PSR Appreciations - UTurn and Hairpin

I’m pretty clear on how to handle the Z pattern when doing the PSR.

Assuming A/D <==> BC

find the conflict in A
find the conflict in D
blend BC, use as measuring stick

to get direction:
measure A according to B, then C, and find increase or decrease, determining positive or negative.
OR measure A according to C, then B, and find increase or descrease, determining positive or negative

Just went through entire Universe/OS throughline, got amazing results.


So, what are the methods for the Uturn and Hairpin patterns in a PSR quad? I mean a bumb bump bump and a slide bump slide.


I prefer to think of the PSR “sequences” as individual Storybeats. Paths along the journey of consideration within the Storymind.

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To add to Jim’s response, I think in a different thread you said you subscribe to Subtext right? I would recommend to just use what it gives you.

I don’t think anyone tries to use the blending, measuring stick, mental relativity stuff for actual writing. It seems too complicated when as a writer you need every last scrap of inspiration and clarity you can wring from your brain to be focused on your STORY!


Heh, got it. I bet more people would use it if it were enabled in software. There are a few problems with using the tools as written.

-1 they are hard to understand
0 they are hard to learn
1 they are hard to remember
2 they are hard to gather in one place. there are lots
of ways to submit a quad to treatment
3 their value is experiential. once you use the zpattern technique, you get it,
but it’s hard to understand why you would do it if you are seeing it from outside
(hmm very dramatica, I have SBOS and TBOS filling my brain).

But your objection – isn’t that the point of Dramatica? To force a writer to think unnaturally and systematically, at length, so that he’s armed for bear when he finally does sit down to write?

I know this is debatable, and different writers use it in different ways. I’m actually getting a lot out of the exercises I am going through.

Yes, I’m a subtext subscriber. Wonderful tool. Jim has done a great job. I do use it.


I think you go through a learning process where things feel unnatural, and you do have to logic your way through that. Sometimes with brute force. But once that unlearning and learning is done, Dramatica should begin to feel really natural. You can feel the throughlines working, the interplay between things like Resolve and Judgment and Outcome and how they affect the story’s meaning. At this point your conscious mind is able to see and understand things the way your subconscious sense of story-appreciation always has.

(I was really lucky in that I could never stomach any other story theories, so I didn’t have very much unlearning to do. I think the biggest thing for me was realizing the importance of the Author’s view of a story and how it differs from the audience and character perspectives.)


I think the difference in approach is that the above describes how the different elements in a quad are related, not so much the “Z-pattern” found in a lot of the Plot Sequence Report.

The PSR shows the flow of energy through a narrative - what you’re referring to above sounds more like the spatial relationship between items in a quad.

But in that case, Z-patterns, hairpins, uturns, etc. exist in all quads for all elements. Those relationships exist throughout, left, right, diagonal, up, down.

As far as the direction through a quad is concerned - yes, there is a positive or negative charge depending on the direction you go and yes, I totally agree that if this was made available many writers would use it and it would greatly further the development of narrative theory.

What it sounds like you’ve done so far is almost intuit this positive or negative charge without being “told” by Dramatica which is which - which is great.

This is, of course, the opposite way in which Dramatica was developed–experiential then process, instead of process then experiential, but it doesn’t make it any less valuable.

I would take the “uturns” or “hairpins” in your PSR, or even in your Signpost order for your storyform, and do the same intuitive process and then report back here your findings!


I can attest to this. I was re-watching an episode of a show I liked, and I could just sense where the 4 Throughlines were in relation to each other. I don’t think the story was complete (45-minute episodes), but it got that right!

This was a Big Lightbulb for me, too. @GetSchwifty, if you can get your mind around this, then most everything else, will follow, I suspect. It did for me, at least.

I might do this with the IC Throughline in my own work. I’m having a hard time converting the Dramatica words to the story, though I know it’s right because I can sense it. (Also, the MC, OS, and RS are absolutely correct, so… There’s that.)


