How to Weave Throughlines Together to Create a Single Plot

Getting rid of those two limitations:

IC or MC has to be in the RS


It is a purely objective throughline

… goes a long way to make the RS accessible to me.



One more clarification will eliminate all of my questions about the RS:

Can the IC and MC or whatever two characters happen to comprise the RS make relationship specific goals that are appropriately themed but different in specifics OR make a commonly agreed on goal?

This would be exactly like OS…

I suppose some throughlines have unstated goals, but they certainly are implied (by having a concern).

I would say that like other througlhines, the relationship has a drive that can often be seen as a goal (though like MC & IC, it may not be as clearly a goal as the the Story Goal). For example: to become or not to become something, to make progress towards something or to stop regressing, to understand what “we” are to each other, to find love with each other etc.

It’s not the characters stating or making this goal though. It’s the relationship itself. The characters might state it, kind of acting as a proxy for the relationship, or they might not.


Can you explain what you mean by this?

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Somehow, this reminds me of the end of high school, when each student went into this room to meet with some kind of advisor that talked to us about test results, our school history, our talents, our likes and dislikes, and plans. He was so insistent that I had a great indication of success as an artist, pointing at this and that, and he was really emotional when I pointed out test results that said I would do really well at office work, too. Funny … the kid was hell bent for the office work and the adult was going wild pushing the art track. That man, definitely, had a week of many RSs. Bless his heart.



A person wants to know more about the RST in Dramatica:

  1. Google Search: Dramatic Relationship

  2. Click on the first relevant result (although I have looked at a number of different references).

  3. See this blurb:

3a) Read this:

The story as it relates to the relationship and conflict between the Main and Influence Characters

The passionate argument of a story is carried by the relationship between the story’s Relationship Story Characters namely, the Main and Influence Characters. The examination of their internal states and the articulation of the story’s passionate argument makes up the Relationship Story Throughline. This is not the view from within the shoes of either the Main or Influence Characters, but is rather like an Overall (Objective) view of their relationship. It is a view of their story together which always sees both of them.

  1. Key Terms and Ideas:
  • Conflict between MC and ICs

  • Passionate Argument

  • Internal States

  • Not the view from within the shoes of MC/IC

  • Like an Overall (Objective) view

5 ) Try to reconcile the contradictions and make some necessary assumptions:

  • Conflict is limited to MC and IC (assumption).

  • It is a passionate argument but it is objective (contradiction).

  • Examination of Internal States and Overall View (contradiction)

  1. Reconcile Contradictions/Rework Assumption:
  • Any character that is exploring relationship themes with the MC has the potential to be the IC. Not limited. Very fluid.

  • To explore the passionate argument and internal states it is allowed to zoom in or focus on aspects of the RST. For example, the RST can look at the relationship, the MC, or the IC within its context (class). It can’t zoom out. Or, otherwise stated, there are two POVs and an interaction that creates something new. Your minimum scope is either the IC or MC. Your maximum scope is the relationship. Your context is the class.

There’s more in my head, but I am on my phone, and I’m starting to go from stating what I believe to brainstorming. Hopefully, this shows where I was stymied in the middle. I originally just decided to keep the MC and the IC in their assigned classes as opposed to exploring them as part of the RST.

The relationship arc that we often talk about is applicable to the objective part of this throughline, but alone it is only about 1/3 of the throughline. I was limiting myself because the apparent contradictions in every reference that I have found (apart from your reference to the SST article). I think that there is a tendency to focus on the WE as opposed to accepting that YOU and I are the same and different.

Perhaps this statement can add something: he is a completely different person with her.

@museful When doing these searches I strongly suggest looking at the articles on @jhull’s Narrative First site. I don’t know if you listen to podcasts but Jim’s podcasts have also been indispensable to me.

The reason is that many of the original Dramatica definitions are sometimes unclear or unintentionally misleading. For example, I think the “argument” isn’t best way to explain the RS, as it’s not really a conflict between the MC and IC, but is it’s own thing that grows or dissolves.

I think this is what this:

is getting at. It’s not one versus another. The relationship is a thing in and of itself.

Statements like:

are probably true 90+% of the time, so it comes down to explaining the general rule first and only later the exceptions.

Maybe in theory… and you do see IC handoffs pretty often. But I think most of the time you have very clear players in the RS. Romeo and Juliette, Ben and Luke, Westly and Buttercup, Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, Zorba and Nikos, etc.

