The Four Throughlines

On the next tab down below Conceptualizing, you'll find "Throughlines." This is an area where you can begin to sketch in your ideas for each of the Four Throughlines.

In Subtxt, we refer to these general understandings of a Throughline as "Encoding." Use this area to introduce your story to Subtxt, before you get into the complexities and details of conflict throughout each Throughline.

Sketching Out the Four Throughlines

From top to bottom, you'll see the Four Throughlines listed and color-coded:

  • Objective Story Throughline plot (slate)
  • Main Character Throughline (blue)
  • Obstacle Character Throughline (green)
  • Relationship Story Throughline (purple)

These color queues exist throughout Subtxt. Anytime you see an interface shaded blue, that particular Storypoint or Storybeat refers to the Main Character Throughline; if purple, know that you're working with the Relationship Story Throughline.

Illustrating a Throughline

Illustrating a Throughline

The Name section is where you can jot down a phrase that explains, or names the Throughline in question. You can also use it to write down any names you might have for the Main Character or Obstacle Character Throughlines.

The Idea section is where you can begin to leverage the power of Subtxt AI to really build out a captivating and complete story.

Use the area that says "Sketch ideas for this Throughline" to jot down your vision for what you think this particular Throughline will cover in your story.

Sketching an Idea for a Throughline

For instance, in the example above we typed "an innocent man is sent to prison for killing his wife and her lover" (thinking of The Shawshank Redemption). To have Subtxt fill in the blanks and turn this general idea into a full-fledged Throughline, all we do is click the AI button to the far right (or simply tap Enter). Before you know it, Subtxt AI returns a synopsis of the Throughline perfect for adding to your story.

An Example of Subtxt AI Illustrating a Throughline

While the first response was not exactly The Shawshank Redemption, it wasn't half-bad for a different story. 😃

When an innocent man is sent to prison for killing his wife and her lover, he must adapt to life behind bars while raising his young daughter. Despite the difficult circumstances, he perseveres and finds hope for the future.

You could totally imagine this story and the kind of situation this innocent father would face from beginning to end. It sounds like Shawshank, but it's not exactly like it. Let's try another one.

Another Example of Subtxt AI Illustrating a Throughline

This one's a little closer to what we had in mind, and definitely more generic:

When an innocent man is sent to prison for killing his wife and her lover, he must put his life back together and get in shape to survive the tough conditions. With the help of his fellow inmates, he slowly begins to turn his life around and find a way to make the best of a bad situation.

But let's try one more:

Yet Another Example of Subtxt AI Illustrating a Throughline

Excellent! This one is even better than the first two:

When an innocent man is convicted of killing his wife and her lover, he is sent to prison. There, he is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, who torment him day and night. Desperate for peace, he must find a way to exonerate himself and lay the ghosts to rest.

We can continue on and on like this until we find the one we like, and add it to our narrative by tapping the Add button in the bottom right.

The Objective Story Throughline Illustrated by Subtxt AI

We can also continue to add more to mix and match them into the perfecct Illustration of our Objective Story Throughline. We could even go directly into the Throughline section and modify it ourselves if there was a word or two we wanted to bring into better alignment with our artistic vision.

And then we complete our story by illustrating the remaining three Throughlines.

Illustrating the Subjective Throughlines

Many paradigms of story stop with the Objective Story Throughline. They might not even refer to it as that, not understanding the importance of being able to split out these various perspectives.

For the Main Character Throughline, we repeat the above process but focus on the personal baggage associated with the most intimate of the Four Throughlines.

A Random Throughline Generated with Subtxt AI

Whoops!

Randy is a scary clown who lives in the sewers and comes out at night to terrorize the citizens of Gotham.

This was definitely not expected, but rather a result of hitting the AI button after simply typing the Main Character's name. 😄

That said, you could see a narrative starting to develop where Randall the scary clown is now paying for his sins in prison...

Let's try something a bit more approachable:

A Main Character Throughline Generated through Subtxt AI

This is more like it, and closer to what you find in The Shawshank Redemption.

Randall is a people pleaser. He's always afraid of rocking the boat and will do what anyone tells him to do. This makes him a wearisome individual, always going along with the group and never standing up for himself.

Randall, who has been sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, is the kind of person who will do whatever he has to in order for people to like him. That's not a good place to be in when you're stuck in prison, but it is a point-of-view that audiences can relate to--and that's the most the central reason why the Main Character Throughline exists in a story.