That makes sense. Z pattern is not the same thing as the measuring process. Check, the term felt wrong even while I was using it.

That’s interesting - so it’s the PRCO, as best it can be presented without the Dynamic Model in place? Say…is that actually coming? Melanie’s article stating she was working on it was from 2012, eight years ago.

Yes, i’m describing how the PSR lists the order of the elements, then looking at the quad and applying the pattern, but I can see that’s not really valuable. What’s valuable is seeing the first element, the dynamic pair, and then the other two elements, if you’re going to do it that way.

But as you note there are other appreciations: dependent, companion, component and blended views of the quad, just to start.

I’m finding that to be the single most useful thing for getting the ‘feel’ of the four elements for each throughline/act in the PSR. It was a revelation to see it working.

yeah, I guess I am. Check me out.

Oh I have a whole thing. A whole big hairy thing, but it’s novel specific so can’t post it here. I’ll put up bits and pieces.

I’m trying to do that ‘gathering of all techniques’ into a single Omnigraffle template so I can stop worrying about this stuff.

I appreciate all the advice about ‘it’s too complicated’ but, I’m a software developer, no it’s not. It’s complicated, sure, but I love that about it. I wrote trading systems on Wall Street. Complicated doesn’t bother me at all. Part of the fun is moving that huge mechanism into your head and letting it transform you.



Idea for a document.

List everything that’s supposed to be from

Author’s View
Audience’s View
MC Pov
SS Pov

One of the the other things I’m trying to intuit, and to make it explicit in the custom storyform document I’m making,
is this–

by the time you get to the PSR variation in your story, they are, so the docs say, no longer under the Type they were under at the windup phase. So I am picking a different Type that ‘feels’ more natural, noting the space between the original Type and the ‘unwound’ Type, and seeing if there’s any meaning in that.

I wonder if it’s possible they might even shift to a different Class/Tower? Probably not.

Here’s how I’m annotating it:

I’m noting that it’s a companion shift in the Understading-Doing-Obtaining-Learning quad, that it’s staying a Doer,
that it’s moving from Action to Thought in the vertical (is that right, I forget what the two verticals in the quad are.)

There’s an implicit, “time to stop the Doing and add up what happened, turn it into Knowledge and Understanding” which is completely appropriate for my story. The shift indicates they started doing and they had to stop at some point.

There’s also a sense that some elements are being added to the characters, they are taking things away from what they’ve just been through, and that is emphasized in the story rather than downplayed.

Also note: don’t those four Variations feel more 'natural" in understanding? They kind of always did. Maybe this what Melanie means that they wind things up–you’re working with the distorted model precisely so you CAN unwind it to the place where the Variations would ‘naturally’ fall. Just guessing.

Important note about the above:

this is the spatial, structural model.

Something we don’t deal with much is that there is space in-between the quads. As I’ve dived into the books, I’m seeing more and more clearly: the quads are an abstraction, a simplified tool for dealing with math. There’s no such real thing as quads, they are rough approximations of areas in a field. The names and definitions help lock them down so humans can use them.

Something can be part Doing, part Understanding. If you think of the quad as a 3d cube space, the Mental Image (as it’s called in the lit) has a certain size, takes up a certain space, and can sit across boundaries. It could sit in the center, like one of those places that claims you can stand in four of the United States at once.

Repet after me. The Mental Image is not the quad. The Mental Image is not the quad.

The Mental Image sits in a quad, possibly straddling boundaries.

The Mental Image is the reality. It actually exists/will exist in a brain somewhere. It’s as real as diamonds.
The quads are an abstraction describing the effects of fields on the mental object.
The rubrik’s cube ‘distortions’ of the dramatica structure is a 3d holographic map of the straight line path through four dimensions of the mental object.

Anyway - so for the PSR, a quad might move from Doing to Understanding but it might also sit between Doing and Understanding.

In fact, my understanding at this point is that the ‘distortion’ increases over time, so that in acts 1 and 2 the PSR quad is probably mostly in the original variation, and in acts 3 and 4 it’s probably mostly out of the original variation, but the direction is the interesting part–where is it being pushed TO by the distortion.

