Main Character Throughline

What effect does the order of elements have on a story?

I've been working with Character Build elements and thinking of ways to achieve the effects observed in real movies. There's a moment in Blast From the Past where the MC probes the IC for info. She reveals a self-evaluation about why relationships haven't worked out. This made me think of increasing the variety of unique moments by cross quad interaction. The MC interacts with a Motivation element while the IC interacts with an Evaluation element.

I also wondered what effect revealing at least one quad element of the MC before revealing the IC elements in detail. What if in Act One you revealed the MC quad elements early on? This bonds us with the MC first, so that the IC quad elements would feel more like revelations over the course of the movie.

With the exception of the problem/solution quads (one per throughline), the order in which you explore the other elements and levels of elements (characteristics) falls into the area of storytelling, for all intents and purposes.

Also, make sure you do not confuse the exploration of the SUBJECTIVE CHARACTERS (MC & IC) for those of the OBJECTIVE CHARACTERS (those in the Overall Story throughline). Those are different contexts and their explorations are throughline specific.

How can I separate the Main Character Thoughline from the Overall Story?

 I'm developing a story where my Main Character is also my Overall Story protagonist. I'm having trouble distinguishing between Main Character and Overall Story throughlines. Would I be right to think that the Main Character throughline follows the story of the Main Character's personal motives - why they act and what they want - while the Overall Story throughline follows what they do and what results? I'm having a hard time seeing separate story lines. Clarification, especially with examples from sources I know, would be wonderful.

Here's a useful trick to help you keep the Main Character and Protagonist separated in your thoughts. Refer to the Main Character by his or her proper name: Dorothy Gale; Michael Corleone; Rocky. Refer to the Protagonist by its role: the girl from Kansas; the youngest son of the Corleone family; the wannabe boxing champion.

  • In The Fugitive, Dr. Kimble is the Main Character and he is concerned with finding his wife's killer. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone is concerned with capturing the "fugitive" convicted murderer (the doctor) and putting him back on death row.
  • In Hamlet, Prince Hamlet is the Main Character and is concerned with the loss of his father and how his life has lost its rudder because of all the recent changes. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone wants to forget about the unfortunate circumstances of King Hamlet's death and move on...if only that son of his would let them.
  • In Star Wars, Luke is the Main Character and feels stuck in his adolescence--he's meant for bigger things. In the Overall Story throughline, the Rebellion has stolen the Death Star plans and hopes to use them to find a flaw in the planet-killer before it wipes them out.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling is the Main Character and is haunted by the screaming of slaughtered lambs (and has transformed that drive into protecting the "lambs" of the world from "wolves" like Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill). In the Overall Story throughline, the serial killer, Buffalo Bill, has kidnapped the Senator's daughter and will kill her and others if he is not stopped.
  • In Garden State, Andrew Largeman is the Main Character and is concerned with his health (short but blinding headaches) after a lifetime on lithium. In the Overall Story throughline, everyone is concerned with reconnecting with the "famous" actor ("Hey, aren't you that retarded guy on TV?") after his mother dies and he returns for an extended weekend to attend her funeral.

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.)

How do you weave the Main Character and Overall Story throughlines together?

How do you keep them from becoming separate storylines?

The MC problem and the OS problem generally don't start out having much to do with one another, but over the course of the story the development of one and the development of the other become intimately tied. So, rather than seeing a story as "a mother who has to solve a mystery but who has to get over the death of her daughter before she can do this," look at it as "a mother driven to solve mysteries because of her daughter's death cannot solve the current case because the personal, unresolved issues she has with her daughter's death blind her to the secret behind the mystery!"

Story elements only become connected when YOU, the author, make them connected. Without the connections, the story is meaningless. You must supply the meaning, and in Dramatica you begin that process by creating the storyform. After all, what is a storyform other than a tangled web of connections (relationships)?

How does the Main Character throughline work with the Overall Story throughline?

When tying the Main Character's personal issues with the Overall Story throughline, it's best to show some sort of causal relationship between the Main Character's resolution/non-resolution of his or her personal problem, and the success or failure of the OS goal.

Examples: (Spoilers Ahead)

HAMLET -- Over the course of the story, Hamlet is changed such that he no longer sees his uncle as a threat, nor seeks to avenge his father's ghost. This allows him to accept his uncle's request to duel for his family's honor -- a duel orchestrated by his uncle and Laertes in order to "legally" get rid of Hamlet. The plot works far too well and everyone in Hamlet's and Laertes' families are dead by the play's end.

AMERICAN BEAUTY -- Lester's decision not to deflower his daughter's girlfriend sets him up to be murdered while he is alone and lost in reverie.

WHAT'S UP DOC? -- Howard receives his musicologist grant which makes him more amenable to accepting his irrational attraction to Judy.

THE SIXTH SENSE -- Helping Cole to understand what the "dead people" want of Cole lets Malcolm come to terms with his own personal problem.