OS Domain of Home Alone

My family sits down to watch Home Alone every Christmas season, and I noticed that even though I’d seen it so many times I couldn’t keep away, leaving kitchen tasks unfinished to sit down and watch it. I figured that has to be a sign of a solid storyform.

One thing that tripped me up though is that there seems to be a lot of conflicting Attitudes in the film, “stupid kid” etc. And also some stuff about facing your fears. So while watching I was wondering if the OS was in Fixed Attitude and maybe Impulsive Responses (the kinds of fears were more the tarantula-on-your-face making you scream or conquering fear of heights than Innermost Desires fears).

But thinking about it after, a lot of that attitudes and fears stuff seemed to fade from my memory, and I was wondering if some of it was just storytelling, and/or only at the Problem level. Plus, how could Home Alone NOT have an overall story in Situation? What do you guys think?

Anyway, trying OS of Situation (and MC Activity) I was able to narrow down a solid storyform in about 5 minutes!

  • I picked the mom as the IC, in Playing a Role – she’s “trying to be a good mom” after her massive screw-up of forgetting her son.
  • Incidentally, the contrast between the mom and dad especially how they greet Kevin at the end, is a great example of the difference between a relationship with its own RS throughline, and a relationship that’s only in the OS. The Dad’s still happy to see him but there isn’t this big moment like there is with the Mom, they’re finally together and you’re wondering if he can forgive her.
  • I wondered if the old man, who seems scary at first and then Kevin talks to him at the church, might be a hand-off IC. He does seem to change his perspective thanks to Kevin’s influence, leading to him calling his son. But on the other hand all of this could be explained by the OS story points, so I think it’s simpler to just say he’s a great example of the OS Solution (Theory) at work.

I was wondering about Home Alone the other day and whether it had a complete storyform. It’s certainly a favorite at our house and has some great storytelling. What would the story engine settings be for the storyform you came up with?

I haven’t sat down to figure out a storyform for it, but this is my first impression of what everyone is doing in all of the various Domains (keeping in mind I’ve not narrowed them down to any specific throughlines).

Situation - Kevin is the only one home alone, but he’s not the only one it’s a problem for. It causes a problem for the mom because her child is home alone because she forgot about him. It causes the rest of the family to miss out on vacation. It prevents the Wet Bandits from being able to walk in and take what they want. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for Kevin. He seems to handle it pretty well other than one moment when he hides under a blanket.

Activity - Kevin is booby trapping his house to protect it from the Wet Bandits. Again, not so much a problem for him. He’s pretty good at it. Just an activity he’s engaged in. I guess the Wet Bandits trying to get in and get his stuff would be the problematic activity causing him to do that. The mom is trying to return home to get back to her son, waiting for an available flight instead of going on vacation, taking a van with a polka band, making phone calls, etc. The family helps make a few calls, but otherwise seems to be doing their best to enjoy what bit of vacation they can while the mom is trying to get back (I remember them eating shrimp and watching It’s a Wonderful Life in French). An activity that ends up being a problem for the Wet Bandits is Marv’s calling card of plugging the sink and turning the water on. It let’s the police know every house they hit. But that’s not a whole throughline Activity.

Fixed Attitude - The family doesn’t seem to think much of Kevin. “You’re what the French call Les Incompetent” and “Look what you did, you little jerk.” But to be fair, he is a jerk. Kevin’s attitude toward the family causes them problems, their attitude causes him problems. Once the mom decides that Kevin is going to sleep upstairs, she doesn’t back down (as an aside, she is punishing Kevin by making him sleep in the attic with Fuller. But when Kevin complains about Fuller wetting the bed, she says Fuller can sleep elsewhere. If sleeping in the attic is a punishment for Kevin, why was Fuller sleeping in the attic? Because he’d wet the bed? Pretty harsh!). Kevin’s attitude that I think causes the biggest problem for him is that he wishes he’d never see his family again. The mom even has him repeat it as if to make sure he means it and that the audience knows it. The Wet Bandits are set on getting into the McCallister’s because it’s the best house on the block.

Manipulation - Kevin has a change in attitude about his family and whether he wants to see them again. It only seems to be a problem in that he doesn’t know how to get his family back. It doesn’t feel like a Manipulation throughline, but an exploration of a Fixed Attitude. The mom has trouble trying to convince people to let her on the flight or to rent her a car. I’m not sure how the family or the Wet Bandits would fit into this one.

