Subtext tip for IC throughline

For any Subtext users – I mentioned this idea (adding MC player to IC throughline) in one of the Writer’s Rooms. But now I thought of a way to refine it further.

Basically, instead of just adding your MC player to your IC throughline, you create a new player with the name “Influenced by IC, MC”. Now you can have IC beats that are about the IC facing conflict, and other ones about the IC influencing the MC’s conflict.

If you have multiple ICs, you can just make multiple of these as well. For example, here’s from my story, where Roan is the MC:

So now I can have beats of both types:

Jim may add a way to do this automatically, but for now this seems to work really well.

EDITED to add a caveat – make sure you read Jim’s post below.


there ya go. that’s the right idea.

watching BUCKAROO BANZAI last night, it occurred to me that one of the reasons you don’t identify with the IC isn’t just the view point and the structure - there’s something alienating about them. It isn’t that their evil, or a villain, or antagonist – but there’s something in them that makes you resist identifying them them. It’s not entirely structural. Something in them is … withholding. Or a behavioral twist that makes you disinclined to go on the journey to align with them.

You can probably find exceptions, but so what? I think this holds true most of the time.

I’m also comfortable in saying that if you identify with Dr. Emilio Lizardo there is just something WRONG with you.

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Fantastic! That’s a great way to do it. Thanks for sharing!


I applaud the ingenuity, the only thing I would watch out for is that you lose sight of the actual influence - and that you might end up just having the MC react to the IC - without establishing that perspective–without showing the kind of conflict someone else goes through because of the way they see things.

That’s why I have to find just the right way to get this idea in there - so writers new to the theory don’t get lost in the convenience.


Yes, definitely. I found this when writing my last novel when there were a lot of scene’s written from IC’s POV. I could understand her and get into her head to a certain degree, but there was a kind of enigmatic nature to her that made me feel like I could never truly know her all the way; that she could always surprise me. I wrote about that in this old post:


Totally agree – this is definitely more of an “advanced usage” tip, for those who already get how the IC perspective influences the MC.

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Yes, I’m finding this idea of encoding the MC’s response to the IC’s influence intriguing but tricky:

In this example -

“Influenced by Pongo, Roan loses all hope that leads to having a dream about someone while growing steadily worse.”

  • The first part would be something like “Roan sees Pongo is such a superior surfer that Roan loses all hope of winning the surfing contest” - have I got that right?

But the second part… Does Roan have the dream about, oh, drowning in Pongo’s wake_because_ of losing all hope? Or would that just be a second example of conflict from the Hope story point and not Dream at all?

I guess I’m wondering, if I’ve got it right that Roan’s loss of hope can be in response to Pongo’s talent (that is, not in response to Pongo dealing with Hope, but rather Pongo’s talent prodding at Roan’s vulnerability in the area of Hope)… then similarly, could another instance of Pongo’s actions have nothing to do with Dream as such, but they again prod at Roan’s vulnerabilities - like maybe Pongo flirts with Roan’s partner, which gives Roan nightmares resulting next day in a fight with the partner?

(I’m trying to follow the examples of Ava’s influence on Caleb in Ex Machina, from Jim’s article Ex Machina: The Narrative Code Hidden Within the Machine)


Yes, exactly.

The important part is that Pongo is representing the IC throughline, which is a particular perspective. So in your example, Pongo is a talented surfer (IC Universe – something he just is). And by “univers-ing” – using his surfing talent at this point in the story – he influences Roan to feel hopeless and then to have nightmares.

In my story, Pongo is actually a lost dog, and the Situation/Universe is being lost, being away from Roan (his owner). Even when she gets him back temporarily, he’s actually under someone else’s control (ownership). When that comes to a head and he’s taken away from her again, this is when she loses all hope* and then has a dream about him going hungry.

* the interesting thing is that I picked that loses all hope gist prior to writing this part. Now that I’m in the middle of writing it, I think the real Hope beat is her hopefulness and anticipation when one of the cats suggests travelling somewhere to find out how to get Pongo back. (This MC keeps surprising me in her drive and optimism and not losing hope – maybe something to do with her Issue of Dream!)


Thanks Mike, this is really helpful!

I love this way of tracking the IC’s impact on the MC so directly. It has the potential to make it so clear exactly how the IC can bend the MC’s path at these particular IC story points, which I find I often lose track of.

Double-interesting that the cat’s suggestion for finding Pongo looks like an IC handoff - that the cat rather than Pongo is bringing hope into the story, and Roan feels the impact as keeping hope alive?