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Understanding Potential, Resistance, Current, And Outcome

The key components of the dramatic structure work their way into a story at every resolution.

After this week's breakthrough in understanding Scene Construction from a Dramatica point-of-view[1], questions arose concerning the application of these new Scene Modalities. In particular, the function of PRCO (Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome) and its relation to the storyform.

If every Scene of a narrative is to further the argument, then the same kind of logic we find in the upper levels of Acts and Sequences should exist way down below. The storyform is the progression and component relationship of the argument in both space and time. The Scene level, then, is the smallest resolution possible in formulating that argument--without losing sight of the top.

Acts find themselves in the Type level and are identified by the Signposts. Sequences show up in the Variation level and find homes in the various thematic Issues. Scenes reveal themselves at the Element level and work a path through semantic items typically reserved for Problems, Solutions, Symptoms, and Responses.

The same meaningful order and relationship that exists at the Type level within the Signposts (found in the Plot Progression window) and at the Variation level within the Issues (found in the Plot Sequence Report) is also found at the Scene level.

We just can't see it.

And I mean literally, not figuratively.

The Dramatica application fails to provide an accurate assessment of the order and relationship between items at the Scene level.

We can only guess.

Resolution and Meaning

At this time it also becomes necessary to point out that at this level, the order and relationship loses importance in the conveying of the meaning wrapped up in the storyform. Running a Signpost 3 before Signpost 2 has a significantly greater impact on the meaning of a storyform than misconstruing a 3rd Scene of Control for a 2nd Scene of Avoid. The first will result in a demonstrably recognizable difference in the emotional meaning of a story; the second will be attributed to a loss of signal due to noise.

Looking at a wooden table, a change in the texture of the grain will still convey to the observer a wooden table. It doesn't suddenly become a chair. Perception of meaning is a function of resolution.

Understanding PRCO

In addition to the order of Signposts found within the Plot Progression window, each Signpost receives a marker of Potential, Resistance, Current, and Outcome. These are the essential components of the dramatic circuit found in Dramatica. Think of them as the Problem, Symptom, Response, and Solution for every quad.

The Problem arises with the introduction of an inequity and creates the Potential for dramatic conflict.

The Symptom represents Resistance to that inequity in the form of misconstrued focus.

The Response acts as the Current to the combined application of Potential and Resistance.

And finally, the Solution functions as the Power, or Outcome, of that dramatic circuit--the result of the first three interacting with each other.

Note that the Power of a dramatic circuit does not necessarily mean equity returns. In fact, if caught in the midst of a larger argument, the retention of greater Potential in subsequent moments is the Outcome's primary function. In other words, try not to zero out the Potential for conflict with every Outcome.

Unfortunately, as with events at the Scene level the application fails to provide the identification of PRCO at the Signpost/Type level.

Theoretically, though, it is still there.

Tomorrow we will take a look at this dramatic circuit in action and provide a foundation for understanding how PRCO works within a scene.


  1. At least, it was a breakthrough for me. I'm sure Chris and Melanie, the co-creators of Dramatica, felt it covered some familiar ground. ↩︎