Question: What is the difference between throughline and theme?

Answer: The term "throughline" is similar to "plotline" or "storyline" in that it is a series of events that constitute a dramatic arc. A throughline illustrates the process of dealing with a problem or bringing things back into balance.

Dramatica theory states that four throughlines are needed to make up a complete story. Each of these represents a different perspective. The overall throughline deals with the problem that is affecting the story world as a whole. The main character throughline deals with the main character's inner conflict and how he/she resolves it. The impact character throughline shows the impact character's story, which influences either the main character or the story world. The relationship throughline shows the story of how the main and impact characters resolve their relationship.

The term "theme" can be confusing because it can mean a couple of different things.

On the one hand, "theme" sometimes refers to a structural element that holds the story together, such as a subject matter or a focus. It's more like a terrain to be explored than a problem to be solved.

Theme can also refer to a set of values that are looked at from various angles during the course of the story. The various illustrations of these values invite the reader to assess them and decide which are more valuable than others. The thematic message of the story is that a particular set of values is more advantageous than the opposing set of values.

Again, theme is not so much about the characters solving a problem. It's about the reader making a judgement about the characters' actions.

Hope that helps.

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