How to Weave Throughlines Together to Create a Single Plot

When I initially wrote my response, I was in agreement. However, as I wrote it, I saw how most of those concepts easily fall within the MC or IC throughlines.

In short, I don’t know. Nothing exists in a vacuum and bleed over from the OST, MCT, and ICT is expected.

There are certain things that I think would be helpful.

  • steadfast or change (Together forever! vs Nothing lasts forever!)
  • critical flaw and a unique ability (We always argue! vs We make people feel good!)
  • problem (People expect us to be perfect!)
  • consequences, costs, and dividends (sad, no freedom, great sex)

I will say, it is interesting that the RS is defined as an objective view when one component of it is subjective (MC) and the other is objective (IC). In my opinion, it can’t quite be objective. It is Yin and Yang.

As the audience, we feel it (MC), see someone feel it (IC), and understand it (RS).

But the way it is written in multiple articles, it isn’t supposed to be subjective. I’ll probably end up using it in a subjective manner though.

I just quoted my own unpublished response. Sigh. :grimacing:

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Why are you saying the RS is defined as an objective view? I haven’t seen that anywhere. To me, it’s the most subjective of the four throughlines, and I think it was originally called the “SS” (Subjective Story).


Everything affects the relationship. The chaotic OS will affect the RS (think Speed). The personal goal of the IC will affect the RS. The Goal of the MC will affect the RS. Like I said, lots of bleed over.

But once again, other than forcing it to be in a particular class, not sure entirely what the point is. Plenty of relationships in a story.


Warning, this explanation of Subjective and the RS is likely to be clumsier than what I’ve said above! But here’s how I understand it. The whole storyform is itself an objective look at conflict in the story. So when a storyform places the RS in Psychology, it’s saying that the relationship objectively is dealing with issues of Psychology.

But the RS is also the ‘subjective view of subjectivity’ not as part of the storyform, but as a perspective. While the OS is about the conflict everyone has objectively(what are THEY going through), the RS, as a perspective (what are WE going through) is, by its nature a more subjective view of the problem because it’s not a distant outside view but a view from within the relationship, of that makes sense. So the RS is objective as part of the storyform, but subjective as a perspective on a problem.

Sorry, ignore processes and growth and replace with dynamics. I can explain that further later today, maybe, if you would like.


Does this explanation form the A Beautiful Mind thread make sense on how a relationship in the RS is different from one in the OS?


Well if it is subjective and objective and there is a duality, then I understand it perfectly.

But, blurbs like this throw me off of my initial instincts:

But, I love the idea of a complex duality that exists within the RS. That’s what my instincts tell me, but what I see written kind of squashes my instincts.

I think that relationships shouldn’t be limited to a particular class. That might be restrictive or boring. I can accept that they heavily favor a class or are defined largely by it.

In the end, I guess I can accept that the RS serves purely as a mechanism to force you into a particular class.

I find the “I, You, They, We” language to be a little more useful


I = MC
You = IC
They = OS
We = RS

Here’s how I understand that passage:

The RS is experienced as the passionate heart of the story. But if you try to figure that out by asking Romeo and Juliette how they feel about their relationship, you might get the wrong answer (from an “objective” Dramatica perspective). Romeo and Juliette may or may not have any idea that the real source of their relationship trouble comes from the roles they are forced to play in their families. But if the author does his job, the audience will get it.

I think this get back to the idea that these aren’t really people but parts of the storymind. You could encode different relationships (different “players”) in the RS, but I have a feeling that’s where it could get repetitive or confusing because they would all be saying/exploring the same thing.


But you could say that about Main Character or Overall Story too!

Just remember it’s not that the relationship is “limited” to a particular class, it’s that the source of conflict at its root comes from that class.

It’s only restrictive in the sense that it aligns with the way our minds think about narrative – it restricts you from straying into territory that feels “off” or “like it belongs in a different story”.


