Identifying the Throughlines

Hi everyone,

A total Dramatica newbie here. I am going mad trying to identify the throughlines that would help me land on a Storyform so I hope you can help!

My story idea is still very rough and my characters are mostly unformed…

What I have so far…

Genre: Romance/Sci-fi

Summary: There is a new groundbreaking portable technology, which allows you to read other people’s thoughts without them knowing. A female college student is invited to be one of the first people to trial the technology. She’s in a bad way when she receives the invitation (ie. she has trust issues/fear of rejection relating to a sordid family past and a string of bad relationships, and her studies/career are not going well.)

She doesn’t trust men and by extension doesn’t trust her own feelings/intuition about them. Out of desperation and in an effort to find a loving relationship, which she hopes will bring her happiness and stability, she gambles on trusting technology (believing it to be free from emotions and opinions). At first, using the technology works (for small things like buying people the right birthday present, knowing which restaurant to book for dinner etc) but as she tries to use it to decipher whether or not another character loves her it all begins going pear-shaped. Possibly the technology is later hacked making the situation even worse.

The IC perspective is that good relationships are based on mutual trust and will be presented through the role of either a close male friend or housemate who harbours romantic feelings for her. Ultimately he convinces her that she can trust him and she takes a leap of faith by becoming romantically involved with him and is thus changed for the better.

From that I get:
MC Resolve: Changed (Learns to trust/let go of fear of rejection)
MC Growth: Learning to trust would be Start, but letting go of fear of rejection/trust issues would be Stop…Unsure…
MC Approach: Unsure
MC Style: Logical (She is attempting to solve her problems one thought at a time)
Driver: Decision (She decides to trial the technology, which leads to most the action)
Outcome: Success
Judgment: Good

This is where I begin to get very lost.
These are the storylines as I see them…

OS: New technology potentially solves human problems
MC: Woman seeks to improve her life by trialling a new technology
IC: Woman’s friend seeks to help her realise she needs to learn to trust herself and others
RS: Romance between MC and IC

My initial thoughts were that since the MC is concerned with Desire (desiring a partner and a better life) and will be using the technology to manipulate how people feel about her, that the MC Domain must be Manipulation, if not Fixed attitude (an unwillingness to trust.) But then it occurred to me that if the Story Goal is Obtaining this changes everything… MAybe the MC problem is in fact avoidance because of her trust issues/fear, rather than a problem of trust?

Would love some more experienced opinions than mine! Thanks in advance :slight_smile:


It’s all about what you want to say with the story, so the first thing to do would be to try to determine some form of premise to guide you.

Without that, it’s hard to tell from a short description what the Storyform is. It could be the existence of the tech that creates problems, the act of using the tech, how people think about the tech or relationships, or what they think about them.


Welcome to the gang @kirro05. Here’s what I suggest- and it’ll take some time, a few days at least.
Binge watch a collection of some of the officially done movies from the Dramatica website or on Subtext. Study the official D.U.G breakdown of the movies you’ve watched, heck, watch the Dramatica Users Group videos to see how they approached storyforming. You may want to check out the story embroidery videos also to see how to build a story as well.

They’ll help with a framework with which you can see how to think about the process, as well as helping you grasp the unique feel of the storyform.

Rinse and repeat.

Eventually you’ll get a sense of it works and how you can play with the process for effect.


I am going to second what Greg said and add that the Throughlines are where conflict is happening. For the OS, what is causing conflict? What is the common link that all of the characters are focused on? Is it the technology itself? Is it how people are using it? What is causing conflict for the MC? It sounds like an internal issue, the way you have described it emphasizes her attitudes and desires, which would make her a Be-er as far as Approach. Is the problem in an attitude/opinion/belief that she holds and does not re-evaluate? Or is the problem with the way she thinks, the methods or processes she uses? It’s a really subtle difference, and really you can look at it either way, but it depends on what you as the author want to say and focus on. Each Throughline is connected because they are all four looking at the same problem with different lenses (Objectively, subjectively, etc). That’s why premise is so important and helpful to get! Also, is the romance between the two characters in the RS the conflict? What is the issue at the heart of their relationship?

You don’t have to feel tied to this, but a possibility is that you have an MC with a problem of Test and a solution of Trust (she is using the technology to test others, her second guessing and testing others is causing problems, the solution to her personal problems is to trust). This combined with your other story points could give you a good jumping off point to figure out your storyform. Key things to keep in mind are - each point is about where the conflict is and what is that you want to say with this story. Hope this helps and isn’t too confusing!


