RS Best Of (Relationship Throughline)

I’m trying to put my finger on the essence of the RS in my story. Tightening the storyline, I want to be able to explain (to myself) where the line is between MS/IC/OS and RS.

So, discuss.dramatica crowd, would you share posts and articles or quotes that have MOST helped you to understand RS. Or maybe what RS is not.

I found this.

Strangely, the comment about waves and colors made so much sense.

I’m a linear thinker, hands down. But I think I understand that if the OS is the linear story (the outline of the picture), the RS is juxtaposed as the holistic story (the paint and texture, colors and patterns).

Or maybe I should just go with the waves and colors idea, and consider it the passionate argument which conflicts with and challenges the OS argument.

I also find this post helpful.

As does this

RS is:

  • the shifting of affections within the storm of the OS story
  • the negative space between the MC and IC/other character(s)
  • the waves and colors that distinguish the passionate-causation giving depth to the story
  • the emotional balances that feed into the MC and IC motivations

RS is not:

  • merely the logical progression/dynamics of the love story or the friendships in the story
  • a subplot for the sake of subplot

Here is a thread that helped me:

I’m not sure about this part:

That description sounds like OS, not RS.

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Also for this part:

So, there are certain things that happen in your story that you think of as part of the RS, like a big breakup scene or whatever. (This is a shortcut, because the RS is really a perspective – it views that breakup event as mattering to the relationship. But it’s an easier way to talk about it.)

It’s definitely true that the events in the story that are connected to the RS, like the breakup scene, can affect the MC and IC throughlines and “motivations” as you said.

But with Dramatica, it’s better to keep things separated and not consider the RS itself as part of, or directly affecting, the other throughlines. The myriad connections happen afterwards, once all the throughlines come together in the actual story. (With exceptions like Crucial Element and Unique Ability that do connect certain things at the narrative structure level in very specific ways.)

Once you’re drafting that story (incorporating story-weaving and storytelling), and all the characters are running around in it and doing things like breaking up with each other, now you’re operating at a level where EVERYTHING from characters’ thoughts and motivations to world events are all bouncing off each other. This is where, in both drafting and revision, it can be extremely useful to consider the throughlines as perspectives that are only concerned with (see) certain things, and utterly unconcerned with (don’t see) anything else.


I don’t have any specific posts or articles to post as understanding the RS wasn’t something that just turned on for me after some bit of good advice. Rather, it was a process of digesting lots of comments and articles over a long period of time.

The OS and RS are both views of relationships. I tend to think of the OS view as seeing what conflict looks like and the RS view as seeing what direction the relationship is moving.

For instance, I would say a married couple who gets into fights because of their dysfunction is an OS view because see what the conflict looks like—fighting.

But over the course of the fight they could see themselves drifting away from one another, or as violently pushing each other away, or, heck, could be falling even more in love than ever and the fight ends when they suddenly break out into passionate kissing! And I would say that was an RS view because we see the speed and direction of the relationship—slowly apart, quickly apart, quickly together.


From my bookmarks. I haven’t reread all these threads through again though.


If you do this in, you’ll find a lot:

The Emotional Ladder is key…


One of the difficulties with the RS is that sometimes it’s a conflict over a very specific thing, and sometimes it’s not, which is why I think I understand this:

Here is an example with a specific:
In Lord of the Flies both the MC and IC have a Fixed Mindset about the signal fire. One thinks it’s the most important thing on the island, the other doesn’t. They have arguments about it, so it’s extremely overt. (Though it’s not a topic, the fire is the topic.)

Here is an example with an intangible:
In The Accountant it is easy to see a clear relationship and trust building over the course of the movie. But there is no easy way to pinpoint when it happens and they never address it (except with how they act and feel).

So… like so many other things in Dramatica, what the RS is is clear but not specific.


Yes, I did try that. But for some reason the drop down search function did not work (on ipad). Maybe I was just typing “relationship throughline.”

Now, I am able to access these articles through my desktop. Thanks.

On the “Emotional Ladder” article, you say

the impact of these emotions on the Premise is not yet fully understood.

I think this is the struggle I’m having. Trying to find the connection.

But in light of the Emotional Ladder article, I have a feeling RS feeds into OS solution. At least that’s how in my story the Solution is able to be achieved: because of how they dealt with the RS issue, with the final tip-angle of the Issue/Counterpoint they arrived at the RS Solution and so avoided the OS Consequence.

In fact, in the Re-Imagining the Key Relationships article, it seems that for each of the stories mentioned, also, until the RS gets to a certain point the OS Solution CANNOT kick in appropriately.

Luke: Until he starts to believe all the things Obiwan told him, he cannot shoot the Deathstar.

Will Hunting: Until he is willing to bend to the therapist and until he is willing to let his “brother” go, he cannot find resolution.

