Pairing variations as in Screenwiters book

I’m reading through Armando’s Screenwriter’s book which is fantastic. From time to time, however, I’ll come across a statement that I don’t understand (or perhaps it is explained elsewhere in the text but I didn’t catch it).

For example, this one here located on the last page before section VI:

“Beside this Two-Scene Sequence, we may also find the rare case where no Variations in the same Sequence are Diagonally paired (such as “Approach, Self-Interest, Attitude and Morality”). In this case, we should give each Variation its own Scene—like we did on the “Using The Plot Sequence Report” chapter of this book.“

So, my question here with this statement is why is in not possible to pair in some manner Approach, Self-Interest, Attitude and Morality?

If I were extremely creative, I might be able to pair something here to create a scene. Using the z pattern to pair, if it were applied to this quad, would be self-interest-morality. Also, a reverse z can be used to dynamically pair. So, in this case, it would be morality-approach.

Or, is there a particular definition used to describe what pairing is and thus that definition puts a parameter on what variations in a quad can be paired?

So, when the author says “no Variations in the same Sequence are Diagonally paired” I’m confused. What am I missing here? Why would a pairing not be able to happen?

Great question, Anne. And unlike most Dramatica questions, it has an easy answer!

First, Armando is assuming that you want to deal with the PSR Variations in the same order or sequence as presented in the PSR. Chris Huntley has said this isn’t necessary–a solid story doesn’t need to follow this order. But if you’re using the PSR to generate ideas for your story anyway, it needs to have some order. And Jim Hull has said on his podcast that the PSR order usually seems to work well.

So, when you end up with two variations that are dynamic pairs (diagonal on chart) that come one after the other in the PSR order, you can “pair” those together into one scene. (Because of how those two Variations deal with the same concept, like Self-Interest and Morality being two sides of the same coin. I’m sure Armando explains it better in the book.)

EDIT: but definitely, if you want to change the order because you have some great idea that would pair variations together, go ahead and do it. Great ideas trump the PSR order in my book!

If you use Bob Raskoph’s awesome tool to generate a one-page storyform report, it includes visual diagrams for each sequence, like this:

(Sorry, I don’t seem to have any examples of “no diagonal pairs” in the PSR in any of my storyforms, that must be rare. But it would look like the “bump-bump-bump” of a signpost order:


Thank you, Lucas. I’ll have a look at Bob Raskoph’s nifty little tool. Didn’t know it existed!


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