Relationship Story Signpost of Learning

Thanks for all your thoughts, Greg. I should have mentioned that the scorching the earth stuff was just figurative, just a way for me to express how it felt they were treating each other and teaching a lesson within the relationship.

Also, I’ve got this part of the story written already (first draft at least) and so I know what’s happening on the surface anyway.

Act 2 has them learning various things about their relationship, and the process of learning is kind of tough, but it makes their relationship grow … until Becca’s had enough of Devin’s misguided help and rejects him utterly*, which is like teaching the relationship a lesson, that they need to stop considering that they’re close. That’s the earth-scorching, which happens near the end of Act 2, so far as I can tell. Then RS Signpost 3 is Understanding, so I think that lesson moves into them understanding that they can’t rely on each other, that they’re going to have to be careful trusting each other. (I’m right around the midpoint in my first draft.)

* some of that rejection is in the IC and OS throughlines too. The OS is mostly where his inept Help was. (Some of his Help was good too, but even that she found annoying. That’s the OS Problem for you! :slight_smile: )

Of course, I’m aiming for a big Understanding moment later on in Act 3, which is when Devin has to talk Becca out of committing suicide by jumping off a rain-swept bridge. That’s where they’ll begin to understand that they really do share a special bond, that they need each other.

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Just casually jumping onto this thread four months later, no big deal.

I also find the RS throughline to be a nightmare to illustrate. The big revelation of ‘think as the relationship as another character’ has only made the mental hurdles even larger. Can someone give me an example of a good illustration of an RS signpost? Maybe that’ll illuminate things for me.

I always tend to have one of two variations on the RS signpost, and I don’t really like either of them:

  • “The relationship finally gets a grip on its true nature: a cold work relationship, not the loving friendship it thought it was.” – feels really distant and way too abstract to actually write.
  • “Character A discovers that he has been stripped of his shares by Character B, coming to realize that this relationship is not the friendly one he had thought.” – feels too he-said, she-said and not especially interesting.

Is there a middle-ground to this at all, or do I just have to somehow come to grips with one or the other?


What is the nature of the relationship? Is it growing or dissolving? Is it new or continuous? What kind of relationship is it?

It’s closer to your first example. The second is already taken care of in the MC and IC Throughlines. You’ll know when you get it because you won’t feel like it’s too abstract. This might seem weird - but it’s not that the concept is too abstract, it’s that you’re interpreting it as abstract.


Ah, okay. I simultaneously understand exactly what you mean and also feel like I’ve missed something very important (which is the process of learning Dramatica in a nutshell, basically). Let me try and work this out.

In the example I gave above (which I shamelessly stole from The Social Network, naturally), I’m looking at it as an abstract concept because my general understanding of a relationship is essentially the ‘emotional space’ (or lack of) between two or more people – something that we, in reality, can only really see from our ‘I’ perspective (maybe unless you’re a marriage counselor, or something similar). So, specifically (and I think this may be the root problem, as it was for the IC a while back), I’m trying to view it from the personal MC perspective and that makes the relationship seem very, very abstract and kind of ethereal.

But Dramatica wants me to look at the relationship as the process between those people, as its own thing that must progress through the four signposts (kind of like trials) to eventually work itself out or remain unresolved. In this throughline, there is no Main or Influence, but only the dynamic between them that grows stronger or weaker.

Am I on the right track here or has my flu medication taken me halfway to Siberia?

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Not sure if this method helps, but it’s the one I use to try to get me into the right frame of mind when illustrating the RS throughline.

When I was in high school, my best friend’s mother said about her daughter and I:

“As individuals the girls are really well behaved, but when they get together something happens and they just cause all this trouble.”
(paraphrasing of course, but you get the idea).

It’s the “something happens” that is defined by the RS throughline.


Anne, that’s awesome! I love how this can help you to really think about a relationship being in any domain (internal or external), while still keeping it focused on the relationship rather than what the individual people are doing.

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One more update (this is the thread that never dies apparently :slight_smile: ).

It’s been months since I finished drafting structural act 2 and the RS Signpost 2 of Learning, but I still keep having more insight into what I already wrote. The “scorching the earth to teach a lesson” was awesome BUT it was a bit one-sided. I now have an even better gist for my Learning signpost.

This happened RANDOMLY after importing my storyform into @jhull 's Subtext, yet it turned out to be the absolute PERFECT gist:

I love it because it makes the relationship the subject of the sentence, and it so perfectly represents what’s happening from the relalationship’s perspective at that point!

Funny note, there were several other signposts that also came up with insanely accurate gists at random. Some made laugh out loud because of how hilariously well they matched what I’d already written. Dramatica is crazy sometimes. I’ll have to do a “Subtext Awesomeness, Part 2: Insanity of Accuracy” blog post to go over these!

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Oh, also in hindsight, I can see that my posts in the beginning of the thread were off the mark because I mistook my Act Turn Driver (1 -> 2). It was actually later than I thought, so some of the stuff that I thought was part of act 2, actually wasn’t. But the earth-scorching and learning how bad things really are is definitely act 2.

I’ve worked out a framework to help one wrap their heads around unearthing a source of conflict in a signpost term. posting soon.

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