Essential Questions

What is the Main Character Resolve?

Does your Main Character Change his way of dealing with the problem at the heart of the story (such as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s switch to generosity in A Christmas Carol) or remain Steadfast in his convictions (such as the innocent Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive)?

Change can be good if the character is on the wrong track to begin with. It can also be bad if the character was on the right track. Similarly, remaining Steadfast is good if the character is on the right track, but bad if he is misguided or mistaken.

Think about the message you want to send to your audience, and whether the Main Character’s path should represent the proper or improper way of dealing with the story’s central issue. Then select a changing or steadfast Main Character accordingly.

Do you want your story to bring your audience to a point of change or to reinforce its current view? Oddly enough, choosing a Steadfast Main Character may bring an audience to change and choosing a Change character may influence the audience to remain steadfast. Why? It depends upon whether or not your audience shares the Main Character’s point of view to begin with.

Suppose your audience and your Main Character do NOT agree in attitudes about the central issue of the story. Even so, the audience will still identify with the Main Character because he represents the audience’s position in the story. So, if the Main Character grows in resolve to remain steadfast and succeeds, then the message to your audience is, “Change and adopt the Main Character’s view if you wish to succeed in similar situations.”

Clearly, since either change or steadfast can lead to either success or failure in a story, when you factor in where the audience stands a great number of different kinds of audience impact can be created by your choice. In answering this question, therefore, consider not only what you want your Main Character to do as an individual, but also how that influences your story’s message and where your audience stands in regard to that issue to begin with.


  • Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
  • William Munny, Unforgiven
  • Luke Skywalker, Star Wars
  • Judah Rosenthal, Crimes story in Crimes & Misdemeanors
  • James Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale
  • Frank Galvin, The Verdict


  • Job, The Bible
  • Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive
  • Laura, The Glass Menagerie
  • Cliff Stearn, Misdemeanors in Crimes & Misdemeanors
  • James Bond, most other James Bond films
  • David Moscow, Big

What is the Main Character Growth?

Does your Main Character grow by adopting a new useful trait (Start) or by outgrowing an old inappropriate one (Stop)?

If the story concerns a Main Character who Changes, he will come to believe he is the cause of his own problems (that’s why he eventually changes). If he grows out of an old attitude or approach (e.g. loses the chip on his shoulder), then he is a Stop character. If he grows into a new way of being (e.g. fills a hole in his heart), then he is a Start character.

If the story concerns a Main Character who Remains Steadfast, something in the world around him will appear to be the cause of his troubles. If he tries to hold out long enough for something to stop bothering him, then he is a Stop character. If he tries to hold out long enough for something to begin, then he is a Start character. If you want the emphasis in your story to be on the source of the troubles which has to stop, choose “Stop.” If you want to emphasize that the remedy to the problems has to begin, choose “Start.”

Whether a Main Character eventually changes his nature or remains steadfast, he will still grow over the course of the story. This growth has a direction. Either he will grow into something (Start) or grow out of something (Stop).

As an example we can look to Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Does Scrooge need to change because he is excessively miserly (Stop), or because he lacks generosity (Start)? In the Dickens’ story it is clear that Scrooge’s problems stem from his passive lack of compassion, not from his active greed. It is not that he is on the attack, but that he does not actively seek to help others. So, according to the way Charles Dickens told the story, Scrooge needs to Start being generous, rather than Stop being miserly.

A Change Main Character grows by adding a characteristic he lacks (Start) or by dropping a characteristic he already has (Stop). Either way, his make up is changed in nature.

A Steadfast Main Character’s make up, in contrast, does not change in nature. He grows in his resolve to remain unchanged. He can grow by holding out against something that is increasingly bad while waiting for it to Stop. He can also grow by holding out for something in his environment to Start. Either way, the change appears somewhere in his environment instead of in him.

Stop: Change Main Character

  • Frank Galvin, The Verdict - he must stop disbelieving as a prerequisite to gaining faith.
  • Luke Skywalker, Star Wars - he must stop testing his skills as a prerequisite to gaining trust in himself (and the force).

