How do these throughlines look?

Hi dramatica people!
I am a dabbler, but I think I am finally getting somewhere with my novel just from learning this theory of story.
I am focused on setting up the throughlines for my historical fiction novel based on a true story. Since this is so foundational, I’m wondering if anyone could show me my blindspots; hypothetically, do these short descriptions sound like they are assigned to the right throughlines?
Main Character Throughline: Fixed Attitude / Mind
Ellen is defined by holding onto a fixed attitude, unable to shake her guilt over her daughter’s death.
Impact Character Throughline: Situation
Florrie (Ellen’s daughter) influences Ellen because she died in the workhouse as a child and is forgotten, misrecorded in the census and has no gravestone.
Subjective throughline: Activity
Florrie (through signs, memories and associations that make Ellen think of her) and Ellen grapple over the activity of how best to memorialize someone; by charging for your healing and raising money for a gravestone or by living a good and happy life, helping others with goodwill and taking joy in the every day, inspired by the person (even if it means the facts won’t be correctly recorded).
Objective throughline: Manipulation
The problems in the objective storyline stem from a community that are overly trained to be superstitious and to seek signs of their own grace or damnation. (When Ellen tries to raise money for the gravestone she gets arrested for pretended witchcraft when someone is committed to the asylum after she ‘helps’ them).

I’d love it if you have any insights for me, thank you so much. Hopefully, as I get to grips with all this I can pay it forward.

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Hi @GGreen.

Sounds like an interesting story!

Hopefully others will weigh in, but my first thought is that this arrangement seems good except possibly I wonder what it would look like if you flipped the MC and IC throughlines. While it seems like Florrie is in a Situation of being dead, from the perspective of how she is influencing Ellen it could be that her absence is causing problems by being forgotten/failing to be properly memorialized (Mind/Memory). Ellen, then, is in a Situation of having lost a daughter (Universe/Past).

Curious what others think though.

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Oooh thank you, the way you describe it feels closer to what I want to say, I’m going to plug that in and see what happens.

I’m in Dramatica for PC and I can’t figure out how to specify PAST or MEMORY. I have a feeling this is such a basic question as to seem ridiculous…

Go to the story engine. I don’t think you can specify the MC Concern there, but if your OS Domain is Manipulation, then just choose Conceptualizing as the OS Concern. This should give the MC Throughline either Past or Memories.


Yes, sorry I should have specified @GGreen – I assumed from your description that your Concern quadrant was upper left (Conceptualizing/Understanding/Past/Memory). If you’ve chosen any other Concerns for any throughline, Dramatica will pick the corresponding ones for the other throughlines.

Welcome to the forum and I hope it helps your novel blossom. Sounds like a cool story.

Before your Dramatica wires get locked in place, I’m going to encourage you now to change how you think about characters. This is not the way to find a character.

Dramatica is about solving problems and whatever issue Ellen has, her Domain is going to be defined by how she’s trying to solve the problem and the issue she’s having there.

Case in point: a person can have cancer and be training for the Olympics (which sound like Situation and Activity) but if every time she goes to train on the “big course” she goes and gets drunk—then her problem is internal, and it’s going to be Mind or Psychology. In this case I was thinking, Mind: Training brings up a fear of failure that she tries to drown out with bourbon.

Obviously, I’m still defining the issue (fear of failure) but the solution (drinking to change emotions) is also in there.

Even if you still find Ellen is in Mind, work the problem and the attempted solution into her profile from the get-go.

I would argue the same thing here: work in how Florrie influences her. What is it about the situation that forces Ellen to confront her Problem?

The MC/IC relationship is one of the MC trying their damnedest to move one direction while the IC is pushing them off that path. Focus on that from the start.

The other thing about focusing on how the MC tries to solve their problem is that you narrow it down immediately to Doing or Being.

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The OS could be fixed attitude / memories like The Crucible: people aren’t following the rules that are based what people rigidly believe. The RS could be past, IC understanding, and MC conceptualizing.

One question that helps me is: how are the 4 throughlines different from each other? Your descriptions could be interpreted to mean that all 4 are dealing with essentially the same concern: gravestones.

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Ok, so already I have learned something; so each of the throughlines / types will have a concern from the same position on the little squares. So if you choose ‘how things are going’ in the situation throughline, the activity throughline will automatically be ‘doing’? I hadn’t understood that.


Thanks for the link to the crucible, and those ideas, which I now understand are linked by being in the same quadrant. BRAND NEW INFORMATION haha.
So I understood the 3 throughlines as being 4 different perspectives on the same problem? Are they meant to be different in some other way?
Thinking out loud here about how the stories are different: The objective story is about a man having a psychotic episode, and the town blaming a witch (who is Ellen) because of fear of ‘she who heals’. The MC story is how, for Ellen, this was all about her trying to atone, to move past her feeling of guilt about her daughter dying, but it backfired. The IC throughline is Florrie basically being a childlike friendly spirit, with unconditional love, eternal something or other and no concern for gravestones or census records. The RS shows Ellen perceiving things all wrong in terms of Ellen being somehow damned or shunned by Florrie’s spirit, and realising they were always connected in a completely unblamey type of way.
I am not sure whether this will align with a particular quadrant (now I know that is how it works). More thinking needed, thank you for your insights!

