Developing the Objective Story Plot

When we develop a plot, we are in effect planning a Journey for our characters. In this respect, we might imagine our plot as a road. We have already discussed how that road might be thought of as containing four signposts which define three journeys. Our characters’ Point of Departure is marked by the Type at Signpost #1. This Type is the name of the town at which we are beginning our Journey. In our example, the characters are in the good borough of Learning.

We have also planned a destination for our characters. Again, in our example, we wish our characters to arrive at the village of Obtaining. Obtaining’s city limits are marked by Signpost #4.

In order for our characters to experience the Journey we intend, we also want them to pass through the towns of Understanding and Doing along the way. Once they have arrived at Obtaining, they will have covered all the ground we want them to.

Our Plot is not only made up of Signposts, but also the experience of traversing the road between the Signposts.

If we have four Signposts, we can see three Journeys between them. The Signposts merely provide our audience with an impartial map of the checkpoints along the way. It is the Journeys, however, that involve our audience in the experience of crossing that ground.

Some writers have learned to create stories in a Three Act Structure. Others have worked in a Four Act Structure. In fact, both are needed to map out the terrain and involve the audience.

Now that we know the names of the Signposts in our Objective Story, it is time to describe the kinds of Journeys that will take place on the road between them.


In our example, the three Journeys are:

  • Topic 1. Learning —–> Topic 2. Understanding
  • Topic 2. Understanding —–> Topic 3. Doing
  • Topic 3. Doing —–> Topic 4. Obtaining.   

For a hypothetical story, we might then encode each Signpost and Journey as follows:


  • Type 1. Learning

    Our characters Learn that a number of robberies have occurred involving diamonds.


  • Type 1. Learning——> Type 2. Understanding

    As our characters Learn about the robberies that have occurred, they become aware of similarities in the crimes. Eventually, the similarities are too much to be coincidental.


  • Type 2. Understanding

    Our characters arrive at the Understanding that there is one multi-national consortium involved in the heists.


  • Type 2. Understanding ——> Type 3. Doing

    The more our characters Understand about the consortium, the more they are able to figure out which smaller organizations are involved, as well as the names of specific individuals. Eventually, the characters Understand enough of the organization of the consortium to try and put someone on the inside.


  • Type 3. DoingOur characters track down and infiltrate the consortium.


  • Type 3. Doing ——> Type 4. ObtainingOur characters get in tighter and tighter with the consortium until they are finally trusted enough to be employed in heist. Through a series of dangerous maneuvers, our characters are able to get word of the heist back to their organization, who alert the authorities.


  • Type 4 . ObtainingOur characters retrieve the stolen diamonds.

As you can see, the Signposts outline the direction events will take. The Journeys help bring them to life.

From the Dramatica Theory Book