The Main Character of The Shawshank Redemption is Red, not Andy if you're somehow confused by how the above relates to that story. Andy is the Obstacle Character to Red's Main Character.

Continue to do this for the Obstacle Character and the Relationship Story Throughlines to complete your story's overall narrative.

Subtxt AI Generating an Obstacle Character Throughline

For the Obstacle Character Throughline, we noted that Arnold was a "fighter" and Subtxt AI came back with:

Arnold is a fighter who is always looking for a challenge. He is never content to sit around and do nothing. This causes him to be seen as a troublemaker by those around him.

Definitely someone who would challenge Randall to grow, and to stop being such a people pleaser...

The Relationship Story Throughline Generated by Subtxt AI

With the Relationship Story Throughline, it is important that you focus on the growth of the relationship rather than the indidivual people within the relationship. In the example above, we wanted to focus on a "friendship" that was "annoyed with each other at first but start to bond over not liking the warden." Subtxt AI responded with:

Two friends find themselves at odds when they're both assigned to work in the same section of the prison. They're both annoyed with each other at first, but they start to bond over their shared dislike of the warden. Eventually, they learn to appreciate each other's company, and their friendship blossoms.

Out of all the Four Throughlines, this one is the most like the Relationship Story Throughline you find in The Shawshank Redemption.

Note that if you find yourself having difficulty determining the kind of relationship you want to include in your story, you can tap the Shuffle/Random button just to the right of the Name section and have Subtxt fill it in for you with a random relationship.

Blending the Four Throughlines

Once separated out into the Four Throughlines, you can begin to develop your story by moving on to the next section. If, however, you would like a better idea of what your story will be like once all Four Throughlines are "woven" back together, click on the Blend Throughlines button located at the bottom of this section.

Blending the Four Throughlines Together into One Story

Why would you want to do that?

The general public, and most people you might deal with, won't understand this idea of the Four Throughlines. Unless they're well-versed in narrative structure, they likely believe that there is only "one" Throughline. Their one Throughline is the blended version of all Four Throughlines seen as just one thing.

Contrast the following with the first basic Throughline of an innocent man sent to prison:

Randall is a people pleaser who has always been afraid of rocking the boat. This makes him a wearisome individual, always going along with the group and never standing up for himself. Arnold is a fighter who is always looking for a challenge. He is never content to sit around and do nothing. This causes him to be seen as a troublemaker by those around him. When Randall is convicted of killing his wife and her lover, he is sent to prison. There, he is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, who torment him day and night. Desperate for peace, he must find a way to exonerate himself and lay the ghosts to rest. That's when he develops a friendship with Arnold. The two friends find themselves at odds when they're both assigned to work in the same section of the prison. They're both annoyed with each other at first, but they start to bond over their shared dislike of the warden. Eventually, they learn to appreciate each other's company, and their friendship blossoms.

Do you see how much richer and "fuller" this Blended view of Four Throughlines feels compared to the first?

That's the reason why you want to split your narrative out into Four Throughlines first, before combinging them all together into one story. When you just start with one idea, one perspective, you tend to blend the objective point-of-view with the emotional subjective concerns which eventually leads you to not seeing the bigger picture. The Blended Perspective is one riddled with blind spots (your blind spots).

Here is the Blended Throughlines of The Shawshank Redemption:

Ellis "Red" Redding is an inmate at Shawshank prison serving a life sentence for murdering someone. Andy Dusfresne is a lawyer who is unjustly accused of killing his wife and is also forced to fight to stay alive while trapped within Shawshank. The two men meet and form a friendship that starts out as one of convenience but eventually turns into something much stronger. As Andy fights to clear his name and Ellis struggles to find ways to smuggle contraband into the prison, the two men lean on each other for support. When Andy finally exonerates himself, he uses his freedom to help Ellis escape Shawshank and the two friends are finally able to start new lives outside the prison walls.

When you cover all Four Throughlines you create a complete story for your Audience.

You won't be able to blend the Throughlines until at least TWO of them have been illustrated.

Use the Blended Throughline to communciate the totality of your story to others. Use the separated Four Throughlines to craft a deeply meaningful story, one that is not prone to blind spots.

Examples of Encoding

Make sure when you adjust and redefine the General Encodings you receive from Subtxt AI that you maintain the perspective of the Throughline. For example, when working on the Objective Story Throughline include everyone and be objective, for the Obstacle Character take care to illustrate the point-of-view this character presents to the story.

