Act Order – Sign Posts, Journeys & Throughlines

A Dramatica user asks:

Hi Melanie,

In the [Dramatica] theory book you can find this text:

“Just because we have absolute freedom, however, does not mean our decision will have no effect on our audience. In fact, the order in which each scene crops up deter- mines which information is a first impression and which is a modifier. It is a fact of human psychology that first impressions usually carry more weight than anything that follows. It takes a lot of undoing to change that initial impact. This is why it is usually better to introduce the Main Character’s Signpost 1 before the Impact Character Sign- post 1. Otherwise, the audience will latch onto the Impact Character and won’t switch allegiance until much farther into the story. Clearly, if our weaving has brought the audience to think the Impact Character is the Main Character, we have failed to convey the real structure and meaning of our story. So, just because we have freedom here doesn’t mean we won’t be held accountable.”

I understand it.

My question: Is it possible to start out with the OS Signpost 1 before the MC Signpost 1?

Thanks al lot,

My reply:

Hi, Eduardo

Sure, in fact the only hard and fast “rules” are that you shouldn’t introduce a throughline’s journey before its sign post and that you should finish all sign posts and journeys of the same “act” (such as sign post 2 and journey 2) for all four of the throughlines before introducing any of the next act’s sign posts or journeys, such as sign post 3 or journey 3 of any of the four throughines. That way, acts are not fragmented from one throughline to another, and all throughline finish an act before any throughline begins the next act.

So, as for putting the OS Sign post 1 before the MC sign post 1 is just fine – it simply means you are choosing to open your story with the Objective story and then introducing your Main Character after the overall story subject is revealed.