What if we were to shift the sequence of PRCO at the Act level? Instead of following the usual—and perhaps, predictable—pattern of 1234 (or SRCA), what if we aligned the dramatic circuit to 4132? What would that do to the story? More importantly, what would it feel like?
Take our story from before, of the professor and the nephew and their struggle against the spy agencies of the world to bring a life-changing invention into existence. Thanks to the ingenuity of both, they succeeded and saved the world.
Let’s tell a different story. Same players, same potentials, same major plot events—but this time, let’s alter the order of the Plot Progression in the Overall Story:
Already, it feels strange to think of our story in this order. The Learning used to come at the end. Now it’s at the beginning and now we conclude with Doing. What’s that going to be like?
Note that our markers for Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome remain the same:
As mentioned before, changing the order like this is not akin to time-shifting Storyweaving techniques found in films like Memento or Pulp Fiction. We can change the order in which the events from our first story are revealed to the Audience and the story will carry the same meaning. Changing the order of PRCO though—and thus, how the components relate to each other—will have a significant impact on the meaning of our story.
Let me show you.
An English professor screws over Chinese Nationalists by trading bogus inside information for access to secret technological hardware. The stealing of these secrets is the initial inequity. The Nationalists want revenge for being duped and the Professor wants to use the secrets to invent a device to change the world. Tracking the Professor and Gathering Information on Him and his Nephew represents the Outcome, or Power, of conflict in this story.
How is this the Outcome of the story, rather than the Potential?
Contrary to what many think, time is not strictly a progression of cause to effect. The idea that this happens, then that happens, and then finally that happens is a very linear way of looking at the universe. From another point-of-view, it all happens at once. What will be was, and what is will be.
Unfortunately the telling of a story is a linear process. We show one scene then move onto the next and then the next. Novels have sentences, movies have scenes. We can’t deliver the storyform holistically so we approximate it by delivering the Outcome with the Setup.
When it comes to understanding PRCO and its relation to SRCA within the storyform, Authors must find a way to become comfortable with seeing space and time all at once. This is not something many are used to doing. For predominantly linear thinkers this may be even more difficult, perhaps impossible; for the more holistically inclined the response may be Well, duh, yeah…
The holistically inclined already see the Outcome of this dramatic circuit from the beginning. The relationship between other dramatic potentials and this first Signpost of Learning telegraph this final stage.1 Linear thinkers often attribute this to “intuition” as they don’t understand how one could arrive at a conclusion before proceeding from beginning to end. They don’t get how you can write a narrative without thinking cause and effect in every instance.
But you can.
The great things is—Dramatica offers linear thinkers a chance to see the other side.
The Outcome of the dramatic circuit doesn’t mean what happens in the end of the story, but rather the stage at which we appreciate the power of the Potential meeting Resistance. The next stage, the Revelation, is the reveal of the Potential in this circuit.
Continuing on with our story…
In an effort to help his uncle, the nephew absconds with the secrets. Unfortunately, not only does he make off with the tech, he also ends up setting it off—creating a wormhole in the universe that transports him into the heart of the NSA’s new neural network for spying on the world. The confusion surrounding this event and Misunderstanding that occurs with the introduction of this bug in the system—both in the neural network and within the Chinese spy network—represents the Potential for conflict in the story. The imbalance between the forces at work that seek resolution finds genesis in this section.
How weird is that? We started with the Outcome of the circuit, and now we move back to the Potential, or genesis of the circuit. Same events, but the story feels somewhat stranger…
Outcome meets Potential and creates the Current of our story. The nephew works to get a message of warning to the professor while the Chinese and US spy agencies work to Permanently Extract the Bug from the Network (Obtaining). Agents from both sides delete each other as they work towards neutralizing the nephew.
The Current finds itself in the same position as the original story. And while the same exact things happen, by proceeding it with the Outcome and Potential of the circuit is putting the young boy on a different path.
The only thing left to cover is the Resistance of this circuit.
Funny to consider the Resistance of our circuit at the end of our story, but one doesn’t argue with Dramatica when it comes to matters of time and space.
We know the Power of dealing with these thematic considerations finds us in Gathering Information. And we know the Potential finds its genesis in Misunderstandings. And the Current finds tangible existence in Extraction and Deletion. But where is the Resistance in the circuit?
Everyone knows you can’t have Power without Resistance.
Running from the Chinese Nationalists already in the network and the NSA agents who have identified an intruder is the Resistance (the Doing) to that Potential. Especially since returning to the professor would drag attention to the old man and destroy any chance of his invention coming to fruition.
And it does.
The nephew makes it out of the network and back to reality alive only to witness the professor’s murder at the hands of the Chinese Nationalists. The NSA could have prevented his untimely end, but chose not too—preferring instead to avoid any conflict and make it possible for the boy to continue running for his life. And continue to engage the wormhole device. And continue to expose vulnerabilities in their system and in the Chinese spy network.
The professor’s invention lies unfinished.
And the world stays the same.
Same Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome. Same characters. Same “wants and needs”. Same major plot points.
The story had to end in failure because of the order in which the storyform progressed through PRCO. That Resistance of Doing increased the Potential of Misunderstanding and Confusion. Continuing the confusion. Not resolving it. Creating that sense of dissatisfaction by ending everything in failure.
Can you feel the dramatic difference in how this story feels compared to the last? That has everything to do with Dramatica’s ability to translate time and space into a singular meaning. That has everything to do with the Storyform.
That Power of Gathering Information? That was always going to be the end all of the meaning of this storyform. That’s why you already know where the story will end up intuitively, even after the first Act. Your mind’s ability to holistically appreciate the process of Problem solving locked in the code of a complete narrative gave you that answer even before you read the whole thing. That feeling of dread for the boy and his uncle that you felt towards the beginning of the 2nd act? That’s the storyform informing you that it’s not going to end well for them.
With stealing initiating the inequity and the Setup focusing on the last stage of the dramatic circuit, the stoyform hardwired the failure of the professor to change the world into the story’s code. PRCO is Space. SRCA is Time. Combine the two and you create a holographic image of Author’s intent.
The Dramatica model of story is a fractal model from top to bottom, from Act to Scene. Tomorrow we will look at how the combination of PRCO and SRCA works at the Scene level. Hint: it’s the same as described in the Act level above.
Yes, I wove other Story Appreciations into this example apart from the first Signpost of the Overall Story. ↩︎