Drivers and Signposts - 2021 debate

Hi All,

I’m reading up on my Subtext and Discuss Dramatica explanations and I’m seeing what appear to be different opinions regarding Story Drivers coming from older posts. Hoping for some updated clarifications.

Here’s my quick questions:

  1. As of today, are we saying that Drivers only refer to the OS through line?

  2. If so, are we also saying that the ‘plot’ by its classic definition is driven only within the OS through line and the other through lines are just explorations of those plot developments.

  3. Are Drivers contained within Signposts or outside of Signposts? In other words, does a driver lead to an OS signpost or does an OS Signpost as a driver engineer the beginning of the plot. I don’t think I’ve found a strict interpretation anywhere including the theory book.

  4. If Drivers are not contained within Signposts is there any further indication of what they are comprised of besides Decisions or Actions?

In my experience, it’s easier to give a Driver the context of a Decision/Action based on the Signpost it comes from. For example, if I have an MC Signpost of Doing at the top of my story, an action driver could be defined by that ‘Doing’ and sets the rest of the story in motion.

Happy to be corrected though.



Story Drivers in Dramatica theory are Dynamic appreciations of narrative which means they describe the relationships between things, not the things themselves.

A Story Driver between a Signpost of Doing and Learning is describing the relationship between Doing and Learning. As with relationships themselves (or the Relationship Story Throughline) many see that dynamic in one or the other (the he said/she said conundrum) when really it’s both and neither.


  1. The Story Driver dynamic exhibits its biggest impact on the Objective Story Throughline, with the fallout effecting the remaining three Throughlines. In the end, all four are integrated so on one hand you can say yes, it only refers to the OS Throughline, while on the other you could say it refers to all. Practically speaking, just look to the OS.

  2. The other Throughlines are NOT explorations of the “plot” development in the Objective Story Throughline. All Four Throughlines are explorations of the single inequity at the center of the narrative.

  3. As mentioned in the intro, the Drivers describe the relationship between structural aspects (Signposts). Practically speaking, you can make them part of the prior or part of the subsequent. I would avoid making them their own separate thing, unless of course you understand a Dynamic model of Dramatica that has yet to be defined :slight_smile:

  4. If you want to tie them to structural aspects, many have found looking to the OS Problem as a good solid place to start. The Story Drivers of Star Wars could all easily be tied to a Problem of Test. So too could the Problem of Support in Shawshank Redemption. I’ve written about this before in Uncovering the Major Plot Points of a Functioning Story.


Thanks Jim. Good clarifications. I still feel like Drivers could possibly be defined by the other through lines, especially the MC. I have a character who causes the core problem in my story and his first signpost seems to fit all the usual caveats for a story driver (causes the story flow to change, it’s definitely an action…) But your advice/answers are well received as always.

Don’t forget that your MC is also a Player in the Objective Story Throughline. Most of the time, when writers think they see a Story Driver playing out in another Throughline, its because they’re seeing some story event attached to that character’s Objective Character function and mis-reading it as having to do with the Main Character Throughline.

A good example of this is Luke’s Aunt and Uncle being fried. It looks like that’s a Story Driver from within his Main Character Throughline as it only seems to affect his personal development from lack of Progress to the Past (nothing’s changing for me to there’s nothing left here for me). But really it’s an escalation of the Empire’s Objective Story move from simply chasing down the plans (Doing) to violently interrogating/teaching everyone what’s up (Learning).