Join Jim Hull, the developer of Subtxt and story consultant for Canada’s Best International Film entry for this year’s Oscars, Eternal Spring, for a two-hour workshop on the most important concept of every great story: the Four Throughlines.
Jim will cover tips and tricks to help you easily identify and quickly illustrate these aspects of your story. Audiences want to be intellectually challenged by your work as well as be emotionally engaged (and sometimes fulfilled). Breaking your story down in terms of these Four Throughlines is the single greatest improvement you can make towards making this happen for them—it also just so happens to make it easier for you to write the story you’ve always dreamed of putting out into the world.
This lesson is split into 2 parts, both approximately an hour long. In the first, Jim walks you step-by-step through the 4 throughlines using popular stories as examples. In the next video, Jim uses the 4 throughlines and audience participation to outline a complete story from scratch using his AI outlining software, Subtxt.
Both videos are free to watch for all members of the Elegant Literature community.
All right, welcome, elegant literature. Thank you for coming today, joining me and Jim Hall here in our workshop with the four through lines. We’re just gonna be having, I’m sure some more people are gonna be coming in. But I’ll just start now since it’s 1 0 2. This is gonna be about a two hour workshop.
It might be a little less but you, we are giving two hours in order to allow for some questions and answers that you guys will be able to ask. So guys, my name is Craig Monroe for you, those of you who don’t know, I’m the founder of Elegant Literature. I’m joined here today with Jim Hall who will be taking over from me in just a moment.
I’ll let Jim introduce himself. Many of you will know that he is the judge of the Haunted Hideaways contest that ran during October. Jim currently has the stories and is going over them, so he won’t talk about that today. But for those, the way this is gonna work guys, is Jim is gonna take 20, 30, 40 minutes or so to go over his theory of stories called the Four Through Lines.
You can ask questions during that. I think we have a few too many people here in order to interrupt Jim and ask questions as they come. So please use that Slido app. So after he does his lesson, we’ll go through a question and answer phase and then we’ll take a five minute break so everybody can stretch their legs and refill their coffees.
And when you come back. We will go into, Jim’s gonna demo his artificial intelligence in intelligent outliner which helps people write great stories. He’s gonna give you a little demo of that. And then we’ll have another question and answer phase after that in order for you to ask any questions that you may have about Jim, about his programs, about his work experience and all that.
Okay. So what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna hand this over to Jim now. Hello everybody. Welcome. My name is Jim Hall. Just for a brief introduction to who I am, I would like to show you something. Okay. So once again, my name is Jim Hall. I run a story consultancy called Narrative First. I’ve been running this company for five or six years.
Prior to that I was an animator for Disney Dreamworks for 20 years. And also was a story consultant for different television shows. And screenplays and that sort of thing. About five years ago, I split off, did my own thing, and along the way started to build an application to help extend my story consultancy.
And I’ve been building that for the last five years, and then just recently this year added all the great G p t three artificial intelligence stuff that you’ve probably seen and tried out. But the main difference is you actually get meaningful stuff back as opposed to stuff that sounds more like a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.
So today what I’m gonna do is go over the basic core concept of what I teach everybody that I ever work with and that I use if we’re developing some kind of story or regardless of the medium. So it doesn’t matter about novels if it’s a television show, if it’s a video game, a play, a musical, like I’ve done everything and it’s all the same narrative structure.
But it isn’t probably what you’re used to, which is something more like a hero’s journey type thing or a save the cat sort of thing. When you think of narrative structure, it’s very reductive and it’s like maybe one little portion of the big structure. But there’s, thousands and thousands of other structures that perhaps don’t quite fit into that.
And the point of view that, where I come from and where a subtext comes from is trying to figure out what it is that you’re trying to say, and then your artistic intent is then what dictates the structure, which makes sense. If you’re trying to say something and it’s your arguments, what your message, whatever it is that you, how you wanna put it, then if you want to present it in a way that you address everybody’s concerns, that’s how you make a complete narrative is you make sure that you cover both sides of the argument, such as one side of the argument.
And then you use character’s, plot, theme, and genre. To get that all across. So the biggest, greatest win that you can get out of anything, which is why I thought it’d be perfect for a workshop that Craig wanted to do, would be the four through lines. And this comes from the dramatic theory of story.
And what Narrative First and Subtext Does, is taken dramatic and actually moved it into the 21st century. Yeah. And has moved it into the 21st century with all kinds of new additions and developments in the theory. But the core concept of the four through lines is that every complete story is an analogy to a single human mind trying to resolve an inequity so that when you have your story, it’s actually it’s a person.
It’s somebody that you know, and they have a personality, and you can dictate or determine what that personality is based on these four through lines and how they’re arranged. So this is my my site where I’ve been blogging for 15 years. I don’t blog as much just because of the amount of work that I have to do right now with all the app development and stuff, but there’s hundreds and hundreds of articles here.
So if ev, if you are into this workshop and you find it connects with you and you wanna learn more, everything is here. There’s one video that I wanted to show just to get things going, which would be here in the basics section. Basics is like the place to start. And what I wanted to show was this.
So you’ve likely seen in a movie or gonna television show. There comes a moment when one character will tell the other character, you and I are both alike. And then the other person will say, ah, we’re nothing alike. I’m nothing like you. And then they have an argument. And then you know that goes on.
And you may think that this is something what most people know as a trope I can’t stand the word trope. It doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s meaningless. What authors are instinctively doing here is actually setting up two of the four through lines by doing this. And so what this is a compilation of this, so you can see how often it appears and you can see the pattern that’s showing up.
And by the end of it, then we’ll talk about how these two through lines are part of the bigger four. So this is a compilation of all those, and hopefully you’ll be able to, oh, I probably should share sound. Excuse me. So lemme share my sound. And let’s do this. Here we go.
You and I were the same. Oh no. There’s a difference my man. You have faith. I don’t, I wanted a great play as much as you did. Oh, not as much, but you don’t kill for it. Who says you and I are very much alike? Archeology is our religion. How did do I respond to you? I saw myself in you because we’re the same.