So in Romeo and Juliette, it’s pretty clear to me that’s it’s just Romeo and Juliette.

But what about Othello? Is the relationship between Othello and Desdemona in the RS? No. Is it important? Of course. But the RS is between Othello and Iago, 100%.


Honestly, I don’t think you and Mike and Greg are saying the same thing. :sweat_smile:

I was feeling pretty good about the idea that the MC and IC had a dramatic function within the RST as parts of it. Finally the RS was starting to feel useful and robust.

I don’t think that the RST can make an argument by virtue of being something then changing to something else. The arc isn’t enough by itself to make any type of argument.

For that reason, the OST needs OS characters to help make the argument. That’s the same reason that I feel like the RST needs that same benefit.


Well, don’t quote me! They’ve been at this longer than I have and Mike’s done the full mentorship :slight_smile: . Plus I could very well be contradicting myself. But in what way are we saying different things?

It’s also very possible that one or all of us are not understanding your question.

Can you summarize (again) the primary thing that’s bothering you about the RS?

Is it:

  1. That it should be looked at as an entity in and of itself
  2. That it’s hard to distinguish it from the players in it (IC and MC)
  3. There’s some confusion as to who can be “in” it – IC, MC or others

Or something else?

I think to explore this further, it might be easier to look at some specific examples, ideally well-known stories for which there’s a Dramatica analysis, especially ones with a strong RS.


From what I’ve seen, they are all trying to say the same thing. However, they’re all approaching it from different perspectives.

I agree, but by virtue of being a throughline, it IS more than this. Within Dramatica, the Relationship Story throughline, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is a thing separate from the others. It doesn’t need characters from the OS, MC or IC throughlines. It only needs a relationship dealing with similarly themed problems. The idea that seems to be fundamental to the question is actually the point of my experiment in the thread @Lakis linked about completely separated players in separated throughlines.

However, from the way that you are trying to break down the RS, I imagine you’re going through the same issues I had with it. A relationship is more than the sum of it’s parts. Yes, there needs to be (at least) two for the relationship to exist, but think of siblings, the relationship between a teacher and a student, a parent and a child. Imagine the dynamics of a team. None of these things can exist without the players, sure, but by their very nature, the players themselves are not these things, which have virtually no name(s) in English.

It’s that space, that could that stretches, envelops, diminishes, dissipates, and otherwise ebbs and flows, between or among the entities involved that experiences conflict sourced from the RS throughline. Add to that the pictures that I previously posted, and that’s the gestalt of the Relationship Story, as I currently understand it.


I’ll try again.

There’s a tendency to write off older definitions because they are sometimes nebulous or not completely fleshed out.

I think that looking at the RST as an entity is taking a piece of what is being said (1/3 or 1/2).

Doing this probably works out for a writer because the RST generally happens without outside interference. The interaction of the MC and IC creates the RST whether or not you want it to.

I say this, because I recall Jim writing somewhere that he advocates screenwriters to focus only on the OS and MC and not to worry about the RST. Why would he advocate this? Because it is going to happen regardless and – since it is hard to understand – you might do more harm than good (aka it feels contrived).

Labeling and watching the flow of the relationship handles this:

This is not the view from within the shoes of either the Main or Influence Characters, but is rather like an Overall (Objective) view of their relationship. It is a view of their story together which always sees both of them.

However, this doesn’t address this part of the other parts of the definition:

The passionate argument of a story is carried by the relationship between the story’s Relationship Story Characters namely, the Main and Influence Characters.

(****Notice it even calls them RS Characters)

The transformation of a relationship or external view of a relationship is not passionate. This is passionate:

The examination of their internal states and the articulation of the story’s passionate argument makes up the Relationship Story Throughline.

Notice that it says that it is an examination of their (both the MC and IC) internal states AND the articulation of the story’s passionate argument that makes up the RST. There’s a duality in this relationship. Or three parts to it.

It’s more than the sum of its parts, but it is also its parts. Yin and Yang.

In the end, I appreciate the discussion, because I feel as though the functionality of the RST has been expanded for me. I can only plug in what I think I have learned and see if it works in a practical way. I’m building a step by step plotting, outlining, writing process.

Have you listened to this podcast? I think it could help a lot:

If you don’t have time to listen, the transcript is here, however I think it’s better to listen if possible (some of Jim’s communication is in tone of voice etc. – plus he sounds REALLY smart at 1.5x!).

