For me, it helps to consider each element in terms of the mental dilemma is raises. The electric circuit analogy @mlucas mentioned is 100% right. But what happens if we talk about what’s going on with the battery? The mental processes each element brings to your mind…
Subtext puts that fight in ESB at OS Signpost Being, with the overall Dramatic Circuit as Wisdom, Skill, Experience, Enlightenment. If we look broadly at the whole sequence when Luke arrives at Bespin until he falls, we see that Wisdom starts the PRCO. Come up with any example of Wisdom as a universal source of conflict, and we’ll get close to what’s going on in Empire:
Potential: Luke needs to be smart about facing Vader if he’s going to come out ahead, but he lacks the wisdom Yoda tried to impart while rushing into battle.
This is the potential for our dramatic circuit.
Nothing’s “gone wrong yet” … but the mind is already struggling. Asking itself, “How can Luke be smart about facing Vader if he lacks essential Jedi wisdom?”
The audience feels what Leia shouts at him. “Luke! No! It’s a trap!”
The key here is to remember that the mind does not resolve this dilemma. No choice is made when it confronts this mental process. The story is engaging simply because the mental process exists. But the story is flowing, being pushed by the drivers. The engine is turning and the mind moves past that slice of time where it was processing that dilemma.
What’s a source of conflict using Skill?
**Resistance: Luke needs to use all his talent to lightsaber fight expert Darth Vader, but Luke is still an apprentice honing his skills.
So you can start to see how this new instance of mental strife added a new layer to the first one.
“How can Luke be smart about facing Vader if he lacks esssential Jedi wisdom?” and “How is he supposed to sword fight badass Darth Vader if he’s just a Jedi in training?!”
Now the Potential has a direction to flow toward the negative. If the resistance has been something positive like “Luke wants to keep honing his skills to fight Vader, except that he’s a lightsaber virtuoso!” We would be seeing a totally different story. The “resistance” added to the potential would push us into a positive direction, where we’d be thinking “Vader doesn’t know what’s about to hit him.” But that’s not this story.
Conflict, or Current is like the start of the “payoff” to the “setup of P&R.” C is where we’re going to see things start flowing.
In this case, a source of conflict wrapped up in Experience:
Current: Luke can practice his skills against Vader to see if his abilities cut it, but Vader is ridiculously overqualified and teaches Luke that the hard way.
Finally, the end of the “payoff” is the Outcome.
And again, there is no choice made here. Nothing is “over” … it’s just the last mental struggle in this dramatic circuit.
Outcome: Luke wants to practice the Jedi ways to continue fighting Vader, but being enlightened to the fact that the Dark Lord Vader is Luke’s father changes everything.
So now, the mental struggle is:
“How can Luke go on as an enlightened Jedi, if he’s the son of a Dark Lord?!”
The story isn’t over… around here is the story driver, which pushes the mind into the final mental processes. This whole ACT is the “Current” of the overall PRCO.
So if this all described “Being” as Conflict, then Outcome will leave us in a mental conflict of Conceiving. Maybe, “Luke needs to think up some way to remain on the Light Side and face Vader to save the Galaxy, but what is he supposed to do with insight that Obi-Wan and Yoda have been withholding critical truths?”
Which is what the audience leaves the theater thinking… and sequel or not, keeps the story alive in your mind forever.