We are not the same. Lawrence now don’t go spreading that around. If you would just take a step back from all of this you’d see that you and I, we are really not so very different. We’re both loners, we’re both isolated. We’re both really untrusting. We’re both looking for the same clarity. You’ve come to me in a great deal to me.
Yeah. You mean shit to me. You can’t understand your family wasn’t killed by a maniac. Yes they were. We are the same. Are you ready to plunge the entire quadrant into war to satisfy your own personal demons? And it amazes me how little you know yourself. I’m incapable of such an act. You are me.
The same noble, hard blood vice our ma had you lived my life, you’d be doing exactly as I am. So look in the mirror. See yourself. Let’s be honest. It’s all been a grand adventure, but it couldn’t possibly last. But to alike you and I. Are we so different? You and I, you take life when you have to as I do. But dad, I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world and it’s not because I’m so different from you either.
It’s cuz I’m the same. You and I are so much alike. Nothing alike. Nothing. Look at yourself, look at this. Look at what you are now. You walked away from the like, just like me. Look Peter. I know what it’s like really. For all our blustery back and forth, we’re really pretty much the same guy. We are all just like you.
No. I’m sorry, but I’m not like you. I just said the n word by mistake to win money. I made a mistake too. I was trying to be funny. All right, gimme another day, two days. I’m close. I can pull that fat cat down. I can bring him right off this hill. Oh boy,
man, you are just like the rest of her, ain’t you?
There’s an ancient saying. I’ve learned trust. Never judge a book by its cover. We are not all that different. Paula tradies, you and me. You don’t know what you’re talking about, Tweety. I sometimes feel like you’re the only person in the whole world who really gets me.
Yeah. Sometimes I look at you and I see my own reflection. It’s revolting. And
you and I love, we are the same. We both want the same thing. No. She said you were cool, no, I don’t know. How you are. It’s fine. Relax. What do you mean how am I? What’s that? Like me, like you, I hope to God she didn’t tell Nikki that. Why? Because it, it’s just not right.
Lumping you and I together, it’s. We’re actually the same, you and I. You’re not dead well. No. A apart from that. And you’re a boy. Oh yes, that too. You’re not like me at all. I think that you think I’m a bank robber. The truth is that I’m just like you like me? No, because you’re a murderer that I am.
And worse, much worse. But I do have ethics rules to which I adhere. You’re garbage. You kills for money. Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not. Even if you’d like to be to them, you’re just a freak like me, old man. Look at my life. I’m a lot you
We are the same.
No, we are not. We are not the same.
You need rehab with anything I think I need. So you go to the two AA meetings. I need rehab. Okay. Hey, look, don’t do you Jesus Christ. Don’t worry about me. Okay? You just worry about yourself. Don’t worry about me. We’re the same. You. No, we are not the same. We are. We are not the same. Why does you keep looking at me like that?
Not the fucking sign.
All right, now everybody is fully sick of the you and I are both alike. Scene. They’ve seen it a million times. And what I tell people when they do it is you can use it to help understand what your structure’s about and what your story’s about. You might wanna pull it out at the end unless you can be really sophisticated about it.
Like the song where, old man, you’re just like me. Or if you have great actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, or whoever, whatever it is that you wanna do, if there’s a more subtle way of getting it across. Cuz when you communicate structure directly to the audience, then they know exactly what’s going on and then that’s when it gets feels cliched element to it.
But there are cheesy versions of this. And really great versions of this that I think are great. I actually, and I just saw Jonah Hill’s documentary on Netflix about his therapist studs, which is fantastic. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely suggest it. And even they have a similarity between the two of them, which is what’s bonding them together, and that’s the emotional component of structure that you want to get.
That’ll help counter all the plot element stuff that’s going on in there. So let me go ahead and look. So what I’m gonna show are these are. Slides from a cohort that I do off doing, speaking about AI powered storytelling, that kind of stuff. But what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna zip to all the perspective stuff.
And so the four through lines, once we talk about the four through lines, and I’ll show you how it works, what I was saying is it sets the personality of your story so that if a n c adventure has a different personality than a courtroom drama that has a different personality than a romantic comedy, and it’s which kind of story do you want to hang out with?
And so when you’re picking through all the different hundreds and hundreds of streaming choices, it’s it’s who do I want to hang out with? And again, as I talked about in the beginning, how stories are about resolving inequities and then therefore it would make sense. Okay how can we communicate what that inequity is to an audience?
Will you give them a mind to assume as their own? And the degree to which you. Present that mind as complete will be whether or not they accept it. And it’s the kind of story that they would come back to over and over again. So what’s gonna happen is, the reason why everybody keeps coming back to stories all the time is because it gives them something that they don’t get in real life, which is meaning.
And part of that has to do with the four through lines. So in our lives when we encounter conflict, no matter where there’s four different perspectives that we can take to assess how the inequity is or where it’s coming from and how we could possibly solve it. There’s the I perspective, which is, I have my own issues and my own problems.
For instance, I had a ton of issues trying to share my safari screen at the beginning. There’s you and then that would be anybody else that has an alternate way of resolving conflict that in some cases has similarities to what it is that you’re going through, which is where the you and I are both alike.
But then also has a distinct difference, which is why no or nothing alike comes up. Then you have the we context, which is the relationship usually between those two characters, though it can be with another character in some cases. But it’s really about the bond in between the two people. So it’s not about the individuals in the relationship, which is where a lot of people get tripped up.
Cuz they’ll describe the relationship about, this person feels this way and then this person feels this way. And then the funny thing is, AI does the same exact thing. So I’m trying to train the AI to not do that. Cause dude, like what I call, he said, she said story structure of relationship story, three lines.
But there is a relationship, a bond there that grows and has almost has its own kind of life force in it and has an emotional structure to the rest of the narrative. And then lastly, there’s the they perspective, which is from the objective point of view, looking down. Which is what most people understand is plot.
So if somebody were to tell you, oh, what’s the plot? They are going through this kind of conflict and they’re doing this. And the reason why stories give us something that we don’t get in real life is we can take three of these at once. So if we have the I perspective, we can see you and we, but we can’t see they.