Stop: Steadfast Main Character

  • David Moscow, Big - he must wait until his “big” condition stops.
  • Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive - he must hold out until his position as a fugitive stops.

Start: Change Main Character

  • Scrooge, A Christmas Carol - he must start being compassionate.

Start: Steadfast Main Character

  • Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams - he must wait for something in order to start enjoying the ballpark he built.
  • George, Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? - he must wait for Martha to be able to tell the difference between truth and illusion.

What is the Main Character Approach?

Is your Main Character a Be-er who mentally adapts to his environment (such as Rick Blaine in Casablanca) or a Do-er who physically changes his environment (such as John McClane in Die Hard)?

Approach: the kind of techniques a character uses to solve problems, which favor either mental or physical effort.

By temperament, Main Characters (like each of us) have a preferential method of approaching Problems. Some would rather adapt their environment to themselves through action, others would rather adapt their environment to themselves through strength of character, charisma, and influence. There is nothing intrinsically right or wrong with either Approach, yet it does affect how one will respond to Problems. Choosing “Do-er” or “Be-er” does not prevent a Main Character from using either Approach, but merely defines the way he is likely to first Approach a Problem, using the other method only if the first one fails.

Examples of Do-er characters are John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) in Die Hard or Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Dirty Harry. Rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence of the Lambs also responds instinctively to events by taking action, which is why her supervisor believes she will make a good FBI agent when she graduates from training.

An example of a Be-er character with an intrinsic approach to problem-solving by deliberating is Frank Horrigan (played by Clint Eastwood) in the film In the Line of Fire.

Attorney Ned Racine (played by William Hurt) in Body Heat is also a Be-er. He seems impulsive in matters of love but deliberates about his options before agreeing to help sexy Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) inherit her husband’s fortune.

A Be-er can seem like a victim in a story where actions precede decisions. In a story influenced by decisions, however, Be-ers are often the mastermind or supervisor behind the scenes, putting restraints on characters who are Do-ers. In a TV cop show like Law & Order, a Be-er might be the Chief of Police or District Attorney rather than an undercover Detective or a Assistant District Attorney whose job is to prosecute criminals in court.

Many famous movie pairs contain both a Be-er and a Do-er, such as Butch and Sundance (played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford) in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the title characters of Thelma & Louise (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) or Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III (Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd) in Trading Places. Approach: the kind of techniques a character uses to solve problems, which favor either mental or physical effort.


  • John McClane, Die Hard
  • Harry Callahan, Dirty Harry
  • Clarice Starling, The Silence of Lambs
  • Frank Galvin, The Verdict
  • Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive
  • Luke Skywalker, Star Wars
  • James Bond, all James Bond films


  • Ned Racine, Body Heat
  • Frank Horrigan, In The Line Of Fire
  • Laura, The Glass Menagerie
  • Francine Hughes, The Burning Bed
  • William Munny, Unforgiven

What is the Main Character Problem-Solving Style?

Does your Main Character use a Linear problem solving style (such as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs) or a Holistic problem solving style (such as Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides)?

Much of what we are as individuals is learned behavior. Yet, the basic operating system of the mind is cast biologically before birth as being more sensitive to space or time. We all have a sense of how things are arranged (space) and how things are going (time), but which one filters our thinking determines our Problem-Solving Style as being Logical or Intuitive respectively.

Logical Problem-Solving Style describes spatial thinkers who tend to use linear Problem solving as their method of choice. They set a specific Goal, determine the steps necessary to achieve that Goal, then embark on the effort to accomplish those steps.

Intuitive Problem-Solving Style describes temporal thinkers who tend to use holistic Problem solving as their method of choice. They get a sense of the way they want things to be, determine how things need to be balanced to bring about those changes, then make adjustments to create that balance.

To be sure, we can go a long way toward counter-balancing those sensitivities, yet underneath all our experience and training, the tendency to see things more in terms of space or time still remains. In dealing with the psychology of Main Characters, it is essential to understand the foundation upon which their experience rests. NOTE: A character’s Problem-Solving Style need not match its Gender. Problem-Solving Style: A differentiation between logical and intuitive problem-solving techniques.

