizontal line! I think the more focus on RS in the story, the more ups and downs you’ll see in the curve. Anyway, the point of this technique is just to see it better, see if it matches your understanding or what you’re aiming for, and help you pinpoint the inflection points where things change.

Note that in this example, the y-value at the end is pretty much the same as the beginning. This fits the story because it was a new relationship (they met in Act 1) and they ended up apart, going their separate ways but without remorse. The points at the beginning of Act 4 below that value are like “we’d have been better off if we never met”.


I hypothesize reading lots of genre fiction would give one an instinct for it. Of course, I mean those books published before the soft porn requirement put in place by the publishers [in ~ 90’s?]. The regency romances were fun to inhale at the same time I discovered Dramatica 1.6 and the theory book. I went to used bookstores and bought them by the boxes. I imagine there were lots of other genre fiction tracks pumped out since WWII, in a background format to your taste, that were also a RS format. The mystery is a OS format, that I know.

I love this thread, so many great ideas going on about how to deal with this problem of seeing the RS and OS as separate POVS, especially “when everything is so blended together.” I’m primarily a playwright and I do struggle with identifying and separating these two throughlines in at least my own mind so I’m clear on them, and yes I find it’s messiest in two-handers. But this thread is helping, so here’s a shot.

There aren’t a lot of two-hander plays that are widely known, but if any of you are isolated now with a partner, family, or roommates, you’ve pretty much got the makings of a kitchen-sink single location stageplay - and if it’s just two of you alone in a house or apartment, then that’s a two-hander. So maybe think of that as an example. The OS between the two of you might be simply to survive this together - or to survive each other if things are a little more volatile between you. Or maybe the OS is to renovate the bathroom while under quarantine. Or to keep things normal, or to stay on track with work and finances as you both are working from home the whole time.

Let’s say this is a very straightforward naturalistic play - by which I mean there’s no theatrical memory scenes of the way they were, no internal monologues, no strange interlude alternate reality scenes, or scenes that break away from the main action of renovating that bathroom so that the couple can talk about their relationship or play cards as a break in clearly designated RS scenes. All the RS story points are going to be tangled up within the other three throughlines in every scene.

I’m loving @Greg’s way of talking about the relationship as, like a character, wanting something, so I’m going as in his RS Being example: “It wants to pull lovers closer together, much like the earth and the moon are being pulled together by gravity.”

I’m also loving @mlucas’s RS graph charting that sort of togetherness, so I’m going to also assume that no matter what the players are doing in the OS, MC, and IC, that the RS is going to be nearly constantly in play, and the drama of the RS can be seen as charting its desire to be together as Mike has done. If two people who care about it each other - either in tenderness or hostility - are renovating a bathroom together, every hammer swing they do in the same room is going to pursue the OS objective, but the way the RS perceives the relationship is going to be operating at every moment. So maybe call that the subtext between them, or call it two perspectives operating at once, or call it two parallel universes operating in the same space.

And I’m going to suggest this isn’t just the OS having a Cause and Effect on the RS. I’m going to suggest it’s the RS doing it all on it’s own - moving closer or farther from its desire of togetherness - and that the OS is just the context. The RS would be playing the same sort of drama of together/apart over breakfast, while robbing a bank, or trying to solve a murder in Chinatown.

Is this couple kind to each other while swinging a wrecking bar in that confined space? Judging each other’s ability with the caulking gun? Considerate when maneuvering drywall into place on the ceiling? Irritated? Compassionate? Vengeful? Hanging on by a thread? Removing the clawfoot tub might be a complete success from the OS POV, but in that same space the RS has moved from positive (togetherness) to double negative (the edge of “I’m out of here”).

Multiply by 4 acts, etc, and that’s a two hander, or the really complicated overlapping of OS and RS in the four-hander Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf, or Luke and Obi-Wan’s relationship growing and shrinking and growing again while fighting the empire.

It seems to me that’s a less abstract way of thinking of the RS as a character while keeping it tightly interwoven with the other throughlines - or am I just shuffling the deckchairs?


I suppose it’s just a question of “are we getting new tools to explain and use the RS”.

Let me ask this. Let’s say the OS is fixing the bathroom. Maybe the crumbled tile is a objective correlate for how their marriage is when the play starts (both are in bad shape) and at the end it’s ironic (the bathroom is fixed, and the relationship is over).

Can you see the RS driving this play?

I think I can. As they work together on the bathroom, their relationship goes up and down. When it’s good, they want to retire to the bedroom. When it’s bad, they want to burn off their bad energy and suggest that it’s a good time to work because it’s active and they don’t have to talk to each other beyond “pass the trowel” or whatever. It’s very prescribed, which helps. But it also forces them to interact, which can be good or bad, depending.

I’m having trouble extrapolating this feeling to a larger work, but I think that’s more indicative of weak RS muscles than anything else.


Definitely. All the ways you’re describing the anger and attraction motivating whether to work or stop working are along the lines I’m thinking, but it also depends what you mean by the RS “driving this play.” Posts here often talk about the OS taking up most of the real estate in an action movie or as @Prish just said above, regency romances will be an “RS format”. Is that how you mean? Or do you mean the needs/desires of the RS are actually driving the narrative - I guess either mostly or at least partly?