And then if we take the they perspective, we can see you and we, but we can’t see I. And so a story, a complete story has all four of those all at once looking at a single inequity that we can’t really describe because you really can’t describe the imbalance between things. You have to just talk around it.
And then that’s how you get a complete story to address all four of these. And there’s one novelist I’ve worked with who’s really popular and has written his 12th book. He writes like a book a month. And to him he says this is all you need to do. There’s a million other things that come after it.
It gets really in depth if you want to. But as far as he’s concerned, before he starts a novel we meet and then he just talks through the four through lines and what he’s thinking of doing. And then of course, he’s able to just start poured out of him as he starts working on it. But he says this is like the biggest gaining out of anything.
So that’s why I thought too though, this would be a great one for the class. So the fourth three lines of every complete story. So we have all these I Uwe day and over time, over centuries and centuries, we’ve converted these four perspectives into the fourth three lines of a complete story. There is the I, which is the personal or main character three line, and that would be all the emotional baggage.
This is what I picked up from the Stutts documentary last night, which I thought was great, which is the emotional vulnerability that the main character has that they would take with them into any story. So it’s not their role if they are the protagonist of a story because they’re not always the protagonist of the story.
But their emotional concerns, that personal baggage, that would be the main character through line. And then the, the person who’s usually the one that says you and I are both alike is what’s known as the obstacle character through line. And what this person is they represent an obstacle towards the main character, continuing their justifications the way that they’ve always been going along.
So every main character comes through a story with some sort of preconceptions, some sort of justifications reasoning for why they’re doing the things that they’re doing. They run into this obstacle character who suddenly is like, Hey, I can see something that you can’t see. And then just starts poking at them, and pulls them through, act by act, tears down those justifications till at the end of the story.
Then the main character would decide, no I’m doing the right thing. I’m gonna keep doing it. Or they’re gonna have a complete 180 change. And get rid of whatever it is that was ailing them and then keep, doing things a different way. And then either the story turns out great because of it, or it turns out horrible.
There’s all kinds of different endings that can come out of that decision that then ties into the meaning of the story that you’re trying to tell. So that’s where the you and I are both alike is coming from. And then, like I said, the relationship story through which is a lot of the development that I’ve done over the last four or five years, is to help explain how there is a friendship, a mentorship, a marriage, a romance, something that is between the two people that is always growing, whether or not it’s expanding or contracting getting stronger or dissipating.
And you can actually track the emotional development of it. And in fact, the audience would expect it because they need that heartline. It’s, this would be where the heart of the story is to counteract. The more objective concerns, which is where the plot is. And I don’t spend a lot of time on plot because pretty much anybody who wants to write a story is already fine with that.
Their only issue is usually they blend a lot of these together where they won’t even see all four at once. And so what happens is when you blend objective and subjective concerns together, you’re gonna be blind to certain concerns and certain aspects of the story, which is why you end up with a story hold.
So what you do, the process is work on the four, three lines in separate and then blend them at the end when you go to write your story. Because then you can address each one independently, maximize all the conflict out of it, all the different matic concerns. You’ll come up with way more ideas because there’s four different points of view that are going on, and then you’ll be able to.
The complete story, it’ll feel much more, not only logically satisfying, but also emotionally fulfilling. So yeah, this would be, and what’s really fun is you can look at the posters or the one sheets for movies and actually see which through line was, is being communicated as the most important.
Like I said, this would be, these are all objective story through lines. They’re really focusing in on what everybody is dealing with, when all the conflict is going on, and that, that includes the main character in the obstacle. They’re all part of the objective story through line. So this is the, from the perspective, this is where you would see the protagonist and the antagonist and their sidekicks and all the different sort of archetypal characters.
They’re all wrapped up into the subjective story through line. The main character through line, like I said, is where you get all the emotional vulnerability. Usually this is downplayed. And story. And a lot of times, especially in the West, they confuse main character with objective story, which is where you get hero’s journey and main character of protagonists always get confused as being the same thing.
Other parts of the world do a really great job with it. If you haven’t seen this is the worst person in the world, which is a film out of Norway, which is hands down, one of the top five films of all time. Probably my number three right behind the lives of others. So if you haven’t seen it, I’ve strongly suggest seen it.
It’s a great, fantastic main character through line experience where the objective story is downplayed tremendously. So here I, some in California, by the way, here, objective story is all that matters cuz that makes the most money. And then if you’re more artful and you have a more even handed balance between all four this one’s actually even more so towards the main character.
It’s fantastic. And then here, the obstacle character. This is really fun because in Sunset Boulevard she’s the obstacle character and it’s almost like she’s weighing down on top of them. Same thing with Tuck Everlasting, you’ll find that the main character through line of every story, they’re always looking straight ahead, right at the camera.
Cause they have the most empathy that garners the most empathy from the audience watching it. And then the obstacle character might be a little bit offset and they’ll be above, or they’ll be opposing as to get that sort of, oh, and subconsciously what’s happening is because we go through iu, we and they our whole lives subconsciously, it’s oh, I can already see that there’s some kind of argument going on here.
I wonder what, how that’s gonna turn out. So you always want to set up all those four through lines before the turn of your first act, because that locks everybody in. Once you have all four sets, The audience will have to stay through the end cuz they’re gonna want to know how it all works out. You never want to like just start the relationship in the second act or whatever.
It won’t make any sense. And then finally, the heart of the story, the relationship story through line sisters, mother, daughter, there’s the mother daughter, the breakup here. That’s where you get the heart of the emotional heartline. That is the counterpart. See, there’s a balance in everything. So in the same way that the main character and the obstacle character balance each other out, the relationship story is the heartline that balances out the headline of the objective story.
And if you leave out one of the three lines cuz a lot of times the obstacle character might be blended into the relationship story through line as if they’re the same thing. What you’re gonna do is you’re gonna make it so that the audience you’re gonna, if you give them three of ’em, they’re gonna know exactly what should be there.
