How do you find the Problem-Quad?

Hello there,
I wonder if anyone can clarify something for me.
After reading the theory, I had understood that to find the Problem-Quad of each throughline, you had to look at the element level just below the Issue of the throughline.
But it seems to be more complicated than that.
This is the case for the OS and for the Change character, but for the IC and for the RS, it is most of the time completely different.
So what is the rule for finding the 4 Problem-quads of a story if you have defined the 4 Issues? Or what are the relations between those quads ?

The Change character has the same Problem/Solution as the OS. The Steadfast character has the same Focus/Direction as the OS. I forget how the RS works, but you can find it somewhere here on the boards. I think it shares the Problem/Solution with OS if Failure and shares the Focus/Direction of the OS if Success. Something along those lines.


OK, so except for the OS, there is not necessarily a direct connections between the Issue of a throughline and its problem quad (when I say direct, I mean this quad being just below its Issue variation) ?

I think the OS and RS will be in the same corner and the MC and IC will be in the same corner. So an OS issue of Fate will force an SS issue of Truth. Mc issue of Situation forces IC issue of Senses.


@Greg is right on all counts. And yeah, there is no direct connection between RS or IC Issue and problem quad – it MAY end up being the quad below the Issue, but that is determined by the elements shared with OS (Problem/Solution or Focus/Direction).


I think I may have misread earlier. The OS and MC are both going to have Problems found within their Issue. The RS and IC might or might not.


Does anyone ever start with the IC or RS Problem quad? We don’t usually approach it that way, but it’s not hard to imagine. For example, let’s say all I know is that I want to write about a troubled marriage in which the problem is the unrealistic expectations each person has of the other. If I decide I want a Steadfast character and that the story outcome is Success, suddenly I have an idea for an OS in which no one trusts each other and an MC who is obsessed with proving himself in all aspects of his life.


Whaou ! It goes bit too fast for me, here !
Can you explicit a bit more your path down to your conclusion ? (I lost you at : “suddenly Have an idea…” :thinking:)


The Objective Story and Main Character Throughlines are straight drill downs from top to bottom—from Domain to Problem. This observable path illustrates the bias of the model towards those two Throughlines (and why Subtxt only accounts for those two when it builds a Premise).

The other two Throughlines are more difficult to project from this bias, which is why sometimes the path from top to bottom is crooked.

The “stick in an aquarium” analogy is explained in this article:


In the software you could do this by multi-selecting the problem values for IC or RS. In the Windows version you go to Query System and then Theme Storyforming where you can do the multi-select thing.


Ah, I didn’t realize it was different in Windows. I most often am just looking at the Story Engine page.

Sorry, it’s nothing deep – I just thought if (for example) the only idea I had for a story was there was a marriage with a Problem of Expectation, but I knew the MC was Steadfast and the Outcome Success, I could plug those in an narrow my OS Problem to either Effect or Trust. I didn’t have any immediate illustrations for Effect so I chose Trust (no one trusts each other) and then one of my MC Problem choices is Proven.

It’s basically the reverse of the process we usually use, of starting with either the OS or MC. I thought one potential advantage of starting with the RS is that might be easier to imagine the RS as a thing in itself (e.g., The Marriage Troubled by Unrealistic Expectations) before you have attached any idea of players (characters) to it. But also, you just might have an idea for a kind of relationship you want to explore before you know anything about the other throughlines.

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Yes, that’s exactly it.
I was interested in looking at my story through the relationship perspective and specifically trying to assign a RS Issue (because I have been revising my variations concepts lately).
And then I realised that contrary to finding the OS or MC Issues (which is useful as it narrows down to the crucial quad), finding the Issue of a relationship wasn’t gonna help me that much because the quad just below it doesn’t necessarily correspond to any storypoint, and it’s a kind of a dead end.

As a matter of fact, I don’t really see now what is the real point of the RS Issue in a story.
What is it supposed to correspond to in the RS ? And how could you identified it on its own, (I mean, without the deduction from other storypoints) ?
Because if it was the real Issue of the RS then the problem/solution should be thematically linked to it (with a direct parent-quad relation), right ?

