RS Throughline and other players

Can players other than the MC and IC operate in response to and impacting on the RS throughline?

For example, character and A and character B have a twisted but platonic relationship. Character C (character A’s wife), sees something that causes her to misunderstand the relationship between A and B and therefore kick B off of the farm.

The RS Concern is Understanding. Say for the sake of argument that the RS Signpost 1 is also Understanding.

I guess I would encode this as “a misunderstanding by A’s wife causes problems for the relationship between A and B”.



The thing about other characters w/r/t the Relationship Throughline is that once you’re adding on other characters, now you’re talking about a different relationship. :stuck_out_tongue: That being said, I do think there are some characters who have interplay with the Relationship Throughline.

I’m pretty sure that there’s some sort of “Resolute Character” who acts as a countervailing force against the Influence Character. In Star Wars, for example, it’s Han’s skepticism versus Obi Wan’s belief in the Force, or in Last Jedi, it’s Benicio del Toro’s character who believes in “every man for himself” versus Michelle Tran’s character who is trying to get Finn to buy into the Rebel dream fully. This character isn’t always necessary to depict, since oftentimes the Main Character does a perfectly satisfactory job of convincing themselves to stay resolute, but they do pop up from time to time. (For a Steadfast MC, it’s common for the Resolute Character to instead try to convince the IC to stay Steadfast, and fail.)

There’s also a “Thermometer Character” that I think is interesting, although maybe it’s less a Subjective Character and more an Objective one. Basically, they’re the character the audience can check in with to understand wide, abstract effects. For example, say the Sheriff of Nottingham raises the taxes on the town. That’s bad, but it’s kind of difficult to absorb on its own. But if Robin Hood stays with an old friend of his, that character can tell him, “We have barely enough food to feed ourselves, now that the Sheriff has raised our taxes.” Now we get it a lot better. Show how the curse is spreading, or fear is increasing, or trust is breaking down. In terms of the Relationship Throughline, maybe this is character B’s child, who shies away when character A tries to give them a hug. This tells the reader that character B is upset at character A: their anger has been transferred into and through the child. Thus, the child is a thermometer for the relationship between the two.

So these are a couple examples. The “Resolute Character” will also often be a “Siren,” i.e. a character that creates tension between the two Relationship Characters by pulling one away. Maybe there are also “Shippers,” who work to push the two Relationship Characters together? :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: Now I’m just being silly.


The RS is between the MC/IC pair, not others. So if what person C does causes a misunderstanding between A and B, or causes A and B to gain more understanding of each other, then I’d say this could work.



I wish we had more words for types of relationships in English. The singular nouns are best: marriage, romance, affair; but I can’t think of any more! There are some cool slang ones like BFFs, frenemies, maybe some others, but usually you have to say something like boss-employee, father-daughter, mother-son, teacher-student, new friends, etc.

Anyway, if you just try to use that single relationship name instead of the characters it becomes clear that that is what the RS throughline is about. So anything that impacts that can work for the RS story point. “A misunderstanding by A’s wife causes problems for the affair.”

HOWEVER, I’m always nervous about points that ONLY seem on the outside of the relationship. What I mean is, if that Signpost of Understanding is working, I would expect to also see a misunderstanding or greater understanding or realization or whatever, that is between the two characters, i.e. within the relationship. (Probably it would be sparked off by A’s wife’s misunderstanding.)

I don’t know if that’s totally necessary, but it seems to happen when things are working well in the RS, so I look for it. (This is in line with @pattyloof’s comment too.)

Another thing to point out is that other characters can help illustrate the relationship to the Audience without necessarily impacting it. “Those two think their affair is so secret but it’s plain as day,” said Jane. “They’re so caught up in each other they can’t see it, but Audrey is going to find out soon.” I think @chuntley has mentioned this before.


Thanks everyone! I think these three points all point to I was missing! The misunderstanding of character outside the relationship doesn’t just cause “problems” for the relationship – it causes a misunderstanding between the two characters. That suddenly feels much stronger.