Considering what I have above, I think I’m in agreement so far. Kevin’s story that is only about him is about his protecting the house from the Wet Bandits while the Mom is Manipulating her way home, and having a problem with how she was able to forget her son. While I see fixed attitudes as causing everyone problems, those problems don’t seem to permeate the whole story for everyone. Mainly it seems to be just between Kevin and his mom, leaving the situation of Kevin being home alone to cause problems for everyone throughout the movie.

New here, but wanted to comment since Home Alone is on TV right now where I live (cool coincidence!). One of my all-time favourite movies.

I have trouble imagining an OS in anything but Situation. I briefly considered an Activity OS and could find an argument for that, but in the grand scheme of things, Situation defines just about everyone exactly as @Gregolas said. And, additionally, the family is stuck in France because of Kevin – another Situation problem.

Kevin’s a hard one, because his real ‘problem’ would appear to be an attitude (“I wish my family would disappear”). I think it’s a given that his throughline of Activity revolves around fighting the Bandits, but I’d also suggest the conflict of Activity could also come about because of what he does – he argues, he takes his brother’s money, he watches movies he shouldn’t, he does things he shouldn’t.

The Old Man is definitely a hand-off IC character (much like the Bird lady in the sequel – which I’d guess has an identical storyform), there’s a ‘you and I are both alike’ moment where Kevin finds the Old Man is estranged from his family. The difficulty is that Kevin encourages the man to make up with his son, which makes the whole thing more complicated. I don’t know what exactly defines the IC in this movie, I think the Mom is most likely but it’s hard for me to truly nail where that sits because the IC seems sidelined a lot of the time.

Is it possible that Kevin is a Steadfast character? I know it seems unlikely, due to the whole ‘I wish my family would disappear’ thing, but is it a possibility?

Thanks for the thoughts guys!

@jhay, Welcome to Discuss! I definitely saw Kevin as a Steadfast character. His personal issues are that everyone thinks he is useless, and he doesn’t think that’s fair. Although he does admit at the beginning that he “doesn’t know how to pack a suitcase”, he doesn’t think that makes him useless; he’s just a kid and he’s as capable as he’s supposed to be. So he grows into that resolve through the film.

Meanwhile, the mom who sort of just guessed everyone was right and Kevin was to blame for the trouble at dinner, changes her perspective in the end, realizing that in order to be a good parent she needs to pay more attention to what’s going on. EDIT: also, I don’t think it’s a huge concern that she’s “sidelined” because she’s still in the movie impacting other people, and she impacts Kevin by her absence! (I do see that Old Man Marley could be a hand-off IC though, just to help show Kevin’s influence on him; he doesn’t seem to have much influence on Kevin’s personal growth.)

At least that’s how I saw it!

@Gregolas I think now that the Impulsive Responses type of fears I saw, i.e. learning to control responses to things like the burglars and scary furnace and fear of heights, was actually the Story Consequences that were already in place. So the achievement of the Story Goal gets rid of those Consequences, which makes sense.

Here is the storyform I came up with:

# STORY ENGINE SETTINGS: "Home Alone (1990)"


MC RESOLVE: Steadfast

Kevin maintains his perspective that he is more capable and grown up than everyone gives him credit for.


Kevin holds onto his conviction, getting everyone to stop treating him like he’s useless.





DRIVER: Action

The power goes out, causing them to sleep in and to have to rush to the airport. Kevin and Old Man Marley happen to bump into each other at the church.

LIMIT: Optionlock

There are only so many ways to defeat the burglars (and only so much punishment they can take); there are only so many ways to get home to Kevin (and only so much distance to travel).

OUTCOME: Success

Kevin successfully holds down the fort long enough for his family to return so he’s no longer “home alone”.


Kevin and his family are satisfied with how things turned out, as is Old Man Marley and his family.


Holding down the fort while home alone


A young boy is home alone! The Wet Bandits have been robbing homes!

CONCERN: How Things are Changing

The Wet Bandits try to make progress in robbing the home; the family tries to make progress toward Paris and then becomes concerned with their progress returning home to Kevin; Kevin progressively gets better at taking care of himself and defending the home; Old Man Marley wants to make progress with his family situation; the Bandits face progressively worse traps and punishment.

ISSUE: Threat vs. Security

The family’s trip is threatened by the power loss causing them to sleep in; Kevin’s safety is threatened simply by being Home Alone; the home is threatened by the Wet Bandits. Counterpoint: Kevin has to secure the home.


