When does a throughline become a subplot

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iqbal
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When does a throughline become a subplot

Postby iqbal » Feb 10, 2011 4:03 am

Hi
I've been struggling with the following question lately:

"When does a throughline become a sub plot?"

Let me explain this question in further detail:
A throughline is defined by Dramatica as a different viewpoint of the grand argument story.

If I looked at 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' in the past, I would have seen Scout and Boo Radley story as a subplot. However, reading Dramatica Theory Book, Dramatica sees this as the Subjective Story Throughline.

I took Armando's technique of creating a title for each throughline and working out the story of that throughline. However I ended up with what feel like subplots - i.e. I different story. Even though the story is relevant to the Overall Story Throughline - similar to 'To Kill A Mocking Bird'.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense here, which is why I think using 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' as an example may be useful here.

Why is the Boo Radley and Scout Subjective Story not classed as a sub-plot? I'm not clear on the rules here.

Thanks
Iqbal

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phillybudd
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Re: When does a throughline become a subplot

Postby phillybudd » Feb 10, 2011 4:29 am

Most of the characters in "To Kill a Mockingbird" are complex. Boo is the Impact Character, although this relationship is very subtle, since Boo is not physically present until the end of the story.

Remember that the Protagonist in the story is Atticus, not Scout -- she is the Main Character, since the story is told from her point of view. Frankly, I think it's possible to argue for more than one Impact Character in the story. I think Atticus is as much of an Impact Character in the larger picture as Boo is. But it is Boo who saves their lives at the end.

I think that's why the story of Boo feels like a subplot, and I think you're right, basically. (If you read the novel, there are subplots everywhere, which were left out in the movie -- if they hadn't been, the movie would have been 5 hours long.)

But don't forget that even the "subplot" is populated by the main characters in this case. There is indeed a separate story going on between Scout and Boo (and Jem), but that story and the OS story converge at the end, when Mr. Ewell tries to kill Atticus's children, and Boo defends them and ultimately kills Mr. Ewell.

I hadn't really thought about this until you asked this question! I guess it's just a case where the subjective story (MC/IC story) is very much separate from the OS, until they converge at the end.

Jeff

iqbal
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Re: When does a throughline become a subplot

Postby iqbal » Feb 10, 2011 5:51 am

Thanks for your reply.

The difficult I'm having at the moment seems to be finding that fine line between when you have unique stories per throughline (like the Mockingbird example), and when these stories become separate enough so they become subplots and so need their own grand argument.

I understand your point that SS converges with the main plot at the end, but then I remember reading about 'hinged subplots' somewhere, where a separate subplot (with a full grand argument), merges back into the main story.

So there are a number of things I am wondering now:
- What stops Scout and Radley story from being a 'hinged subplot'? Is it purely the absence of different grand argument?
- Is it a case of going by 'feel' in this case? i.e. figuring out when your subplots get to a point where it needs two full grand arguments rather than one to satisfy the story?
- Is the separate story as throughline a side product of having an MC who is not the protagonist?

I can't think of any other examples where throughlines are treated with a separate plot unto themselves.

Thanks

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phillybudd
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Re: When does a throughline become a subplot

Postby phillybudd » Feb 10, 2011 3:35 pm

Hopefully Chris will chime in here and provide his wizened advice. :) But subplots generally do NOT have a Grand Argument, because then they would be competing with the OS's Grand Argument. I would also argue that in Mockingbird the SS story "reflects", if you will, the OS -- the story of prejudice and persecution.

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Chris Huntley
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Re: When does a throughline become a subplot

Postby Chris Huntley » Feb 10, 2011 4:07 pm

The best way to keep it clear in your head is to think of it as a SUBSTORY rather than a subplot. Substories have plot, character theme, and genre, as well as the four throughlines and a SEPARATE storyform.

For example, the Star Wars substory with Han Solo has its own characters (Jaba, etc.), plot (the goal of getting enough money to pay back Jabba for the cargo that was dumped in space), etc.

Substories are great for providing counterpoint to the main story. For example, the commandant's substory in Schindler's List let's us spend the appropriate amount of time and thematic gravitas to satisfy the audience's expectations of the subject matter, even though it is not essential for the main story of Schindler saving Jewish lives.

Substories also are useful to get out of tough spots in the main story. For example, only after Han Solo's substory comes into play does Han agree to save Princess Leia from termination on the Death Star.
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