And then they will want to fill it in with their own experience. Sometimes if you’re really sophisticated, that can be a good thing, and it’s a form of propaganda. But, there’s good propaganda and there’s bad propaganda. The examples I always use are Cico, which is a Michael Moore documentary.
He leaves out the main character through line and then, but gives you a complete story around that and makes you the audience is the main character and he is the proxy for that. So that by the end of it, you have no other choice than to change because you’ve been manipulated into that because of the story.
Moonlight is another fantastic example of this where it’s a story of a young kid who’s growing up very he’s struggling, not that he’s dysfunctional, but the people around him are extremely dysfunctional. And there are three Stages of his life when he is a child, when he is a teenager, then he goes away and disappears in juvenile hall, and then all of a sudden he’s an adult.
And what was really great about this is by leaving that part out, the audience was able to, in order to make sense of everything that was going on, because it was such a complete story around the rest of it, they filled it in with their own experience. And so then they became a part of the narrative and became part of something that’s oh, cool now I’m a part of it.
This is my story. Which is why it was elevated to a much higher status because people felt closer connected to it. Which also brings up my other point is once you, if you really like this idea and you start building up when you pitch it, like if you’re trying to pitch it to get money from people or to get somebody to produce it always leave something out and let whoever’s there with the money fill in the.
Even though they’re filling in the blanks with what you want them to say, they will feel like they’re a part of it and they’ll have more of a buy into it, and then everybody’s happy. So I’m always suggesting that when you leave out certain through lines, like I said, it’ll be very apparent. Christopher Nolan struggles a bit with relationship story through lines.
Occasionally, Don Kirk would be an example of this being on big picture, big on personal, big on opposition. But those emotional relationships, they start and stop. And so the experience of it is much more watching something that’s happening, but perhaps not being as emotionally invested as you possibly could towards with the heart.
I’m pretty sure nobody has seen this movie and there’s a really good reason for it. It’s an animated film called Nine that came out a couple years. Where there’s no main character through line, which is really difficult to do. It’s a, it’s an amazing feat, but there’s no emotional attachment to it whatsoever.
You have no idea what kind of baggage this main character is. I don’t even know who this vessel is. It’s complete, not nobody. And because of that, it lacks involvement and then it’s like, ah, I don’t really wanna sit through this thing cuz I could care less what happens because I’m not really invested in it.
And then finally, it’s hugely popular would be the twilight novels. Really big on personal through line. Really emphasize the relationship, really emphasize opposition. And the big picture is like really to toned down to such a degree that when they went to go make the movies, they pumped this part up and added stuff and really accentuated the big picture through line in order to get.
A larger audience because if in a novel, if you push these three and you’re going for a certain demographic, you’ll be totally fine. And it’s okay as long as you do a little lip service to this. And if you’re trying to get everybody, you’d want to address all four, three lines. Not that they have to be, all at the same level.
You can tune them. So one is more important than the other, according to what you as the artist find you’re more attracted to or you feel more invested in exploring.
And then everybody always asks me like, wait, is it, are there films where they don’t have complete stories and you can still enjoy them? These would be examples of what I consider to be really involving great incomplete stories. Anything where Lee Mason is chasing after somebody and he wants to get rid of them because they’ve taken something of his.
I’ll watch that. I’ll watch all the Fast and Furious films. I realize there’s no story whatsoever, but it’s still fun. The Tree of Life, anything that Terrence Mallard does fantastic. Even though maybe there isn’t a complete argument being made, but that’s obviously not the point that he’s getting across.
So the four, three lines are really, if your intention is to communicate a particular way of resolving inequities or solving problems, then you wanna communicate to people through your work, then you would want to have these four as a means of making sure you cover all the different bases.
Inequity is the source of conflict. Okay. I don’t know if I want to get into all that stuff. Let me see if I can do
well. Yeah. I’m just gonna do it. All right so you have the four, three lines. It’s great. All right, I have these four perspectives. Now what the heck do I do with them? There are four ways that we classify conflict, and the reason why you’re gonna start keep seeing four over and over again is because we really just project our own experience onto the world.
So anytime you’re looking at stuff everything gets broken down for us just because that’s how we perceive space and time and all that kind of stuff, right? So you can look at conflict and you can classify them in four different categories. One are situations, which is when you look at conflict coming from a fixed external state.
The second one would be activities which are different from situations in that there are conflicts coming from an external process of things being taken care of, punching and kicking and fighting, going after treasure, that kind of stuff. Then you have the internal classifications. One would be mentalities, which would be manipulations or ways of thinking, kind of dysfunctional ways of thinking that are going on.
And then lastly, to balance everything out, you have fixed internal mindsets, which is where you find prejudice or rage or love guilt, truth, falsehood, all that kind of stuff. Those are the four. You can’t classify conflict in any other way, except these four categories in subtext, those classifications of conflict are changed to universe, physics, psychology, and mind.
And they are arranged in this. For a reason in that universe and mind are fixed. Those would be universe are the situations. So there’s something out in the universe that has something that is, inequitable and something is stuck and then the story gets resolved when that gets unstuck. Physics would be activities.
This is all your Marvel superhero punching, kicking, fighting. Something’s outta control. They gotta stop something from being outta control. Psychology, this is where you would get dysfunctional psychologies and those kind of psychological thrillers would be here. So for instance a thriller in, in, in physics would much more emphasize the either chasing after the serial killer or if it’s a spy thriller or the kind of espionage stuff that’s going on.
Whereas a psychological thriller, something like get out, something like that where it’s all the manipulations that are going on that is really where the source of conflict is coming from. It’ll have a different personality. Than that other spy thriller. So you can start to see how, where the different through lines are and what the emphasis of conflict is, starts to create a personality of your narrative that then helps communicate to the audience, but is they’re going forward.
And then lastly, mind is where you get all the ideological clashes. Prejudice or courtroom dramas are perfect for this. Either they’re guilty or not guilty. And then changing that person’s opinion or their fixed mindset becomes the goal of the story. So if you have four through lines and you have four classifications, you, what you want to do is you match one through line with one classification each.
