Writing Tip: Throughline summaries

One of the most effective things you can do to understand your story as a whole is to pull apart its four throughlines so that you have a good grasp on each one separately. Not only does this help clarify your story, it’s a prerequisite for using Dramatica.

I’ve found the best technique to use here is to create a brief summary of each throughline, maybe 1-3 sentences long. Then you can really examine each one in its own light and ask “is it separate from the other throughlines?” and “does it have the potential to tell a story, to have its own conflict and to move through that conflict toward resolution?”

Here is an example from The Princess Bride:
  • OS: a bunch of peasants and ruffians get involved in the evil prince’s plot to start a war by murdering his princess bride
  • MC: a young woman who's constantly making pessimistic judgements about her love
  • IC: a man who will overcome any obstacle to reach his desire
  • RS: true love that isn't sure of itself and must learn to see its amazing potential

Or here's an example from the sci-fi novel I'm working on right now (Starfighters: Infection):

  • OS: A bunch of college kids get recruited into the country club that's actually a front for the secret galactic defense force on Earth. But no one suspects the evil aliens already have a foothold on Earth and are manipulating things to prepare for their incoming invasion fleet.
  • MC: Devin, a lovelorn college athlete who's always getting these irrational, hopeless crushes -- putting girls on a pedestal so high he can never reach. He's also still grieving the loss of his little sister.
  • IC: Becca, a starfighter pilot who's been suspended from flight duty and demoted to recruiter. She's desperate for a way to help her mother who's dying of terminal cancer. Oh, and she has no idea that she's the product of an experiment which is now causing some strange side effects.
  • RS: The messed-up, unlikely romance between two people from different worlds sucked into action and intrigue together. Everyone thinks their relationship is a terrible idea...

Of course, I wrote those already knowing the storyforms. When you begin, you won't necessarily have the story points baked into them like a lot of the above do, but that's okay. Each sentence will help you see things more clearly. For example, maybe some aspect of the MC throughline that you thought was MC, actually fits much better as part of the OS -- leaving you to expand on one of your other ideas for the MC's personal issues, making a richer and more compelling story.