This might be wrong … stay tuned…


SYMPTOM: Determination

RESPONSE: Expectation

CATALYST: Security
SIGNPOST 1: The Past
SIGNPOST 2: How Things are Changing
SIGNPOST 3: The Future
SIGNPOST 4: The Present


(Kate McAllister / Old Man Marl)
THROUGHLINE: Manipulation
CONCERN: Playing a Role
ISSUE: Desire vs. Ability
SYMPTOM: Unending
BENCHMARK: Changing One’s Nature
SIGNPOST 1: Conceiving an Idea
SIGNPOST 2: Developing a Plan
SIGNPOST 3: Playing a Role
SIGNPOST 4: Changing One’s Nature


(Kevin McAllister)
ISSUE: Experience vs. Skill
PROBLEM: Non-Accurate
SOLUTION: Accurate
SYMPTOM: Determination
RESPONSE: Expectation
BENCHMARK: Obtaining
SIGNPOST 1: Gathering Information
SIGNPOST 3: Understanding
SIGNPOST 4: Obtaining


(The Main vs. Impact Story)
THROUGHLINE: Fixed Attitude
CONCERN: Impulsive Responses
ISSUE: Worry vs. Confidence
PROBLEM: Unending
SYMPTOM: Determination
RESPONSE: Expectation
CATALYST: Confidence
INHIBITOR: Knowledge
BENCHMARK: Innermost Desires
SIGNPOST 1: Impulsive Responses
SIGNPOST 2: Contemplation
SIGNPOST 3: Memories
SIGNPOST 4: Innermost Desires


GOAL: How Things are Changing

The Story Goal is basically, to progress out of being Home Alone; this is an incremental process that involves the mom & family first figuring out that they have left Kevin alone, then making their way home; meanwhile Kevin must hold out against his progressively worse situation by progressively growing more competent and creating tougher and tougher traps / situations for the burglars.

CONSEQUENCE: Impulsive Responses

This is an already in place Consequence, at least partially so. It represents the impulsive responses fears that must be conquered by achieving the story goal – learning to control responses to things like the burglars and scary furnace and fear of heights, also the mom’s responses to learning her son is home alone, etc. You can see that if the Story Goal is not achieved – i.e. they don’t make it home in time and something really bad happens to Kevin, that these impulsive responses would just get worse.

COST: Playing a Role

the Mom & Dad’s feeling like they have not lived up to their role of parents; also the burglars hurt their own pride by not living up to their role of being the best cat burglars; Kevin has to give up his role of the coddled boy.


This is pretty obvious, Kevin does a lot of cool stuff to get the badguys, he also gets to do a lot of fun and crazy stuff because he’s home alone, and even shows how he can now buy groceries on his own.


The Requirement of The Future can be seen in Kevin planning for the future “attack” by the thieves. And maybe in how the mom & family have to aim for the “earliest future date & time” she can make it home, including her taking a ride in John Candy’s van.

PREREQUISITE: Innermost Desires

In order to achieve the requirement of properly looking ahead to the future so that they can be successfully reunited with Kevin, all the characters have to conquer their innermost fears. i.e. fears of being apart, fears of the house being attacked, longing to be reunited.

PRECONDITION: Changing One’s Nature

Kevin has to become more resourceful and independent. As a condition of Kevin’s battle plan, a lot of stuff needs to get destroyed in their house.


The burglars successfully steal from another house; they briefly lose power to the house; phone communication to the house is lost; the family almost misses their flight, then successfully makes it; they lose Kevin’s passport in the garbage.

This is where I get hung up too. Kevin wishing that his family would disappear and then wishing he had his family back feels like the heart of the film to me. And the RS is where the heart of the story is always being said to reside. And that attitude of Kevin’s doesn’t seem just to affect him, but his family as well. Particularly his mom. So I don’t want to hang Kevin’s MC throughline on that attitude. Also, I’ve started to wonder if that attitude is less of a throughline problem and more of a personal baggage item that indicates an outcome of Good when it gets resolved.

I agree that his story isn’t just the activity of dealing with the Wet Bandits, but about how he causes trouble. Initially I wanted to try to hang Kevins problem on his attitude and BEING a jerk, while his mom’s impact of leaving him in the attic causes him to have to do all of those things he has to do. But of course, his mom doesn’t have anything to do with him shoving Buzz and making the huge mess while everyone is eating pizza. So I think Kevin is for sure in Activity.

Because of his change in attitude about his family, I would have said that he was a changed character. But that change takes place well before the problems are resolved, so again, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. However, I’ve seen mentioned somewhere recently (don’t remember where, but pretty sure it was either somewhere on this board or on NarrativeFirst) that one way you can tell if a character has changed is by taking the character at the end of the movie and rewinding. If the character at the end of the movie would act different than the character at the front of the movie, then it’s a good indicator of a changed character. And I don’t think the Kevin at the end would act the same as the Kevin at the front.

My initial thought about the movie was that it was probably trying to be a Grand Argument Story, but that it probably wasn’t. Do Kevin and his mom both change?

