Difficulty understanding PRCO

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).


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


@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):


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


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


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


…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:


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.


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:


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.


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.

1 Like

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:


Specifically, I am interested in this particular sentence:

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


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


Fixed Attitude, Situation, Activity, Manipulation


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)


Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome


Therefore, if this:



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



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

But if:



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:

1 Like

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):


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.




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.


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


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.

1 Like

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:

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.

1 Like

I have a bunch of notes on this.

There is a quad instead of scene/sequel in my notes. And also, the Physics Ph D guy that did the Snoflake method upgraded Swain’s work.

I would then expand this into a quad. But, Dilemmas/sequels are Decisions and the Scenes are Actions. Not all scenes are Drivers, but Drivers are communicated trough scenes.

I’m trying to figure out if my quad matches any of Jim’s items for scene construction. But, they definitely match the Drivers in execution. I should probably run it by Jim before I post it.

1 Like

LOL. That’s the day I met Jim and Jonny :grinning:. That was my first day in Dramatica.

Positive and Negative charge thing is tough. What you are doing is interesting. I’m weak on the character interactions and don’t know if it translates to scene construction like that.

Does anyone know if they are related?

1 Like

What I think is interesting about the Scene and Sequel and the Motivation and Reaction unit is they feel like the spiral nature talked about in Dramatica. You might see them as a mountain and valley or waveform but that’s just a from one perspective. Like the slinky stretched out and looking at it from one POV.

I was thinking about it as Event interactions… but I almost wanted to call them actors… but of course it could be characters as well and that is how Melanie explained it.

I’ve also been trying to reconcile all this with Swain’s

Scene/Action: Goal, Conflict, & Disaster (SRCA + Z Pattern with slide for conflict?)

Sequel/Reaction: Reaction, Dilemma, & Decision (How would I approach a Sequel?)

I like Swain’s intra-scene progressions for catapulting the audience into the next scene, so it would be cool if I could work this out.

1 Like