Eh, that’s how you make a complete story. And the only rule is the main character and the obstacle character through line have to be diagonally across from each other. And the objective story and the relationship story have to be diagonally across from each other because that creates the greatest amount of conflict, at least in the current model that subtext is using.
The model is emphasizing sort of western dynamic conflict where opposition is the key aspect. In future models, there’ll probably be different versions of this, but for right now, that’s the biggest one. So these would be examples. So now we’re just gonna look at the objective story through lights of a plot and see how that would play out differently in different films.
Whoops. Manari, which was a fantastic film. I don’t know if anybody’s seen that. Top Gun Maverick. I don’t know anybody who he hasn’t seen. Worst person in the world, which is that one that I described from Norway. And then there was a six episode series on H B O called Scenes from a Marriage which is just the two of them.
It’s a marriage splitting apart based on the previous version of it. So in Menari, the conflict in that objective story is situated in the universe, meaning this is a Korean family that comes to the Midwest and starts a farm where it’s not so much you could think oh, maybe in a different story they might push the prejudice that’s going on between the south and, oh, I, here’s some people from outside.
It’s really has nothing to do with that. What’s really happening is the father really wants to create this farm and he’s like trying to make something happen, but where he’s able to do it, where he is able to afford it, is too far away from the hospital where their kid needs to be in close approximation of.
Because he has a heart condition. They don’t want anything to happen to him. So the conflict there is how can we like there? It’s stuck. This is the only way we can make money, but we also have our child here and how are we gonna make this new universe work? And eventually they end up making it happen.
That’s an objective story through line where the focus is on universe. You could also see something like Lord of the Flies, a bunch of kids stuck on the desert island. Same sort of thing. When they get unstuck, when they get home, that’s when it resolves. Physics, this one’s usually the easiest one in the world cuz Tom Gun, it’s not a masterpiece.
It took advantage of the fact that everybody was stuck in their house and then they needed to see a movie. There’s lots of flying, shooting things, blowing things up. That would be an objective story where the conflict is focused in on the physics domain. The worst person in the world. That objective story is on her dysfunctional psychology.
And it’s even in the title of it, usually you find the objective story three line in the title of where she’s the worst person in the world because she doesn’t wanna get married, she doesn’t wanna have kids, she wants to be an artist. And so it’s a ironic sort of thing that, oh, you really are the worst person in the world really.
She just has a different way of thinking that everybody else does. And resolving that is where the plot is situated. And then lastly, most plays, the objective story is in mind. Like we are listening to Hamilton at the beginning. Tick, tick, boom. Anything where you usually up on stage and you can emote your feelings and your state of mind because the medium is much more geared towards that.
You’ll find a lot of plays, which is what this is pretty much framed as being here because it’s their state of mind that is being worked during the emotions. That need to be resolved in order to move on from the story.
So those would be the four, those would be examples of those four different domains and then how that would play out through the objective story through line. And you can see how in the subject matter of the end of the world, you would have different personalities, different stories, by situating the objective story in these different areas.
Subject matter is not, when somebody says I wanna write a story about love, it’s okay, what do you wanna say about love? What’s the conflict that you wanna look at? Is it more of family love here? Is it more the fact that I love personal love, self-love?
Or is it, between two people, the subject matter is not the source of a conflict. You, the author are making decisions as to like where that should be. So these would be for examples at the end of the world, deep impact. It’s all universe cuz it’s about, at the end of the. It’s the Morgan Freeman one the meteor’s coming.
Where can we get people in order to escape this thing that’s coming? This is the Michael Bay. Let’s blow up everything and shoot everybody. Lens flares, much more kind of energetic exciting aspect of it. Don’t look up, would be the same exact idea, but it’s more all the dysfunctional, all the crazy people.
And the idea that, hey, just don’t look up and then nothing will happen. And then melancholia is just the complete depression and how that’s related to the coming or the passion of this thing that’s coming into the solar system. And that pretty much wraps up. Lemme just make sure, oh maybe I’ll just end with this one.
This would be great. Oh, actually, hang on, let me go back. Wait. Oh yeah. So then this was what I was talking about where the main character and the obstacle character will be. Opposed against each other. And then the objective story and relationship story would be opposed to each other. And so what you get is you get this little schematic hair, and this is from subtext to help you understand it.
So for instance, in Star Wars, the main character he is the farthest part of the galaxy and he’s a farm boy, and you can’t fight with the rebel soap. He’s stuck. And that’s his emotional. If you want to talk about Luke Skywalker’s emotional vulnerability, that’s where his through line is situated.
His obstacle character is Ben Kenobi, right? Is a fixed mindset of what the force is. Their relationship is a way of being where, becoming one with the force and changing the way that you’re thinking. And then the objective story is much more situated In physics. This is a classic arrangement of through lines where you have the main character and they’re dealing with some sort of universal, they’re place in the world.
And the objective story is in physics, at least here in the West. In fact, if when you start subtext, this is the default narrative that you get, because a lot of people are, this is basically what they want to write anyways, a complete switch of that. It’ll be something like Mullan Rouge where the objective story isn’t about the physical stuff, but really is all the dysfunctional characters within the Mulan Rouge and trying to elevate it and lift it up to a different place to where it was previous.
Like it’s this Rockwell fun place and now they’re gonna do high art there, and how can we change things? And some people are really into it, some people aren’t. And manipulation is in scheming or what the core conceit of the plot is all about and where that’s situated. Whereas the relationship story between the two principal characters between Christian and Satine is the physicality of it, like getting together.
Hooking up, that kind of stuff. You’ll find a lot of romantic comedies or things that are much more situated in the romantic genre. The plot elements will be much more about the dysfunctional family, like my big fat Greek wedding or something like that. All those dysfunctional psychologies going on between people.
And then the relationship between the two people, like pretty woman will be the physicality. They have to get through that, both the negative and positive aspects of that. And then Mulan Rouge, his personal baggage that he would take with him in any story is he loves love. Like love is the most important thing in the world.