As a matter of fact, I have noticed that when analysing a story, either Chris or Jim usually and logically start from the top levels (class & types) but then kind of jump straight to the element level (problem, solution, symptom, response) which is where everything really important sit. The Issue level is usually only deduced from those elements and rarely identified as such.

Jim’s brilliant Premise Builder really works that way too with a choice of Domain and Concern and then straight to the Key Element (along with the choice of all the different combinations of Character and plot dynamics of course, I am only talking here about the story points).

Now, I know that the Variations level also contains other storypoints (Catalyst, Inhibitor, Unique Ability and Critical flaw) but my very little experience doesn’t show them as decisive stroypoints.
Am I wrong ?
Does anybody wishes to put a different light and re-enhance the value of the Variations level for me ? :slight_smile:

I think for Holistic stories, Jim uses the OS Issue (instead of the Concern) as the Objective Premise (that part of the Premise statement). So it’s my understanding that Holistic stories may emphasize the Issue more than the Concern.

Here’s my two cents/understanding but maybe others can weigh in.

If you look at an analysis of a solid story, you will most likely be able to see all the story points there, in one form or another, emphasized to to different degrees. To take a random example, the RS Issue of Back to the Future is Commitment. We can certainly see how the relationship between Marty and Doc is founded on Commitment, just as we can see how the relationship between Luke and Ben grows/is challenged through Ability. More on the nose, Dramatica tells us that the RS Issue of Romeo and Juliet is Desire.

The question is, a) when analyzing a story to quickly figure out the storyform and b) when using Dramatica for writing, what is the most efficient path to an accurate and useful result?

The answer to this probably varies by the person who is analyzing and the type of story being analyzed/writen. It’s possible that trying to start with the RS Issue is not, for most writers, the shortest distance.

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Absolutely true (in almost all cases).

A Holistic Premise is more about addressing issues rather than solving a particular problem. If the Mindset is Holistic, Subtxt looks at the Objective Story Issue for the “plot” Method used to create the Premise.

The only time it drops out is in stories of Disconnection (Failure/Bad). There’s no real addressing of issues in these stories, only isolation and separation.

I cover all aspects here:


As for the purpose of the Relationship Story Issue abd its connection to the Storyform:

The RS Issue rests in the same physical location as the OS Issue, within the context of their parental Type Concern.

An RS issue of Commitment means an OS Issue of Self Interest, as they both lie in the upper left hand quadrant of their corresponding Concerns (Becoming and Obtaining, respectively).

Same with an RS Issue of Conditioning and an OS Issue of Sense of Self (bottom right, Understanding and Conceptualizing).

So there is a connection and you could conceivably build a Storyform from it as it narrows down your selection of OS Problem to four choices.

Personally, I would strongly suggest against it. It’s the same problem one finds creating a Storyform from the Benchmark or the OS Signpost 2–the appreciation of these is so subjective in nature compared to the OS Problem or Story Goal that it resembles trying to hit a moving target.


Maybe under the bonnet that’s the way it works but as a user, you can’t choose it and use it as a way of constructing your story.

Yes you can:

Change the Key Character Element and the Issue adjusts to reflect your intent (where it says “Plot” in the Premise)

Choose a different Narrative Family (Concern) and it changes both the Elements and the Issue:

If you start with the Issue like you do in the Dramatica application, you still have to eventually choose a Problem or Symptom, so you still have an additional step. The Premise Builder is specifically designed to make you focus on the most crucial parts of a Storyform while helping you get to the final result quicker.


Awesome !
And as the OS Issue and the RS Issue are in the same relative corner, That’s how I can start with the RS Issue.
Although that only works with an Holistic story, right ?

Yes that is correct. Only Holistic stories look at the Issue for the Premise.

But it is true that the OS Issue and RS Issue are in the same relative corner (aka quadrant) for all stories, Holistic or Linear.

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