How to Weave Throughlines Together to Create a Single Plot

Okay, so while @hunter has been addressing how it’s possible to construct a story in which all four throughlines have completely unconnected players, I’ve been thinking about how to effectively weave the different throughlines together form a single plot, assuming you want to do that. After all, while it’s not structurally necessary, this is what most stories do.

The problem I often have is connecting the story events in a way that maintains the different throughlines but creates a seamless subjective experience of “one thing leading to another.”

I recently had an insight on a possible way to think about this when contemplating @greg’s approach to identifying and/or encoding story points in which you separate the conflict (process) from the source of conflict (the story point). I think this is just another way looking at @jhull’s approach, which is to encode the story point and then ask the question “how is this a problem?” and then illustrating that problem/conflict.

This is probably obvious, but I realized that if you you can illustrate the conflict/problem as the “source of conflict” for the next story point, you can create a naturally escalating progression of plot.

So for example, using the Plot Sequence Report you can use:

OS Signpost 1, Scene 1: Conceptualizing as it relates to Instinct:
OS Signpost 1, Scene 2: Conceptualizing as it relates to Senses:
OS Signpost 1, Scene 3: Conceptualizing as it relates to Interpretation:
OS Signpost 1, Scene 4: Conceptualizing as it relates to Conditioning:

to create a story like this:

After a strange conversation, a teenage girl’s mother gets an uneasy feeling (Instinct) about what’s happening with her daughter, so she follows and spies on her (Instinct to Senses). When the mother sees the daughter talking to known drug dealer, the mother misinterprets the exchange (Senses to Interpretation). Convinced that her daughter is going down a bad path, she presents the case to her husband and argues that they should send the daughter to reform school to protect her (Interpretation to Conditioning).

I think this works.

But my next question is, can you follow the same process to switch to a different throughline while keeping the same plot progression?

So in this example:

The daughter overhears this conversation about the plan (OS Conceptualizing) to send her to reform school and decides to run away with her boyfriend (the IC) (RS Obtaining) which causes them to grow more bonded to one another.

But is that a legitimate way to even talk about it? Does it make any sense to say an event in one throughline “causes” an event in another throughline? Would it be more accurate to say that it “sets up” the conflict in the other throughline?

And overall, is this a legitimate approach to storyweaving?


Yes. That’s exactly what it was meant to be.

The more I think about it, the more I think most stories probably do something like this often. I’m guessing that most writers would think of their work as being a single story that weaves together solutions to multiple problems as opposed to being four individual tales that are related but not necessarily connected all solving different perspectives of the same problem. If you don’t know that your OS isn’t necessarily connected to your RS, you probably would try to tell the story in such a way that conflict from one throughline becomes a source of conflict in another.

I’m not sure if you kept up with the A Beautiful Mind thread, but I’m pretty sure something like this happens in the first act. In that thread, I think we agreed that the OS was something along the lines of “John Nash is schizophrenic” and the MC throughline was something along the lines of “John Nash wants recognition”. The storyform we ended up with has OS SP1 of Conceiving and MC SP1 of Preconscious. The OS SP1 of Conceiving looks mostly like John trying to come up with an original idea. But coming up with an original idea, at least from an audience perspective, looks like John’s attempt to get recognition, not an attempt to deal with schizophrenia. So the MC Domain of “wants recognition” sort of sets up the problem for OS SP 1.

And then MC SP 1 of Preconscious, i’m thinking, is when John loses a game of Hex and gets “triggered” and it probably looks to the audience not like someone freaking out over lack of recognition, but someone who has a psychological problem to deal with.

That’s not OS SP1 conflict being the source in MC SP1, like your example, though. It’s conflict from the MC Domain being the source in OS SP1 and the conflict in OS Domain being the source of conflict in MC SP1.


I’ve been skimming it but alas, it’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie that I barely remember it!

This is really interesting. I’ll have to think about this example and possibly rewatch the movie. It’s a little more complicated because you’re suggesting the Source of Conflict-to-Problem progression is going from a static story point to the plot progression (on a different level). Which from a writing persepective gives you more options for sure.