I’m going to offer a slightly different perspective to say pretty much the same thing. The RS is, as you know,the We perspective, meaning it’s the perspective of/from the relationship. So the RS problems, i would think, need to be seen in that light. In your example, I would want it to be less like “character C’s misunderstanding is causing a problem in our relationship” and more like “we’re causing others to misunderstand us, and that’s a problem”. But again, that’s just another way of saying:

The thing is, I’m pretty sure it needs to be a problem in the relationship that affects the growth of it. What happens when C kicks B off the farm? It puts physical distance between A and B, but as stated doesn’t actually do anything to affect the growth or direction of the relationship between A and B as far as I can tell. But if the problem is that we are causing this misunderstanding and that causes waves in the relationship, in the growth or direction of it, then that problem feels like it’s all about us.


But do the characters in the relationship have to know that they are causing misunderstandings? Or could it just be that the existence and development of the relationship itself (as observed by the wife) is causing misunderstandings, and that those misunderstandings in turn change the direction of the relationship? (I realize this might be easier with specifics but I don’t want to dive too much into storytelling at the moment).

Okay, so the wife thinks that the girl is pregnant and assumes her husband is responsible. This misunderstanding (which is caused by suspicious and circumstantial evidence) causes her to kick the girl off the farm.

BTW the OS signpost here is Conceiving. So you could also say that the wife is getting the wrong idea about the husband and the girl, which causes problems. Does that make it a multi-appreciation moment or just a throughline muddle?

Yeah, that’s hard. Because when she’s kicked off, the players in the relationship are separated, right? So while each of them understands that this misunderstanding has put the relationship on a different path, we actually only see the girl understand this. We see the husband understand later.


No, I don’t think so. Just the author needs to know. But I think it still needs to be within the context of the relationship.

So what i’m saying is that you as the author shouldn’t think of it as “C misunderstands” their relationship because C is outside of the relationship. What if C misunderstands the weather report, or misunderstands calculus, or misunderstands anything else. Those don’t have anything to do with the A and B relationship and probably wouldn’t affect it. In the same way, C misunderstanding the relationship between A and B would be outside the scope of the relationship and may or may not affect it. Even though they’ve been split apart, they could both keep the same level of “A/B is my bff!”

But if you as the author see it as ‘their relationship is being misunderstood and that causes them conflict’ then you are keeping the source of the problem within the context of the relationship. It might seem like just a word game since either way the story is showing us that C is misunderstanding the relationship, but it seems to me that there’s a difference between ‘we are experiencing conflict because C misunderstands’ and ‘we are experiencing conflict because we are being misunderstood’. But there’s a good chance that I don’t know what I’m talking about and am trying to carry the concept too far.

yes. I would agree with this.

yes again. Being kicked off the farm could change the direction of the relationship, but we need to know how. Does it push them apart? Does the relationship actually get stronger as each of the characters has an increasing desire to see the other again?


Because of the way the RS is about the changing dynamics of the relationship, i’ve thought of it as falling in the Time quad, but I’ve just found this:

That image puts the RS in the Space quad. I guess that makes sense in an “are we coming together, or growing apart?” kind of way. Like, are we moving against each other, or away from each other?

But RS in Time still seems like it would make sense if looking at the rate of change. How fast are we growing together or apart, or how slow, or for how long? So I’m not sure what to make of that.


This happens to me a lot … the way I deal with it is to go back to my throughline summaries (which for the OS includes thinking about the Goal). So if you can say:

  • the wife getting the wrong idea about the girl causes trouble for these characters in “this OS story that involves Goal”
  • the wife misunderstanding the relationship causes trouble for the relationship

Then I think you’re right, it’s a multi-appreciation moment. And based on your example (wife thinking husband is responsible for the girl’s pregnancy causes her to kick the girl off the farm), the second point is definitely covered!

The funny thing about the RS is that it’s super easy to overthink it (at least in my opinion). I think “we’ve been misunderstood, and that misunderstanding has caused us to become separated” is good enough. You don’t need anyone to say or it or think it. But some sign that the separation is meaningful, to remind readers that there’s still a relationship here and that the separation matters to it, is probably a good thing.