Love lifts you up, all that stuff, right? That’s the reason why he’s there is because he wanted to feel all that love and felt trapped, not being able to express himself at home. And then his obstacle character is somebody else who’s trapped, right? She’s actually, they have scenes where there’s a bird in a cage.
They make it really obvious where. She’s stuck and attached. She has all the financial obligations to the Mulan Rouge. And so she challenges him to give up on that. And what ends up happening is at the end, he stays true to it and she changes out of it. But it all ends in tragedy. And that’s how you do a complete story with the four, three lines.
There’s a movie that comes out really soon called Devotion, which basically looks like what Top Gun copied cuz this was made before Top Gun. And see if you can identify, I’m gonna play this now that you know all four, three lines and you know where they’re at. See if you can identify where the main character through line is, where the objective story through line is, where the relationship story is and where the obstacle character is.
The great thing about this trailer, which is why it will get people, more people in the theaters. It actually shows all four, three lines in a span of a minute. So let me play this. Ready, set, all oh. Wait. Make sure I song, hold on. Here we go. All, here we go.
You the only person I ever met belonged in this guy. Just remember you belonged down here with us too. Okay.
The commanding officer called you one of the best pilots he’s ever seen.
It must be hard being Neil. I’m Mabel Aviator. Absolutely.
The whole world’s looking different. Do you ever think that you’d be in a squadron with a colored aviator? Lieutenant Tom Hudner, Jesse Brown. It’s good to meet you. We’re taking a slight detour on the way home. Say again. What are you gonna find out about your wingman? Crewman at 10,000 feet? Lieutenant put him in a little bit of trouble.
Who knows? Am I gonna peek at who he really is?
The three ends came pouring over the 38th parallel. If our guys need help and we’re up, we knew this day might come. Yet, it doesn’t make it any easier. The most important thing is this. We bring everyone home mistakes, get us killed. Can’t tell you how many times people have told me to give up. Clearly die.
can’t always do what you told me.
If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.
What do you want me to do? Just be my man.
The real battle in all of life is being someone that people can count on.
Show off. That was pretty good. It’s good. Oh, excellent. I didn’t realize it was next week. So yeah, you pretty much you probably even know how that’s gonna end and what his decision at the end of it, whether or not he’s gonna completely change and give up being a naval aviator or if is gonna be somebody that people can count on.
You pretty much can tell even from the trailer exactly what that’s gonna. So this would be that same default narrative. Like I said, this would be the classic Western American setup war action genre where the main character, his personal emotional vulnerability is in universe. And it’s the very first thing you see where it’s like it must be really hard being the only, and it’s gonna be the only colored Navy.
And he’s no, no naval aviator. Like he wants to be judged based on who he is, not on his physicality, which is that main character through line in universe. And what’s nice is that everybody can relate to that n not necessarily the specific instance of it, but everybody’s been judged one time and another based on their physicality.
And so that’s where that comes from. And then the obstacle character Tom Hunter is he’s gonna represent the prejudice. So prejudicial can you imagine that you would be in this kind of unit? And those kind of fixed attitudes are what are challenging him to give up. And you can tell from the trailer, he’s not gonna give up, like he’s gonna stick with it.
It’s pretty intense. It’ll be a weird story if you gave up. So then what’s gonna happen in every complete story, one of these has to change. That’s what gives the story. It’s meaning if they both change, it’s gonna be meaningless. That never happens. He will grow into it. That could be a way of thinking of his change.
Like his arc is that he actually grows into his resolve, whereas obviously this guy’s gonna grow out of it. Sorry for the spoiler. And then the relationship is the wingman. What’s the two of them flying together. What can you expect for that person manipulating him and playing games with him?
That’s where that heartfelt relationship is gonna come from. And then the classic. Objective story, it’s war. So all the Korean War verse, not only in the air, but also on the land. And that tells you the complete story and the narrative personality of devotion, which comes out very soon. So that’ll conclude my introduction to the fourth year lines.
And we’ll take I guess a five minute break. Does that sound good? Craig, are you still there? I’m not used. I’m so used to people interrupting me and asking questions all the time, so yeah I’m to just like going for 30 minutes. But yeah, we’ll do five minutes and then I’ll come back and let’s, why don’t we do questions just before we take a break and then take a break and you can demo your software a little bit more.
So guys just as we the link is in the chat, so why don’t everybody take 30 seconds. If you have a question write it in the chat if you don’t have a quick look at the questions that other people have, and click the thumbs up on ones that you want answered and then we’ll go from the most popular down.
So just take a couple seconds to go through the questions.
Is anybody having trouble accessing the the slid app or is everybody doing okay?
And Jim, if you wanna stop sharing your screen, we’ll get us stop sharing. You got it. Nice and big.
And yeah, please feel free to ask whatever. Like I said I taught at Cal Arts for seven years. I’ve done tons of cohorts. I love teaching. So anything you, you want to ask me, please feel free to, I probably have an answer for you.
Awesome. Okay. So we will get started with the top ranked one at the moment. It is, can you expand on why the main character, so who it says anonymous, but if somebody who asked that, if you wanna unmute yourself you can go ahead and ask the question if you want. That was me. Yeah. Great. Why don’t you, here, I’ll un spotlight Jim for a second.
Not sure actually how to do that. Okay. Why don’t you just ask Jim your question. Yeah, so my question was you said that the main character and the protagonists aren’t the same. So I was trying to think of an example of that, but I can’t think of any. So perhaps you can expand on that.
Typically speaking, not typically. Again, like with the Western bias as the main character and the protagonist to the same person so that the emotional concerns of a story are linked up with the player who’s also pursuing the story goal and trying to resolve it. And so then the protagonist is in the objectory.
When you have the same player who is the main character and the protagonist, then you have a hero, right? Which is, would be all the Marvel superhero stuff. And then the same thing exists with the obstacle character. If you have the obstacle character paired up with the antagonist, like that Dark Knight clip by, that would be a villain.
