The Four Throughlines
Visual explanations of basic story structure principles
Firefly: Season 1, Episode 8
A complete argument—or complete story—is an analogy to a single human trying to solve a problem. Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre simply stand in for this psychological process we all know. Reducing the problem-solving process down to its larger pieces, one finds Four Throughlines in every complete story
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Complete narratives establish four distinct points of perspective on the story’s central conflict. Correlating with the four different ways our minds perceive inequity, these Throughlines set the areas of exploration for the Author to write and the Audience to experience.
A complete narrative represents a single approach towards resolving an inequity. To encapsulate all the different ways one can solve an inequity, the construct of 'a story' presents four different perspectives on this same imbalance. Conflict plays out differently depending on the point-of-view you take and therefore, it's essential that we see everything.
The kind of conflict encountered in the Four Throughlines of a narrative determines the Genre of that story. Align the Objective Story Throughline in Psychology and the Main Character Throughline in either Universe or Mind and establish the foundation for a Psychological Thriller. Or rather, establish the umbrella for a Psychological Thriller.
To tell a complete story one must consider all points-of-view. To leave one out risks writing a one-sided argument that many discount as imbalanced or unfair. With a balanced and fair look, the narrative simply functions as an argument against the inappropriateness of the methods use to address this problem.
The Four Throughlines of a complete story provide an opportunity for the Author to communicate his or her point-of-view on the best way to approach solving problems. Rather than thinking of them as "storylines" or individual characters, if you see them for what they really are--four separate perspectives--their purpose shines clear.
Field Of Dreams
If conflict is the stuff of narrative, then looking at conflict from every possible angle ensures a completeness of that narrative. With no stone left unturned, Audiences respond with gratefulness towards the respect and thoughtfulness of the Author (think Oscar).
When identifying the source of conflict in a complete story, only one arrangement works across all Four Throughlines. You can always find elements of each Domain in every Throughline, but there were only be one Domain for a Throughline that resonates with the other three Throughlines.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
A well-constructured narrative accounts for much of this film's critical acclaim. An atypical approach to a typical arrangement of Throughlines, the film acts as a wonderful example of how fantastic storytelling transforms effective structure into something truly unique.
Genre, as seen from a Dramatica point-of-view, clues us into the way a story feels. The various arrangements of Throughlines carry with them an undeniable je ne sais quois for the story in question. In short, the Domains the Throughlines fall into determine the narrative's unique personality.