Linear Problem Solving Style

  • Ripley, Alien & Aliens
  • Clarice Starling, The Silence of the Lambs
  • Hildy Johnson, The Front Page
  • V.I. Warshawski, V.I. Warshawski

Holistic Problem Solving Style

  • Tom Wingo, The Prince of Tides
  • Malcom Crowe, The Sixth Sense
  • Bridget Jones, Bridget Jone’s Diary

What is the Story Driver?

Is the overall story driven by Actions first (such as the time travelers arriving in The Terminator) or Decisions first (such as Daniel Hillard’s decision to impersonate a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire)?

If actions that occur in your story determine the types of decisions that need to be made, choose Action. If decisions or deliberations that happen in your story precipitate the actions that follow, choose Decision. Action or Decision describes how the story is driven forward. The question is: Do Actions precipitate Decisions or vice versa?

Story Driver: The mechanism by which the plot is moved forward.

Every story revolves around a central issue, but that central issue only becomes a problem when an action or a decision sets events into motion. If an action gets things going, then many decisions may follow in response. If a decision kicks things off, then many actions may follow until that decision has been accommodated.

The Action/Decision relationship will repeat throughout the story. In an Action story, decisions will seem to resolve the problem until another action gets things going again. Decision stories work the same way. Actions will get everything in line until another decision breaks it all up again. Similarly, at the end of a story there will be an essential need for an action to be taken or a decision to be made. Both will occur, but one of them will be the roadblock that must be removed in order to enable the other.

Whether Actions or Decisions move your story forward, the Story Driver will be seen in the instigating and concluding events, forming bookends around the dramatics.


  • Silence of the Lambs
  • In the Line of Fire
  • Star Wars
  • Unforgiven
  • Hamlet
  • Decision


  • The Verdict
  • The Glass Meangerie
  • Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
  • Body Heat
  • The Fugitive

What is the Story Limit?

Is your overall story brought to its climax by running out of Time (such as the 18 days to save the earth in Armageddon) or by running out of Options (such as Thelma and Louise driving over the cliff in Thelma and Louise)?

Every argument must come to an end or no point can be made. The same is true for stories. For an author to explore an issue, a limit to the scope of the argument must be established.

To establish how much ground the argument will cover, authors limit the story by length or by size. Timelocks create an argument in which “anything goes” within the allotted time constraints. Optionlocks create an argument that will extend as long as necessary to provide that every specified issue is addressed.

By selecting the kind of limit at work in your story, you lock down either the duration of the argument (Timelock), or the ground covered (Optionlock).

For example, in the film 48 Hours more time would indeed change the nature of burned-out cop Cates’ efforts to track down a serial killer. If he had enough time for a leisurely search on his own, Cates (played by Nick Nolte) might not need to “borrow” fast-talking convict Reggie (Eddie Murphy) from jail. Thus the story contains a Timelock, stated clearly in its title, to propel the non-stop action along.

In Midnight Run, however, bounty hunter Jack Walsh’s “easy job” of flying bail-jumping accountant Jonathan Mardukas (played by Charles Grodin) from NYC to LA becomes a logistical nightmare as his options become increasingly limited. Walsh (Robert De Niro) tries every available means of transporting Mardukas to LA, but Mardukas nixes each one for good reason. More delays are caused, allowing the mobsters, FBI agents and rival bounty hunters on their tail to catch up as the chase intensifies. If a Timelock were at work here, Walsh would ignore Mardukas’ professed fear of flying at the start and force him to stay on the first plane to LA, arriving before the deadline runs out… but that would be another story.


  • Brigadoon
  • 48 Hours
  • High Noon
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Black Sunday


  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Midnight Run
  • Star Wars
  • Hamlet
  • The Verdict

What is the Story Outcome?

Do your character’s efforts to achieve the overall story goal result in Success (such as killing the shark in Jaws) or Failure (such as not being able to open the dinosaur theme park in Jurassic Park)?