Rick/Ilsa: Until Rick is able to forgive Ilsa’s betrayal, he cannot give up the bar in order to let Ilsa leave.

Maybe I’m confusing the IC with the RS. On the other hand, maybe this is why for so many years, the RS was considered to be IC/MC. I think there is a balance-angle that needs to happen BETWEEN them (or even with an external non-IC romance character) that bolsters the MC or Protagonist to be able to reach the solution and not fold to the Consequence.

The IC is also compelling them, actively maneuvering to challenge them in that throughline. But maybe the “space between them” also has to be just-so.

If I recall, in Lord of the Flies, it’s not till the IC is killed that the OS is solved.

I’ve read both things. The RS is NOT related to OS, and then the quote above, that the RS connection in the story PREMISE is not understood. The Premise is a line from story goal to MC focus to OS Solution to Judgment. I think in there we need consequence/RS.

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So this doesn’t answer your question directly, but for me by far the biggest/most helpful shift in thinking on the RS came from @jhull and @JohnDusenberry 's insight that not only does the RS not have to be between the MC and IC players, it very often isn’t. Analyzing stories where the players for these throughlines are separated is best way to intuit the difference between the IC and RS in my opinion.

The difference is super clear in Back to the Future. Marty and George have completely opposed approaches to life; we see Marty’s influence on George (going from Avoid to Pursue) when George finally stands up for himself against Biff (change IC).

Marty and George do have a relationship; but so do Marty and Lorraine, and Marty and Doc. You really don’t see the IC throughline in these other relationships – especially Doc and Marty – but they provide the emotional resonance/tension of the story.

A more recent example is the psychological thriller/dark comedy Good Girls. In this story Beth (MC) and her friends are influenced by the gangbanger Dio (IC) to respond to their circumstances by becoming thieves and counterfeit smugglers. Dio is a classic Mind character whose bad attitude prods Beth toward unwise responses to her own Situation (trapped housewife, cheating husband, family on the verge of bankruptcy) .

But while Dio and Beth have a relationship of sorts, the real emotional heart of the story is between the two sisters and their friend (the girls), and it is driven by the crimes that they commit together (Activities). There is conflict between them obviously, but like in Back to the Future, it’s not hard to distinguish this from the strong influence that comes from the IC throughline.

Maybe…but in practice I’m not sure how easy this is to distinguish from the IC influence, especially when they are represented by the same players.

It would be interesting to tease this out in cases where the RS is not between the IC and MC.


That’s actually not correct. The IC does not die.

However, there is an interesting connection between the fire and the Outcome of Success

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All of this:

describes the Main Character Throughline. That connection you’re sensing between the Relationship Story Throughline and the Overall Story Throughline/Story Outcome is really just the Crucial Element that connects the MC with OS.

Thinking that something cannot happen in the OS until something happens in another Throughline is another common misconception based in a Linear if…then appreciation of the storyform.

The Throughlines relate to one another, they’re not dependent on each other in a typical cause and effect relationship.

The cause and effect assumption is easier to make in regards to the Crucial Element because they appear as similar instances of storytelling.

The greatest hurdle to overcome with Dramatica is the pitch that the Relationship Story Throughline is an argument—it’s not. That part of the storyform describes a relationship as if it was a character in and of itself.


If they don’t relate to each other, why does the hero need to bring the gift back from the extraordinary world after he almost dies?


Maybe, part of the OS?

I’m poking fun at The Hero’s Journey here. Nothing I’m saying in that phrase has any bearing to Dramatica.

Ah, true wit and warm hearted funny … thanks


Okay. Gotcha! Thanks!

Focus/Direction of both OS and RS. Crucial element of MC and IC.[quote=“didomachiatto, post:8, topic:2831”]
I think in there we need consequence/RS.

So @jhull, you would say the relationship between RS Concern and OS Consequence is only incidental or symmetrical not causal?

Chris has said these are not related.

In which case, that’s the final answer. Which I find strange since Dramatica is all about interconnectivity. Probably even why I’m drawn to it, I’m a chart and pattern girl. And this is why I want it to be related. But I’ve got to “let it go!”

Keep in mind everything is still connected holistically at the storyform/structure level, including the RS Concern and Story Consequences.

The lack of a required causal relationship between most/all story points is actually very freeing, if you think about it. In any particular story you still CAN create a cause/effect relationship between various things (at the storytelling level), if you want to and if it feels right for the story.


If you think of the Storyform as an analogy to a single human mind then they are connected: a mind leaning towards one context as objective will see its “Failure” to resolve a matter of subjectivity—thus, the connection between the OS Goal and the OS Consequence, and the OS and the RS.

This is even more apparent in Holistic narratives, where terms like Goal and Consequence fail to adequately capture the direction of the mind in context of inequity resolution.

I would still avoid making any connections between the OS and the RS in terms of cause-and-effect within a story.