Complete stories break down into four easily identifiable
Throughlines. These Throughlines correspond with the four different ways we can look at conflict:
Main Character Throughlineis the I perspective
Influence Character Throughlineis the You perspective
Relationship Story Throughlineis the We perspective
Overall Story Throughlineis the They perspective
Match those up with the four different kinds of conflict we can look at:
Situationor fixed external problem
Activityor shifting external problem
Fixed Attitudeor fixed internal problem
Way of Thinkingof shifting internal problem
And you have yourself the potential for a great story.
Up in the Air is one of those great stories. Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, this study of one man’s attempt to shove everything he has into a simple, easily transportable backpack makes for a wonderful Throughline Tuesday study.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has a point-of-view that he wants to share with the world and because he represents the
Main Character Throughline of the story, we share that perspective with him. Traveling from city to city to deliver his motivational speeches, he reveals his problematic
Fixed Attitude. Ryan finds joy in freeing one’s life of troublesome burdens: essentially, living life with a free mind.
Overall Story Throughline we see employees from around the country dealing with the psychological fall out of being “let go.” This attempt by Ryan and the people he works with to manipulate, or shift the
Way of Thinking, for these hapless souls exposes the source of conflict for everyone.
But Ryan doesn’t take this task on alone. The
Influence Character Throughline gives us Natalie Keener, a young upstart eager to make the process of laying off people easier for those who have to do it, suggests a point-of-view that doesn’t even involve the person doing the firing to be present in the same room. This atrocious
Situation appalls Ryan and hits him right where it counts in regards to his whole backpack methodology. Isn’t he essentially doing the same thing Natalie suggests in his own personal life?
Annoyed with her approach, Ryan takes her under his wing and the two develop a mentor/mentee relationship within the
Relationship Story Throughline. The difficulties involved in teaching the fresh-faced new hire how to speak to people faced with the crushing emotional reality of being jobless speak to conflict generated by
Up in the Air received critical acclaim when it was released. The presence of all four Throughlines and the soundness of the story had much to do with that praise.