Although it can be tempered by degree, Success or Failure is easily determined by seeing if the characters (in general) have achieved what they set out to achieve at the beginning of the story.

Certainly, the characters may learn they really don’t want what they thought they did and choose not to pursue it any longer. Even though they have grown, this is considered a failure because they did not accomplish their original intention. Similarly, they may actually achieve what they wanted, and even though they find it unfulfilling or unsatisfying, it must be said they succeeded. The point here is not to pass a value judgment on the worth of their success or failure. It is simply to determine whether or not they achieved their original objective.


  • Star Wars—the Death Star is destroyed
  • The Silence of the Lambs—the killer is identified and killed
  • The Verdict—the defendant wins the case and gets a lot of money
  • Unforgiven—the bad guys are killed and the reward is claimed


  • Rain Man—the inheritance is not shared
  • Basic Instinct—the killer (Catherine Tramell) successfully frames Dr. Garner and gets away with murder
  • The Glass Meangerie—the family falls apart (and no husband is found for Laura)
  • Hamlet—everybody is killed and the royal family is destroyed

What is the Story Judgment?

Does the Main Character resolve his personal problems and feel Good (such as Luke finally trusting his skills in Star Wars) or not resolve them and feel Bad (such as Clarice Starling still being haunted by her childhood memories in The Silence of the Lambs)?

The notion that the good guys win and the bad guys lose is not always true. In stories, as in life, we often see very bad people doing very well for themselves (if not for others). And even more often, we see very good people striking out.

If we only judged results by success and failure, it wouldn’t matter if the outcome was Good or Bad as long as it was accomplished. The choice of Good or Bad tempers the story’s success or failure by showing whether the Main Character resolves his personal problems or not.

The Story Judgment provides you with an opportunity to address good guys that win and bad guys that fail, as well as good guys that fail and the bad guys that win. It also allows you to comment on the success or failure of your characters’ growth as human beings.

An example of a story where a Main Character’s personal problem—finding inner peace—remains unresolved at the end is The Silence of the Lambs. The abduction of the Senator’s daughter initiates the Overall Story so her rescue provides its resolution. But Clarice’s personal problem—her recurring nightmares of lambs crying as they’re being slaughtered—is emphasized as she plays “cat and mouse” with Dr. Lecter. When he asks her in the end whether “the lambs are still crying,” it is clear by her silence that they are. She will not be at peace until she releases her need to save innocents, so the story ends with a Bad feeling even though the Overall Story is successful and her future as an FBI agent seems bright. This juxtaposition creates a bittersweet ending which is further emphasized by the somber music playing over the final shots.

In contrast, Charlie Babbott (played by Tom Cruise) in Rain Man is seeking to collect an inheritance left by his wealthy father to the autistic brother he’s never met. When Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) turns out to be a “idiot savant” in mathematics, able to memorize an entire phone book and “count cards,” Charlie schleps him to Las Vegas. There he hopes Raymond will make him some fast cash to save his failing business although Charlie’s girlfriend’s protests and ultimately rejects him as he uses Raymond for selfish means. Along the way, however, depth of feeling Charlie discovers for his long-lost brother surprises and changes him. At the end, Charlie is forced to return Raymond to the hospital where he can be cared for properly, but it is clear to the audience that the bond Charlie feels for Raymond is real when he promises to visit Raymond. He has gained both family and self-respect through their journey so although Charlie fails to get the inheritance at the end, what he has gained personally outweighs what he has lost financially. As the story fades out, it is clear the author judges this Failure/Good to be positive and the audience feels hopeful for Charlie even though his money problems remain unresolved.


  • Rain Man—Charlie Babbott resolves his conflicts with his family
  • Tootsie—Michael Dorsey is able to get and keep acting jobs as himself
  • Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?—George is able to start his marriage’s healing process
  • The Verdict—Frank Galvin is able to give up drinking and other bad influences


  • The Silence of the Lambs—Clarice Starling still hears the lambs crying
  • Unforgiven—William Munny becomes a heartless, cold-blooded killer
  • The Remains of the Day—The Anthony Hopkins character will continue to be lonely and unfulfilled

What is the Overall Story Throughline?

