Character/relationship throughlines

by Dave


I've writing a murder mystery and this site has been fantastic for getting my plot together, so thanks! It all feels almost ready to go - but trying to identify some of the throughlines is baffling me a bit, and making me worry something is missing. So, this is what I have:

Overall throughline: The MC is framed for a murder and must clear his name. This bit seems simple enough - the inciting incident is the murder, the complication is his investigation reaching a dead end, the climax is him figuring out who it is and what must be done, and the resolution is him defeating the antagonist.

Here's where I start getting stuck.

The MC character arc revolves around him struggling to choose between his career and his relationship with the IC, his boyfriend. The inciting incident is his boyfriend giving him an ultimatum to choose. The complication is the murder threatening to destroy his career and reputation. In the story climax, with his boyfriend held hostage by the antagonist, he has to choose once and for all which to save.

The IC character arc involves the boyfriend showing the MC and alternative approach to life, eg choosing love over career. So the inciting incident is also the ultimatum? The complication is the IC being neglected as a result of the MC trying to solve the crime and save his rep? The climax is, again, the MC choosing whether to save his boyfriend or career? It kind of feels like going over the same things as the MC throughline.

And then the Relationship throughline is... kind of already explained in the MC/IC throughlines? I get totally confused at this point!

Sorry that's a bit long and hope it makes sense! Would appreciate any advice as this is getting my head in knots now :)

Answer: You must realize I can't tell you what your plot should be. So what follows is just one possible solution based on the details you have shared for illustration purposes and may or not fit your intent.

So much for disclaimer.

First, I think you are on firm ground with the Overall throughline.

However, I think your relationship throughline is the one where you want to explore
the relationship between the IC and MC. Their first signpost RS1 could show how things stand at the start of their story - probably when things are good between them. RS2 is a more likely candidate for the ultimatum. In RS3, you could actually have the MC forced to choose between catching the killer or rescuing the lover. And RS4 will show whether the relationship will continue or if it has been permanently damaged by the ordeal.

I'm guessing your MC will choose to remain steadfast? That would be typical in this type of story.

So let's assume that the MC has a unique approach to solving crimes that makes him good at his job. It might be his dedication, focus, intellect, whatever.

His first signpost (MCS1) should probably show him in action, using that unique trait in an impressive way.

Then, at MCS2, the experience of being framed (plus the IC's example) may make him start to question himself.

At MCS3, he come to a decision, which I assume will be to double-down on his tried and true approach in order to deal with the murderer and the hostage situation.

MCS4 will show him content that he has made the right choice. (judgment of good)

As for the IC throughline, ICS1 will show how the IC takes a different approach or is a very different person. Maybe he helps the MC escape from the pressure of work, become someone else for a while. Of course, it's better to make this as different from RS1 as possible... so perhaps you could show how the IC handles a situation successfully in a very different way than the MC would.

ICS2 could have the IC pressuring the MC to handle the experience not in his usual way. Maybe he argues for taking some time off or letting another detective take over.

ICS3 could show that the IC's approach to dealing with the murderer who kidnaps him is ineffective.

ICS4 would then show how the IC has changed as a result of the experience (opposite to the MC who remains steadfast). Perhaps he becomes more jaded and traumatized - becomes more like the MC.

Of course, a lot depends on how you braid the four throughlines together.

Hope that helps.

Comments for Character/relationship throughlines

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Feb 11, 2013
Character/relationship throughlines
by: Dave

Ah thanks, that's brilliant. Actually it's my MC who changes and the IC who stays the same, should have said that! But I get it now, and can swap those MC/IC tips around to make sense of it. Fantastic, thanks!

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