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Further Defining Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome

After working on the first Dramatica Scene Analysis last night, I discovered a more refined way of defining these elements of a dramatic unit.

The key is to always think of Author's Intent. When it comes to Dramatica—and looking at Scenes, Sequences, and Acts through that lens—the "message" or storyform the Author intends on communicating is the primary object of focus.

So think of the Potential of the circuit as the source of inequity for that dramatic movement as far as the Author is concerned. You're not looking at where the Scene starts, but rather where the Author believes the source of conflict eminates from. All Scene Events have purpose—it's a matter of where the emphasis is placed.

In A Separation the Potential for conflict lies within Nader's strict convictions. Remove his obstinate I'm always right no matter what attitude and there is no real conflict. No back and forth arguing. No problem with Simin leaving. And the judge could go on living his happy life without interruption.

It is clear from this scenes, and from many others, that the Author of A Separation intended to show Nader's attitude as one of the primary sources of conflict within the story. This scene is a microcosm of that intent.

The Resistance of a dramatic circuit amplifies or diminishes that Potential. In A Separation that amplification arrives in the form of the judge essentially siding with Nader. Overwhelmed by the system, he takes the easy way out figuring everything will work itself out.

Why is Simin's hope for a better life for her daughter not the Resistance to the Potential found in Nader? It certainly opposes his position, but in terms of the dramatic circuit of meaning constructed by the Author it neither amplifies nor diminishes that inequity.

This is where paradgims of scene construction that look simply at the wants and needs of characters fall short for many Authors. Butting one character's wants against the wants of another (A man wants a delicious taco, another won't let him have it) can lead to a zero charge for that scene. They effectively cancel each other out.

Dramatica, on the other hand, works with the Author to communicate his or her intention. In A Separation, the Author states that matters get worse for those involved because of this laissez-faire attitude in Iran that everything will work itself out. There's nothing wrong with Simin's attitude or their arguing—the Potential forumlated within Nader's convictions is amplified by the system. That is part of the message of purpose intended by the Author.

The Current of a dramatic circuit shows the play, or interaction, between Potential and Resistance. In A Separation that Current plays out with the back and forth arguing, the posturing and positioning between husband and wife as they try to make themselves heard.

In effect, the Author writes the conflict that arises from the Potential meeting up against the Resistance. It is possible the Author imagined this conflict first, then worked backwards to determine the Potential—the source of that inequity—and the Resistance that engendered the conflict in the first place.

And finally, the Power of the dramatic circuit displays the result or outcome of the other three—and the potential for conflict to arise in later scenes. In A Separation this Power lies in Simin's hope for a greater future for her daughter. That notion of misplaced potential that lies in her young child trapped in a country that diminishes her importance.

Rather than seeing this desire as the Potential that drives the scene, the Author decides to encode it as the eventual Outcome of all the awfulness that came before.

To summarize:

  • The Potential of a dramatic unit is where the Author sees the source of inequity. If it was removed, then there would be no reason for the scene.
  • The Resistance of a dramatic unit amplifies or diminishes the Potential. In short, what does the Author believe makes things worse?
  • The Current of a dramatic unit is the interaction between Potential and Resistance, the escalation or descalation of dramatic conflict as seen by the Author.
  • The Outcome of the dramatic unit is where the Author believes the Power of the circuit lies and where a possible potential for the next Scene arises.

There is a sense from this scene that not everything will work out the way it should. The alignment of these events within the dramatic unit and the order in which they are presented is the reason for that feeling. The PRCO and SRCA of every dramatic unit is purposeful and adds to the Author's message carried within the code of the storyform.