If you pull back and look at the story from a bird’s eye view, which general area best describes the nature of the problems ALL the characters are dealing with? Does the story’s conflicts stem from a Situation, an Activity, a Fixed Attitude, or Manipulations?

An author cannot successfully make an argument promoting a solution until he or she has identified the Problem. In stories, Problems can be identified as falling into four broad categories: Situations, Activities, States of Mind, and Manners of Thinking.

These categories are named by the four Classes, Situation (a situation), Activity (an activity), Fixed Attitude (a state of mind), and Manipulation (a manner of thinking).

  • Situation represents an External State
  • Activity an External Process
  • Fixed Attitude is an Internal State
  • Manipulation is an Internal Process

Since they are related, all four of these Classes will figure in every story as the Problem works its influence into all areas of consideration. However, only one Class will ultimately prove to be both the source of the Problem’s roots and therefore the place it must ultimately be solved.

The Overall Story Throughline is the throughline which describes how all of the story’s characters have been brought together. By choosing this Throughline, the author sets the background against which the story will be told. Therefore, its influence is gently felt throughout the story.

A SITUATION story deals with an unacceptable situation - one in which the external environment is seen as problematic. This could be a job situation with poor working conditions, being trapped in a sunken ship, waking up as someone else, living next to an orphanage that keeps you awake at night with its screaming waifs or any other intolerable state of affairs. Often, the best way to see a Situation Overall Story is in terms of the Types below the Class of Situation: The Past, How Things are Changing, The Future, and The Present. These Types will be of primary importance to all the Overall Characters in a Situation Overall Story.

An ACTIVITY story employs an activity that needs to arrive at a solution. This might be the effort to steal the crown Jewels, win the love of your heart’s desire, make the Olympic team, or raise the money to buy the orphanage and evict all the screaming waifs. Note that if the existence of the orphanage is the focus of the story, it is a Situation (Situation) Throughline. However, if the effort to buy it is the focus, it is a Activity (Activity) Throughline. Often, the best way to see a Activity Overall Story is in terms of the Types below the Class of Activity: Doing, Gathering Information, Understanding, and Obtaining. These Types will be of primary importance to all the Overall Characters in a Activity Overall Story.

In a like manner, the Fixed Attitude Throughline reflects a state of mind and the Manipulation Throughline describes a mental activity (or manner of thinking). A FIXED ATTITUDE story might be about prejudice, a lack of self-worth (if it is a fixed view), or a refusal to see the value of someone’s desires. Remember that, as an Overall Story Throughline, these fixed states of Mind will be the source of the problems that everyone in the Overall Story deals with. This would be an Overall view of problems of fixed states of mind, and not looking at how it feels to have these fixations. Often, the best way to see a Fixed Attitude Overall Story is in terms of the Types below the Class of Fixed Attitude: Memories, Impulsive Responses, Innermost Desires, and Contemplation. These Types will be of primary importance to all the Overall Characters in a Fixed Attitude Overall Story.

A MANIPULATION Throughline supports stories where people take too many risks, are egocentric, or make light of serious situations. Overall Stories of this Throughline will look at the effect of a person’s or persons’ thinking in these ways to manipulate others. Placing the Overall Story in this Throughline means in essence that the story will objectify Manipulation, taking an Overall view of these ways of thinking and their effects. The problems that everyone in the Overall Story deals with will come from ways of thinking and their manipulations. Often, the best way to see a Manipulation Overall Story is in terms of the Types below the Class of Manipulation: Developing a Plan, Playing a Role, Changing One’s Nature, and Conceiving an Idea. These Types will be of primary importance to all the Overall Characters in a Manipulation Overall Story.