Yes. You might get the wrong answer. And the author might deceive the audience in regard to the nature of the relationship as well (twist!).

I’m fine with the duality thing. I can see how it works if it is allowed.

You can have relationships all throughout the story however you want them. The Relationship story isn’t there just to have another class. It’s to give a complete view of the central problem by giving the relationship view of the problem. Your OS can have a married couple, but that couple will see conflict that everyone else sees. If the marriage gets rocky, that’s a form of conflict for the OS problem. The RS describes a relationship view of the problem. If a marriage in the RS is rocky, that’s the dynamic between them that will grow or change based on conflict the RS deals with.


But… how would it be any more repetitive than the multiple iterations in the OS?

I should qualify what I said – I’m doing an IC handoff in my novel and with that an RS handoff of sorts – we’ll see how it works in the end.

That said, I think it’s easier to see a lot of different players in the “they” role than lots of different players in the “we” role. Easier but not impossible.

And I think the RS can be more expansive than it’s sometimes portrayed. “We” could include a whole family (the Parrs in the Incredibles) for example.


Here’s my take:

Overall (Objective) Story:

Relationship (Subjective) Story:


I think the perspectives might be better described with the questions:
What am I dealing with?
What are You dealing with?
What are They dealing with?
How is what we are dealing with affecting us?


Some genre writers consider the bulk of what gets published in their genre a RS.


Many people (esp. men) don’t get the point of the RS throughline, or don’t understand what it is, at first.

When I took the Narrative First mentorship program with @jhull, he assigned throughline encoding exercises (aka playgrounds) based on my treatment’s storyform. Most people “get” the OS so he doesn’t usually do exercises for that, but for the others:

  • He said I seemed to have a really strong handle on my MC, so we could skip the MC playgrounds
  • I needed to get a better grasp of my IC, so I did exercises for that throughline. Jim ended up super impressed with all of them, with only a few points of feedback here and there. After he said “make it about the influence,” I got it, and everything worked.
  • For the RS, it took me like 4-5 tries – each time initially thinking I had got it right – before I finally made something that was focused on a relationship. My first two tries he was like “these would make nice OS’s”, the third was closer but still not close enough. Finally, I got one right – and because it used the same story points as the story I was working on, it gave me HUGE insight into my story.

Getting a better grasp of the RS was one of my biggest takeaways from that mentorship. And, though it’s still sometimes tricky, I’m able to use what I learned in my own writing. This is important, because I care a LOT about the RS in stories.

Case in point: I just finished an epic / stupidly long (over 1000 pages) novel first draft, which has a Main Story and at least two Sub-stories, each with their own storyform. I can say that without a doubt, in all three of those stories, the RS throughlines are super important.

Also, for the Main Story, for which I know the narrative argument very well, I found that the RS was a kind of “echo” or continuation of that argument (basically, showing how the argument applies to a different context). I didn’t try to make that happen, it just ended up doing that on its own. I didn’t even realize it until near the end when the MC was quoting something another character had said, which had originally been an argument in the OS, and now he was using to explain something about the relationship.


I wonder what would happen if you inserted a romance story into the RS story throughline that supplanted the IC. The IC would still be there, and would still fulfill its function or role in all other aspects, but you have decided to put another character in the IC slot in the RS.

Does it have to the be the IC? After looking at the concept of characters that are completely unrelated forming a complete argument, why not?

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No. The RS doesn’t have to be with IC. Structurally, you just need the perspective, not the player.


Definitely does not have to be the IC. I had wondered about this myself, then heard on a Narrative First podcast a while back how, during the DUG analysis of The Jungle Book, Chris Huntley commented how the RS role(s) could be taken up by different player(s).

As you suggest, I think it would be more common to have IC player be changed out for the Relationship, rather than the MC, though certainly the MC could as well.

The relationship could also be partly with the IC, partly with another player.

Remember that the RS is really about a relationship. It’s not about the individuals. The RS could be about a family or a team relationship, and how things are going between the whole family/team.