Blog Post

Understanding Passive, Actual, Structural, and Storytelling Scenes

Oct 4th, 2016

Dissecting Melanie's article on How Scenes Relate to Dramatica's Story Elements further, the analogy of the dramatic circuit is refined:

Although it has "flow" a circuit is really seen as a unit, comprised of these four parts.

This is why we can start with the Outcome, like we did in yesterday's post on how The Relationship Between Acts Carries a Message and then move on to the Potential. PRCO describes the relationship between the parts of that dramatic unit.

Active, Passive, Structural, Storytelling

There is a section at the end of the article that I skipped over when I began this discussion on Scene Structure with Dramatica. I skipped it because the section felt like one of those things that fit into the category of Underdeveloped Dramatica Theory, like the Lost Theory Book—fun to think about, not at all practical. After a weekend spent contemplating the deep thematic considerations of individual scenes, I wonder this section's impact on the modalities of scenes.

The quad of items discussed in that section consists of Active, Passive, Structural, and Storytelling. Collectively they indicate the particular mode of illustration for the Events in a Scene. They indicate the teaching of the storyform.

Structural or Storytelling

Structural Scenes illustrate these four Events in terms of Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre (no direct correlation here.)

Interesting that an Event could declare itself either Character, Plot, Theme, or Genre. And the other three Events claim the remaining three. This indicates a structural scene--one that conveys the storyform itself.

Storytelling Scenes illustrate these four Events in terms of audience impact (impacting the audience’s sense of their own Situation, affecting their Attitude, involving them in a vicarious Activity, or exploring the way their minds run by illuminating the Mentality).

I suppose Storytelling Scenes are the "fun" ones. The ones that thrill or chill or make us laugh. They perhaps have little to do with the structure or storyform at all. Remove them and the meaning of the story would remain the same--it just wouldn't be as much fun.

This is compelling because, as I started to consider various scenes for examples, there were several examples that I felt weren't robust enough. Their modality as a strict Storytelling Scene is likely the answer.

Active or Passive

Last week I indicated these two were part of that last, or fourth, modality--then changed my mind. I might change it back again.

Both Structural and Storytelling Scenes can be presented in Active or Passive fashion. Passive Scenes illustrate these Events in the Story or Audience. Active Scenes put them into motion, moving the story forward or invoking changes in the nature of the audience itself.

Now, for me, this is one of those Melanie pieces I need to write out again. Break the sentences down into something more visual.

  • Passive Structural Scenes illustrate the Events in terms of Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre
  • Passive Storytelling Scenes illustrate the Events by impacting the Audience's sense of Situation, Attitude, Activity, and way of Thinking
  • Active Structural Scenes use the four Events to move the story forward through Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre
  • Active Storytelling Scenes use the four Events to invoke changes in the nature of the Audience's Situation, Attitude, Activity and Way of Thinking

Examples of Illustrating the Events

Many of the Death Star Attack scenes in Star Wars involve the Audience in a vicarious Activity. As did the Desert Chase sequence from Raiders of the Lost Arc. Passive or Active? Active Storytelling.

The opening battle between husband and wife in A Separation? Passive Structural for sure. They illustrate the storyform, but don't push the story forward as they would with an Active Structural Scene.

The scene where Inigo Montoya stands up to the six-finger man in The Princess Bride? Active Structural. Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre pushing the story forward.

The deli scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan proves to Billy Crystal that women can fake anything? Passive Storytelling meant to affect the Audience's prejudiced Attitudes towards the other sex.

The Fourth Modality

After working through these items, this section is more important than I originally gave it credit. And I'm pretty sure it replaces my idea of Proactive, Reactive, Defensive, and Inactive as the fourth modality. I was thinking Active and Passive when I developed those, but ignored Structural and Storytelling as I didn't find them pertinent.

Not anymore.

This quad illustrates TKAD and determines the force of Energy behind it. If the storyform—or TKAD—delivers the Understanding to the Audience, then PASS (Passive, Active, Structural, Storytelling) teaches that storyform to an Audience. The Learning to the storyform's Understanding.

A perfect candidate for that last modality.