The Quad: Dramatica’s Steering Wheel?

  A Writer comments:

So as I see it, Dynamic Diagonal characteristics conflict with one another, Companion Horizontal characteristics amplify one another, and Dependent Vertical characteristics contrast one another

My Reply:Actually, those terms are not quite accurate. When I developed that part of the theory, we only had limited screen space in the software. So, I had to come up with a REALLY terse description of these relationships to fit in the window.

I’ve never been quite pleased with them, so here is the more accurate but drawn out explanation of the pair relationships:

There are two of each kind of pair in each quad: two diagonal (Dynamic), two horizontal (Companion), and two vertical (Dependent).

For each set of two, one will be seen in your story as a POSITIVE relationship and the other as NEGATIVE.

A Positive Dynamic relationship is like “the loyal opposition” where two opposing forces butt heads, but create sparks that literally “spark” a better alternative than either would have developed on his or her own.

A Negative Dynamic relationship is where two opposing forces butt heads until each is destroyed and nothing is accomplished.

A Positive Companion relationship is like shoveling snow from your walk. But your neighbors walk and yours join in a “Y” to the street, so when you shovel off yours, you are incidentally shoveling off his as well.

A Negative Companion relationship is again like shoveling snow. But THIS time your walk and your neighbors are positioned so that when you shovel off yours you have to shovel onto his! You don’t do it intentionally – in fact you may not even be aware, but your efforts have negative fallout on him.

A Positive Dependent relationship is when two forces work together and are greater than the sum of their parts, like brain working in conjunction with brawn.

A Negative Dependent relationship is when one person feels “I am nothing without my other half.”

You will note that Conflict, Amplify, and Contrast are not really quite accurate, though similar to the real meaning. And, of course, the software makes no mention of one relationship being positive and the other negative.

In writing your stories, however, if you see one of the two pairs of a particular kind, such as Dynamic, as being the “destroy each other” variety, then the characters representing the other Dynamic pair will act in the “loyal opposition” manner, and new, better things will grow out of THEIR conflict. A handy tip!

In addition, there is a useful trick you can use with character quads from a subjective point of view. An example:

Suppose you have a little brother who thinks of his big brother as “my pal.” Well he is seeing his big brother as a Positive Companion. But, the big brother might see the little brother as an annoying little puppy, following him around everywhere – a Negative Dependent.

If you “plot” these two relationships on a quad, you end up with the Negative Dependent and the Positive Companion meeting in one corner. The “dramatic distance” between them is indicated by the open end where they do not meet.

If you draw a line from one open end to the other, you get a diagonal, or Dynamic relationship. Because one sees the relationship as positive and the other as negative, positive times negative = negative, so a Negative Dynamic relationship is created.

In other words, the situation described above will quickly degenerate into a relationship in which both sides try to destroy the other. Simple math that describe complex relationships in real life. In fact, try this at home on friends and loved ones. You be amazed at how well it works, especially if you pick a particular quad of elements and chart how each of you feel about the other’s position on those issues. In fact, you can go quad by quad through the Elements, Variations, Types, and Classes, and chart just about every aspect of your relationship to anyone else and the exact areas and kinds of positive and negative energy between you!

Finally, in regard to Co-dependent relationships, please note that the relationships so far described by the three kinds of pairings have dealt with either the objective view when creating characters ( in which the relationship is the same for both characters) or the subjective view when dealing with individuals (in which the relationship MUST be seen as different between the two people).

Determining whether the relationship will be seen as Objective or Subjective is a neat trick, but necessary to properly using pairs. This is actually accomplished by another kind of “pair” relationship altogether.

If we look at a quad, there is one more kind of relationship among the items which we can measure – are the four items all seen as being separate (independent) or as a single collective (co-dependent). This would “plot” on a quad as either four dots, one in each item for independent, or as a square within the quad that connects all four dots for co-dependent.

For an example, take the term “United States.” Okay, which is it, United or States? If they are States, they are independent. If they are United, they are co-dependent. If they are co-dependent they see things the same way. If they are independent, they don’t.

So, with our two brothers, the negative Dynamic they experience is only as long as they are being independent (even a companion can be independent because he looks at his relationship to another, not as being part of something bigger.) But, if a bully threatens the little brother, suddenly they see themselves as family (co-dependent) and as a result their relationship turns positive. (That’s why the United States works best when it has a common enemy!)

Now, the neat trick is that for the first three pairs, one kind is ALWAYS positive and the other ALWAYS negative, by definition. But with the independent and co-dependent, there is no fixed value except that one will be positive and the other negative.

So, if the family is seen as a positive thing, then the relationship will turn positive when threatened from outside. But if it is seen as a negative thing, then the relationship will worsen and perhaps completely break apart to independent when threatened from the outside.

This explains why some marriages hold together through turbulent times and others don’t. One might ask what would have happened during the American Civil War if both sides had been attacked by a common enemy. Interesting rhetorical question.

In stories, then, it is your storytelling decision about that fourth kind of pair relationship – which will be seen as positive or negative, that will determine the structural relationship of the overall quad.

(And for you math buffs, it is this aspect of the quad that moves imaginary numbers into the real number plane so that under certain conditions a positive times a positive = a negative, and under others a negative times a positive = a positive.)