How to Weave Throughlines Together to Create a Single Plot

In that analogy, gravity is the Appreciation of the Relationship Story Throughline. Gravity between the Earth and the Moon is Storytelling.

We use terms like mentor/mentee because there usually aren’t words in the English language that accurately describe that kind of relationship. The duality is not part of the definition.

Strictly speaking, the Main Character and the Influence Character are not part of the Relationship Story Throughline (he said/she said encoding). The relationship is key—which is why it is always in flux. Either growing closer together or moving apart.

Linear thinkers like to think relationships are stable when they are static—they’re not. And when they do think this way, they usually get themselves into trouble. (I thought everything was fine!)

Although the relationship between the earth and the moon appears stable, it is constantly falling into the Earth—and imperceptibly moving away all at the same time.

The relationship expressed in the Relationship Story Throughline is the gravitational ebb and flow—not how the Moon feels about the Earth, or how the Earth thinks of the Moon.


What singleton name would you give such a relationship? There are only so many words in English that I can think of that consider a relationship as a separate thing: friendship, brotherhood, sisterhood, fraternity, rivalry, marriage, family, partnership, “enemyship”, “frenemyship”… (Notice how I had to start making them up?)

“Mentorship”? Maybe, but that sounds too close to me like “internship,” which is not a relationship, but a role. It’s why I’m really glad I know some of the Japanese suffixes, such as: -sama, -san, -kun, -chan, -sensei, -senpai, and a few others. The relationship becomes inherent in the speech. Moreover, there are the plain and polite forms of speech, among others. And, which one is allowable changes based on the relationship between speaker and listener. If the relationship changes, then the speech is likely to change. (Now, that’s overly simplified, but hopefully illustrates the point.)

Mentor/Mentee, Teacher/Student, and similar are about the only ways certain relationships can be said in English. If you can find a way to use a singular noun to describe such a relationship, then I suspect that would likely give more insight into the relationship.

I guess I just repeated what Jim said without seeing it first…
Though, I appreciate the expounding on the analogy with gravity.


Then the purpose of the RS is to say that things change? No more that that?

That fits with my initial assessment. It’s just about the arc (ebb and flow to avoid sounding linear).

But can’t the relationship change because the Earth and moon are changed by outside forces?

How does that relate to a passionate argument?

Isn’t closer and farther apart imprecise? I assume we choose this because it is easier to write about.

If that is the case, then they change whether or not we tinker with the RS. Right?

Do you happen to recall where you advocate disregarding the RS (for screenwriters)?

I definitely would NOT advocate that. In fact, that’s usually the biggest problem in most screenplays.

I think what you’re referring to is my recommendation for screenwriters to stick with the Signposts of the Relationship Story Throughline, and not break those down into smaller Storybeats.

For screenplays I would say MC, IC, and RS stick with just the Signposts. For the OS I would break those down.

This gives you: 3x4 = 12, 5x1(drivers), and 11 for the OS. Total of 28 Storybeats give or take. Most end up between 28-32.


As usual, Jim explains it best.

I did want to go back to this:

I may be misunderstanding what you mean here, so I’m going to draw out the Romeo and Juliet example (hoping I remember the plot correctly – at least I’m now spelling Juliet’s name right :slight_smile: ).

So when Romeo and Juliet first meet at the masquerade ball, neither of them knows who the other is. The audience, however, does know – looking at it from the outside (objectively) we can see immediately that this love-at-first-sight relationship is going to have major problems because of the respective “roles” (Concern of Being) of it’s players as heirs to the two feuding families. This gap between what the audience and the characters know presents us with classic dramatic irony–irony that is reinforced by the fact that they are literally “playing roles” at a masquerade ball.

Of course they soon do so learn. Then you get the famous speech:

Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy:

Which captures both the RS Concern of Being (what’s in a name anyway) and RS Signpost 1 of Conceptualizing how a relationship is even possible (either you give up your name, or I’ll give up mine).

But you could easily imagine a story in which one or both of the main players is kept in the dark for a long time about who they really are and why this is a problem. But the Concern would still be Being.


Great! And keep in mind that everything in Dramatica is about the notes on your plot sheet. (Or the notes in your head, if you’re the type of writer who doesn’t write things like that down.) NOT the final story – at least, not directly.

When we do an analysis of a story, what we’re really doing is reverse-engineering those plot sheet notes from the final story. That’s why it’s so hard sometimes!

Now, to take it a step further, the power of the RS comes from being able to write on your plot sheet “the relationship’s resolve to get back together is strengthened.” This lets you see that it’s not required for both players to see the moon for this Memories signpost to work – one will do just fine. Now you can apply the story points from your storyform in the right place: the relationship itself.

This is also what lets you create something freaking amazing, like a powerful RS in which the two players never actually meet. (see The Lives of Others)

Or, less amazing but still cool, in a story I worked on the main conflict in the RS had to do with a secret only the IC player knew: the terrible thing he’d done to his previous apprentices. The MC, his newest apprentice, doesn’t find out until the end of the story – but that secret affects their relationship from the get-go.


For some reason, this reminded me of one of the more interesting relationships I’ve seen.

The relationship was that of two lovers destined to meet, but unaware of each other. The way it was executed within the story was rather interesting. They did not meet until the end of the story. But, the tension between whether they would or would not, especially with the characters completely unaware, gave a real interesting feel. It was very much a romance story.

I know people are going to ask where I saw this. Unfortunately, I have no clue. I just remember it; it was that powerful. (And, yes Armando has something similar in an example in his book, but that’s not what I’m refering to here.)


Sleepless in Seattle?

