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Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Four Throughlines (Part One)



by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

Scroll down for a streaming video on this topic

The structure of a story, then, is the psychology of a single mind made tangible. For the story to be sound and ring true, the psychology must be complete and valid.

But to make a complete argument, it is not enough to simply reproduce the Story Mind structure. We must go beyond that and move into a larger realm that involves the audience.

In a nutshell, the audience will not be satisfied until they see the Story Mind presented to them from four different points of view - the Objective Story, the Main Character, the Obstacle (or Influence) character, and the Subjective Story.

Simply put, imagine the goings on in a story as a battle. We can watch that battle from up on a hill overlooking the field, as a General might. This is what we call the Objective view of the story, since it is seeing the story from the outside in.

Though from this perspective we care about what happens, it is not as if it is happening to us. Rather, we are simply watching it happen to others. Because we see the big picture, we can tell if a soldier is headed into an ambush, or how he might best achieve his goals. We can evaluate decisions made on the field as being good or bad in the grand scheme of things.

The Objective view is the same perspective we have in real life when we see others trying to deal with their problems. It is easy for us to think we see the best course, not being involved ourselves, and we often offer advice and comments like, "Why don't you just…" or "How could you possibly have…."

Of course, this ignores how that person might feel, and dismisses any attachments or emotional needs they may have. Because we have no vested interest in the outcome, we can consider the situation dispassionately. After all, we don't have to wake up in the morning having to deal with the consequences of their actions.

But if we zoom down onto the field and stand in the boots of one of the soldiers, we get a completely different point of view - the Main Character perspective. From here we experience the most passionate appreciation of the battle, rocked by the concussion of dramatic explosions all around us, stumbling across the field without that objective overview, just trying to do our job and survive the clash.

The Main Character view represents our own sense of self - the Story Mind's self awareness. It is the view from the inside looking out. Though we can clearly see the situation surrounding others, that is a perspective we cannot get of ourselves. Rather, we must try to deduce the "big picture" based on the little personal glimpses of it we get while we grapple with our problems.

For an audience to feel that all the angles of the story's problems have been explored, both of these real life points of view must be included in the structure. And yet, even they are not sufficient: there are two more perspectives required as well.

Video Clip - The Four Throughlines (Part 1)

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