I feel like I’m overthinking it, but I also feel like you need to make sure that it’s being misunderstood that is causing the problems. That’s really the easy way of saying what I was trying to say above. You need to make sure it’s the understanding causing the conflict and not the being separated that causes it.


Okay, so I suddenly had what might be another possible insight on the RS that I’d like to run by you all.

I’ve had trouble thinking of the relationship as a separate “thing” as @jhull advises. After all, a relationship only exists because of of the people in it, right? The relationship can’t actually do anything by itself.

But if you think of the relationship as something that impacts or is impacted by the players of the story (mostly the two players who are in it but also potentially other players), it starts to make more sense.

So for example, I have a PSR point: “Understanding as it relates to Wisdom” which I am encoding as

“Vaselko expresses to Belinda that she is wise beyond her years, and this is why he wants to offer her a seat at the table. This professed admiration becomes the basis of a growing relationship between them.”

In other words, maybe the Understanding/Wisdom doesn’t have to go both ways (i.e. Belinda doesn’t also have to think about Vaselko’s wisdom) as long as its impact is on the relationship.

Does that make sense? Is that on the right track?


I’m not the best at this either, but here’s some ways I look at it.

I think maybe, and this is just a guess, spatially biased problem solvers (Linear PSS) like myself tend to look at the relationship by looking at its components, meaning that to them a relationship looks like ME plus YOU. But someone who approaches problems through balance probably looks at the relationship as US. ME plus YOU is a combination of perspectives whereas US or WE would be a single perspective from the relationship and therefore probably what we need to be looking at.

To try to pin what the relationship is a bit more, think of a balance scale where you would put a quantity of something on each side and see which weighs more by seeing which side is higher or lower. To see the relationship of weight between the two quantities you don’t look at q1 and q2 individually. Instead you look at the beam between sides of the scale.

Maybe you start out with a balanced relationship. The beam would look like this: —. But place weight on one side and now the beam/relationship changes so that it looks like this: /. But then add more weight to the other side and you get this: \ . Then take some weight off and it goes back to this: —.

That probably isn’t a great example, but it gives you a way to physically visualize the relationship. Hopefully that’s a good start in the right direction.

Now imagine that that beam can grow longer or shorter so that it can move those quantities closer together or further apart. If you replace that beam with ‘marriage’ or ‘family’ you start to get a sense of the relationship as a single thing. So WE might be growing closer or growing apart because of a misunderstanding. Or WE might be off balance because I am being a jerk.

I think so. But I also think those other players that affect the RS need to be seen from the WE perspective. If Vaselkos wife misunderstands the relationship and that causes Vaselko and Belinda to grow apart, I think the problem needs to be that WE are being misunderstood and that is causing US to grow apart.

It’s hard to explain the difference because Vs wife’s understanding is already directed at the relationship. So let’s say Vs wife (VW) has a fixed attitude-she doesn’t like Dramatica. And your problem is VW doesn’t like Dramatica and this causes V and B to grow apart. VW not liking Dramatica needs to be seen from the relationship perspective if it’s going to cause it to grow apart. So you could say WE can only be around people that like Dramatica, so V being married to VW causes US to grow apart.
…yeah, that’s a bad example. Too convaluted. We can talk about it more if you want, or not. Point is, i feel like it needs to be how WE see or deal with VWs misunderstanding of US that creates the problem and not just that she misunderstands us.

I would say it works for this reason. Vaselko’s admiration, or his views of Belinda as having wisdom, (edit) describes the beam between them. When he sees her as having wisdom, that beam is seen as having a certain length or a certain amount of balance. There is a view between US that one is admired or that one is wise.


This is a very spatial, linear way to look at a relationship. It’s akin to saying “gravity exists because of the Earth and the Moon”. Gravity is gravity and a relationship is a relationship.