I don’t know. I may have seen that, but I don’t remember. Anyway, whatever it was, I think gives the best way to feel out what the RS actually is.


I think Jim mentioned doing a group Subtext analysis of that movie at some point for that reason.

Alas, it’s been many years since I saw it and I don’t remember it being one my favorites.

How about we say:

The actions of the MC and IC reflect the state of the RS. The RS doesn’t reflect the state of the MC or IC.

I don’t think this is exactly accurate.

I still think the clearest way understand what’s going on here is to use the initial Dramatica terminology/delineations. This terminology is in many cases borrowed from more conventional understandings and redefined by Dramatica for more specific meanings. Many of us may be a little sloppy in how we use the terms in discussions on the board, which could cause confusion.

So just for clarity, here is how I understand the Dramatica model and terminology as it relates to what I think you’re asking (sorry for the length and if any of this seems obvious or self-evident):

Stories have players. These are what are conventionally known as “characters.” From a storytelling perspective, these are the individuals who have biographies, likes and dislikes, talents, a certain physical appearance, etc. These characteristics are separate from structure.

From a dramatic structural perspective, these players play different roles (take on different perspectives).

This is where we get the four throughlines.

  • The OS throughline (the “they” perspective) is where you find all of the character Elements in that window of Dramatica. Different characters will play out (explore) these Elements over the course of a story. Archetypal characters take certain conventional assemblies; complex characters mix and match. The most important of these is the player representing Pursue – who pursues the story goal. By Dramatica convention, this player is called the Protagonist.

  • Then you have the Main Character (I perspective). By convention, most stories combine the MC and OS Protagonist into one player (e.g. Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie). However, there are many stories that don’t do this – the Protagonist and the MC are represented by different players (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird.) The important thing is that in Dramatica, the Protagonist and the MC play completely separate dramatic functions, even if they are portrayed in the same player.

  • The Influence Character (the “you” perspective) who challenges the MC can be represented by any number of players. Often it’s the love interest. Sometimes its the OS Antagonist. Sometimes it’s the guardian. Sometimes its the OS Protagonist. It really varies.

  • The Relationship Story is, again, it’s own thing. By storytelling convention, the players in the RS are almost always the same players who take on the MC and IC role. But, just as the Protagonist and the MC are only the same in the sense that storytelling convention usually puts them in the same player, it technically makes no sense to say “the actions of the MC and IC reflect the state of the RS” because the MC and IC perspectives are completely different things from the RS.

More accurate I think is to say: the players in the RS express and/or reflect (expose?) the state and progress of the RS. Most commonly, these are the same players who represent the MC and IC perspectives in those respective throughlines.

The idea that these are all completely separate is where you get Hunter’s experiment in creating four throughlines with completely different players. Theoretically, this is structurally perfectly fine, though it’s very unconventional and might be hard to pull off, and audiences might be confused by it (but it could also be super-cool…)


I, always, wondered if it were two storyforms with the child being the ic for the two mc. But now, I wonder if was just him being guardian and/or sidekick for both of them, at times.

I think that I was hasty.

But, I know what I would like to do. I would like to come up with a master list of all the ways that an author might illustrate the status of the RS. There has to be a limited amount of ways that it might be accomplished.

For example, I think that you could do it with the following:

  • chapter titles

  • illustrations or drawings (which is really just emphasizing another of these)

  • dialogue (but this seems as though it could be unreliable)

  • a thought (but this seems as though it could be unreliable)

  • a weenie (which is unimportant and more about the RS)

  • an interaction

  • an action

  • a description

  • authorial POV or commentary or narrative commentary

  • a repeated situation with a different outcome than the previous times

  • a parallel created by the author

  • a contrast created by the author

Obviously, there’s a limited number of ways to communicate a change to the RS. But I wonder…

On a side note, I had a moment of doubt (about how separate the MC and RS could be) where I wondered if a woman that had changed from a mouse to a lion in the MC would be at odds with a woman that went from independent and strong to an abusive relationship.

Then I realized that this happens all the time. And it probably makes for more interesting reading. People are complicated.

So there is no such thing as two arcs that can’t work together.

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That’s funny @Prish I don’t even remember that character. Guess I need to see it again at some point.

As long as the underlying storyform is consistent!

Except to say that both of those describe a Main Character Throughline :grin:

Splitting hairs aside though, yes, you’re on the right track—We is not I.

A woman that changes from a mouse to a lion is a Main Character Throughline.

A relationship that changes from supportive to abusive is a Relationship Story Throughline.

The benefit of keeping these separate is that you avoid slipping into the “I” perspective when you start writing—as in “I’m independent and strong and now I’m in an abusive relationship.” As opposed to “we used to be so supportive, now we’re abusive.”

You start to see avenues of your story that previously were left untouched when you approach things this way.


The purpose of the Relationship Story Throughline is to communicate what the single inequity looks like from a WE perspective.

The storyform is a model of a single human mind trying to resolve a single inequity.

By definition, you cannot describe an inequity directly—it can only be described indirectly, from several different points-of-view.

The WE perspective is one of those—and most often, the one most forgotten (go see the latest How To Train Your Dragon movie).

I think this definition is deceiving—it should be the passionate part of the argument, not the passionate argument, as if it is somehow separate from the logical argument. The storyform is one argument—as seen from different perspectives.


Well that’s disappointing to hear about HTTYD

The movie captured something. I’m thinking he was the father’s guardian and the new friend’s sidekick, just off the top of my head, if not two story forms. His character reminded me of the end of The Music Man, where the parents saw their kids as a glorious band through the eyes of love. Totally different plotting, but it elicited that emotion from me, I remember.

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