Four Throughlines, Issue and Emphasis

I’ve been getting my head wrapped around how the Four Issues merge into the single story issue, and how the key is Emphasis, which is a word we see often but don’t have a precise definition for. I have written this out in an effort to explain it to myself, four examples. The same four issues, with the emphasis on a different throughline each time. Let me know if this makes sense to folks.

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OS Emphasis

OS objective
Threat
there’s a threat against characters of story

MC subjective
Experience
the MC lacks, but begins gaining, the experience e to deal with the threat

IC objective view of subjective
Desire
has a growing desire to deal with threat

RS subjective view of the objective
Worry
They worry about the threat and what it means for them, and what the right way is to deal with it.

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RS Emphasis

OS objective
Threat
their relationship is a threat to the community

MC subjective
Experience
the MC has a bad experience of relationships and is having trouble being in one

IC objective view of subjective
Desire
has a desire to disrupt or become a part of their relationship

RS subjective view of the objective
Worry
They worry about their relationship and how the events of the story will effect it.

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IC Emphasis

OS objective
Threat
the community isn’t threatened by the IC’s changes, until the end of the story when they realize what’s really happened.

MC subjective
Experience
the MC feels a responsibility to give the IC his experience and guide him and control him, to do good rather than damage

IC objective view of subjective
Desire
he has a desire to change things that is effecting everyone in the story and he’s going to go through with it, like it or not

RS subjective view of the objective
Worry
they worry that the IC is out of control, they argue about whether the IC is right or wrong

====

MC Emphasis

OS objective
Threat
the MC’s quest for experience is supported by the community, who love him, but they are worried he is making himself sick and is a threat to himself

MC subjective
Experience
the MC is gaining experience about his life, and he’s doing it at cost to others, but has to solve a problem

IC objective view of subjective
Desire
the IC desire’s to oppose the MC’s quest for experience, because what he finds may hurt him more than not knowing

RS subjective view of the objective
Worry
they worry that the MC’s quest for experience will take him out of the relationship and realize that may be unavoidable, and they question whether he needs the relationship more than he needs the solution to the problem.

@jhull

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If this is on target I think it would be helpful for the beginners (I still count myself as one) to see this permanently documented somewhere. Emphasis is a key concept.

A secondary benefit is, it demonstrates to people that Dramatica theory isn’t a straitjacket that dictates your story. It’s a magnifying lens for LOOKING at your story, a tool whose resolution, power and focus you adjust to look at the material.

(@jhull this occurred to me because I created an ‘issue.pdf’ of just the sentences with issue in them, so, yes, I guess there’s a benefit to doing that. Focuses me on one single aspect of Dramatica.)

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Incidentally, I can see no reason at all why you can’t use more than one emphasis, when telling a story, as long as you keep them straight and operating as second mechanisms, almost like a different ‘color’ of the same storyform. I can see that it could add some symphonic richness. Thoughts?

Hopefully I’m not taking this in too much of a tangent and missing the core point of your question, but it sounds like you’re talking about looking at how the Issues are all related to each other, yes? Connecting the dots of the Storymind? I might be wrong here, but I think the short answer is that they’re not directly related to each other…
Perhaps some questions of my own might help answer:

Correct me if I’m wrong here, @jhull or @chuntley … but Worry, Desire, Experience and Threat down at the Issue level are all basically “Desires” as far as the KADT of their respective quads, yes?

If that’s accurate, then does the “emphasis” you’re describing lie in addressing that?

That it’s not about looking at how each of the throughlines emphasizes each other’s specific issue, but that each of those Elements are only “related” in that they’re the “Desire Element” of their respective parent element.

Basically, are these Elements laid out in your examples being considered the right way?
By that I mean, for example,
OS - Threat…

  • Aren’t we supposed to look at “Threat,” not necessarily as “there is a threat” (i mean, it could be that) or “their relationship threatens” as if the RS is somehow connected to the OS… but rather as a process that either is itself or creates conflict?
  • “Threatening” is creating or attributing to the overall imbalance?
  • So trying to tie the RS to the OS Issue of Threat isn’t quite accurate, right? It’s not that “They” (the IC and MC together) somehow worry about the OS Issue of Threat. It would be that their RELATIONSHIP itself is moving through “worrying” and causing conflict.

Right? Because, the RS (as with any of the Perspectives) is its own separate perspective for the Author to comment on, not the Players in the Story Mind.

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@JohnDusenberry

That’s actually how I would have answered this question…

For clarity, though: Each of the Issues in a story is related, practically, only to the associated Throughline. Due to how Dramatica works, these Issues will end up being thematically related, even if encoded completely separately from one another.

There is no need to relate the RS Issue to the OS Issue, or any other such combination. That will be done automatically through the existence of the Storyform.

I would add the one caveat that every Dramatica term in the chart should be seen as a source of conflict, not as the conflict itself. The first will produce subtext, which is much closer to what Dramatica is about, while the second will more likely produce storytelling, which can work, but won’t produce as great of a story.

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I hear what you’re saying but I don’t completely buy it. For one thing, I could reel off a very long list of stories that operate pretty much exactly as I described, and are structured pretty much exactly that way. I characterize them as “tight,“ or claustrophobic stories. Are there stories that aren’t? Sure, but they are looser, baggier stories precisely because those elements aren’t related in a way easy for the audience to understand.