Take that with a grain of salt.

I say this hesitantly, but it’s based on the work I’ve been doing.



I think there’s a step missing, and I think that step is a separate Appreciations step, so it would look like this:


The appreciations is where you write out a lot of the abstract thrumming and humming of the chords the StoryForm is making, the notes it’s struck. You listen
to the music and respond to it.

I know this is in the theory book, and all the other books, mixed in, but I am starting to think it should be a separate, formal step and that software should enable it. There should be a specific list of treatments you apply to specific levels in the structure, and then specific things you do with the PSR quads.

One man’s opinion.

Wow, this added a whole new set of ideas for the end of the story. Zowie.

Not sure entirely I agree with this layout. Straight from the Theory Book:

  1. Storyforming
  2. Storyencoding (From appreciations to storytelling <-- This part is not from the theory book, but is my feel.)
  3. Storyweaving
  4. Story Reception.

Either way, I think it provides a practical view.

However, the one thing I want to hit here:

Storytelling is what is written to communicate the form, slightly past encoding. It’s the presentation, if given in in-universe, chronological order. Storyweaving allows you to show the audience that order in an all mixed up way. (Like Memento.)

Good correction on the last.

How can you go from appreciations to encoding, if you haven’t performed the work of the appreciations? :slight_smile:

I think you are correct 100% on 2.

Subconsciously! :upside_down:

Seriously, though, I think they’re called Appreciations because one must learn to appreciate their meaning. How one does that depends completely on who is doing it. The gists in Subtext (and the Mac version of the program) give an excellent feel, but if it is true that the language is not exact, then complete appreciation cannot be done without feeling it out, like appreciating art is best done in experiencing it in person.

In terms of practicality, a writer doesn’t usually start from a raw story form with the cold Dramatica terms. (Though, it can be and has been done.) Instead, there is already most of a story, and the appreciations and encoding mostly finished. In that sense, Dramatica is more of laser-precise wrecking ball against the architectural elements that don’t belong, removing a stone handle from a glass door, for example.

Edit: It might also act as an obsessive compulsive security freak, and find all of the dents, holes, and missing bolts. In this guise, Dramatica will point those things out, and give you the putty and the toolbox, but it won’t tell you how to use them, except for the most basic instructions: Use the putty on the wall.

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No, I don’t think that’s right on Appreciations. They word is used as a term to point at a product of a process–various processes, actually. Most often used in reference to quads.

Certainly also in the way you mean it though. But I think the way you mean it is very efficiently arrived at (after two days of doing it) by going through the process and using the recommended tools.

But no, you don’t have to do it that way. I like reproducible methods that I can rely on. Software developer personality.

I think what I’ve been doing is building a toolkit, something developers do a lot. I don’t think I can escape being who I am :slight_smile:

Would that it were so.

I am also a software developer, and I understand that desire. However, I would also argue that in saying this, you have effectively said that one can and should learn to write C, by first studying the C standard and understanding all of the edge cases that it covers, instead of getting a visceral feel of what C is meant to accomplish. I’m not saying it can’t be done, only that I think it’s the wrong way to do it.

(And that’s after studying Dramatica for over 5 years, including diving into the publicly available patent docs.)

I could tell you the difference in Erlang and C and Haskell and JavaScript, but unless you use them, unless you appreciate them, it would mean very little, except academically. You wouldn’t be able to program with them, except maybe toy works.

Ahh K and R…my battered copy is still on the shelf. These days, though, Swift, after a long slog through Objective-C. Was C# for a long time. Practical business apps, that sort of thing.

My method is to do both. Get my hands on the language (did it recently with Typescript) but then go back and RTFM. At length, ad nauseam.

Reading your emendations, I don’t think we’re that far apart. Believe me, I’ve done my fair share of ‘driving’ the Dramatica car, including a ten hour course with Jim.

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death to pointers, but long live strongly typed languages. :wink: