RS Illustrations

I’m wondering how everyone else handles RS illustrations. Do you give them their own scenes, something that only shows MC and IC being pushed together or pulled apart? Or do you weave the illustrations for it into the IC scenes? I’m sure it could be either one, but I’m looking for just any advice on how to handle them. Do any scenes from a popular movie that do a great job of illustrating the RS pop into mind that you can share?

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Im working on finally outlining a project that I’ve kind of kept in the background, always running through Dramatica again and again every time I feel I’ve understood it a bit better. I finally have what I’m 99.999% sure is the absolute perfect storyform for this novel. But what I’m finding is that, while my illustrations for the OS and MC have been spot on and remain unchanged when translating from Dramatica notes to a novel outline, the IC and RS illustrations seem to be acting fairly fluid. Sometimes they stay relatively the same as I had imagined them and others I find that they need to change quite a bit to better fit the story or to better explain what’s going on.

Basically, I’ve got the first six chapters outlined in great detail, and this brings me to the end of Dramatica Act 1. But I have yet to work any of my RS notes into the story in any meaningful way. I had planned on having strictly RS scenes that showed the two being pushed and pulled, but I feel like I have everything I need already. The IC scenes I’ve just outlined have a lot of push and pull feel to them, but none of the stuff I had specifically planned. And now there’s no room in act one for those scenes.

I’ve felt like this would probably be an OS heavy narrative, but I also wanted to make sure I had a complete Storyform and a story that has at least a little heart to it. I suppose I can rework the IC scenes and play with what’s there so that the RS scenes are interwoven into the IC scenes, or kinda just laid on top of them, and not worry so much about all the PSR stuff and just let it be what it is. But I really don’t like the idea of doing that.

So I’m hoping for a little inspiration for how to quickly rework the story. any suggestions or anecdotes about how you’d squeeze in some extra storyform where you need it.

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What genre are you working with?

Box office-wise, it’s meant to be kind of a Stephen King-type horror story. For the most part, it’s a pretty generic haunted house story, honestly.

Dramatica-wise, OS in Physics, MC in Mind.

Thoughts from an amateur:

  1. The last question is easiest for me: the climaxes of To Kill A Mockingbird, Star Wars, Little Miss Sunshine, Rocky, ET, & The Godfather. An implication is: I tend to remember climaxes when all 4 throughlines intersect, even if the RS intersects the OS for the first time in the movie (e.g. Mockingbird).

  2. To me, the RS is the heart, so mine for & play up the emotions above all. There better be some fucking crying, laughing, fear, and joy. This is why I go to the movies.

  3. I think a big factor is: what is the IC’s role in the overall story? The bigger it is, the harder it (often) is to clearly separate RS from OS. I don’t know where The Joker as antagonist ends and where The Joker as IC begins. One trick is to just come out and have one character (usually the steadfast one) say it: “I’m not talking to you as (OS role), but as (RS role).”

  4. At minimum, have the RS intersect the OS at the climax (with the RS a separate throughline otherwise). At most, have the RS intersect with the OS frequently. Or something in between, e.g. The Godfather.

  5. One trick for adding RS to an otherwise done story is to use a unique location for the RS to signal “we’re in the RS now” to the reader. e.g. with a priest in the confessional booth, with the therapist in the office, with family member / friend / romantic partner at the IC’s home. For the climax, bring the IC to the climax you already have or, for more spice, bring the climax to/through the IC’s/RS location.

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Great advice @HaroldLloyd!

  1. Rocky strikes me as maybe having some good RS scenes, particularly in the end. Hope it’s still on Netflix!

  2. agreed. But I also go if something looks scary or creepy in a fun way. In my mind, horror tends to be more OS than RS (though not without it). And the way I’ve got it set up, all the creepy and scary parts are in the OS and MC throughlines for sure.

  3. It’s great that you asked this because, although I haven’t worried about who was an archetype and who was a complex character, I’ve been thinking of my IC as the Guardian character this whole time and the ghosts as the antagonists. But after reading your question and thinking about it a moment, I see my IC is at least a very strong Reconsider character. So that would be part Guardian and part Antagonist, which seems like a weird mix.

This is the best. Simple and obvious and I’m definitely going to start looking for ways to employ this.
4. It’s all pretty much planned to intersect at the climax, so I think I’m good there. The plan was to have as little intersection until then. I couldn’t really say if I wanted it that way to serve the story, or to help me keep everything straight in my own mind. Probably the second, which means I should probably go with the flow and just let this first IC scene intersect with the RS.
5. I can kinda see a location like this already in there, so this is great too. Do you think this can be overdone, though? Because while I think I could do this to some extent with the RS, I think I’m already doing this pretty heavily with the MC.

In art training, I learned that a color has to be repeated three times, to give a professional look. When I took intro to fiction writing, I was struck that if I only mentioned something in the story two times, the listeners did not register it had any basis or place in the story, or even picked up it was mentioned at all. I remembered back to my art training and the three thing. Then there is the golden TRIangle…haha. Three times might anchor the RS for the audience. just thoughts from the peanut gallery


That might depend on personal taste. There are great buddy films, i.e. Midnight Run, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds – and tv shows, i.e. Lethal Weapon. Horror: Fright Night, Phantom of the Opera, Night of the Hunter, The Haunting, and the 1995 Haunted, come to mind.

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I definitely don’t try to give the RS its own scenes, though some scenes might end up as mostly RS. For me, most scenes have more than one throughline woven in somehow, except scenes with neither MC nor IC present (those would usually be OS only), and maybe an early MC scene or two being MC only.

I do think you want to have a few “big RS moments” prior to the climax though. Maybe the whole scene isn’t dedicated to the RS, but there should be those big moments where things change in the relationship. HOWEVER, it might be okay if these are bit lacking in your outline. The RS may be something you can “feel” better when writing the first draft, when you’re really deep down into the emotions of it.
(Haha @Prish you cross-posted with me but sounds like we had the same idea – a few big moments would be three at minimum I guess!)

On the other hand, it may be a bad sign if you feel the richness of your RS notes/illustrations is missing from your outline. You said:[quote=“Gregolas, post:2, topic:1410”]
I have yet to work any of my RS notes into the story in any meaningful way.
Why can’t you work those in? Can you give an example of a note or idea you liked that didn’t make it in?


Jokes tend to have a rule of threes. (A priest, a nun, and rabbi walk into a bar…) I’ve always assumed it was just enough to set up a pattern that could be unexpectedly and humorously broken for the joke. Because of Dramatic, I’ve wondered if all these jokes might need to be rewritten to include a protestant as well. [quote=“Prish, post:8, topic:1410”]
That might depend on personal taste.

I’m more interested in great RS illustrations than great movies. As far as I’m concerned it’s mostly a matter of whether I can watch it on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. However, if you suggest any Stephanie Meyer or EL James, you might be right. I might be skipping those.

Great RS scenes:

  1. The “imagine” scene at the end of La La Land. I won’t say more – don’t want to spoil it, and you’ll remember it if you saw it.
  2. I think it was decided the narrative of Interstellar was broken, but the scene where the daughter (still young) refuses to say goodbye to her dad when he’s leaving for space … then comes running out BUT ONLY AFTER HE DROVE AWAY AND IT’S TOO LATE TO SAY GOODBYE. Oh man. That scene drove the whole rest of the film for me, kept me up until 2am on a work night… and yeah, I was left a little disappointed at the end, so maybe the narrative was broken and that’s why it will haunt me forever. :wink:

It might be a brain thing, something the brain does, a mechanism, with the history of hard working entertainers throughout the ages of mankind, finally, figured the three thing out, having experienced it over and over.

Interesting, I never thought about it in this way, but will try it next time for sure.

I often do struggle finding completely different scenes for RS and IC/MC as I am trying to follow the paradigm that each throughline should/could be told as an independent story.

What helped me to come up with different scenes for the individual throughlines recently was combining a question with the overall topic. This combination usually triggers some ideas how I could implement the scene. For each signpost I am trying to come up at least with 4 scenes, a scene for each issue.

Here is an example from my last project with 1 signpost for each throughline:

The overall story is set in a military camp and is about honour and shame. Each Throughline has his own storyline. The passionate argument in my RS throughline is about how much do I need to give in, to honour something what is expected of me?

OS Attitude “Everyone needs to prove their correct political attitude”
Signpost Obtaining: How does “getting honor and blame” leads to a problem for EVERYONE?

MC Denial, honor someting by (not) doing what is expected
Signpost Preconscious: How does “restore my honor” leads to a problem for ME?

