What really is an "issue"?

I am struggling a bit about defining what really is a throughline’s issue. Initially, I surmised that it is somewhat related to premise, based on the Dramatica book’s introduction of the premise “Greed leads to self destruction” and relating it to the “Self Interest vs. Morality.”

What I gather from here is that an Issue is related to it’s counterpount, and thematic arguments stem from here. Another piece of the Dramatica text mentions that each of the 6 pairs formed in the Issue Variation’s quad has to be explored in order to find meaning.

The confusion however stems from reading about the Issues in Star Wars. In the four throughlines, the 4 different issues seem to be just recurrent motifs. Skill in OS, Fantasy in MC, Ability in RS and Worth in IC. They are simply focuses within that throughline, and not any principal driver like how self interest is in Scrooge’s story.

So, what is going on here? Are issues simply a high resolution of focus for the throughline’s substance, or do they form the basis of many see saws and competing arguments in the story.

Also, if the Issues are a part of arguments within the throughlines, then how are the Skill vs. Experience, Ability versus Desire, Value vs. Worth and Fact vs Fantasy arguments carried out in Star Wars? There seems little conflict across the four dynamic pairs in each throughline.

I am just confused.

Thanks everyone, for your time!

@thewinster I know that Issue is the “theme” level in Dramatica but when you’re talking about a premise in the “Greed leads to self destruction” sense I think @jhull 's approach in summing up the entire story form as a Dramatic argument is a clearer approach.

So for Star Wars the current Subtxt premise (which combines several story elements) is “Abandon trying to validate yourself and you can fight an Empire”.

That said, you can certainly see the theme of Skill vs. Experience (for example) playing out through out the movie. Luke is a natural fighter and pilot, but can his inborn skill make up for that fact that he’s green? In a light-saber battle between the Jedi with more experience and the one with greater talent, who will prevail? Can a ragtag rebel army take on a much more seasoned military with a skillful shot down the exhaust pipe?

From the personal perspective, how will Luke deal when his fantasy of being a fighter pilot meets the hard facts of war (e.g. Ben’s death)? Etc.


So, to confirm, you’re saying that each issue is explored along with it’s counterpoint in a dynamic pair?
I also seem to have a slight preconception about how issues are explored, thinking them as being able to summed up in a sentence. So, as Self Interest vs. Morality can stand for “Greed leads to self destruction” or “True Love conquers all”, what do Fact vs. Fantasy and Skill vs. Experience stand for?

Also, what about the exploration of all 6 pairs of variations within a quad?

Others can weigh in, but I’m not sure how useful it is to try to zero in on a moral premise statement for each issue in the throughline (though we probably could if we tried). A better question in my opinion is, how is this issue illustrated as a source of conflict in this story?

In general, I would avoid spending too much time trying to break each individual point down. In my experience it’s much more useful if you can get a feeling for how storypoints flow together.


Luke is stuck on desert island (Universe) where he feels like he’s not getting anywhere in his life (Progress). He dreams of being a pilot like his father (Fantasy), but is stuck with the dreary life of being a farmer (Fact). He resents the never ending drudgery of this work (just one more season!) (Unending) and argues with his uncle, saying he needs to go now (Ending). All along he is constantly pushing boundaries (Test), and only changes when he turns off the dashboard and trusts the force (Trust).


Think of the Issue appreciation as the measuring stick used to make an evaluation in the argument with it’s counterpoint. The evaluation will be made BY the story, but not necessarily presented word for word IN the story.

So in an OS of Ability, the story might be saying something like talent (Ability) is needed to be great, but obsession/love of the game (Desire to play) trumps talent every time (stole that example from Netflix’s Hustle). Or it could be something like one’s Ability to perform should have greater weight in one’s search for a job than one’s desire to do or be something.