Questions on Justifications, PRCO, and Recursion

Continuing the discussion from Question about Building Greater Sources of Conflict:

I realize that you, @jhull, came up with and expounded upon the exercise. I also understand that each step of a PRCO is an inequity of its own. But, I’m having trouble understanding how a justification pair would not find its way to matching a PRCO sequence.

The reason for a justification pair is to show how a method might produce conflict, right? And, as far as I understand it, a justification pair is two truths that can’t be held at the same time. A given truth is easily a potential source of conflict. Add another, and you easily have a source of resistance. The clash between them would render as conflict.

My argument isn’t so much that viewing this way is a shortcut, but that it is inherent. It’s been pointed out multiple times that conflict requires an inequity, and inequity requires juxtaposition of two things that can’t both be true at the same time. Clearly, that’s what a justification pair is. But, without potential or resistance in the first place, there can be no conflict, as far as I can tell.

So, I guess I’m not seeing how it wouldn’t produce a PRCO sequence. I have no problem with each requiring it’s own justification pair as well, but it’s recursive, right? Certain levels would look as though there’s little difference in using this split versus actually digging down.

1 Like

Sure, but then the Outcome would presumably pick one of the justifications in this instance, and there would be no more conflict. The story would be over, no more Potential.

What I’ve found in doing this, is that it really helps for building conflict and tension in conversations between characters and/or scenes. You know that feeling when characters talk to each other, and you’re reading or watching it, getting the sense they are both coming from different points of view, not really responding directly to each other? That gives a story, and the scene, momentum. I think Jim said this somewhere before, but the whole thing is really an exercise for us as writers, to understand why and how storypoints are processes and sources of conflict, instead of the “madlibs” version of Subtext where you are just filling in the blanks.

Sometimes they do! Personally, I don’t always do this exercise, but I find it stretches the brain in a good way, to really dig in and find why this is a point of contention, especially if it is a crucial scene in the story.

I disagree. The story need not necessarily be over. Outcome was once called Power, which physics defines as work done over time. The choice of a justification takes work, but that choice remains valid only for whatever context was explored during that interval of time. Following through on this idea that one justification might be viewed as a potential: Once chosen, it becomes the potential for different conflict, still sourced by the same element, in other contexts. It brings power to the narrative.

That is to say, there would be no more conflict in that instance (context), but another instance (context) could allow additional conflict. Otherwise, how can a Signpost decompose into a PRCO circuit with the PSR Elements? We’d be done with a story by the time we wrote the first scene.

Trust me, I understand this. That space between is what I’m using to better understand the source of conflict in my own story. I haven’t even tried, nor do I plan, to decompose them like this. Here, my question is really more about the theory and a desire to ensure accuracy, rather than any practical application. Perhaps even allowing it to provide a deeper understanding yet.

It seems to me that the idea of PRCO and justification pairs are both, technically, trying to get at the idea of “source of conflict” or “inequity” by juxtaposing two things that aren’t able to be together in a particular context. They seem to extract the same idea, each a different perspective on the term.

P.S. - I could even see this as helping to describe the fractal nature of Dramatica by the virtue of nested PRCO circuits from the story level down to the scene level.

It’s my understanding that a story is about an inequity within a certain context, and only one context. If you try to go about solving an inequity in any context, it will quickly lose meaning. Furthermore, on the scene level, you are meant to utilize two contexts to create juxtaposition for your two justifications (within either P,R,C, or O).
If you write out a PRCO for one context, and then write a PRCO for the juxtaposed context

like you are saying here, it is, in my opinion, pretty fruitless. Your story won’t be going anywhere, you won’t be proving anything, because you are backtracking instead of moving forward. You are saying “I’ve proved this one, now let’s go back and prove the other.” Instead of saying, “in this context, this is the justification we are proving/removing,” and then moving forward to the next Potential.

Not sure what you mean by this.

You might want to give it a try. Once you do, you may see how it strips down the justifications held by the character or characters in your story, and how it leads to proving your narrative argument.

@Hunter can you explain what you mean by this (maybe by examples)? I’m not sure that you actually disagree with Jim.

Imagine you have a parent PSR storybeat of Dream and you created opposing justifications for it (wanting to follow your dreams for some reason vs. needing to have nightmares for some other reason). Then you create a scene-level PRCO based on Faith, Disbelief, Support, and Oppose – the elements under Dream. I think all Jim was saying was, each of those items’ inequities/justifications wouldn’t necessarily tie directly to the Dream one. Like the Faith one might have to do with belief in angels vs. loyalty to your dog, and nothing to do with nightmares vs. dreams.

With Dramatica, it’s important to clarify what it is NOT SAYING, as the theory encourages the projection of biases masquerading as rules.

A story is an exploration of a single inequity.

Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome (PRCO) is one way to appreciate an inequity.

Juxtaposing justifications (the generating a source of conflict exercise) is another way to understand an inequity.

Neither half of the latter exercise matches up 1:1 with PRCO. Potential is not one justification, nor is Resistance the other. They don’t sync up anymore than an inequity borne of Strategy matches Proaction.

Potential and Resistance do not create conflict, they are a means by which one appreciates inequity. You can see this play out within the Signposts of a Throughline.

One way to appreciate the Signposts of a Throughline is through the application of PRCO. Take the Objective Story Throughline Plot Progression of the original Star Wars:

  • Understanding
  • Learning
  • Doing
  • Obtaining

Let’s assume the assignation of PRCO coincides with this order (knowing the accuracy remains in question given other dynamics).

  • Potential: Understanding
  • Resistance: Learning
  • Current: Doing
  • Outcome: Obtaining

The first Acts of Understanding and Learning do not generate conflict, they are a means by which to appreciate the inequity of the story as seen within the context of the Objective Story Throughline perspective. They define a relationship between components of that inequity. Each, in turn, describes another inequity—a process that continues until the Size of Mind constant is met.

As an inequity, the Potential of Understanding can be appreciated through PRCO. This sequence appears in Dramatica Story Expert in the Plot Sequence Report.

Dramatica theory offers authors an opportunity to understand their story, it does not generate the story for them.


I’m aware of that, and this is exactly the reason I’m asking about this apparent connection.

I’m with you so far. I said as much in one my own posts.

Here’s where I don’t follow.

I’m fine with the part that says, “[P and R] … are a means by which one appreciates inequity.”
But how can you say, “Potential and Resistance do not create conflict?”

I concede that:

  • Potential by itself doesn’t create conflict
  • Resistance by itself doesn’t create conflict.

I don’t get how you can say, “Potential and Resistance [together] don’t create conflict.” That is, unless none of PRCO is a source of conflict, but then, in that case, what would be the point of the analogy?

In circuitry, a potential does nothing on its own. A resistor does nothing on its own. Once the two are connected, current flows. Albeit, the flowing current encounters the resistance, but it could not have without the potential. In addition, turbulence now enters the system as a field, when the system had previously been balanced before. Finally, over time, the system enters a new stability that can be disrupted while running by adding another resistor.

That sounds like the culmination of intent for PRCO. This seems especially true if the generated field is equated to the conflict itself. The generation of the field can be (Linearly) viewed, one step removed, as caused by the potential and resistance in the circuit. Thus, by analogy, the P and R do cause conflict, once juxtaposed and given some time.

Perhaps this is where the disconnect is. Maybe I don’t fully understand what you mean by “The first Acts of Understanding and Learning do not generate conflict.” Or maybe we’re viewing things at different levels. Using the Star Wars example already posited, I’m interpreting this apparent connection thus:

At the Physics level, there would be a (possibly rather complicated) justification pair that can be written “X UNLESS Y” for the entirety of the frame. We are shown X is true, thus have the potential for conflict. We are shown Y is true, and is something that might not always work with X. We are shown that this contradiction does hold in some context, and we are shown the fallout of that contradiction.

These aren’t necessarily ordered; they might happen throughout the scene.* But, they fit the ideas of potential, resistance, current, and power (the layperson’s ideas, at minimum). Then, there’s also that Writer’s Room episode where it was felt, and if I recall, even said directly, that PRCO can be found sewn throughout a scene as well.

Of course, and I’m not looking for a generative process.

I’m not saying, for example, that the Potential for Understanding is justification X or Y. That just doesn’t make sense. My claim is that, when viewed at level where one might not want to zoom in the two mirror each other. The Potential looks like justification X or Y, and the Resistance looks like Y or X, when given a macro enough view.

That’s what I mean in writing, “The PRC part of PRCO is inherent in a justification pair.”

*The word “scene” here refers to the evaluation of a quad.

This is why Potential and Resistance do not create conflict. It is a Linear bias towards cause and effect, that somehow P x R = C. Depending on your interpretation of time (which is not the same for everyone), Current encounters Resistance manifesting in Potential.

The reason why you don’t want to equate Potential and Resistance to two different sides of a justification is because it reinforces the Linear mindset bias.

You’re free to make that connection after the fact (projection), but its not an inherent property of the relationship between those components.


Fair enough.

I was viewing it as P/R = C. (Potential, when cut up by Resistance, gives Current. [Ohm’s Law.])

I’m guessing that would still be a Linear view, though. I know that I’m extremely Linear minded, so I do try to notice when that bias comes in. Though, I can’t always see it.

It’d be nice to try to learn about and feel the other explorations of this, then. I guess some more Holistic story viewing and meditation is in order. :slight_smile:

If anyone has suggestions for some stories to watch, I’d be happy to hear them.