Difficulty understanding PRCO

Searching Narrative First and this forum, I still have problems understanding PRCO. The concept itself is pretty clear, only I fail to see the difference between Potential, Resistance, Current and Outcome (space) and Setup, Revelation, Conflict, and Aftermath (time). Basically the two aren’t necessarly associated, so you can have your Setup as Outcome and your Aftermath as Resistance as shown in this article, but how do you actually figure out which variation is the P/R/C/O of, say, your OS throughline ? (Mine ending in Failure)

At this time you can only really guess at it.

I worked with a client last year where we went through and did the entire story by assigning PRCO and 1234. It was a very enlightening exercise for two reasons:

  • complete overkill when it comes to writing
  • fascinating how obvious the assignment of many events were

For the most part the PRCO aligned with 1234, but every now and then you could clearly tell that the order was mixed up.

It was a great exercise for the writer as this was only his second screenplay, and his scene structure lacked narrative oomph–a lot of the scenes lacked narrative drive.

But it was completely exhausting and quite possibly added to the lack of motivation in finishing that screenplay.

On his latest screenplay he completely skipped over the whole thing and stuck only to Signposts and Sequences. He finished his first Act in three days (after developing the story with me) and is cruising the second Act without much trouble.

And he’s not worrying at all about PRCO.

But I can tell you that the scene structure and narrative drive rocks and completely blows away his first efforts on the abandoned screenplay. So, the time spent wasn’t a waste within the context of his development as a writer, but as far as that specific story goes it most likely killed his enthusiasm for it.

Again–this was all intuition as the specific order is obscured and most likely not completely accurate. The farther you move down in subjectivity, the further away you get from objective reality and quite possibly the model breaks down.

The most powerful part of the exercise was actually classifying each event under Universe, Physics, Psychology, or Mind. You quickly ascertain what events are simply repeats and unnecessary, and where the holes in your scene structure lie.

I would spend more time on that than the specific instances of PRCO or 1234.

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Hi Jim. Can you tell us more about this last part you mention? More about this process you describe, how to ascertain the repeats and the unnecessary bits, and how to find the holes?

Essentially, there are four spatial ingredients to making a scene and four time beats regardless of how you areange them, each of the beats can be categorized using the four donains and the best scenes use all four instead of just all one domain. The worst scenes are all one domain like activity for example. Actually doing it requires knowing how to categorize them. Jim does a table of elements as part of his mentoring. So, you might ask him about that.

@crayzbrian , some questions on the above. First, it seems like you’re saying it’s the time beats that are categorized into Activity/Situation/Attitude/Manner of Thinking, is that correct? What are the “spatial ingredients” you’re talking about then, and how are they categorized? (Or are they something that’s not worth worrying about when writing?)

Also, I know I got clarification from Jim somewhere about how even though you might call each thing an “event” or “beat”, their presence can continue from the moment they’re introduced through to the end of the scene. For example, if your first event is “Activity - driving a car dangerously fast”, that driving could continue throughout the whole scene. Does that match up with your understanding?

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Okay I think I figured out my first question on my own Brian. Doing some re-reading of the Narrative First articles I figured this out – there are 4 events and each is classified by spatial (PRCO), temporal (1234 or SRCA), and material (TKAD), plus illustrative (PASS). I’m only really worried about TKAD, since the others hopefully take care of themselves as part of the creative process.

Let me know if that doesn’t sound right.

Still would like to hear your thoughts on the second question (events continuing through scene).

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@mlucas I’m sure that you saw the blog post by Jim here already, but on the off-chance that you haven’t:

https://narrativefirst.com/blog/2016/10/the-first-dramatica-scene-analysis

@crazybrian When you are talking about a table of Elements – would you agree that the Plot Sequence Report (PSR) already has done the mixing and matching for us? For example, these excerpts are from a Storyform that I randomly created (OS = Situation; RS = Mind; MC = Activity; IC = Manipulation):

THE OVERALL STORYLINE

…In act one, “the current situation and circumstances” (The Present) is explored in terms of Instinct, Senses, Interpretation, and Conditioning

THE MAIN VS. IMPACT STORYLINE

…In act one, “recollections” (Memories) is explored in terms of Fact, Security, Threat, and Fantasy.

THE MAIN CHARACTER THROUGHLINE

…In act one, “appreciating the meaning of something” (Understanding) is explored in terms of Permission, Need, Expediency, and Deficiency.