Ok, message received. I’ll try that angle of approach and see where I get to. I think you’re showing me that the IC is a bit of a weak spot as I don’t know how she forces anything…I will get there!

Something interesting is how Domains and Concerns align to create the “personality” of the story. Sometimes in fact you can watch or read a story and know immediately what quadrant the Concerns are in before you can place the throughlines.

Here’s a great thread that talks about this. The only qualification is that this is a bit subjective, but it’s a good starting point.

One more thing – just so I’m not assuming anything. It looks like you’re using the later version of the Dramatica terms (Situation vs. Universe). Per @jhull’s advice, a lot (most?) of us here use the older terms for Domains and Concerns or switch back and forth. You might know that already, but just in case there’s any confusion. You can change them in the program under the settings I think.

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There are some early pitfalls that nearly everyone falls into, or we at least fall into some of them.

One is an inability to distinguish the Main Character from the Protagonist. Even when we think we’re doing it! Hunt down some stories that don’t have an overlap in these roles, so you appreciate how distinct they are. (To Kill A Mockingbird is a go-to story for this. There are lots of others.)

Another cul-de-sac is having the IC be just a character of importance, but not enough of a hurdle. I think this mistake stems from a couple of decades of reading and watching movies and being unaware that the IC is doing anything at all. (It’s not in most other writing theories; the only reason can be because people overlook it, even people who are intently studying how stories work!)

But, yes, the IC is a fundamental building block. (@jhull encourages people to not even think of it as a character.) I try to look at it as an opposing philosophical force that is working to push against the MC. I don’t put it in every scene, but I try to ask myself all the time: how would the IC approach solving this problem? How would the interfere with the MC solving the problem their way?

Let’s say that Florrie is in Mind and the way she works is by Memories: her ghost will do things like knock over knickknacks that were Florrie’s favorites, so Ellen has to pick them up and is constantly reminded of her. But Ellen is poor and doesn’t have time to think about Florrie: she has to be constantly working. She thinks that getting money and moving out of her apartment will put an end to the constant stream of memories. But this isn’t what Florrie wants!

Or, in non-character terms: Ellen’s subconscious knows she has to deal with the memory of her daughter and that moving is not actually going to solve the problem. This could also be something a different character says, and Florrie remains the IC. The neighbor: “When you pack up and move, why do you think you won’t bring everything with you, even your daughter?” <-- that’s what makes it a perspective, and not a character.

The ending is maybe something like Ellen realizing that her hard earned money must go towards memorializing her daughter, not moving. To wrap this into the OS, returning to the grave is seen as witchcraft, so there’s a huge risk to it.

This can be a Failure: she doesn’t actually return to the grave, for fear of hysteria. Or Success: she returns to the grave.

Either way, though, it can be a Good ending: maybe she doesn’t return to the grave because Florrie doesn’t care about the physical grave… maybe she goes to the river where Florrie and Ellen used to play and Ellen cries for the first time since her daughter died and really faces the truth of it. Crying is internal, making Ellen a Change Character.

I know this might feel like a lot at once. Any questions?


You mentioned “The RS shows Ellen perceiving things all wrong in terms of Ellen being somehow damned or shunned by Florrie’s spirit, and realising they were always connected in a completely unblamey type of way.”

Based on this, I wonder if the RS problem is perception and the RS solution is actuality. In a success/good story with an OS of manipulation, that would make the OS problem inequity. That could be where the unfairness (and mental unbalance / psychotic break) is coming from in the OS. And the change MC would have an MC problem of inequity also, but in this context it may mean more “imbalanced emotions” than unfair.

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Thank you very much. Everything you’ve said here is kind of encouraging as I do understand what you’re saying I think, I just dont have the answers for thos story yet. I even have a closing scene drafted (it randomly came to me) where she does indeed go to the pool where Florrie used to love playing and she has that cathartic experience of feeling close to her for the first time, in a joyful way. I feel as though I understand what you’re saying and my vision for the story is just what you are suggest in feel, but I cant figure out how to ‘do it’ in dramatica. Just that little thing haha.
I will let you know how I get on.

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This sounds promising as perception and actuality and inequity are definitely terms I’ve been drawn to. It is figuring out how to get them in the right places in the story form! So your suggestions are very helpful. I feel like you’ve got a good grasp of the theme so that is also encouraging.

As an aside, if you’re OK with it then please post here when your book is for sale so we can buy it. I’m desperate for good stories that actually have a human story.


Thank you so much and regarding the terms I am struggling to move back and forth between the text book, dramatics for PC and subtext for this very reason.

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This is making me grin from ear to ear. Thank you.

Yeah, “doing it in Dramatica” is the curse that gets a lot of us. It’s a tool, it should guide you. It’s super analytical, and your story feels super emotional—you probably can’t do them at the same time.

I try to invest in my storyform, learn the characters and the themes, and then never think about when I’m writing. I use it a lot during rewriting, though.