PRCO and element quads

Hello everyone,

I found Dramatica about 5 years ago, and then had to put it aside to deal with life, but have recently come back to it and I’m determined to work through it to achieve some results this time. In this case, in the short term, a short story to get some real-world experience with the forming-encoding-illustrating-weaving process, and then onto a novel that I’ve had sitting in my belly for 20 years.

I’ve read the posts and linked articles on here with regard to PRCO, TKAD, SRCA(1234) and PASS. Would anyone be kind enough to offer a little more clarity to PRCO in terms of exactly how it is used to “offer context”? @mlucas seems to suggest (apologies if I’ve misread what you have written) that the content of the PRCO should be elements of a quad, but I have not seen any reference to that anywhere else. TKAD I get, and will be focusing on ensuring I round out the scene by including the four Class events.

Basically, should I be looking at PRCO to structure TKAD events that are chosen as whim/inspiration takes me, or is there a school of thought that PRCO should contain a quad of elements to give some cohesive relevance to the scene? If so, should I look for these elements beneath the PSR Variation for the scene, or elsewhere…

Thanks for reading!

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A random quad of elements is a great way to get inspiration for a short story. I’ve found an Element-level quad to work best, but that may just be my preference. As for PRCO, I wouldn’t worry about that at the beginning; instead figure out what each element is in the story and start writing from there. Once you know how you’re using the elements, the PRCO will probably come naturally anyway.

If you look in the workshop area of the forums and scroll down a bit, you’ll see a bunch of “Short Story Prompt #1” posts from April 2018. Those show a bunch of us doing this very thing using the quad Cause/Effect/Test/Trust. You can see the actual stories we came up with and the analysis/discussion afterwards.

Note a lot of our process was inspired by the Narrative First article on the short film Piper:


Thank you. I assume you only use this technique for short stories? In a longer work; a novel, for instance, the 64 elements will be contained in the character configurations carried within the players, is that right?

The first time I come across Dramatica (which straightaway struck me as exactly to tool I was missing) I got very bogged down in the theory - feeling that I needed understand it completely, and incorporate it all, before I began writing - so I could “get it right”. I’m taking a more pragmatic approach, this time. I just wanted to see if there was “one more trick” I could use before I got to grips with my illustrating.

Thank again for your time - I will read through the links you provided.

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Actually in theory this applies to every scene in a longer work. In practice it might be overkill, though it can be useful if you’re struggling with a particular scene.

It seems like this a journey most (if not all) of us have taken (or are taking!) through Dramatica. Figuring out just how much of the theory to apply and at what stage of the writing process isn’t always self-evident.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should take a look at @jhull’s Subtext service, which is designed to streamline and strip out the extraneous stuff to facilitate actually finishing a story.

One thing to remember is that Dramatica is supposed to describe how the human mind works. If you get most of the story there, your intuition will most likely fill out the rest, in ways that may not even be obvious when you’re writing.

@tous put it best in a recent post:

If dramatica is about a mind solving a single problem… don’t I have a mind? And wouldn’t the software already be installed in my head?


Right, exactly.

On a longer work like a novel, I use the full storyform – I first try to determine the full Dramatica storyform that matches my story, then use that to inform my work. However, I’m always skeptical as to whether I’ve found the right storyform until it sort of proves itself. Only after that do I start to rely on the PSR and Signposts.

Now, as @Lakis said the short story can be used for individual scenes in a longer work, which are basically mini-stories in themselves. However, I feel it’s definitely overkill to use it all the time. I only use it when I get stuck on a scene. (In my current WIP I don’t think I’ve used it even once – I must be getting better at not getting stuck!)


Actually I spoke too soon – just did a search in Scrivener and found that I did use it on my very first scene, which I did get temporarily stuck on. In this case I only did the basic KTAD level of scene events, didn’t try to figure out if any other element quad was in play. Here were the notes I made:

Scene Protagonist: the girl, needs to believe she Pongo will still have a place if/when she finds him
Scene Antagonist: the mother, needs to keep her family above water
Conflict: girl tries to get mom to admit she’s given up on Pongo
Twist: old woman says no dogs in building for 100 years
Setting: Waverley Manor tenement building

Activity (RESISTANCE): moving to new apartment
Attitude (POTENTIAL): girl’s sadness, belief in finding Pongo
Manner of Thinking (CURRENT): getting mom to admit she's given up on Pongo
Situation (OUTCOME): building is NOT a dog-friendly building

I forgot how useful it can be assigning Activity, Attitude, Manner of Thinking, and Situation to stuff in your scene. I may bring that back into my usual process!

What’s funny about the above is that when I wrote it the Outcome ended up as the reverse of what I planned – the building actually is advertised as Pet Friendly, and the old woman didn’t show up yet. But outlining the above helped get me there. Here is the final scene summary: Unhappy about their new apartment, Roan assumes Mom has given up on ever finding Pongo and antagonizes her until she shows Roan the sign: PET FRIENDLY.


Just to clarify for anyone who is unfamiliar, KTAD is for these purposes another way of looking at Activity, Attitude, Manner of Thinking, Situation (top of the model is the same as the bottom–correct?)

Anyway this is a really great example @mlucas.

So did you start writing this scene using KTAD without knowing a storyform yet? That’s a really interesting bottom-up approach!

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Yes! In truth, I think I started writing it, wrote about 300 words, got stuck. Then did the KTAD (and happened to assign PRCO because it was really obvious) and was able to continue on.

I didn’t start trying to figure out the storyform until I had around 20K words, and didn’t figure out the right one until I think 30K. Though I had a good guess at the MC’s problem quad / Issue from the beginning, which turned out to be correct. (assuming I do have the right storyform, of course :slight_smile: )

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