Category Archives: Signposts & Journeys

Developing the Main Character’s Plot

By now you should be familiar with the concept that the Main Character represents a point of view for the audience. In fact, the audience stands in the shoes of the Main Character and sees what he sees and feels what he feels.

In the Objective Story Domain, the Plot Progression concentrates on the kinds of activities in which the Objective Characters are involved. In the Main Character Domain, Plot Progression describes the stages of the Main Character’s Growth.

Each Type in the Main Character Domain reflects the Main Character’s primary concern at that point in his development. Eventually, he will grow enough to deal with the issue closest to his heart: the Main Character Concern. Let’s look at an example of how you might encode this by continuing to develop the story we presented for Type Order Plot Progression of the Objective Story.


In this fictitious story example, the Main Character Domain has been chosen to be Universe. The Type order selected for the Main Character is as follows: Past, Progress, Present, and lastly Future.


  • Type 1. Past

    The Main Character is a law enforcement agency Department Chief with political aspirations. He has zero tolerance for officers of the law who have accepted payoffs from organized crime. As the story opens, his chief Concern of the moment is the past history of graft in his department.


  • Type 1. Past ——> Type 2. Progress

    The Main Character investigates Past instances of Consortium influences in his department. Using this historical information, he gets closer to infiltrating the Consortium.


  • Type 2. Progress

    The Main Character decides his agents are too weak to resist stealing money from the Consortium. Therefore, he takes the case himself, going undercover and slowly snaking his way into the heart of the Consortium over a period of some months.


  • Type 2. Progress ——> Type 3. Present

    The more the Main Character gets deeper into the Consortium, the more he is trusted with the Consortium’s funds. Also, he finds himself in something of a Godfather position in which local businesses and organizations come to him for help. For a while, he is able to either deny them or pacify them.


  • Type 3. Present

    Now, well established in the Consortium, the Main Character is faced with a situation in which an important Children’s Hospital will be closed… unless he uses some of the Consortium’s ill-gotten gains to provide the necessary funding.


  • Type 3. Present ——> Type 4. Future

    The Main Character gives in to the needs of others, violating his own zero tolerance code of ethics because of the serious needs of the children. Still, he is able to get the goods on the Consortium enough to stop some of their local plans, though not enough to damage the consortium at core level. When he is “brought in from the cold” by his agency, they treat him as a hero for his success. In contrast, he is troubled by his own ethical failing. He gave in to the temptation to take the money.


  • Type 4. Future

    Though he is in a better position than ever to break into the political scene and demand strict adherence to a code of ethics, his grand words about his Future are now just ashes in his mouth, as he sits miserably in his office pondering his shortcomings, drained of ambition.

From the Dramatica Theory Book

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