There’s a second kind of story which also gives a lot of pleasure, where two or three separate tracks are happening, and then at the end of one track influences another track, and so on. The tracks are not obviously related except for “theme”. I am aware of that.

I am aware that Dramatica is supposed to help with the second kind of story, and that it’s considered a more sophisticated story to tell. Suppose you want tell an unsophisticated story? One the New York Times wouldn’t care about But might get a good review in TV Guide.

I think the kind of interpretation you’re offering is missing is the central thought that the storymind is attempting to solve a specific problem and trying to look at it from all angles. It’s the specificity of the problem that seems to get lost in all the jabbery about subtext. Some guy is robbing a bank, he loves robbing banks. The bank is concerned about the number of robberies going on lately and they’re trying to solve that problem. The cop at the bank has been chasing the main character all his life and he’s finally closing in. His girlfriend wants him to stop robbing banks so they can get away and go get married.

That sounds all like it would be purely OS.

I’m working on an experiential story that proves it. Currently, it focuses on the separate points of view, but I’m working to add encodings for things like Problem and Issue. The start of it can be found here:


You’re missing a key word there: The central thought with Dramatica is that a Storymind is trying to solve a specific kind of problem. The specific problem doesn’t need to be the same in each perspective. It only needs to be of the same kind. It’s that word, “kind”, that makes the difference.

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@GetSchwifty I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that kind of story, one that has all the throughlines woven together really tightly. It’s just that you have to recognize it’s part of storyweaving and storytelling. In your original post it wasn’t clear that was what you were talking about (it seemed like you were saying the Issues should be related at the subject matter level).

Also, I don’t think you’d want to force things to be so tightly woven – it might prevent you from using a better idea that’s more meaningful (to you, and giving more meaning to the story).

But I agree that if your ideas do include throughlines that are woven like that, you can and should use them rather than search for something “better”. Go with the ideas you love.

In my sci-fi story the MC throughline seemed to be about: “having a hopeless crush on Becca” where Becca was the IC. And of course the RS was about their messed-up romance. So those three throughlines, MC, IC and RS appeared to be VERY tightly woven. And this did give me some trouble at first, trying to understand what each throughline really was.

What really helped was realizing the MC throughline was about having hopeless crushes in general (MC Issue Hope). Giving the MC a past of yearning for unattainable girls, so that all his friends had seen it before and were against him getting hurt again, etc. really enabled me to focus that throughline. It was no longer so much about Becca, his current crush, but about his crushes in general.

The IC throughline was easy to separate – massive subplot about a discredited starfighter pilot whose mother is dying. Ultimately she impacts the MC because she needs his help to save her mom. (IC Problem Help)

Then the RS came together as this weird romance, where it never seemed like they should be together, but they kept getting forced into doing stuff that brought them closer together. (RS Physics)

In the end it helped a lot to see them all separately, even though I wanted them to remain tightly woven in the story.

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Whoa… I didn’t even catch the Storytelling aspect of the question. Great post @mlucas!

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I would like to add the following, though:

Whenever I’ve seen the word “emphasis” on these forums, and in Jim’s articles, it usually seemed to mean the amount of screen time or word space (the amount of Storytelling) dedicated to exploring a particular area.

For example, in the romance section* of stories, there is usually an emphasis on the RS. There are likely still OS, IC, and MC Throughlines in those romances that are considered good, but they get much less word space or screen time allocated to them. – Think, ugh… I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but… the movie version of Twilight.**

Thus, emphasis isn’t so much about whether the MC or OS Issues have been tied tightly with the RS, though the MC Issue probably is tightly connected, as much as it is about the amount of Storytelling dedicated to the RS. A similar thing might be said about many (older) action movies, which usually emphasize the OS.***

*I avoid the word genre for Dramatica-based paradigmatic reasons.
**I did bother to watch it, and there are some good things there, but I’m not in its audience.
***And they bore the heck out of me because of it. For me, stories are about the MC, usually.

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This is not correct. They flip and flop all the way down.

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You’re conflating the inequity of the storyform with storytelling.

Some guy robbing a bank because he loves robbing banks is not a Problem as far as the storyform is concenred – it’s Storytelling.

The Problem could be Desire, Proaction, Pursuit, Feeling, Chaos – anything.

That would be my only comment about your original post. I can see how it might help writers new to the theory, but it could also confuse them when it comes time to tease apart the actual inequity from the Storytelling.

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check, yeah, that was helpful from the other folks. Thanks for corroborating their testimony lol

thanks for clearing that up, I was about to buy in!

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So you’re saying that because things flip and twist in a story with inequity, their “at equilibrium” states can flip around?

For instance, “at rest” the Element “Worry” of Impulsive Responses is seen as maybe the Thought, depending on how the inequity twists the chart?
As if in the mind, you’re getting what “should” be your Thoughts mixed up with your Worries, etc?

Does this start past the Concern level in a twisted chart? I ask because it seems from a lot of the analysis meetings we still think in terms of their TKAD equivalent 2 levels down.

“These decisions can be made completely independently from level to level: we need not be consistent in the direction of the rotate, selection of the dynamic pair, or who carries the children.

*BUT, it must be determined for each level. (class type variation element)”

Melanie, the 1992 article.

Is this relevant?