As a final note, it is important to keep in mind that stories are often not about a problem that exists but a desire to be fulfilled. Stories of this nature can create a much more positive feel as exemplified in a Situation story in which an heiress must spend a million dollars in 24 hours to inherit 30 million more, a Activity story where a mountaineer hopes to be the first to scale a mountain on Mars, a Fixed Attitude story of unconditional love, or a Manipulation story about overcoming a dependence on sedatives. The choice of Throughline narrows the playing field of a story. Without actually putting up walls, choosing a Throughline shifts the focus of audience attention by establishing the center around which broad scale dynamics will revolve. The Dramatica engine is calibrated to this center. To illustrate the differences between throughline classes, let’s consider how different story concepts might be illustrated in each of the four perspectives:

Overall Story Throughlines that deal with a Situation

All of the characters are concerned with maintaining or demolishing a situation (e.g. The Verdict or The Fugitive). For example, a country under the thumb of an authoritarian dictator; the condition of a dysfunctional family; a utopian society; a submarine trapped under the ice; progress in one-sided relationships; a murder that occurred 30 years ago; the future of gay rights; the forces that bring on an ice age.

Overall Story Throughlines that deal with an Activity

All of the characters are concerned with an activity or endeavor (e.g. Star Wars or Blade Runner). For example, searching for lost treasure; engaging in a sport; exercising as a way of life; self-flagellation; taking part in a cattle drive; learning about DNA; obtaining secret plans; understanding messages from space, etc.

Overall Story Throughlines that deal with a Fixed Attitude

All of the characters are concerned with a fixed aspect of the mind (e.g. Hamlet or The Client). For example, a community’s firm belief in the occult; a family’s commitment to the memory of its ancestors (ancestor worship); TV addiction; a culture’s fixation on celebrities; a Martian’s prejudice against humans; unthinking responses to the conditions of war; essential desires and drives, etc.

Overall Story Throughlines that deal with Manipulations

All of the characters are concerned with a mental process or manner of thinking (e.g. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Four Weddings and a Funeral). For example, curing a mental illness; determining why someone’s relationships always fail; becoming a new person; being more responsible to the environment; working through childhood trauma; mass manipulation through propaganda; a group of young people coming of age; a team’s creative effort to work out an idea; people pretending to be things they are not, etc. Overall Story Throughline: The scenario against which a story takes place.

What is the Overall Story Concern?

Which area of concern are ALL the characters in your story interested in or worried about regarding the overall story goal?

Within the scenario against which your story takes place, there is an area of shared importance to all the characters in your story. Select the item(s) that best describes this Concern. Overall Story Concern: the purposes or interests sought after by the Overall Characters.

Problems can manifest themselves in several ways. Therefore, simply defining the nature of a Problem does not necessarily predict its effect. For example, if the Problem is that there is not enough money to pay the rent, it might motivate one person to take to drink but another to take a second job. The effects of a Problem are not necessarily bad things, but simply things that would not have happened quite that way without the existence of the Problem. So it is with Concerns.

The choice of Concern determines the principal area affected by the story’s Problem and serves as a broad indicator of what the story is about.

The Concern of a story tends to revolve around a definable area of activity or exploration. This central hub may be internal such as Memories or Conceiving an Idea (coming up with an idea). Or, it may be external such as Obtaining or How Things are Changing. When choosing a Concern it is often useful to ask, “Which of these items do I want the characters in my story to examine?”

Keep in mind that the Concern only describes WHAT is being looked at. HOW to look at it is determined by choosing the Issue. The choice of Concern sets limits on how much dramatic ground the Theme can potentially encompass and therefore includes some kinds of considerations and excludes others.

Three of the 16 Concerns are Obtaining, Understanding and How Things Are Changing. For example, an Obtaining Concern can be seen in Body Heat as both the wife (Matty Walker, played by Kathleen Turner) and the lawyer (Ned Racine, played by William Hurt) are concerned with obtaining money. This propels them to plot the murder of her rich husband, which leads to further complications for the naive lawyer.

An Understanding Concern is seen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as both Roy Neary and Jillian Guiler (played by Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon) are trying to understand why they’re drawn to Devil’s Tower. At the same time, the scientists are trying to understand what’s happening in the heavens through the increased number of extra-terrestrial sightings, the consistent musical tones they are receiving from Space, and other unusual signs from above.