I’m not even sure that’s exactly what happens. What I’m am saying though is that if you think you’re telling one story instead of four, surely one throughlines sign post will look like it leads to another throughlines sign post. Structurally, those sign posts are separate, but seem to connect linearly through storytelling.


Great topic! I think you’re on the right track.

I really prefer language like “sets up” or “provides opportunity for” when you’re talking about something in one throughline affecting another. That way, you don’t mistakenly source the conflict from the wrong area.

For example, in The Princess Bride when Buttercup gets kidnapped (OS throughline) you could say it was “caused” by the fact that Westley wasn’t around (IC throughline). Things would certainly have been a lot different if he’d been there – but using the word “cause” is definitely inaccurate when you’re talking structure. The real cause of Buttercup’s kidnapping is Humperdink’s nefarious plotting, no ifs ands or buts. The events of the IC throughline certainly make things ripe for her to be the target of Humperdink’s plot (MC contributes too – “I will never love again” means she didn’t get married in the interim). But there’s a difference between providing an opportunity for something, and actually causing it.


Okay so this is where it gets interesting and tricky. In your example, there’s no question that Humperdink’s plotting it to blame for the kidnapping. But Westley’s absence is still absolutely central to the plot – after all, if he had been there, he never would have allowed the kidnapping (one assumes – or there would be a different story).

In other words, from a (non-structural) storytelling perspective it appears that a number of things conspired to put Buttercup in her predicament; if any of these were missing, the plot would not have advanced to that point. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes the story feel so satisfying!

But that could still be taken care of using “sets up” instead of “causes” I guess.


Hmm. A caveat to what I said above. I just realized that my example was really only taking the objective view of the story into account.

Really, events aren’t “in” throughlines, since throughlines are really just perspectives or points of view. To say an event or piece of storytelling is “in” a throughline is really just shorthand for it being visible from, or mattering to, that perspective.

So, I think Buttercup’s kidnapping, if looked at from the IC throughline perspective only, could be seen as being caused by Westley’s absence (Universe/Present). If seen specifically from the MC perspective, you could say it was caused by Buttercup’s need for a contemplative ride to alleviate her unhappiness (Mind/Conscious).

(I don’t think the kidnapping mattered much to the RS, since they were already apart.)

I still prefer the “sets up” language. It’s a safe way to describe the connection until you can see things properly. That said, I think our guts tend to understand this stuff better than we do consciously. So as long as your throughlines are solid, I think these individual plot events will fall into place properly.


Hi Guys. @Lakis this is a fantastic thread. @mlucas great insights. I particularly like the “sets up” phrase. You know how authors talk about set up and pay off? I get that feeling from the phrase. To add to this, from my experience, I also look at the throughlines based on what their core functions are and who bears the mantle of the said throughline.


For example in Crazy Rich Asians. The opening scene where the Mother-in-law experiences some racial prejudice. That scene was coloured by her throughline. It didn’t have an impact on the plot. It was subjective, but true to that perspective. She experienced that prejudice and in keeping with this new phrase, it sets up her personality for the rest of the film. In the DUG analysis, one of the participants mentioned this and Jim confirmed it too. So I’ve also been looking at it in terms of “Who’s scene is this”? But now, with the “this set’s up ----” phrase, my understanding is stronger.

Great work guys.


Thanks @Khodu.

Yes! I think that’s maybe a great way to think about this.

Yes, of course. So in my example, it wouldn’t work if I showed “running away” as the source of conflict for everyone rather than for just the RS, even though “running away” was “set up” by the previous events where the source of conflict was in the OS (Conceptualizing).

So my first thought upon reading this was “yes, of course.” But then I thought, how can that be possible – if you generate an event by using Conceptualizing as the source conflict, then isn’t that event by definition “in” whatever throughline Conceptualizing is in?

But maybe the answer still comes back to perspective – this is how you get multi-appreciation moments, where a problem that appears to spring from a Misunderstanding from the perspective of the (RS) is seen as coming from incorrect ideas (Conceiving) when looked at from a broader lens (OS).



I think the most important thing to ask yourself after a scene or beat is:

  • What changed?
  • Who is affected by that change?
  • How will that change affect them?
  • Why does that change hold potential for conflict?
  • When will the change be realized in other throughlines?