Welcome @kirro05!

This was what immediately jumped out at me too.

Based on your Genre and description, I would guess the OS is in Psychology. For example, this sounds like a Psychology problem:

I also agree with @MaddyV that the MC’s issues sound more internal than external (Mind). If you fill it in, the rest of the story points seem like they could fit pretty well too.

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Thanks so much for all your helpful advice.

@Greg you’re absolutely right. I had attempted the premise but couldn’t land on anything that really fit the story I wanted to write.

These are the premises I had written:

  1. Trust is the foundation of all good relationships unless that trust is misplaced.

  2. People should be completely honest/transparent to form successful relationships unless too much knowledge would destroy the relationship/their life.

  3. Technology is useful in solving problems unless those problems are of an emotional nature

I think 1 is closest to describing the story I want to write, but I don’t know that it fulfills the two mutually exclusive ideas that a premise is meant to contain?

Thanks @Khodu. I have been binging as many of the films analysed as I can over the past two weeks and will endeavour to dive deeper into the group videos.

@MaddyV Great input, thank you. I see trust as the source of conflict- too much trust in technology in the OS, the MC’s total lack of trust, the IC’s belief that trust is sacrosanct and fundamental to strong relationships. Then the MC and ICs opposing beliefs would create the conflict within their romance? I’m thinking maybe they initially get together but she still hasn’t learned to trust him so tests him through technology. It’s meant to be more of a romance than a sci-fi so there’d likely be quite a lot of overlap in the MC, IC and RS, I think…

Cheers @Lakis. If MC is in Mind and OS is in Psychology then IC would be Universe and RS would be Physics, right? I feel like I can fit any perspective into the internal domains but struggle with slotting them into the external domains (probably because I don’t have a good idea of the action that will unfold yet)

I did try to determine the Storyform by plugging in MC Problem of Test as the first input but that option wasn’t available…

Do you think I’ve got enough to start mapping out plot points and then revisit the throughlines, or is that a recipe for disaster?


The two mutually exclusive ideas is part of the inequity illustration rather than the premise. For the premise, you want to make an argument. Something with some energy that will let your story bounce back and forth as it proves it’s point.

So this is a statement. It tells us what trust is. We need it to be an argument. Something that tells us what happens when we engage in trust as a solution to a problem. “Start trusting yourself and you can build a solid foundation for a relationship” or “stop trusting technology and you’ll lose your way on the road to love”.

But you don’t have to structure it the way I just did. Say it however you want. “When you maintain a foundation of trust, you’ll survive rocky times”. Then make sure everything in your story works toward proving that argument.

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Hmm… are you sure nothing else was selected? The best place to see this is on the Story Engine tab. Trust/Test falls under the upper right Concern quad (Progress/Being/Preconscious/Doing) so if you’ve selected anything else it won’t be available.

Keep in mind that it’s not so much that the IC will have an opposite perspective as that he will see things in a different context. So they won’t both have a Problem of Trust (though everyone might have problems of Trust in the OS).

Rereading your initial post though, I wonder it Trust/Test could actually be the Symptom/Response (Focus/Direction) in one of the throughlines. For example, the MC doesn’t trust her feelings (Symptom) so she decides to use this technology to decipher (Test) whether or not another character loves her. With that arrangement you could give the IC a Problem (Drive) of Trust.


I know I’m late to the thread, but I’m going to approach my thoughts through this pair.

The first clue here is that “technology” is in both sentences, meaning that they are probably both part of the OS.

The second thing to note is that neither one really has any problem jumping out.

OS: New technology promising to expose lies erodes trust in people when every thought is now public, but lacking context

Now we can see what’s going on.

For the MC, the part to focus on is “improving her life”. What is wrong with her life? What does she do to solve it? Okay, what is really wrong with her and what does she do to solve that?

MC: Single in her mid-30s and feeling the encroaching baby clock, the MC still holds out that there is a perfect man for her and rejects anybody who falls short of her persnickety check-list. [Ultimately, the story exposes that she was abandoned by her family as a child and can’t open up to trust. She find salvation in the infinite wisdom of God by becoming a nun in a luddite church.]

Now you’ve separated the OS (about technology) from the MC (about abandonment).