THE IMPACT CHARACTER THROUGHLINE

…In act one, “coming up with an idea” (Conceiving an Idea) is explored in terms of Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, and Falsehood

By looking underneath the Variations, you find four Elements. So if you grouped Instinct, Security, Expediency, and Falsehood (there’s a pattern with this selection too, but I’m not sure if it is necessary – perhaps only for the theoretical perfect scene) together you would have a pool of 16 Elements. Each group of four Elements represents a different Class. Assign each Element a letter (or anything that you want) in the same pattern:

AB
CD

For example, you could create a perfect scene by taking A from Instinct, B Security, C Expediency, and D from Falsehood (or any combination as long as no two letters come from the same Variation umbrella).

This also suggests to me that the “perfect” Story would have 64 Elements represented.

OR AN ALTERNATE IDEA I HAD:

That you could fall into the next level (which would be Class again or sub-Class) and just assign the four Elements found under the Variations from the PSR to Universe, Situation, Psychology, and Mind according to the pattern. Like a sub-Class. For example:

Universe/Activity
Psychology/Mind

Maybe the second version is merely wishful thinking to make it a lot more simple. I’m not sure. :slight_smile:

I found this excerpt interesting:

What then does a scene contain? Scenes describe the change in dynamics between Elements as the story progresses over time. And since Elements are the building blocks of characters, scenes describe the changing relationships between characters.

Would you then say that the “perfect” Story would have 64 total events?

Also, I’d be very interested in seeing a PRCO that isn’t 1234 as Jim said that it was 1234 nine out of ten times. Any examples of this floating around? I just read the linked article in the original post. It had concepts of time travel… so is this the way to avoid a 1234 progression?

I guess the concept that gives me the most trouble out of these four is PASS. I read Jim’s article about writing a perfectly structured scene and the scene analysis I linked above, but I didn’t have a moment where I was able to make a connection between PASS and the Plot Sequence Report (PSR). I have a nagging sensation that there is a relationship between the PSR and PASS. Perhaps PSR must always be Active or Passive Structural?

And… should there be some type of balance between Passive Structural, Passive Storytelling, Active Structural, and Active Storytelling scenes?

Can the nomenclature of Passive, Active, Storytelling, and Structural more friendly by making statements… such as:

I want to make my audience angry, therefore I’m going to use a _______ _______ scene.

or

I want to make my audience experience the sensation of falling, therefore I’m going to use a ______ ______ scene.

Maybe the answer for both of these is Active Storytelling?

Even if these are wrong, I’d love some user friendly examples like this. I’m afraid my head starts to spin when I get inundated with information that is broadly stated. I’m positive that there are smarter people out there that consume information much more easily than I do, but I get a little dizzy looking at some of the more opaque parts of the theory.

I’ve been working lately with the impression that PRCO would relate to an entire throughline sequence. I suppose it could also relate to an individual scene. Associating it with a sequence (i.e. signpost or journey) might correspond with the Plot Sequence Report.

Here’s a hypothetical movie sequence. We know movies aren’t always neatly divided into three or four scenes. You have characters discussing what to do, perhaps yelling at each other. Cut to a different scene with an antagonist planning a dastardly deed. Cut to the characters discovering some escape route. Then several scenes with various attempts to reach the airport. Then a standoff at the airport. A shoot out. A chase. You get the picture.

Think of them as thirds or quarters of the entire signpost or journey sequence. The first few scenes collectively would be the potential. The middle, say four small scenes are the conflict. The climax or outcome isn’t just one scene. It’s a sequence of intercutting scenes. This seems an easier way a writer could design a signpost. You (typically) start with a potential – a gap between where you are and where you want to be – then have that build toward the climax.

The Plot Sequence Report presents four variations for each signpost (or Act?) and says they should be illustrated somehow in that signpost. I wonder if each variation would be assigned as an element of the PRCO circuit. Haven’t watched for this in movies recently.

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I’m also wondering if PRCO has any limitations in regard to assignment of TKAD (Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation).

I can very easily see Situation or Fixed Attitude as Potential. And I can see Activity and Mentality as Potential, but it is less comfortable; I think for the same reasons that confusion existed about The Fugitive at one time or another concerning the OST.

Is there a pattern here that is similar to the one that exists in the Dramatica Pro software when you assign Universe to the MC then the IC must be Fixed Attitude? Is there a relationship between Potential and Outcome or Resistance and Current that mirrors this relationship? If Potential is Fixed Attitude must Outcome be Situation? Or if Current is Activity must Resistance be Mentality?

I think the answer isn’t that simple. I’ll tell you why.

When assigning Situation to MC and Fixed Attitude to IC, it is about trying to create the most opportunity for conflict. If we didn’t do this, the Story would suffer from a lack of conflict. I make this statement based on the following:

http://dramatica.com/questions/why-the-emphasis-on-dynamic-pairs

Specifically, I am interested in this particular sentence:

Yes, dynamic pairs offer the most opportunity for direct conflict.