IC Preconception, forced to follow orders to have freedom in the future
Signpost Past: How does “reputation and prestige” cause a problem for YOU?

RS Obligation, what means “duty of honour”?
Signpost Being: How does “wearing a uniform and following orders” leads to a problem for US (MC/IC)?

To come-up with at least 4 scenes e.g. for my RS Signpost of Being I would ask the following questions:
Knowledge: What has “knowing where following orders leads to” is a problem for US?
Desire: What has “hating wearing uniforms” is a problem for US?
Ability: What has “cannot following orders under this circumstances” is a problem for US?
Thought: What has “doing what I want” is a problem for US?

I usually don’t do this all on paper in great detail, but – as I am writing this down right know – this what I do consider for my plot.

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I come to a similar conclusion but the opposite way, almost. I tend to design scenes specifically for the RS that, when I come to writing them, wind up incorporating at least one other throughline. I’m about to write an RS scene now (that’s all about whether a work-centric relationship can become a friendship) and I already know it’s going to feature quite a bit of the IC throughline (and a little set-up for the OS).

The RS is the most difficult of all for me, so I find it helpful if I have a plan. Even if it’s just as basic as ‘Can this relationship become something more than a team-mate bond?’ or ‘How does the relationship hold up when both get the idea they’re attracted to the other?’ By the time I get to writing that scene or sequence, I can see what’s happening in the other throughlines and just discover the scene as I go. Since it’s the emotional core of the story, it tends to feel more ‘real’ to me if I just follow my subconscious to write the scenes.


So what I’ve got is an MC that meets the IC at the end of the first act. I planned on it all being about showing the ICs influence, and my RS notes would have had a few scenes that were separate from this, and dealt more with their working relationship. But now I’m thinking those scenes would just drag out and take away from the pace of the story.

But as I thought about how to explain those scenes to you, I began to see more and more how the RS can fit pretty well into the IC scenes I’ve already got. It’s no longer going to look like an independent RS story the way I wanted (and like @Gernot explained), and it’ll mean abandoning the hours and hours and pages and pages of PSR notes I worked so hard on, but at this point, those hours and pages are just a drop in the bucket for this project. So if it works better, it works better. Besides, at some point, I guess it’s going to be time to put down the Dramatica and write the story I want to write.

Instead of explaining the scenes I couldn’t work in, though, I’ll share the scenes the way I see them now.
Trying to make it as short as I can here. The MC has a fear of death (MC Domain of Mind) which causes him lots of problems. Most notably, he sees the ghosts of his dead brother and many of his dead patients (he’s a cardio thoracic surgeon). There’s a nurse in the hospital where he does his surgeries who was “born with a veil over her face” (a phrase that means the placenta didn’t break when she born) which is the reason her mother gave for why she has “the sight” (meaning she can see the supernatural–Sixth Sense-style ghosts, demons, etc…as an aside, this character and much of the rest of this story is inspired by a supposedly true story I was told by a person I know). The IC is seen as a bit of kook because she’s the one that tells everyone that the supernatural is real. I was previously seeing the RS as being about the MC, the surgeon, at the top of his field, has authority and knowledge, and the nurse who is much farther down the chain and subordinate to the surgeon, and how it changes so that the IC, having insight into the supernatural realm, would become the one with authority and knowledge. It was going to be about the struggle for the IC to be taken seriously by the MC who thinks his ghosts are all in his head–like Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind seeing the characters that follow him around (spoiler: they’re not just in his head). So the scenes I outlined were going to show the MC at work ordering the nurse around and such.

(The way I explained it above is starting to feel Situation-y, like the relationship is about who has status or something. That’s not what I was going for. It’s supposed to be more about them manipulating each other. The IC doesn’t like seeing demons and ghosts and the MC kind of tricks her into leading a seance in his house for him. He wants to see if there’s anything there, but acts as though he thinks it’s all a big joke. She knows she can’t tell him how to do things because he’s not going to listen to her, so she has to kind of play along and let him see his plans fail before kind of tricking him into doing things her way).

