Finding perspectives in a story

@jhull (and/or anyone else who wants to answer)

We tend to look for one principle relationship to point to for the RS. But would it be accurate to apply the throughline to all relationships in the story? Some recent comments and articles seem to suggest this. It would make sense from one POV that if the OS were about all the individuals, then the RS would be about all of the relationships. And having all the relationships in a story be built or broken around the same processes certainly seems like it would help explore the theme of that perspective.

Depending on response, follow up questions are likely.

Absolutely. Train to Busan had at least three. Doctor Strange has two, I believe. I think Spider-verse had the mentorship and the father/son.

As long as the relationships share the same perspective and explore the same thematics, they all count toward the message.

It can actually make analysis easier (at least for me) because you can list out all the possible relationships and try to find the common threads.

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These numbers seem way too small for what I’m going for. Rather than looking at a couple of relationships as one being primary and a few being secondary, or as being handoffs from one to another, I’m looking at whether the RS necessarily encompasses every relationship. For instance, Strange and Christine, Strange and the Ancient One, Strange and the librarian, Strange and Mordo, Strange and Kaecillius, Strange and the other doctor, Strange and the guy that tells him about Kamar Taj or whatever it’s called. And those are just the relationships between Strange and other characters. The other characters would all have their own non-Strange relationships as well. So there’s already dozens of possible relationships.

Maybe you could say that Strange isn’t shown growing closer or further from all of those characters, or the relationships aren’t all shown to get weaker or stronger, so they wouldn’t fit in the RS, but I’d still think there’d be way more than two if all relationships fell with the realm of the RS.

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I think this is what it comes down too. The other relationships you mentioned aren’t explored subjectively. There’s only limited space too, especially in a movie, and the RS usually gets shorted in movies anyway.

Totally. I think theoretically, you could have as many relationships in the RS Throughline as you want.

Just be careful not to confuse relationships from an objective point-of-view with those from a subjective point-of-view. An OS can be about exploring the relationships in a story (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

It really speaks more to your purpose as a writer - do you want to write about these relationships from a subjective perspective (Relationship Story Throughline), or from an objective perspective (Overall Story Throughline).


But say I’ve written a relationship objectively, no subjectivity in mind. Theoretically, in a perfect structure, you’d still be able to observe that as a subjective scene and see the subjective element at play, right? Or if I wrote it subjectively, you’d still be able to view it objectively and find the objective element? And yes, this is probably more theoretical than practical. And yes, I’m looking at how you describe the relationships inBTTF in the article

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I think I see what you’re saying.

The article says it’s a matter of perspective. You wouldn’t really know which perspective you’re viewing the relationship from without knowing what the other four throughlines are.

So, in Back To The Future the objective problem is avoidance and the subjective problem is temptation. They are avoiding, We are tempted.

If the characters party to the RS exist in the OS then both elements are available to you as problem elements. I guess it depends how the writer chooses to use them.

As to whether you could see both, even in a purely subjective or purely objective relationship, I’m not sure because I’ve never seen / worked on a story where the OS / RS characters are mutually exclusive.

Only when characters hug at some point in the story can they be considered part of the Relationship Story perspective.


Okay, so that last post was a joke, (haha) although there is some truth to it – though certainly not a requirement, a meaningful hug* is a great pointer to the presence of an RS relationship. (Thanks to Chris Huntley for this tip.) Another good pointer is great attention given to the lack of a hug, as in the boy Bod and the vampire-like Silas in The Graveyard Book:

“He wanted to embrace his guardian, to hold him and tell him that he would never desert him, but the action was unthinkable. He could no more hug Silas than he could hold a moonbeam, not because his guardian was insubstantial, but because it would be wrong. There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

I don’t think every relationship in the story counts as part of the RS perspective. I think the Author knows, at least subconsciously, which relationships have that meaningful RS subjective-view-on-the-story perspective.

* I actually identified an entire substory in my novel draft because of a hug that happened unexpectedly, and felt way more meaningful than I expected. Now in revision I think I just found another relationship that’s part of the main story RS – because of another hug. As soon as that hug happened I was like, wait a minute, these people are practically screaming about their own RS problem of Consider…

So what I was originally going to try to get at with this thread was that I really like the idea that any storypoint can be viewed as an individual component-say, an OS scene, or an MC Problem, etc-but that it could also be that all perspectives are equally present at any given moment throughout the entire story, meaning you could take any sufficient amount of a story and show that it contains an OS, MC, IC, and RS perspective all at once. Not that each point would contain bits from each perspective but that each storypoint could fully show the corresponding points that would fall into each perspective.

It’s kind of strange to think about at first because it would mean that a given scene might not have the MC player in it at all, and yet that scene would still be able to be viewed from the MC perspective. A meaningful hug could be seen not only as OS and RS, but potentially as MC and IC as well.

It’s a slightly different view from ‘seeing the whole story at once’ in that seeing the whole story at once is like seeing all the story points played out in time and yet adding up to a single message whereas what I’m talking about would be like seeing the whole storyform laid out at once in a single thread of story DNA. The difference in those two views, I think, is that one describes what you’re looking at whereas the other describes where you’re looking from. If you are looking at a storypoint, it should appear to be one specific point. But if you’re looking from a perspective, the part of the story you’re looking at should change accordingly.

Is it an accurate way to view things? I don’t know. I think a case could be made for it. But I don’t see it as being particularly helpful for writing-at least not without top tier understanding of the theory, which is why I admit that this line of thinking is more theoretical than practical.