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2 minutes
May 2, 2016

Focusing In On The Relationship Throughline

Four simple questions can set you down the right path.

When it comes to the Relationship Throughline of a story, there are four things you need to consider:

  • What kind of relationship is this? (father/son, sisters, mentor/mentee)
  • What is the nature of the relationship? (competitive, romantic)
  • Is the relationship growing or dissolving?
  • Is this a new or long-standing relationship?

You need to establish the first before you do anything else, otherwise you’ll be looking in the wrong place when it comes to defining the conflict between your two principal characters. This whole notion of “Main vs. Impact” did way more damage than it did good.1 Remember the Relationship Story Throughline is not about the individuals, it is about the relationship. Getting into a he-said/she-said argument only takes away from that reality.

The nature of the relationship will help guide you towards elaborating on the conflict, and in collaboration with the third will help guide your encoding of each story point. The Relationship Throughline Catalyst will behave differently in a growing relationship when compared to a dissolving relationship. The Catalyst increases conflict—but is it accelerating towards creating a new bond or moving faster towards dissolution?

And the fourth and final point will help determine the change/steadfast dynamic present in this throughline and whether or not to emphasize the Relationship Story Problem or the Relationship Story Symptom.

Put them all together and you have the basis for a very strong and very robust Relationship Throughline. Know what it is you’re looking at, and Dramatica will be that much easier.


  1. In earlier versions of Dramatica, the Relationship Story Throughline was called the Main vs. Impact story Throughline. And it was atrocious. ↩︎

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