Here are a few of my thoughts:


  • a scene has a specific POV

  • a scene creates changes in one of the four classes

  • change creates the potential for conflict


  • a beat happens within a specific POV

  • a beat creates change in one of the four classes

  • change creates the potential for conflict

I think that bleed over from all throughlines is unavoidable. Like ripple out conflictanomics. None of the throughlines exist in a vacuum. They exist within a greater whole. I suspect consequences tie in with all of this as well.

I’d say that potential is reset or altered at anytime during a scene when a beat occurs. And, of course, it is changed at the conclusion of the scene. *Maybe any part of PRCO can be altered?

For example, If an IC realizes that the nature of his relationship (RS) with the MC has changed mid-scene (e.g., he finds a business card from an FBI agent – which could have been an earlier beat), he could choose to betray the MC. If the IC is oblivious to the change – everything might keep going along as normal albeit with reader tension.

I’ve become really interested in the RS as of late. While I understand that it is easiest to deal with the RS by placing it within an arc of change and labeling it something at the beginning (friends) and the end (lovers), I feel like there’s more there.

If that is all that an RS can be, then it will just be the result of the MC and IC interacting. We are going to make a judgement about the nature of the relationships during these interactions. The writer doesn’t really need to do anything.

However, I think that it is more than just an arc. I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that if you plugged any of the four throughlines into the MC spot of the Dramatica software (making your RS the MC), and you created a narrative argument – then you can create a robust and superior RS throughline by the additional information that you would get from it.

In fact, all throughlines could benefit from this as they are all MC in a different story. Think Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are Dead. I think that it will be illuminating, and I plan on exploring it in the future.

Anyway, just my thoughts.


Definitely. And you can see that the analyses.

Hm, that sounds like an interesting experiment.

@museful do you use the PSR to generate scenes? My theory is that if you generate your storybeats using the “source-of-conflict to source-of-conflict” approach you automatically deal with those questions (it’s kind of built in). But I haven’t done it top-to-bottom for an entire story from scratch yet.


That is some really cool insight! Seeing the RS through the lens of an “arc” makes a lot of sense to me, since the RS seems to be the most holistic of the four throughlines, and would therefore be understood best in terms of ebb and flow. It also reminds me of the four questions that @jhull advises authors to answer in defining the RS, especially the one about whether the relationship is growing or dissolving (link:

Please do! I can’t wait to hear what you find out. :grinning:


I think I see what Mike is saying, but i would say an event is ‘in’ a throughline based on it being an attempt to solve a problem from a given perspective, and that it could be in multiple throughlines as you describe. I’m Not necessarily disagreeing with Mike, there. Just, uh, seeing it from a different perspective, I guess.

I don’t think the relationship is just the interactions between characters. It’s the processes between them. Say you have two lovers parted somehow. But every time one looks at the moon and remembers that night when x happened, they become more determined to get back to the other. Or two enemies and every time one sees a campaign poster it reminds one of them of the other and their enemyship gets stronger. There’s no interactions between them, but there are processes and growth. And those are how I see the RS.


[quote=“Greg, post:13, topic:2318”]
I don’t think the relationship is just the interactions between characters. It’s the processes between them. Say you have two lovers parted somehow. But every time one looks at the moon and remembers that night when x happened, they become more determined to get back to the other.[/quote]

A relationship for sure, but is it the RST? Is the lover influencing and challenging the modus operandi of the MC? The scenario that you described could very well be consequence (stakes) as opposed to RST.

Also, I’d be wary to label this as memory as opposed to the past.

Dramatica dictionary (Memory):

The Past is an objective look at what has happened. In contrast, Memories are a subjective look at what has happened.

It isn’t really a lack of interaction; but rather, a question of when the interaction in question occurred. If it is a memory, then it would be subjective and not part of the RST(technically).


Or two enemies and every time one sees a campaign poster it reminds one of them of the other and their enemyship gets stronger. There’s no interactions between them, but there are processes and growth.