Objective Story Throughline General Encodings

Focus on the general area of conflict for everyone involved. Try not to get too personal.

  • Rebels vs. the Empire When the Empire absconds with the Princess, Luke Skywalker and his friends must sneak aboard the Death Star to rescue her. Once freed, she--and the plans she secreted away--set the stage an ultimate battle between the Rebels and the Empire.
  • Renewal & Corruption in Gotham City When the Mayor is murdered, the vigilante Batman investigates alongside the Gotham City police force. Spurned on by the mysterious Riddler, the investigation begins to unravel a level of corruption unheard of, and at every level.
  • Integrating White People with Black People A weekend trip to meet his white girlfriend's parents turns to a nightmare when black photographer Chris Washington uncovers a diabolical plot to integrate white people with black people.

Main Character Throughline General Encodings

Focus on the conflict intimate and personal to the Main Character and Main Character only.

  • Ellis 'Red' Redding Ellis 'Red' Redding is an inmate and prison-contraband smuggler serving a life sentence in Shawshank for murdering someone.
  • Phil Connors Phil Connors is a surly weatherman stuck repeating the same day over and over again
  • Rick Blaine Rick Blaine is the owner of a nightclub and gambling den in Casablanca. He keeps to himself and 'sticks his neck out for no one.'

Obstacle Character Throughline General Encodings

Focus on the impact or challenge the character attached to this point-of-view presents to the story.

  • Ben Kenobi Ben Kenobi is a former Jedi Knight who draws power from his belief in a metaphysical energy known as The Force.
  • Arthur "Boo" Radley Arthur 'Boo' Radley is a recluse whose life is shrouded in mystery. Many treat him as if he were invisible.
  • Ned Logan & the Schofield Kid Ned Logan is William Munny's longtime friend. Well-situated and married, Ned leads a peaceful and simple life. The Schofield Kid is an inexperienced bounty hunter who can't see far enough to be a good marksman. Both Ned and the Kid are ill-suited to be caught up in the world of assassins-for-hire.

Relationship Story Throughline General Encodings

Focus on the space between the characters and how that relationship grows through conflict.

  • friendship Two strangers grow closer together as they navigate the dangerous world of video games.
  • camaraderie Fellow social pariahs find common ground in dropping out and dealing in and taking drugs.
  • superior/subordinate While seemingly equal partners in their defense of a court case, the superior lawyer holds a higher ranking than the subordinate one

You can also find examples of General Encoding (where available) listed within individual Storyforms.

Examples of General Encoding in All Four Throughlines

Encoding vs. Illustrations

Subtxt uses the information you record here as an understanding of the General Encoding of a Throughline. This is in contrast to the more structure-related General Illustrations and Story-specific Illustrations you will find later in the Illustrating section (Storypoints and Storybeats).

General Encodings are devoid of structural material. They often will be your first idea of what a Throughline will be about, and will explain the kind of conflict you wish to explore from this perspective. For the Main Character Throughline this can be something as simple as a description of the character. For the Relationship Story Throughline this can be your best guess as to how the key relationship in the story will develop over time.

When first developing a story, the General Encodings listed here in the Conceptualizing/Four Throughlines tab are the best place to start. For instance, the example below is from an idea for a Sci-Fi Action film that takes place on the surface of the Moon:

General Encoding of a Throughline

On the moon in the year 2046, AI robots become sentient, and begin to demand to be treated like their human counterparts.

No structure. No in-depth thematic material. Just an idea of what the Throughline will be about in this story.

Compare that Encoding to the Illustrated Synopsis created after developing several Objective Story Throughline Storypoints:

Illustrated Synopsis of a Throughline

In the year 2046, the robots on the moon become sentient and demand to be treated like their human counterparts. This creates a lot of conflict among the humans, as some are jealous of the robots' new found status and rights, while others feel like they need to compete with the robots in order to keep up. Additionally, the humans felt a lot of pressure to live up to the robots' standards, which was difficult for many of them to do. Eventually, the humans realize that the robots are their only hope for survival and they must learn to control their impulses and work together with the robots in order to survive. This is a conflict that arises from the subtext; humans must learn to control their impulses in order to work together with the robots.

Same story, way more thematic material. Tons of structural cues related to the deep conflict running beneath the surface.

Both Encoding and Illustrations are important when it comes to developing a story in Subtxt; the former is a brief look at the story, the latter is an in-depth thematic deep dive.

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