@mlucas, great breakdown of the additional story points. I’d say that story form looks pretty close if not spot on. I’m definitely going to have to watch it again pretty soon with all of this conversation in mind.

Regarding the test for Resolve, you’re totally right about comparing the end to the beginning. It’s a binary thing, and it’s possible that most or even all of the change happens early in the story, though often it’s towards the end; it can even be after the OS is resolved. However, you have to be careful about what you’re comparing – you want to compare their perspective on life especially as it relates to their own personal issues.

It’s definitely possible that Kevin is a Change character and I’m seeing it wrong. I just felt like his personal issues had to do with his belief that he is more capable and more grown up than everyone gives him credit for. Even when he can’t pack a suitcase it’s not his fault, it’s just that no one’s ever let him do it before. Here’s his first line of the film (at least from the script I found by googling, I’m hesitant to link in case of copyright violation):

KEVIN: Mom, Uncle Frank won’t let me watch the movie, but the big kids can. Why can’t I?

So instead of Changing, he GROWS into his resolve – he starts out whining about his conviction, then PROVES it through his Activities. But it’s the same deeply-held conviction, same perspective.

EDIT: just noticed that the above commentary on his Resolve gives insight into his Issue / Problem / Symptom & Response. Driven by everyone’s non-accurate determinations of him, he first tries to push the boundaries by expecting to be allowed to do whatever he wants, like watch the big kids’ movies. Then driven by the unfair punishment (another non-accurate determination) he decides that he never wants see his family again. (This is still Expectation – he’s expecting that even in the future he won’t want to see them, but it’s a non-accurate expectation so it still causes him angst.)
And he eventually embraces Expectation in a good way, as he’s driven by the Wet Bandits’ non-accurate determinations of his ability to defend his house, to expect that his defense plans will work, and to teach them to expect suffering! (some of that is OS too)
As a Steadfast character, he never gives up his conviction that everyone else is wrong (Non-Accurate) about him; he just holds out long enough for them to Stop thinking that.

In regards to the Overall Story Throughline vs the Main Character Story Throughline…

if Kevin was suddenly not home alone, would that resolve all the issues with his family and with the Wet Bandits? I can see him personally dealing with that–but the issue between the parents and the thieves isn’t something stuck that needs to be unstuck.

Also, if Kevin suddenly stopped doing all those things he was doing…I think he would still have a problem personally…

Might be worth it to do this one as a group for the Holidays, if you’re interested…

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I was going to reply how I didn’t agree with you, but as I started to type it, I could see what you mean – especially for the MC throughline.

I can see the Wet Bandits, the family, and Kevin as part of the same stuck situation: “a boy is home alone on a street where burglars are active.” The Wet Bandits are just a way of making the situation worse, and the family is stuck away from the boy.

But yeah, I see what you mean about Kevin. We should definitely try this as a group over the holidays! That will give others a chance to watch it too.

The Wet Bandits are not stuck. They could leave at any time. It’s their activities that are the source of conflict. I’ll start a new thread!

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I’m not afraid to admit that I’m terrible at analyzing! I have a big problem with overthinking things and being too willing to see how everybody’s problems can fit into any Domain. I would love to do a group analysis of this one for the practice.

A year later (and hopefully somewhat wiser), I watched this again and it’s quite obvious the OS is not in Situation. The story’s problems are present before Kevin gets stuck home alone: There’s family chaos, the Wet Bandits are already active, etc.

Rather, I think MC Kevin is in Situation (the root of it being an overlooked kid, which develops into being home alone).

Based on that I quickly threw together a storyform that looks pretty good, OS in Activity, Doing*, Experience, Determination and MC in Situation, Progress, Fact, Unproven. Dramatica outputted an MC Unique Ability of Security which sounds pretty darn perfect!

* The OS fits Doing better than Obtaining because: a) the Wet Bandits are not concerned with any particular score, just with the burgling itself, b) Kevin’s busy with protecting his home and living alone, c) the parents are concerned with parenting. Maybe the Goal of Home Alone is “protecting the family” which includes the family home. Or maybe it’s just spending Christmas together!

I remember this thread. I do not want to go back and read what I said before, though. I’m actually watching this one again now.

  1. What do you see as the Story Goal?

  2. Who would you say is the IC?

Okay, I’ll start a new one! I just thought it would be fun to resurrect this one after 1 year, like a holiday tradition. :slight_smile:

You didn’t have to start a new thread. I just didn’t want to embarrass myself by reading what I said last year (not that what I say now will be any better). But I’ll hop over to that one for a fresh start!

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