Once again, this could be the IC, but this example doesn’t necessarily have to be. Does this interaction by proxy (the poster) change or challenge how the MC goes about solving the problem in question. Is this the Antagonist or the IC? Or both? Or neither?

Working in Subtext, I have already decided that I want to place additional beats for all the relationships within my story; however, they aren’t really RST material. As writers, we can do whatever we want.

I guess what I really wonder is… can the RS do something that any ordinary relationship couldn’t do? The RS could allow you to make a contrast or comparison of two people (the MC and IC) that is independent of the OS cast list. If that is so, it offers three unique perspectives within that scope: MC, IC, and objective. Unfortunately, I always see the word objective bandied about along with passionate (oddly). Perhaps it is intentional, because the throughline is a dichotomy (MC; IC) as well as a objective thing (RS)

I am slowly reconciling and plugging in aspects of Dramatica to my plotting process. I haven’t conquered the PSR as of yet.

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No. There’s no influencing meant to be there. I just tossed out a quick example that maybe could have been expounded upon, but the idea was supposed to be that one character has a low resolve to return to the other because the relationship isn’t strong, but every time they look at the moon that relationship between them pulls a little tighter-like gravity getting stronger-and has the one character wanting to get back to the other.

I wouldn’t label it anything yet. Not enough context.

Doesn’t have anything to do with the interaction. Change ‘looks at the moon and remembers the time x happened’ to ‘looks at the moon and is reminded of x’s face’. It’s not the ineraction that happened in the past making the relationship tug at them in the present, it’s looking at the moon that does it.


So my understanding of this (someone will hopefully correct me if I’m wrong), is that all of the relationships addressed outside of the RS happen in the context of the Overall Story. Using the assigned character elements, you can see how each player may come into conflict with its dynamic pair, or be amplified or contrasted with companion or dependent pairs. (Again, Armando has a great chapter the explains how to do this in depth, using more “ordinary” language). It’s possible though that this is planning overkill and better left to intuition, depending on the writer.

The RS will do something other relationships don’t do by virtue of its position in the storyform. So in an OS Physics/Doing story, all of the OS character relationships happen in the context of a Goal of Doing, while the RS happens in the context of Psychology/Being.

For example, various takes on everyone fighting each other in Romeo and Juliet and “Doing” all kinds of other things describes Mercutio/Romeo, Mercutio/Tybalt, Juliet and her parents, Romeo and the priest (“do not be hasty!”) etc.

But the RS of Romeo and Juliet is all about Psychology/Being – why do we have to play this role of Montague and Capulet? Does a rose by any other name … (etc.) I don’t remember any other relationship in the story that takes that perspective – everyone else is just concerned with fighting each other (or stopping the fighting, etc.).


My point is – if it is subjective, then it has nothing to do with the RST (unless these references to the RST being objective are clarified to include multiple scopes – which might be how I decide to use the RST regardless of how the theory is written – I personally think that it is too limiting).

Also, if the other character in question isn’t the IC, then it has nothing to do with the RST according to the definition that I understand.

Also, from the Dramatica dictionary (Process):

A Process is a series of interactions that create results.

I didn’t really understand what you mean by processes and growth.

Growth is about steadfast or change. It is about changing in a certain way to resolve the inequity? How does a relationship do this? This is one of the problem areas for me. If we say that the two people involved have a common goal… but we are kind of bleeding over into the MC and IC now. I can see concern/goal for all three throughlines. I can’t see it for the RST unless there are two unnamed functions that exist in the RST (antagonist, protagonist, sidekick, logic, etc.).

What’s the point of the RST? How is the RST tied to the passionate argument of the story if any old relationship will do?

That makes sense to me. It allows us to utilize the fourth class. Other than that, I don’t quite see the point. Perhaps that is enough.

I agree with Greg here. Once you have a handle on what the relationship is, it’s actually pretty simple – anything in the story that affects that relationship is part of the RS.

“Affects the relationship” can be bringing them closer together or farther apart, creating tension in the relationship, creating conflict, causing them to see the relationship differently, etc.


I think that’s the entire point! It’s using all the classes that makes the story feel full (i.e. “complete”). But also the relationship between the classes that for some weird reason just seems to work.

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