But…

If we always made a scene conflict filled and always end it in disaster, we might feel an alternate problem of too much conflict. I know that I have watched plenty of shows where I just get tired because the characters never find a modicum of success (i.e., Magicians – I’m conflicted about this show).

Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome

PR
CO

Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation

TK
AD

So, if we pretend that the Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation (TKAD) is a dial and we can turn it, we maintain a dynamic pairing when pairing TKAD values with PRCO. This will allow for the most conflict (Resistance can be seen as an inhibitor).

However, if we turn the dial and then swap the positions of a complimentary pair, we create a complimentary pairing where the dynamic pairing was and that results in less conflict (Resistance can be seen as a catalyst).

I may have just made all that up and there is no relationship, but I feel like the pairing (dynamic or complimentary) can create a noticeable, repeatable difference in a scene. Is there something to this idea? If the reason that Throughlines are paired as they are is to create conflict, I feel like this fits.

I just had this pasted in my post to give me a reference for all the relationships – I’ll leave it:

In conclusion the four Events of this Passive Structural scene are:
Simin wants out (Setup, Situation, Outcome, Genre)
Nader refuses to reconsider (Revelation, Fixed Attitude, Potential, Character)
Husband and wife plead their case (Conflict, Activity, Current, Theme)
The judge refuses to side with Simin (Aftermath, Mentality, Resistance, Plot)

On second thought, it might be even more complicated. For example:

Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation (TKAD)

TK
AD

Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome

PR
CO

Therefore, if this:

TK
AD

PR
CO

Then, conflict. You can keep turning TKAD on a dial and it will always be conflict because Resistance has an equal relationship between Potential and Outcome.

But if

TK
AD

CR
PO

Then Resistance is dynamically opposed to Potential. Thus Outcome is more likely to be realized.

But if:

TK
AD

PR
OC

Then Resistance is dynamically opposed to Outcome. Thus Potential is more likely to be maintained.

I don’t know if this is true, because here:

Yes, dynamic pairs offer the most opportunity for direct conflict.

It is talking about direct vs. indirect conflict. But I feel like there is something to be said about the position of these concepts and their relationships with each other. I don’t know. Maybe someone smarter than me can explain.

@museful you are definitely living up to your name! LOL. Anyway, this might help:

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Thanks for the reply @mlucas. I just realized that I had Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation were ordered wrong in relation to TKAD, but I fixed it.

If there is any reason for TKAD to be ordered as such, then it is interesting that T and D are dynamic pairs (Fixed Attitude and Manipulation whereas it is Universe and Fixed Attitude are dynamically opposed in the software).

So I’m going to have to let it percolate a bit since I was working on some false structural information.

What I am really interested in is how the energy of the scene is affected by the order of PRCO to the positions (whatever you want to call them):

10/20
30/40

I assigned those names as to avoid confusion with anything that is already existing out there. I just have a feeling that if Potential or Outcome are diagonally opposite of Resistance, then this could represent how easily or if the Current is likely to resolve the Inequity.

In the end, I guess the order of TKAD is not really relevant to what was happening in my head as long as it stays constant. I guess my musings are actually directed at this idea of repulsion or attraction in terms of Resistance.

Thanks for the link @mlucas. I read your post the thread a number of times already and find it ever more enlightening every time I read it.

There are basically 6 dynamics that can be created. I think. Similar to the 6 dynamics that exist when comparing a quad.

PR
CO

PR
OC

PO
CR

I’m just curious if folks see any kind of implication in regards to what happens if one of these patterns is chosen.

I suspect that intensity/tension, pace, and a prediction of Aftermath are created dependent upon the form chosen. Is that crazy?

Sorry for the delay :). Yes, PRCO tells us there are four ingredients in a scene. The current is the process the Potential goes through as it meets resistance. So, you are correct that any ingredient introduced may progress through the scene. The outcome is the result of the process and a new state of potential that will either inform the next scene unless things happen off screen to change the potential before the next scene. I assume the catylist and inhibitor can influence what happens off screen to speed things up and slow them down.

Jim claims that this reordering of PRCO is not storyweaving at the scene level. I think he is right. But, Chris seemed to say that it was storyweaving. And, he is also probably right from a different POV. So, I will come back and clarify once I have a better handle on it.

I still have trouble identifying what is what in a scene. But, it is super clear what it is for a whole story. I think it is because for me, It happens so fast that I don’t identify them and I combine space and time sometimes.

