Can you explain the Relationship Story Throughline further?

Of the four throughlines in a Dramatica grand argument story (GAS), the "relationship" throughline is perhaps the easiest to recognize and the most difficult to understand.

This throughline, originally labeled the Subjective Story (SS), then the MC/IC throughline and now the Relationship Throughline, describes the relationship between the Main Character and the Influence Character. Some examples include the budding romance between Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, the reluctant partnership between Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond in 48 Hrs., and the non-traditional family bond developed between Lilo and Genetic Experiment 626 in Lilo and Stitch.

The SS or RS throughline is important to a GAS because it contains the emotional facet of the story's argument. It counter-balances the objectified, matter-of-fact viewpoint provided by the Overall Story throughline.

The relationship throughline explores the conflicts inherent in the relationship. The relationship may be well established or new. It may be growing or falling apart. It may be there by mutual agreement, by unilateral choice, or imposed by outside forces. It may end in disaster or blossom into something new. The relationship is exciting in its possibilities.

Many writers confuse the relationship throughline for the characters in it. Though the characters are party to the relationship, the RS is not about the characters as individuals. The RS is about the relationship. This means the RS Problem is about the source of conflict in the relationship. The RS Concern is about the source of general concern in the relationship. The same is true for all other story points in the relationship throughline. Though you may choose to reveal the RS through your characters' actions and words, the RS is always about the relationship.

Here's a quick example.

  • MC -- Bob is a prude dealing with personal, sexual hang-ups. (Fixed Attitude)
  • IC -- Sue is a woman naturally endowed with physical beauty. Her presence makes Bob consider his hang-ups. (Situation)
  • RS -- Their marriage is going through a lot of stress because they are moving. (Activity)
  • OS - The local civic leaders are developing a plan to secede from the larger city to form a separate community and use psychological coercion to make it happen (Manipulation)

Two angels talk about them.

Angel 1

So, how's Bob' know...problem?

Angel 2

He's dealing with it. Sue doesn't make it any easier for him, if you know what I mean.

Angel 1

And how's their marriage holding up?

Angel 2

The move's really taking it toll. I'm not sure it will weather the stresses it's under, but it's hanging in there despite their individual worries.

(OK, so the dialogue is lame, but it should be clear enough to identify the "marriage" as separate from Bob and Sue.)

Dramatica Story Expert

the next chapter in story development

Buy Now