From personal and vicarious experience, cleaving the MC out of the OS and treating them differently is a difficult thing to do because it fights everything we’ve been taught about story, and goes against how stories feel. But it is essential to understanding Dramatica and worth focusing on until you can begin to see the light between the two throughlines.


That clears up so much for me, thank you! Clearly still getting my head around all the terminology.

Thanks again for your advice. Your point about context is exceptionally helpful.

The viewpoint that Trust/Test might be the Symptom/Response is viable but that would then mean that the crucial element is something other than those two, which I’m struggling to get my head around!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out. What you’ve written makes SO much sense. I haven’t extrapolated the problems far enough. I think if I had, the word trust word probably have appeared in both of them. Thanks again!

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Did you try this on the Dramatica program? Or on Subtext? Either way there should be something that shows up! If you don’t have Dramatica, you can go on Subtext and under Storyform Connections just under Thematics - MC Problem - Test, several possible premises come up. If you do have Dramatica, you can pop this in with the Story Engine…I did it along with the other points you’ve determined and have it narrowed it down to 16 storyforms:

If you choose Be-er for MC Approach, this cuts it in half to 8.

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Welcome, Kirro05,

I find it best to think of the throughlines in terms of the source of conflict. Does the source of conflict within the throughline (e.g. the Overall Story throughline) grow from which the conflict grows. Conflict appears everywhere, but its source will be focused. The domain shows the nature of the conflict. The Concern / Types show how the conflict evolves, including the effort to resolve the conflict.

So with your OS, what are the problems with the new technology designed to solve human problems? How does new technology create conflict, and/or the effort to solve human problems create problems for many? The domain will indicate the nature of the conflict. Is it an internal problem (Fixed Attitude or Psychology) or external problem (Situation or Activity)? Is it the current state of things (Situation or Fixed Attitudes) or an ongoing process (Activity or Psychology/Manipulation)? The answer helps hone in on your throughline’s domain.


Thanks Maddy. I’m using the PC version of Dramatica and sometimes it doesn’t show the full list of MC problems when you scroll the list but I worked it out. Thanks for your help.

Thanks so much! You’ve given me a lot to think about so I’m just working my way through it all :slightly_smiling_face:

Piggybacking on what @MWollaeger was driving at… before jumping down to the Issue or Problem elements, I’d need a little bit more about the Overall Story to really gauge… but I can tell you that your MC sounds like they’re maybe in Mind. But I wanna make sure you’re separating MC from Protagonist.

I would ask you first… if you were to take your MC out of this story and put them in another Plot from another story, what is the issue they would bring with them?

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@JohnDusenberry, want your take on this.

What a character brings with them does not define their throughline. For instance: I am a pirate, and I have a peg leg and an eye patch.

So, at first blush, I am in Situation.

But, let’s say this is a dance movie that I’m thrust into. The problem could be one of confidence—I am embarrassed by my peg leg. Or I believe I cannot dance. The problem is Internal. (But, no worries, this is a lovely Change Story and we end up winning the competition because once I get over my Internal problem, I can embrace the fact that I can pirouette better than anyone else, and for longer, since I do it all on a wooden tip.)

Or maybe, I’m having trouble learning to dance. Suddenly, my thread is Physics because I need to win a spot on the national dance team in order to climb the social hierarchy of the OS, which is in Mind.

But, back to the main point, if you can’t tell us what your character is bringing from one story to the next, then you probably haven’t separated them enough from your OS.


Right… it’s not technically the Character at all, it’s the source of conflict in that Subjective POV—BUT! Recognizing what the real dilemma is with the character is an easy way to think about it rather than the more abstract/universal dilemma.

So the thing about your peg leg pirate… I don’t see a problem with having a peg leg. You’ve yet to define that throughline. Those Internal or External suggestions you mentioned are what I’d peg :wink: as the MC Throughline.

But yeah, 100% agree if you can’t tell us what their personal deal is, you could be talking about OS Protagonist.


I admit that I have trouble with this litmus test. If my OS story is about the conflicts that arise from being a refugee on divided island (Universe), and my MC is one of those refugees, then the question of “what he brings from one story to the next” doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, he has a personal take on what’s going on. In this case, he decides to sneak across the border and must avoid the occupying army (Physics). From a personal perspective, discovering the old photographs and diary are part of his journey of Understanding. From the point of view of all the characters, those photographs and diary are symbols of a terrible Past they can’t let go of.

Now, I could try to imagine what Petros’ life would look like if I transplanted him to New York City, but I’m not sure how that would help me write the book.

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