I think if you aren’t struggling with it, like I do, then just tagging the Domains is more than enough for scene construction. For me, I have to check my work to make sure I did it right when I outline. Otherwise, I write a 5 page scene that should be a one pager. :sweat_smile:

One clear difference between scenes is whether they are an Action or a Decision. Sometimes called Scenes and Sequels. I think these are Jim’s Active Scenes.

I really want to clarify this so I can stop writing scenes subjectively and do it the way Jim does it from an outline.

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TKAD are tags. They are not ordered. But, Time and space are ordered by cause and effect. That is until you choose how to express them. Theoretically, they can be expr ssed in any order.

There are 4! Permutations for each of the three options (PRCO/SRCA/TKAD) and four for the PASS So, Total permutations for Jim’s scenes are 4!4!4!4

24x24x24x4=55,296

The mind will take them and assemble them back in space/time/Domain.

Not clear if this is weaving or twisted up from the model.

Dynamic pairs might give you some meaning. But, all permutations are possible for scene construction as far as I know.

Okay I confess I’ve mostly ignored all of this TKAD stuff because it’s super confusing and (from what the experts seem to say) overkill for writing, but this comment caught my attention.

Is there a correspondence between Dramatica Drivers and Dwight Swain’s Scene/Sequel idea? I know, it’s usually a fool’s errand to try bring in other theories but in my pre-Dramatica days I found the Scene/Sequel idea to be a useful shorthand for an approach to scenes. It would be reassuring to know if there’s a connection (or other way to frame) it in Dramatica. Also, it occurs to me that thinking of Scene/Sequel might help me understand Drivers, which is a weak point for me.

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Thanks for the insights. I watched a video that was particularly illuminating and dizzifying at the same time. I’m sure that you have seen it.

First, I find the idea of separating storyweaving from storyforming to be akin to the idea of cutting a nickel in half – which makes me very uncomfortable… there’s probably a better analogy out there. As I said, it makes me really uncomfortable sometimes even though I get in trouble for keeping the two together. I feel like each is a metaphor for the other (maybe…). Yeah, the process is different, but the essence is the same.

Reading what I wrote before, it is a mess. I see the 6 combinations possible per position (if P is in position one of the quad then the other three positions can be flipped, swapped, rotated, etc. to form 6 unique combinations).

Then I see where you could create 6 more each time you move a spatial unit through each of the positions.

The above YouTube link leads me to believe that there are actually many more permutations. The reason for that is something that was said at the 30 minutes mark of the video:

Diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines represent Dynamic, Companion, and Dependent pairs. Each Dynamic in a pair can be positive or negative. But there is a polarity in that they both can’t be positive and they both can’t be negative.

I don’t like math at all. It makes my head swim. I see that as a reason that some expressions of Dramatica feel a little cold to me.

In fact, permutation-al math is interesting to me only as it relates to changing the story tapestry. Until that translation (though they are the same thing) is apparent to me, I won’t be happy.

The negative and positive tidbit is especially gratifying to find, because it has story world implications that are easily translatable for me.

What ever the dramatic units assigned to a quad, the relationships between them will create even more permutations dependent upon whether they are positive or negative.

There are probably even more permutations because of the gestalt and it’s opposite (which are also mentioned). She touches on it by talking about the thing as a whole and the subjective quad as well.

I want to know what it all means for storytelling. And I think Melanie talks about this and points out that it is unexplored territory and even says once an author figures it out… let them know.

I imagine this:

PR
CO ------> with a Z pattern.

If Potential and Outcome are a Positive Dynamic Pair then the relationship produces a third Outcome. This third Outcome can be either good, bad, or neutral.

If Potential and Outcome are a Negative Dynamic Pair then the relationship destroys either the Potential or the Outcome in the process.

If Potential and Outcome are a Positive Companion Pair then the relationship produces a result that is serendipitous.

If Potential and Outcome are a Negative Companion pair then the relationship produces a result that is zemblanitous (opposite of serendipitous).

If Potential and Outcome are a Positive Dependent pair then the relationship produces a result that is better than the Potential and Outcome.

If Potential and Outcome area a Negative Dependent pair then the relationship produces a result that is worse than the Potential and Outcome.

I think these ideas could produce very unique results in regards to a scene that is easily translated from PRCO to consumable fiction.

And when you talk about all the relationships (the 18 other relationships) you are going to have a very specific scene with a specific pace and feel.

In regards to the Story Driver, Scene and Sequel feel related. I didn’t see the PASS and Scene and Sequel relationship, but it would be nice if it existed as I want to understand (or have gistual examples of) PASS.

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