The Four Throughlines

Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make when writing a story—and the one that exhibits the greatest significant impact on the final product—is your selection of conflict for the Four Throughlines.

Two of the four you likely already know—your Main Character and the Plot. The other two, the Influence Character and the Relationships, you can figure out much later in the process. In fact, both of these will naturally fall into place given the first two.

Visualizing the Four Throughlines

Open the Premise Builder and find the section marked Four Throughlines. Here you’ll find four colored boxes, each signifying one of the four major Throughlines of a complete story.

There is only one rule when it comes to the alignment of these Throughlines: the Main Character Throughline must always be diagonally opposed to the Influence Character. This arrangement guarantees the greatest amount of diametrically opposed conflict in the two primary subjective characters and their points-of-view.

Subtxt helps you keep the integrity of your story by always making sure these two Throughlines sit across from each other. Give it a try. Tap, or click, on the blue Main Character Throughline, drag it to a different position, and release. Note how Subtxt shifts the other three Throughlines to accommodate your selection. No matter what you do, the Influence Character Throughline will always sit across from the Main Character Throughline.

Subtxt won’t let you write a broken story.

You know that line, “You and I are both alike”? It’s usually followed by someone else saying, “We’re nothing alike!” That interchange exists because of this relationship between the Main Character and Influence Character. They’re nothing alike because they’re coming from two opposite points of view. For more on this, including a montage of clips showcasing this exchange, check out Two Sides of the Same Coin.

Families of Conflict

In addition to the Four Throughlines, there are four Families of Conflict that set the type of conflict in your story.

Each family consists of four Methods that sync with one another in terms of narrative focus. One family finds Past and Memory together; another puts Present and Conscious together. By keeping the conflict in your story “within the family” you guarantee thematic integrity.

You’ll find the current family selected in the grid of small boxes beneath the Four Throughlines.

The results of your current selection are found beneath the names of each Throughline. For instance, if you have the Aspirational family checked, then the Methods beneath each Throughline will be Future, Obtaining, Becoming, and Subconscious. If you select the Profound family, the Methods switch to Past, Understanding, Conceptualizing, and Memory.

The positions of these Methods within the grid of Four Throughlines is fixed. If you drag a Throughline to a new location, the Methods stay behind to be “picked up” by a new Throughline.

This two-pronged approach of shifting perspective (moving the Throughlines) and anchoring conflict (selecting a Family of Methods) allows you to dial in the kind of story you want to write. With Four Throughlines and Four Families, there are 32 possible combinations for you to choose from.

How then, are you to possibly tell the difference?