So that’s when you have heroes and villains, because it’s very black and white. The emotional and logistical concerns are being carried up by the same person. You can split them. Because there are a lot of times in life when we aren’t the protagonist and we’re sitting on the sideline, but there’s still some sort of inequity that we’re dealing with.
One of the examples would be to Kill a Mockingbird, which is easily like the best novel of the 20th century where you have scout is the main character, right? She has her emotional concerns of being a six-year-old drug trying to go through stuff, trying to figure out what’s going on in the world.
And then her obstacle character is Boo Bradley, who’s like across the street, he’s like the boogeyman, right? And then their relationship neighbors is meant to be a parallel to the obvious courtroom drama stuff that’s going on in the big picture with her father, Atticus being the protagonist in that story, he’s seeking justice because somebody’s been unjustly accused of doing something right.
And then he has his own antagonist in that objective story. Everybody in the story is wrapped up in that objective story through line. But the reason why that novel is elevated up beyond is because you’re getting that juxtaposition between those two. You’re looking at the same kind of conflict, but you’re seeing it not only from an objective standpoint where the protagonist separated from main character, but you’re also seeing it within the intimate, like being a child and kind of her stuff and what she goes through seeing the boogeyman, which is like a parallel to seeing I think Tom as being seen as the boogieman because he’s the black man, obviously he’s the one that’s guilty when really he’s not.
So that would be the classic example of that. Another great one is the Shawshank Redemption, where if you just had the idea of oh, who’s the protagonist of this story, you would say Andy the Tim Robbins character, which is correct, because he is the protagonist, he’s unjustly accused.
And imprisoned. And he is trying to find a way out. And we find out later that he’s been doing it all along the main character. We don’t get an insight into Andy’s personal issue. We don’t even know whether or not he really did it. The person that we are personally invested with, who is the first person perspective, which Deon does great because there’s three sequences where we’re walking down the hall from a first person perspective would be red, would be the Morgan Freeman character.
So he’s the main character and he’s developed an institutionalized way of thinking. And then Andy, who’s the obstacle character and protagonist is the one who emotionally challenges him to grow, to get busy living, instead of get busy dying. And then the antagonist would be the war in it. So that’s a different sort of narrative where the main character perspective is separated out from the protagonist.
And usually if the main character isn’t the protagonist, usually it’s the obstacle character who’s the protagonist. Okay. So just to quickly respond to that. Cause I think these are two examples where it’s more that the storyteller is actually separate from the protagonist there. Yeah. There is a difference between narrator and but if you look at both those examples, they’re more than just the narrator.
They actually have emotional concerns and vulnerabilities and personal baggage that we get to become intimate with that nobody else is aware of. And then we find out what’s going on. Usually if somebody does something off screen and you don’t know what it is, that’s really difficult for that person to be considered the main character because you’re not, I you’re not in that I perspective.
So it is true in both Shanique and what you call it Mockingbird, kill Mockingbird. That there’s a, so when you look at narrative structure like fourth through the fourth through lines of what we’re talking about in a story form, which I’ll show, like how that shows up in subtext.
This is all the author’s point of view as to what the conflict is. And then stuff, how it gets exposed is completely up to the author and it’s storytelling and it’s a separate apart from the structured part of it. So even though in those two examples, yes, they’re both the narrator, they also have emotional concerns that are tied to what’s going on in the objective story.
There’s a resonance between the two of them. So they’re more than just the person that’s telling the story. They also have some inequity that they’re working through. Alright. Like another example might be ET would be another one, right? The main character’s, Elliot. And then, the alien ET is the one who’s actually Pursuing, like trying to phone home.
And he would be the protagonist. Elliot’s not really the protagonist. He’s there to help him out and do kind of stuff, but he has his own personal stuff that he’s going through. No. Oh, good. Gotcha. That’s a good example. I like that one. Great. Thank you Jim. And we’ll go on to the next question here.
Who asked this one? If you wanna come off mute? How do you work out how much and what capacity? Who was that? What’s that? Do you wanna come off mute and ask if you No one comes up. Okay. I’ll just I’ll read it out. So Jim. Oh, sorry. Yeah, no worries. I was just trying, I was just trying to recall why I asked that question.
But yeah, no, I was just, I guess I was like you, you’d mentioned earlier about how like they don’t have to be at the same. Like you can have like more objective story, less obstacle character or so I guess my question was like, how do you work out what cocktail works best for whatever you’re working on, I guess is the best way to phrase it.
Oh. Once, once you become familiar with it, you as the author will find out what is most interesting to you, right? Some people come to me and they’re like fully invested in relationship story through line, and then they just need something for the objective story so that it makes sense. So even if it’s like a sentence or a paragraph, if it’s a novel or whatever, and you address their I’ll show you that the, there’s a story form that gets built out based on what it is you’re trying to say.
As long as you address the thematic concerns of that perspective in as little an amount as you want, then you’re fine. It’s okay. It’s not like the end of the world. And it really is just, it’s the author that’s there’s structure, right? There’s the narrative schematic of what’s supposed to come out.
And then the author, depending on their own artistic abilities and their interests will emphasize one over the other. So that’s such a subjective thing. It would be hard for me to say for sure, and it’d have to be, so the key is just as the author, figuring out which particular perspectives am I focusing in on?
And then as long as the others exist in some form, I’m probably gonna be okay. Is what I’m hearing. Yeah. And all this stuff, like when I showed after the breaking set, it’s all from the author’s point of view. That’s what separates subtext from. Everything else save the can hair’s journey, all those other things are always from the character’s point of view or the audience’s point of view, which means they’re prone to subjective bias.
They’re great for attention and entertainment and experience, but they’re horrible for like ingredients like what’s actually there. Because they’re subjective by definition, they don’t see the bigger picture. So even though it’s like the I, you and we, it’s the author saying the main character, the I conflict, that’s the conflict that they’re going through.
And then the perspective that challenges them as the you, and then it’s the weed and they, it’s very author oriented to give them the ingredients and then you can make the meal, whatever it is. Now that you know all the different ingredients that are supposed to go into it. Great. Yeah, it sounds like it’ll, it’s something that will also come with experience and practice as well.