One odd thing about the RS is that, for the Storyforming and Storyencoding part of a writers process, you need to treat the Relationship as a character. BUT then, when you get to actually writing the story, you have a problem – unless you’ve got some weird sci-fi or magic, the relationship can’t talk! It isn’t a character in the normal sense!

So you have to really separate your process there – part of it treats the relationship as a character, part of it treats it like an invisible force that’s happening in the subtext of your relationship characters’ interactions.

I think this is where you might have heard the advice to focus on the OS and MC and not worry about the RS (though I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard Jim say that). I would actually put it more as “look at the RS only out of the corner of your eye” and let it come together mostly on its own. You kind of look at your illustrations, make sure they sound right, and then don’t worry about them so much – your subconscious will know what to do now. Though I do find the signposts and PSR can be useful as targets to aim for, making sure you stay on track.

Also remember that, even in the usual case where the RS is between the MC and IC players, the MC and IC aren’t in the relationship at all. The RS is (usually) a relationship between the MC and IC players, not the MC and IC perspectives/roles.


One thing I should mention, it’s not always so invisible. Sometimes your characters will say things that apply directly to the relationship itself. “What are we, anyway?” is a good one.

I was really lucky in my novel draft that the Substory MC actually named the relationship – this was before I knew there even was a Substory. It’s what clued me into the substory’s existence:

It doesn’t even have to be the relationship characters – someone else could easily say something like “geez, their marriage has really seemed strained since X.” (where X is probably related somehow to RS Domain/Concern/Issue/Problem)


Alright, I’ll try answering this with a specific example, from my own WIP.

In my story, I have a group of spirits that are dealing with a sage who used ancient magic in order to “re-connect” with humans, due to their fear and hatred of said magic. (Actually, it’s sourced by Memories of something that once happened.) That is, the OS players, are concerned with how to handle this thing that brought up fearful memories. But, from the point of view of the story mind, it’s a cold, logistic look at how to solve this kind of problem.

Now, the MC is the human that the sage managed to contact, and the IC has this ability to see the dual nature of the world, allowing him to see spirit forms of others as “shadows”. Clearly, there’s potential for the RS, there. But, and this is crucial to the experience that I’m trying to write, that’s not where this perspective happens, at least at first. There are two other characters involved for it. (There is a hand-off from one character to the MC, and eventually the other to the IC, thus bringing the RS into the usual experience. But these happen later…)

When these two non-MC/non-IC characters meet*, and only when they meet, their very personal views on ancient magic and its uses, and in particular, a very similar event to the current issues everyone faces, one that happened to them personally, provides an inflamed, and emotional view of the innate problem. In essence, watching how the same kind of problem, within a different context (in this case actual history, instead of living memory), affects the relationship between these characters provides a more subjective, involved look (different from the OS) into the problem the story mind is trying to solve here.

*They do appear elsewhere, separately, in the story. When they’re by themselves, though, they take on roles within the OS, instead. (With one exception, which is when the hand-offs occur.)

The mention of the Main and Influence Characters here, I think, should be viewed as an incomplete understanding. I’d say this quote is kind of like how, when tutoring students in programming, I would hold back truths about how things actually worked. That level of detail was both unnecessary for and likely to be more confusing than the topic at hand, for someone who was a complete beginner.

I was going to put something additional here to respond to the suggestion to focus on the OS and MC throughlines, but I think @mlucas already answered that one significantly well. In addition, I really like this from him:

Thanks for finishing my post for me!

Also, I just realized that what I’m trying to portray with this post goes back to those pictures of the chess game (mostly cold, calculating, and logical) and art (mostly intended to be sprawling, passionate, invoking emotion)…


Ha, now that reminds me of the 93-year old mother who has always loved chess and who is very passionately emotional watching the news. I notice she has not played chess for awhile, which begs the question if the RS can be an internal one-person thing.

If I were to write a story from it, I would probably make the news programs the IC, or maybe a trade off IC news chess.

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At some point, a thread starts to get unwieldy for me because of all the information in it.

At the beginning of this thread, I think I was saying exactly what you guys are telling me now.

In some ways, it feels like you guys want to have your cake and eat it too when talking about the RS. Maybe it is about each person having a different lexicon and a different mode of expression, but it feels like there are a ton of contradictions in statements throughout the thread.

That’s not meant as an insult or anything like that. Don’t take it that way.

