Plot Progression

There are Objective Story Throughline appreciations, Main Character appreciations, Obstacle Character appreciations and Subjective Story Throughline appreciations. There are even appreciations that are the synthesis of all four points of view such as Goal, Requirements, and Consequences. These central appreciations seem the most plot-like because they affect the Concerns of all four throughlines.

As varied as all of these appreciations are, there is one quality they share: they stay the same from the beginning to the end of a story. For example, if a story's Goal is Obtaining, that never changes during the course of the story. If the Main Character's Problem is Logic, then Logic is always that character's Problem from "Once upon a time" to "They all lived happily ever after." True, the Main Character may solve his Problem, but he will never magically stop being driven by one kind of Problem and start being driven by another. Appreciations of this stable nature are called Static Appreciations.

Static Appreciations are thematic in nature because they form a bias or commentary on the story as a whole. Even the eight Plot Appreciations have a Theme-like feel to them, for they describe what the plot is about. But there is more to plot that this. In fact, there is a completely different kind of appreciation that moves from one issue to another as a story develops. These are called Progressive Appreciations, and it is through them that story explores the series of events in the Objective Story Throughline, the growth of the Main Character, the changing nature of the Obstacle Character's impact, and the development of the relationship of the Main and Obstacle Characters in the Subjective Story Throughline.

We can see that each of the four throughlines has, in a sense, a plot of its own, yet they all affect one another in some consistent manner. What is it that makes them separate, yet binds them together? A good way to get a feel for this kind of relationship is to think of a story as a football game being covered by four different referees. The "real" plot of the game is the series of events that take place on the field. Not one of the four referees can truly observe all the events, for each can only see what is visible from his position. A referee on the opposite side of the field, however, might see interactions that were completely masked or hidden from the first position, whereas the first referee would report activities not visible from the other side.

Based on what he believes to be happening from his position, each of the referees will call penalties or allow play to continue. Often, the other referees will simply accept that judgment and play will continue. Occasionally though, two or more referees will disagree as to what transpired simply because the events actually looked different from each of their perspectives. In this case, the umpire steps in to moderate the referees and determine what the call should be, even if he did not see the play himself.

In stories, each throughline is like one of these referees. Each provides an angle on the events of the story as they unfold. When something appears unfavorable from one of those points of view, the characters in that Domain cry foul and invoke a penalty to alter the course of action. Each of the throughlines is affected by the series of events that transpire, and conversely, each throughline can have an impact on the course of future events. This is how all four throughlines seem to have plots of their own, yet affect one another in a consistent manner. And, just as the umpire must sometimes step in to settle disagreements, so the author steps in from time to time to side with one throughline or another and allow a penalty or revoke it.

In the end, the true plot of the story is never seen directly, but simply synthesized as the result of all four throughline plots taken into consideration. As Taoist philosophy would explain it, "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao." As Dramatica would have it, "The plot that can be seen is not the actual plot."

How then shall we know what must happen in a story's plot? This we can learn by examining the mechanism of the Progressive Appreciations that occur in each throughline.

In this manner, we can plot the course of events as seen from each point of view. The synthesis of these into a single understanding of the story's central plot is what will then occur in the minds of our audience members as the plots unfolds.

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