A How Things Are Changing Concern is explored in Dances With Wolves as both the Sioux and Lt. John Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner) are concerned with how things are going between the Native Americans and the white men who are encroaching on their land and eliminating their traditional means of survival—primarily the buffalo. The white soldiers are also concerned about how things are going between the Native Americans and themselves in addition to the progressive influence the railroad is having on the Western frontier.

Examples of Objective Story Concerns:

  • Blade Runner—Obtaining
  • Body Heat—Obtaining
  • Chinatown—The Past
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind—Understanding
  • Dances with Wolves—Progress
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral—Becoming
  • Hamlet—Memory
  • In the Line of Fire—The Preconscious
  • The Fugitive—The Future
  • The Verdict—The Future
  • Who’s Afraid of Virigina Woolf?—Conceptualizing

What is the Overall Story Issue?

What is the thematic issue that affects all of your characters in your story?

In stories, it is not only important what you wish the audience to look at but also in what light you want them to see it. The point of view from which the audience evaluates the meaning of the story is crucial to supporting the conclusion to a given argument. Issue helps select a filter through which the author can control the shading of the events that unfold. In a sense, Issue provides the audience with a yardstick and tells them, “measure what you see by this scale.”

Examples of Overall Story Issues:

  • A Doll’s House—Senses vs. Interpretation
  • Being There—Situation vs. Circumstances
  • Barefoot in the Park—Hope vs. Dream
  • Body Heat—Self-Interest vs. Morality
  • Chinatown—Interdiction vs. Prediction
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral—Commitment vs. Responsibility
  • The Fugitive—Preconception vs. Openness
  • The Glass Menagerie—Delay vs. Choice
  • The Great Gatsby—Dream vs. Hope
  • Hamlet—Truth vs. Falsehood
  • In the Line of Fire—Confidence vs. Worry
  • The Verdict—Openness vs. Preconception
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf—Situation vs. Circumstances

Overall Story Issue: The thematic interpretation of the scenario against which a story takes place

What is the Overall Story Problem?

What is the source of the central problem that affects all your characters in the story?

As an author you will want to know what drives your Main Character. Selecting the Main Character problem determines the nature of this drive. Choose the item(s) that best describes this issue. Main Character Problem: the source of The Main Character's motivation; the source of the Main Character's problems.

Without motivation - without a Problem - there is no inequity that spurs the Main Character to better his lot. Sometimes it may seem that Problems exist in our environment. Other times, we may perceive a Problem with ourselves: the way we act or feel. In truth, Problems really exist between ourselves and our environment as an inequity between the two.

As example, we may hang on to our desires, even though it causes trouble around us. Conversely, a whole situation might be faltering because of one stubborn individual. These are really two ways of looking at the same inequity. One casts the Problem in the environment, the other places it in the person. So when we look at the Main Character's Problem, we are really looking at the inequity of the story at large as it is reflected in the Main Character.

The relative importance of knowing the underlying Overall Story Problem varies depending on the choices you have made about Main Character and Plot. Once again, it is a matter of emphasis rather than elimination. In some stories, the Problem will be the key to determining how you will approach the Storytelling illustrations, while in others it will seem less relevant to the story's thematic progression.

In the case of Jurassic Park, the Problem is more essential than the Thematic Range to the storyline. Within the Issue of Fate, the story explores the imbalance between Chaos and Order. But its message is felt as an underlying sensation rather than a constant point of focus as the primary characters try to save themselves by containing the huge dinosaurs within the park's electric fences.

Examples of Overall Story Problems:

  • A Doll's House--Awareness
  • Being There--Chaos
  • Barefoot in the Park--Control
  • Body Heat--Pursuit
  • Chinatown--Desire
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral--Disbelief
  • The Fugitive--Help
  • The Glass Menagerie--Pursuit
  • The Great Gatsby--Faith
  • Hamlet--Thought
  • In the Line of Fire--Trust
  • Jurassic Park--Order
  • The Verdict--Disbelief
  • Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?--Order