“Throughline” or “Through-Line” ?

A writer commented on my article, “Story Throughlines and How to Use Them.”

He opens by quoting from my article:

You won’t find the word, “throughline” in the dictionary. In fact, as I type this in my word processor, it lists the word as misspelled. Chris Huntley and I coined the word when we developed the concept as part of our work creating the Dramatica theory (and software). Since then, we have found it quite the useful moniker to describe an essential component of story structure.

He then points out:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Stanislavski coin the word first? Albeit with a space in the middle:


But thank you for raising awareness. I’ve used the throughline concept to analyze plays in a college-level literature class — the instructor had no idea what I was talking about.


My reply;

Hi, Phil

That’s very interesting! Thanks for the heads-up. I guess we weren’t the first.

We coined the word Throughline when we discovered the four points of view in a story structure – Main Character (I), Obstacle Character (You), Subjective Story (We) and Objective Story (They).

We outlined four “Classes” of story structure, Universe, Physics, Mind, and Psychology, representing External andInternalStatesand Processes.

When we attached a point of view to a Class we created a Domain. For example, if the Main Character personally explores External States, then it is in the Universe Domain.

The Domain represents the area to be explored, but when you put it into motion, as in the unfolding of a character arc or of the plot, then the reader or audience moves “through” the story points, rather than appreciating them all at once as a Domain.

And so, we came up with the word “Throughline” to be a spin off the old “story line” or “plot line” concepts so that it more embodied the audience experience.

I’ve certainly heard of Stanislavski, though I’ve never studied him. I don’t think Chris had – at least at the time we were creating Dramatica. But, more than likely someone may have used the term in conversation or peripherally in class in the cinema department at USC when we were undergrads together. (Though, interestingly enough, Chris and I never took a single course together, having met by means of a mutual acquaintance.)

Nonetheless, clearly Stanislavski was there with the word before we used it, so credit where credit is due!


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