15 Story Theory and throughlines



Alright, so I started to plot out my project’s  story. Yes, I’ve written a rough outline of what I wanted the story to be, but now I really need to solidify everything and really add the structure to the plot. In other words, my rough outline is like a thumbnail sketch that needs structure, construction and solidity added to it.

Right now, the theory of story that I like to use to flesh out my plot is the DRAMATICA theory.  Unfortunately the DRAMATICA theory is so complicated and convoluted, that I can’t really sum it up in a nut shell. If you want to get an idea of what DRAMATICA is all about, click the link below:


In order for you to be able to understand it fully, you would need to download and read the FREE book on pdf. Click the link below:

Free DRAMATICA pdf book

or listen to the FREE audio book podcasts by clicking the link below:

Free DRAMATICA audio book

or read the FREE text of the book directly from  their site by clicking the link below:

The DRAMATICA book readable on the net for free.

Needless to say, in spite of the fact that it’s really complicated, I like it because it break things down so much, that it gives me a lot to think about.  I find it helps me hone down things I didn’t think of and it really gives me somewhere to go. Unfortunately, what I will write below is going to sound very confusing because of the oddity of the theory I’m using. I’ll attempt to explain myself a bit but really, you need to familiarize yourself with the theory to get the most out of what I’m writing below. It’s also going to look really mechanical and unintuitive. This is a method that works for me.  It might not be your cup of tea.  That’s okay, at least you’ll see how someone else approaches writing a story.

Okay, so first, I chose to use DRAMATICA to break down my story into four points of view or “Viewpoints”. The four “Viewpoints” DRAMATICA puts forth are: MAIN Character, IMPACT Character, OVERALL Story, MAIN vs. IMPACT Story. (These are explained in the What is DRAMATICA?  link). You are to assign a characters to the first two view points (if you can).  If you have an idea for an OVERALL Story, you assign it at this stage if you want. You may or may not know what the IMPACT Story will be so you might leave that blank. This is what I did:

  • MAIN Character  – Rob
  • IMPACT Character – Lead Sorcerer
  • OVERALL Story – Sorcerer’s attempt to kill Rob
  • MAIN vs. IMPACT Story – ?

Next I needed to  match the “Viewpoints” with an “area of conflict” thereby giving each one a “throughline”. (If you’re having trouble following the terminology, you can download the DRAMATICA dictionary on this page HERE. Sorry for all the extra work).

I’m going to be using the chart below so you could get a sense of what I’m doing. For a clearer pdf version of the chart (download chart now):


The four “areas of conflict” DRAMATICA puts forth (as seen in the chart above) are: AN ACTIVITY, A SITUATION, A FIXED ATTITUDE, MANIPULATION OF OTHERS OR YOURSELF.  This is how I assigned the “view points” and the “areas of conflict” to my story:

  • MAIN Character (Rob) – SITUATION: This basically means Rob’s personal point of view will be about dealing with his fixed state of affairs. The situation he sees himself in.
  • IMPACT Character (Lead Sorcerer) – ACTIVITY: This basically means that the lead Sorcerer’s point of the view will be his dealing with how his on going endeavor is constantly changing.
  • OVERALL Story (Sorcerer’s attempt to kill Rob) – FIXED ATTITUDE: This basically means that the plot of the story, the structure of the story itself, is dealing with the effects of bias and prejudice and whether things can change in regards to it.
  • MAIN vs. IMPACT Story (Rob’s attempt to convince the Sorcerers they’ve got the wrong idea about him) – MANIPULATION: This basically means that the relationship in this story between The MAIN Character (Rob) and The IMPACT Character (lead Sorcerer) is about changing the other or manipulating each other.

Everything above is ALL supposed to happen all at once as the story progresses. Notice that, because I applied an area of conflict to the MAIN vs. IMPACT Story, I was able to come up with what it was suppose to be about.

The next step in the DRAMATICA process is to breakdown the story into “Types” which essentially breaks down the story into four Acts or four “sign posts” that must be reach. In the chart above, this will be the dark gray areas. What is labeled “Concern” in the legend at the bottom of the page. Since I chose the FIXED ATTITUDE conflict for the OVERALL Story “Throughline”, the story breaks down into the four quad “Types” within FIXED ATTITUDE. They are: Memories, Impulsive Responses, Innermost Desires, and Contemplation. Since I get to choose the order of the four “Types”, I put them in this order:

  • Act 1 – Memories: This means that subjective concepts or ideas from the past will be influencing the forward momentum of the story in this Act. This will cause…
  • Act 2 – Impulsive Responses: which will influence the forward momentum of this Act. This will lead to…
  • Act 3 – Contemplation: on behalf of some or all the characters in the story. Something in this act makes them consider something which will leads to someone reaching their…
  • Act 4 – Innermost Desires: thereby ending the story.

Next, I needed to choose a “Thematic issue”. In the chart above, it’s the light gray area labeled “Issue” in the legend.  I’m only suppose to pick it from the FIXED ATTITUDE quad and I only need to chose ONE of the 16 issues that are light gray.  I chose “Truth”. The reason is because the problems in the quads (the white squares) under “Truth”  are the problems I want to explore.

The “problem”  under the “Truth” quad are: Knowledge, Actuality, Perception, and Thought.

According to the way DRAMATICA works, by choosing Truth, the underlying “elements” of the story would deal with the exploration between “Perception” and “Actuality”. Bad perception is the “problem” and actuality is the “solution”. The symptom of this problem, according to DRAMATICA, is the false “Thoughts”, and the treatment is relevant “Knowledge” (as seen on the chart under “Truth”).

Now that I have all those things from the chart picked out, it’s time to use them to put together the story. Beginning with Act 1, BUT I’ve written enough for this week. I will show you how I start roughing out Act 1 next week.

Please let me know if this is too confusing to follow. I know I didn’t explain the terminology and it can be as if I’m speaking gibberish.  If you’re confused this week, perhaps next week when it starts coming together, it will all start making sense.

The drawings below are just a few quick exploration sketches for Rob’s War Hammer and a few sketches of Rob. They where specifically drawn to be put up on the blog so that I had a drawing to put up for the week. That said, I DO need to finalize the design of Rob’s hammer:


3 thoughts on “15 Story Theory and throughlines

  1. Mark Kelly says:

    That’s a great guide to getting started with Dramatica. I’m using it myself to write a mini-series.

  2. Hi Luis. I just happened to run across this as I was looking for Overall Stories in the Fixed Attitude Quadrant of Dramatica for a story that I’m working on. I realize this is an older post so things may have changed.

    In regards to Dramatica, the Overall Story and Relationship Story must be diagonal from each other on the chart, and the Main Character and Influence Character must be the other two diagonals. So the way you have this story set up, with the Main Character in a Situation, and the Influence Character in Activity (next to each other) doesn’t work as it creates no conflict. If the M.C. is in a situation (you haven’t convinced me of this) then the I.C must be in Fixed Attitude.

    Check out the videos on YouTube for the Dramatica Group and Jim Hull’s excellent website and blog at NarrativeFirst.com. I hope this helps and you’re right. Dramatica is complicated but well worth the effort put into it. Keep up the great work.

    • Luis says:

      It’s been years. You may very well be right. I remember struggling with some things as I wrote the post. I was also using the software and it was forcing me to do things that were contrary to what the books said. Which made it even more confusing.

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