For example:

I said:

What I intended to say was: the interactions of the MC and IC – if viewed externally (from an Overall/Objective view) – makes a statement about the RS. Whether that statement is spoken by another character, the characters themselves, or the author directly, never, etc. doesn’t matter. It could be a Chapter title. That would be enough.

Then Greg went on to talk about:

Now we are talking about the MC and the IC. We are talking about things outside of the scope of the RS (if we use my original definition). The state of the relationship could translate into the MC or IC, but it is still outside of that particular throughline. Unless we view this moment in terms of the RS assigned class.

If the MC looks at the moon and he/she feels closer to the IC, this doesn’t necessarily bring them closer together or farther apart. For example, it could merely redefine the RS as “unrequited feelings or an imbalance of desire.”

My point was that you need both the IC and MC (internal and external modes of expression – thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions, etc.) to create context. This context allows you to look at the relationship and say that it is something objectively.

If you look at just the MC and IC throughlines, it might work (not sure), but it wouldn’t be in the Class of the RS. So, perhaps it is necessary to look at them through the lens of the RS (whatever the Class may be).

I’m not sure I can explain it any better, but it makes huge amounts of sense to me.

The status of the relationship is an Objective statement. It takes all these different viewpoints into context and comes up with a statement about the relationship. But we can’t do it without a look at the subjective side of things. We don’t just look at what is true, but we also look at what the MC, IC, and every else (for that matter) believes to be true, because this could very well label a relationship as “misunderstood,” and this is useful in the RS throughline.

The MC and IC affect the RS. In fact, all throughlines could have an impact on the RS, therefore they are part of it by that logic (extending on your statement). I agree with the MC and IC being part of it. The OS can define it and shape it.

A relationship is dependent upon context so the other interactions and synergies are important.

That seems to be what you are saying. I don’t understand how we seem to be disagreeing.

Duality. Or perhaps a zoomed in examination of the OS. Focusing on relationships. Then you go on to talk about “A Beautiful MInd” and you point out that Class will define whether or not a particular relationship should be considered as part of the RST or not. I can accept this.

But this is part of defining the RS. If they are in the dark or ignorant of the true source of the problem then the Objective definition of the RS changes (compared to if the were aware, but stubborn).

Another Class allows for another view. A fourth view gives a complete view in this case. Same thing.

There’s probably more, but I have a few online classes to give. Hopefully, this clears things up. If not, I might just have to try and create something functional for me and tinker with it if it doesn’t work.

Structurally speaking, all you need for an RS perspective is a relationship. The other throughlines, structurally speaking, don’t affect it. The storytelling might flow from another throughline to the storytelling of the RS, but not the structure. RS characters serve to show the movement and boundaries of that relationship. Characters as individual components are already covered in other Throughlines.


@museful, first of all, I haven’t noticed any contradictions between what Hunter, Greg, Lakis and I are saying. You’re right we sometimes use different words or have different ways of looking at it, but I don’t think it’s more than that.

I’ve certainly appreciated your openness and desire to further your understanding in this thread. No worries about taking anything as an insult.

I believe the crux of the debate comes down to this. Commenting on Greg’s RS example about lovers & the moon, enemies and campaign posters, you said:

This is incorrect. As stated, those moments are pure RS. They aren’t about the MC or IC at all:

  • Yes, the MC or IC player is present in the scene where they look at the moon, but that has nothing to do with the MC or IC throughline. This moment, as Greg described it, is all about the relationship

  • Yes, you could add MC or IC throughline content to this scene – for example, if the MC throughline is about “being a werewolf” (Universe), then the moon could take on additional meaning and this becomes a multi-appreciation moment (hey, I think I managed to get back to @Lakis’s original thread topic for a sec!). But that does’t take away from the RS moment, nor is it required for there to be an RS moment.

  • Something can be relevant to the RS without being viewed through the RS Domain (assigned class). For example, at the beginning of the story the MC player says “we’re friends” (referring to IC player). At the end of the story he says over the IC player’s grave “we were brothers”. Those statements define the relationship and show growth, without hinting at the Domain that drove the relationship.

Does that make sense? I feel like in much of what you wrote, you are not separating the MC player from the MC throughline. Same with IC.



I am interested in the functional aspects of Dramatica. We are participating in a thread concerned with weaving.

Characters as individual components are represented in three of four Classes. If we talk about a character in terms of the RST class, we are talking about a completely different character.

It’s funny because what you are saying here is exactly what I was saying at the first part of this discussion. I was the one suggesting that your examples weren’t technically in the RS.

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