But now, after all the advice from this thread, I think the RS, at least in the first act, can take place in the same scene as the IC scene. Sign Post 1 for the RS is about Conceiving, so when the IC tells that MC that she knows he’s haunted and he denies it and tells her she’s nuts, this can be about how the relationship is…not sure how to word it exactly…how the relationship is conceiving what the problem is with the MC, conceiving of…how to deal with it…well, not sure how to say it. Anyway, the important part is I know what i’m going for, you know, in my mind, and I feel like I can write it and I’m super pumped about it now!

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Love it. Sounds like you’re going in the right direction. And you might end up using some of those ideas you had in different ways later on – you never know what your Muse will give you.

Conceiving fits great for the first signpost here! I wonder if it’s kind of like, they have this assumed relationship based on their work roles which isn’t deep or personal … But after the nurse tells the surgeon she knows he’s haunted, they begin to conceive that they’re actually connected in a very different and deeper, scarily personal way. Kind of a “uh oh” moment for the relationship.

EDIT: forgot to mention this thread has inspired me to draft a blog post about how multiple throughlines can end up coming together in the same scene, even when you don’t plan it. Part of that was realizing my process is pretty similar to @jhay 's – I think I tend to plan RS “moments”, at least. Hopefully I’ll get it to “publishable” soon!


The RS SP1 is Conceiving and the PSR for this act explores Work, Attraction, Repulsion, and Attempt.

My original notes for the first scene would have been about them working to conceive of what their relationship is. The relationship Concern is Becoming, so I saw it as the characters conceiving of the relationship in terms of Superior/Subordinate, or power/peon, or something, and that aspect eventually reversing as it also became more of a mentor relationship, or a guardian relationship with the nurse being more in control.

But now I’ve got it so that Work is more about saying “this is what I can do to get us to conceive of the type of relationship we have”. And conceiving of the nurse as being able to tell the surgeon about death and what happens when one dies sort of immediately causes the surgeon to push the nurse away because he’s the one who’s spent eight plus years studying the human body in great detail, and he’s the one who, as a child, asked his brother what happens when you die and got an answer of “I don’t know, rigor mortis?” and now can’t get past it. And this works much better with the message of the rest of the story.

I’m being very short in that explanation, but hopefully getting the point across in case anyone else is having the same issues. Also, I mentioned earlier that my IC and RS stuff was acting much more fluid than my OS and MC. I think maybe I was kind of subconsciously hoping to let the RS flow into the story as needed instead of sticking to my notes. I think it’s worked out so far. I don’t think I’m the kind of person that can plan out Relationship Story material like I can OS or MC. The way I currently view the RS, it feels less like a separate story (the way MC and IC are) and more like a dynamic between characters. I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but seeing it that way, I now think writing it as I go is the way to go because it flows much easier than trying to determine what pushes and what pulls from the distant abstract position of having nothing but notes in front of me, if that makes sense.

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Sounds like you’re really on track now.

It’s funny, for the fantasy story I worked on last year (outline complete but haven’t started first draft), I had RS SP1 Conceiving with Work, Attraction, Repulsion, Attempt in the PSR! Funny coincidence.

I think this is pretty accurate; I kind of see it as “the story of a relationship” or “the story of a dynamic between characters”. I mean, if that dynamic is growing and changing based on dramatic stuff happening with it, that’s basically a story, right?

In the same way, the MC is kind of the “story of someone with personal issues”. That said, the throughlines are not so much separate stories as they are separate perspectives.

Yeah, this is how I’ve been doing it on my current project, and it’s definitely working out well that way. Most of the best stuff in my RS has been stuff that was totally unplanned, just came up in the middle of writing the scene. Or it was planned stuff that got changed when it came time to write it (“no this doesn’t feel right here … maybe that happens later”).

My IC surprises me a lot, and the unexpected stuff she does usually affects the relationship story too. (Sometimes I think that the IC Response of Uncontrolled makes it hard for me, the Author, to control her! :slight_smile: )

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See below for my SES. How close are they?

DRIVER: Decision
LIMIT: Optionlock
OUTCOME: Failure
DOMAIN: Universe
CONCERN: The Future
ISSUE: Openness vs. Preconception
PROBLEM: Conscience

Pretty different! Mine was Steadfast, Stop, Do-er, Male, Action, Optionlock, Failure, Good. MC in Universe/Future/Preconception/Uncontrolled, and OS Problem Oppose.

So, same Concern quad and same Outcome & Judgment, but pretty different otherwise. Neat that we ended up with same PSR for RS SP1 Conceiving…