Relationships certainly can, and often do, do things by themselves. Witness Facebook and your best friends from high school that you haven’t talked to in 30 years. Your relationship changed all by itself - not because of you, and not because of your friend, but because the dynamics of the relation between you two changed (as all relationships are constantly growing).

In your example, you’ll find it easier and more productive to think of the relationship having trouble with Wisdom while Understanding. When a toxic relationship does stupid things (all by itself) it can breed all kinds of misunderstandings over what kind of relationship really exists.


Thanks Jim. What’s weird is that this …

… actually kind of describes the scenes I already wrote (well, you could read that as the subtext). Maybe I’m overthinking it at Mike suggests.

With RS it’s coming up with encodings from scratch that always makes me pound my head. Definitely have a linear-spacial blind spot.

@Greg Thanks for your beam example. I can visualize it and understand what you’re saying literally. But if I try to visualize “this” relationship my ideas still end up as some kind of “he said, she said”.

This helps. I think!


On top of what @jhull said, which I agree with 100%, also consider this. The word relationship is a noun, a supposed thing… but it really represents a verb: how two people relate to each other. It is this relating that struggles, grows, meanders, finds peace, finds togetherness, or ends in separation. Within all these verbs you will find the Relationship Story.

  1. If you go to the extremes, it’s easy to find extra characters that only work in the RS. For instance, a married MC/IC pair goes to a marriage councilor.
  2. If you think of the RS as its own thing that develops, it’s easy to see that other characters can affect it. For instance, if the RS were not “Bryan the husband and Sarah the wife” but “The Marriage”, then one could see how the marriage will be tested and redefined by a prostitute or the addition of a dog to the family, especially because Bryan coddles the dog and gives it all the affection Sarah wants (so she gets a prostitute).

Sorry if I’m late to the game with this.


This is a great summation! I think that gets at the problem I was having.

The weird thing (weird good I think) that’s happening right now in my story is I’m seeing these story beats as working in different throughlines at the same time, just from different perspectives.

So misunderstanding from the farmer’s wife is causing problems for the relationship, but also the idea that she has about it happens to cause conflict in the OS as well. (I’m not explaining it great here but you get the point).

Anyway it only works if her moment of Conceiving and Misunderstanding is something that can impact both throughlines and if I can see the RS as it’s own thing that develops (or crashes) rather than just “he said, she said” between the two parties.


You’re reading more into the illustration than was intended. The orientation of that illustration is not meant to be related to the quad position. The point of the illustration was to show that the MC and IC are a dynamic pair, as are the OS and RS based on their diagonal positioning.

Most everything in the structural model is fluid in use, including the positioning.


@Lakis I was thinking about this more and realizing there is another difficulty with the RS, which we really haven’t touched on here.

Even after you have this great understanding of your RS and you’re happy with all your illustrations etc. … you still have the challenge of actually showing that in the story. That’s where the problem of “the relationship’s not a thing” comes into it. e.g. The relationship can’t talk! Nor can it be a POV narrator in a book.

I think it will help you to separate the two steps:

  1. Storyencoding – use this to really figure out your relationship. Figure out some good illustrations that match your story points so you can see where the conflict is coming from in this relationship. The point of this step is for YOU, the author, to get a decent grasp on the RS (but keep in mind your understanding will likely change and solidify as you write).

  2. Storytelling (writing the first draft) – with a good grasp on the relationship, your goal should be to trust your gut and go by feel to find ways to communicate those relationship issues. But you certainly can remain conscious of what scenes are good “RS scenes,” and other moments that are good opportunities to get across RS story points. Definitely it’s a good idea to keep in mind the current Act’s RS signpost, at least to some degree (though you may be surprised in hindsight what the signpost illustration really was).
    Also, there will be certain moments where characters actually think or talk directly about the relationship. e.g. Mike’s marriage counselling example. These are as close as you get to the relationship actually being a character, so realize they’re important (though you may still want to be subtle about the story points).

In the end, so much of it is subtext anyway so it’s okay that the relationship can’t talk! :slight_smile: