The Manual

Writing a Basic Plot

Now that we have our list of possible Players assigned to individual Throughlines, it's time to start building the basic plot of our story.

Skip down the sidebar to the section marked Throughlines, and tap the Objective Story button.

The Objective Story Throughline

Here you find a list of four Storybeats surrounded by five Story Drivers (indicated by the arrows). Subtext labels the Story Drivers with their position in the Objective Story (First Plot Point, Midpoint, etc.), and then picks random illustrations of storytelling for the individual Storybeats. Random in terms of what you see in bold, underneath the intent of each Beat adheres to your unique narrative structure.

This is the basic plot of your story. The Storybeats indicate the source of conflict in each Act (1, 2, 3, 4), while the Story Drivers mark the turning points between the Acts.

An Overview of Plot

Illustrating Major Plot Points

If you’re familiar with Inciting Incidents, or Plot Points, these Story Drivers are the same thing—with a little extra added to them.

Tap on the first Story Driver labeled Initial Story Driver to expand it. Inside, Subtext offers space to Illustrate the moment along with a hint as to the structural intent of the Plot Point. These aren’t just random events that “progressively complicate” a story—they indicate the kind of force necessary to properly move your story forward.

The Storybeat Expanded

Tap where it says “Illustrate”, and describe what starts your story, using the structural intent as a writing prompt.

Illustrating the Storybeat

Do this for each Story Driver—beginning, middle, and end—using each to help frame your story. The intent here is to quickly capture your intent; don’t get bogged down in details, or endless deliberation. Fill out all five Story Drivers.

Congratulations! You have what looks like the beginning of a great story. 😃

tip

At this early stage, you really can’t do anything wrong when it comes to illustrating the key moments in your story. That said, if you ever want to learn more about how these Story Drivers work, you can always peruse our catalog of hundreds of articles in the subject.

Illustrating the Storybeats of an Act

Story Drivers mean nothing without something in-between them to drive—and Storybeats mean nothing without the Drivers.

Scanning the Storybeats in this section, we see Subtext has randomly assigned basic Storytelling Illustrations for each one. While random on the surface, the intent of each Beat remains tied to narrative structure.

For instance, tap the bold portion of the Storybeat. A floating pop-up window appears with a list of alternative Illustrations for that Beat in the story. Scroll through them, and you find that they all tend towards illustrating the same kind of thing.

They each share a common Theme.

Storybeat Illustrations with a Common Theme

The idea here is to find an Illustration that either syncs up with ideas you already have for your story, or one that sparks a new idea. Once you find it, select the new Illustration and Subtext returns you to the Storybeat view.

You just made the story your own—without breaking narrative structure.

tip

You know how Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story are basically the same story? That’s exactly what you’re seeing here with Subtext.

The structure underneath it all is unalterable—rigid, in terms of substance and meaning. The Storytelling on top, the illustrations of structure, rest firmly in your imagination.

In fact, if you wanted to, you could quickly build the next Romeo & Juliet or West Side Story simply by calling up their structure in Subtext and clicking the button marked Build a Story.

Making Subtext Your Own

There will be times when you look at the Random Illustrations provided by Subtext and think, “That is scary how close that is to my actual story. How did it do that?!” Other times, you’ll adjust a few Beats here and there by tapping on them, and selecting a new Illustration. But what do you do when you don’t find an Illustration that matches the story you have in your head?

One, you could simply ignore it and break structure. There are plenty of writers unfamiliar with Subtext or Dramatica who have done the same. 😃

Or two, you could Submit an Illustration for approval.

Improving Our Capacity for Better Storytelling

The initial catalog of Illustrations for Subtext numbered in the tens of thousands. Over the years, Subtext writers added to those numbers by submitting thousands of ideas for new interpretations of narrative Element.

The process is simple: if you can’t find an Illustration that fits with your story, simply enter your idea into the Suggestion Box above the list, and hit Submit. Subtext notifies us of the request, and one of our narrative experts takes a closer look at it. If your submission maintains the intent of that thematic Elements, we will approve it, and your Storytelling Illustration then becomes a possible choice for future writers.

Submitting an Illustration

In this way, we all win: you learn a bit more about how that particular Element fits into your story, and future generations of writers learn by seeing your imagination listed alongside others. In essence, your submission builds a global community of greater storytelling.

tip

You can’t lose by submitting your idea for an Illustration. If we find your suggestion veers too far away from the intent of the Element, we will send you an email explaining why the rejection. This way, you gain a better understanding of how narrative structure works in context of the larger story.

Illustrating Your Plot

Continue to do this with each Storybeat, adjusting your illustrations of Story Drivers to sync all of them together into one cohesive story.

Think of the Storybeat Illustrations as mini-writing prompts: when an Illustration sparks an idea, tap the Beat to expand it, and then quickly jot down your thoughts into the box marked Illustrate...

Feel free to bounce around from Storybeat to Storybeat. Start at the beginning, then zip down to the end to write about how it all turns out. Subtext, and the Dramatica storyform underneath it all, ensures that what you write remains truthful to your original intent—to the Premise of your story.

In this way, you allow your imagination to roam free, confident in the guidance provided that what you write will ultimately connect with everything else around it. You write with freedom and purposeful intent—the aim of every great writer.

Your First Story

When you finish, step back and appreciate your story. If you’re using Subtext on a desktop, zoom out to see the whole thing at once (command + or -). Congratulations! You just wrote your first story structured by a Premise.

The Basic Objective Plot of Aliens

Reading it, you should start to sense the power of this approach. If inspired enough, go off and start writing it now. In fact, while there is much more to a complete story, many use this basic outline to plot a short story. Totally acceptable—short stories (or tales) are often slices of complete stories; so rest easy with the notion that what you just did is more than enough for a short story.

Some of you may sense an incompleteness, a lack of emotional connection, or heart to the story. Those come later with the development of the other three Throughlines. Before we get to those, we should first determine who is driving this plot, and who is trying to prevent it.