The Manual

Assigning the Players

Next up, the characters of your story.

But instead of characters—think of them as players, vessels for holding the intent of your story. Think of your characters as buckets of meaning. They carry the meaning of your story to your Audience.

Tap Player Roles, and Subtext presents an impressive view for assigning your buckets to various Throughlines in your story.

For now, ignore the four boxes to the right, and instead, focus on the list of Players to the left.

The Essential Players

As with the Premise, Subtext randomly assigned Player Illustrations—only, these aren’t as impressive. “Characters”, “Main Character”, “Influence Character”, and “relationship” fail to spark the imagination. Yet, they represent the absolute minimum for any complete story.

The Main Character

The Main Character is easy, and you likely already have someone in mind. Tap on the Player Bucket and type in the name of the character through which the Audience will experience your story—from a personal first-person point-of-view.

Note how your change instantly updates ALL references to Main Character. If you didn’t catch it, change the name, and watch how it changes in the blue box to the right.

This is also a feature.

Subtext is a reactive writing tool—which means it responds to your intent across the entire story, and in every other view. You don’t have to hit Save all the time, nor do you have to Find and Replace when you decide you want to call your character something else. Make the change and Subtext responds accordingly—giving you more time to focus on writing your story.

tip

Subtext is a cloud-based writing service. Your choices and Illustrations are automatically saved the moment you stop typing, or move on to another selection.

While local backups are on the roadmap for the future, for now, be sure you maintain an active connection to the Internet.

When in doubt, don’t cancel out or refresh the page until Subtext has time to save your work.

The Influence Character is next.

The Influence Character

In every complete story, there’s always one character who does things a little differently; someone who stands out, and challenges the Main Character to grow a little. That’s the Influence Character.

Now, if you don’t know who that is yet, don’t worry—you can continue to develop your story and come back to the actual name later. As you progress in developing your story with Subtext, your choice for Influence Character will naturally arise from everything else you are doing.

If you do, enter the name in the bucket that says Influence Character.

tip

If you struggle with selecting an Influence Character, refer back to the original film or novel from which you chose the Premise. Check the Storyform in Subtext to be reminded of who was the Influence Character, and experience the story again.

Chances are, you’ll quickly start to develop an intuitive sense of who this character is in your story.

The Key Relationship

The vital relationship of your story is super important—and most often, misunderstood. An entire series of articles on The Relationship Story Throughline should help you out, but in the meantime, define the relationship between the Main Character and the Influence Character.

And do it from the point-of-view of someone talking about them—not from within.

tip

The most difficult hurdle for every Author developing a story with Subtext is getting out of the heads of the characters in their story. Structure is not seen from within, it’s only seen from without—from your perspective as Author.

When it comes to the Relationship Story Throughline and Subtext, write about the relationship—not what it feels like to be in that relationship.

Some ideas for various relationships:

  • father/son
  • mother/daughter
  • siblings
  • mentorship
  • friendship
  • romantic

The list goes on and on. Select one, enter it, and then move on to the last bucket: the characters themselves.

The Objective Story Characters

The last bucket is the most abstract when it comes to characters—but also, the most basic.

Stories work because they present a point-of-view of conflict from within and from without. You already know your Main Character from within, now step out of his or her body and look back. What do you see?

Do the same for the Influence Character, and for all your characters. How are they grouped?

In the most likely sense, your story contains a group of “good” guys and a bunch of “bad” guys (Yes, truth is subjective—one man’s freedom fighter...). These groupings of characters signify an objective sense of their purpose in a story—perfect for the objective Objective Story Throughline.

Determine the central “good” guy group and enter their name into the “characters” bucket.

tip

When looking at characters from the Objective Story perspective, objectify them by identifying their function within a story. In Star Wars, Luke is the Whiny Farmboy, Han is a Space Pirate, and Ben is a Wizened Wizard.

Looking for function pulls you out of your characters’ headspace—a skill you want to develop more than anything else.

With buckets labeled and assigned to individual Throughlines, it’s time to start walking through your story.