The First Dramatica Scene Analysis

A complete perfectly structured scene consists of four Events. When using the Dramatica theory of story to analyze or create a scene, four modalities of Scene Construction exist:

  1. TKAD (Mind, Universe, Activity, Mentality)
  2. PRCO (Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome)
  3. SRCA (Setup, Revelation, Conflict, Aftermath)
  4. PASS (Passive, Active, Structural, Storytelling)

The first three modalities are applied to the four major Events of a complete Scene. Each Event gets one TKAD, one PRCO, and one SRCA. When the totality of the first three are exposed the scene feels complete both emotionally and logistically.

The last modality sets the mode by which the Author intends to illustrate the scene. In contrast to the first three, the Author does not apply a member of PASS to each of the four Events, but rather selects one to color the illustration of the first three modalities.

An Analysis of One of the Greats

In the first scene from A Separation, wife Simin wants to leave the country of Iran with her husband Nader and her daughter Termeh. Simin does not want her daughter to grow up within the current conditions of the country. The husband refuses to even consider—his father is ill and must be cared for at all times. Nader's determination to stay in Iran forces Simin to file for divorce.

This first scene is her application for that divorce.

Studying the scene we see four major Events:

  1. Simin desires a better life for her daughter.
  2. Nader refuses to consider.
  3. Husband and wife argue with the judge as they plead their side
  4. The judge refuses to decide in Simin's favor.

First we will go through the first three modalities:


Here we identify the source of conflict in each Event:

Universe: Simin and her daughter are women stuck in modern-day Iran.

Mind: Nader's confidence that his way is the only way is the focus of his bad attitude.

Activity: Simin and Nader argue their point of view--interrupting one another.

Mentality: The judge passively aggressively scolds the parents for bringing their argument to court.

Applying TKAD colors the Event by enriching it with meaning and purpose. Instead of the judge simply refusing, he refuses through Mentality--and gentle manipulation.


Secondly, we identify the source of Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome of the dramatic unit in this scene.

Potential: Nader is absolutely dead set with his convictions. He has no doubt that his way is the way.

Resistance: The judge, overwhelmed with cases like this, prefers to take the easy way out.

Current: Husband and wife argue over what will most likely happen if the other wins.

Outcome: Simin sees great opportunity for her daughter elsewhere.

Again, the modalities enrich the Events by giving them greater dramatic impact. The judge leaving things open isn't the end, it's the juice that runs through this scene--the possibility of things working out in the future.


Thirdly, we decide the order. As the events unfold in a linear fashion (without any fancy StoryWeaving time-shifting techniques) identifying the order is as simple as jotting down the order in which the events were presented to us in the film.

Setup: Simin makes her appeal.

Revelation: Nader explains why it's a bad idea.

Conflict: Husband and wife plead their side

Aftermath: The judge refuses to decide in Simin's favor.

Pretty cut and dried. Note that SRCA does not match with the PRCO. This happens as a byproduct of dynamic choices made by the Author.


Lastly, we color these three modalities with our means of illustrating the scene. This is a Passive Structural scene. While it passes on information concerning the storyform, it does not further the story along the way an Active Structural scene would.

This means we color the above with Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre. Note that Dramatica sees Genre differently—almost as a Perspective—for the Event in consideration. The Dramatica Genre quad sees for Perspectives of narrative: Entertainment, Comedy, Drama, and Information.

The Author passes along important, yet passive, structural information through these Events:

Character through Nader's obstinate attitude.

Plot through the judge's decision not to side with Simin.

Theme: through husband and wife arguing back and forth. This is a thematic statement repeated throughout the film: Individuals more interested in arguing their side, rather than coming to a synergistic conclusion.

Genre: through Simin's situation we learn what it is like for women in Iran today and perhaps find out something we didn't know previously. We see her Universe in terms of Information.


In conclusion the four Events of this Passive Structural scene are:

  1. Simin wants out (Setup, Universe, Outcome, Genre)
  2. Nader refuses to reconsider (Revelation, Mind, Potential, Character)
  3. Husband and wife plead their case (Conflict, Activity, Current, Theme)
  4. The judge refuses to side with Simin (Aftermath, Mentality, Resistance, Plot)

With every modality accounted for, this scene in A Separation stands out as one of the greats. Storywise, it feels emotionally complete and logistically satisfying. In a fractal sense it works like a mini-story, a small dramatic unit that works as a part of a greater whole.

Originally published 10-05-2016

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