Once you use it a couple times, once you try writing a couple stories, using the four through lines, you’ll get a sense of how they change the story depending on which one you emphasize. And as the author, depending on the story that you want to tell, you’ll start to figure out more intuitively which one that you want to focus on in order to tell the right version of the story as it does that sound?
Sound right to you. Okay, great. So we’ll do one more question here and then we’ll take a break. So the next one is how does the Four Perspectives work? Who asked that one? Do you wanna come off and ask?
Does anybody want to own that question? Otherwise I’ll just ask. It was the four. No, the was the question, the one with how do the Four Perspectives work with multiple characters? How does the Four Perspectives work with stories with more than two characters? Do you make multiple question as well? That was you again.
Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. But no, I was just thinking cuz a lot of like the stories that I, and I’m assuming that more, most novels, like a lot of the examples that you gave were like, they focused in on they seem to focus on two people. But like, when you have a story, your novel in which there’s a lot of moving parts and there’s and there’s the op, there’s the obstacle character and the main character But then there’s other characters that are like, say the villain and who has his own role to play.
And there’s and then there’s, I guess do these four perspectives, apply to side characters. Side characters in a sense that like they’re not necessarily like they’re central to the story, but they’re not necessarily the main character. But so I guess like how do you, how, if you form the four perspectives for the main character, like how do, how does the rest of the cast fit in, or do you just make multiple four perspective charts so to speak? Or do you make the main chart and then you just figure out, okay, where are these side characters contributing in terms of developing this main story? If that question makes sense. Totally. It’s a great question.
Anytime you want to say something different. Again, it’s always artistic intent. So if you want to say something different about a relationship, a different relationship between two people that isn’t caught up in what perhaps like the, what you would consider to be the central relationship, then you would create another story form and you could have multiple story forms layered into it.
So something like Lord of the Rings, if Frodo is the main character and Sam’s the opposite character, and then Aragon has the main character in a different part, and then the elf, she’s her another, anytime that there is some sort of thematic thing that you want to address, That isn’t part of it, if it’s just repeated, then what you’re doing is you’re just handing off the perspective to other people.
And that’s totally fine if you wanna say the same thing, but with different relationships, you absolutely can do that. They are perspectives, they’re not characters. So something like Christmas Carol Scrooge is the main character, and then they’re four obstacle characters. They’re all saying the same thing, right?
It’s Marley and then past, present, future, they’re all saying the same thing. They just hand off the baton like, okay, now it’s your turn. Now it’s your turn. And you can hand off that perspective to different characters. So you can do the same thing with main character, influence character. But if it’s Epic, the reason why Lord the Rings is so huge is because there’s, multiple story forms.
There’s one big one that’s like the overall thing. So for like television series and stuff, we always work out the story form of the series. Then each season is usually its own story form. Then maybe, something like secession, every single episode is also a story form that’s within the bigger story form.
But there’ll be one central relationship that’s like overall, and then every episode might explore something. And so it’s the same thing, like in a novel you would do that sort of thing where you would do the different you would find out what the different thematic concerns are. Like Jerry McGuire is another example where you have Tom Cruise is the main character.
And then Kuba Gooding Jr. The sports guy is his obstacle character in one story form. And then in another story form, the Renee Zeiger is she has her main character concerns with the kid and all that stuff and the family. And then Tom Cruise is the obstacle character to her. So in that way, the player is somebody in one, from one perspective, he’s the main character.
And then this issues. And then Coba Gooding comes and challenges him. And then another, he’s challenging Renee Zeiger to deal with her personal issues with family and all that stuff. And that’s why that film is like almost three hours because you need more time to be able to address both story forms and address them in a way that’s enough so that the audience feels like they’re getting something out of it.
So if they don’t have emotional concerns, like I said, there are other characters in the objective story through line beyond protagonist and antagonist. If it’s something more archetypal, there might be like a sidekick or a skeptic. There’s usually a guardian who’s somebody that’s helping. They’re very functional.
And so while they may have you might have interest in backstory telling and that kinda. If they’re just dealing as a functional part of playing out the objective story and they don’t change, there’s no subjective change to them, then they’re just considered objective story, three line characters, and it’s much more about their function in relation to the goal of the story and whether or not they’re, their emotional, if they’re logical about it if they’re getting in the way of things, if they’re skeptical, whatever their function is in relation to the goal and what the protagonist is working towards.
That would be just in that objective story through Mike. Great. Thank you, Jim. You’re welcome. Okay, so we are going to take a break. Just before we go, I’m just gonna note that somebody pat me mentioned in the chat, no question at the moment, but really interesting content so far. So thank you for Thank Yeah.
That that was me. No I’ve just can’t wait to go and try and apply some of this to some of the things I’ve been writing because generally I’ve written a very instinctive way and without any strict structure. And you’ve actually answered a question for me because I’ve recently read a book called Still Life by Sarah Wyman.
And it was well written, it was beautifully, the locations were beautifully described. The characters, the relationships were very believable, but I don’t know who on earth was the opposition character and the book. Was unsatisfying despite it was beautifully written and complex and enlightening in lots and lots of ways.
Beautifully dis portrayed Florence in the east end of London. But I thought it’s like an odyssey. It had someone called Lyses in it, the protagonist. And I thought, ah this is going to have Greek, Greek references in and characters representing old characters and modern, but it didn’t, and it was like an odyssey, which actually got nowhere.
But it didn’t have the through line you’re talking about.
So thank you. And that, yeah, that’s, and instinctively, even though you didn’t know the fourth, you knew something was missing. Now That’s right. Your idea of oh, I think that’s and now that you learned about them, you’re able to pinpoint it right away. Just thinking back on it, it’s very, yeah. That’s great.
Yeah. That’s great. Awesome guys. Okay, so what we’re gonna do is, I know we’re running a little short on time, but this did drag on not in a bad way, just we’re over time a little bit. So we’re still gonna take five minutes. Come back at 20, the 22 after the hour. It’s very specific, but take five minutes, stretch your legs refill your coffees, and we’ll see you in a few minutes.