For instance, why would you do something so stupid as to take on a bathroom reno - especially say it’s in a one-bathroom home - during a quarantine? For the sake of the relationship. Maybe all the materials were already ordered and piled up in the kitchen before the lockdown was announced and if you don’t clear that space you’ll kill each other… maybe the reno was already started before the lockdown and although the toilet and sink are functional, one or both of you isn’t willing to wait, so for the sake of the relationship… or maybe together they feel confident they can get it done quickly, it’ll be easy, and it gives them a nice project to do together, so they set off very positively to do it as a relationship thing…

I think of movies where the relationship(s) is what we’re really watching for. I can never really keep in mind what the letters of transit are about in Casablanca and really don’t care - every single action taken by Rick is entirely driven by the relationship, and although we care about Rick and Ilsa individually, their individual well-being is entirely defined by the moment to moment health or threats to their relationship.

Even heavier OS plotted Noirs - I’m thinking Double Indemnity, Body Heat, The Big Sleep, and Chinatown - all include strong OS plots and strong individual character arcs, but it’s the heat from the love/desire-fueled relationship that’s driving them to do everything they do. Without that heat none of those stories would get past act one - the characters wouldn’t have a strong enough reason to continue. Same with Heavenly Creatures and Leave No Trace and A Quiet Place. I think for all of these stories you could analyze them or build them entirely considering only the psychology and needs of the individual characters, but all of the story fuel comes from the RS in a way it doesn’t with a primarily action movie.

Different kind of example - police procedural with a detective team. I’m thinking The Killing (American Version), The Bridge (Scandinavian co-pro version), Broadchurch (British version) (I haven’t seen the other version of any of these so I don’t mean it as a comparison) - in all of these cases I find the actual mystery only so-so, and I don’t care because I’m watching entirely for the relationship between the two leads. I don’t know if that counts as “driving” the story, but the variations of love and caring these partners have for each other and the threats and strengths that drive them together and apart are what makes these shows riveting - plus The Killing and Broadchurch make enormous use of the other relationships beyond just the primary detectives, I’m guessing some of those might play part in the RS.

Is any of that what you mean by strengthening the RS or the RS driving the story?


HA! OS is getting through this with the whole state, with RS individuals wanting the other person to help with whatever, and ending up puttering on their own … ending up learning about something the other is doing in more ‘depth’ (spousal wake up call on tutoring lessons with only 6 keys learned so far after a fortune spent) (nagging to practice time coming up)

Now, if it was to save a huge amount of money for someone else to do, I could see a couple doing it, thinking it wouldn’t take that much time, looking simple. They do know what it is supposed to look like at the end, right? The audience would know where this was going to end up and would enjoy the comedy of errors, having lived [suffered haha] through something similar in life. Maybe, the contagonist could be someone they text for pointers.

I think that post is totally on point. Reading it makes me realize that my mindset when starting this thread was in movies like The Accountant where the relationship between the characters seems to happen in the background. (Probably fitting for that movie.)

What I should be doing is watching the movies you reference with a clear eye towards watching how the relationship is a motivator.

Going back to the bathroom reno, a reason they might take on the project is “this will be good for our marriage”. What immediately happens then, in my head, is that “improving the marriage” becomes the OS and the RS becomes the physics of construction projects. Seems like that wouldn’t matter so much, but it flips Stop/Start among other changes.

Obviously, adding other characters “nails down” the OS in different way here, and can probably be approximated in a two-hander.

Bottom line, I am not sure what I mean by “the RS driving the play” exactly. I can’t put it into better words than my previous post.

This is close to IC vs MC the way that I’m reading it, though I could see it being a pure RS too. I wonder if thinking about the RS/MC relationship [and IC/RS relationship] as companion or dependent pairs could help keep things sorted out.

Funny … I would write from the exact opposite … it might be interesting to have those two points of view going on with those two focuses, with scenes of the two partners thoughts.

Why? This might help us sort out the idea.

My thinking is that if the motivation is to fix the marriage, it becomes the Story Goal. They could fix the marriage and then the story would be over, whatever state the bathroom was in.

Funny in a good way, delightful.

The mystery genre might be what you’re looking for. The library has volumes of best short stories of a year, etc.

Today I saw something I haven’t seen since the 50’s. All the neighbors were in their yards, doing yard work, garage remodeling, etc. being home not going anywhere. The new homeowner next door actually waved to Mom and I, giving a delightful mood for the day. Mom shared with me that “the holes” were difficult for her to navigate. My previous digging a trench through the back yard for excess rain flow was not working out. She said, “Why not just dig to the driveway only a few inches away under the fence, instead?” The RS is an intimate sharing of an interaction, while the OS is a sharing of the day. (not exactly, of course, but kind of like that)

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I wonder if it could be the mechanism to make a point. A detail of life. A writer’s metaphorical sharing. Subconscious freedom. The punch of the story. The hook. The heart of the story.
(for me, of course — how my brain ponders — I wonder if that is abstract)

This was seriously helpful, thank you.