I’m working on two manuscripts now. Writing is always challenging, but writing two manuscripts, each for different age groups, is an unusual test of my ability as a writer. I hope I pass the test. There are obvious challenges with each like word choice, appealing to different audiences, and staying within a certain word count, but there are a some interesting similarities that I’ve noticed. One similarity is called the throughline. Writers think of the throughline as the heart of the book or the driving force that is the primary focus of your main character. For most novels, the throughline appears early, maybe even on the first page of your manuscript. Typically, after you create your basic story setting, characters, decide on the audience, and craft the beginnings of a theme–the throughline of your story appears as the primary motivation for your point of view character.

If the throughline eludes you, then it may be time to start over.

Great writers grab hold of the throughline and refuse to let go. Of course, there can be more than one throughline in a book, but there should always be one fundamental throughline that pulls the reader from beginning to end. This central idea shapes your main characters and your narrative.
For the two manuscripts I’m writing, the throughline is as different as the children that will hopefully read my books once they are published. The primary motivation in the first story is the main characters need to find his father who has disappeared. Another challenge arises in this book involving a computer virus and technology, but the central idea that drives the book forward is the character’s desire to find his father. This book is written for middle grades.
My other book is an early reader chapter book written for 7-10 year olds. In this manuscript, the primary character is always looking for adventure and some sort of mystical prize. In the first book, the prize is the key to adventure. In the second book which I’m currently writing, the throughline has eluded me. The challenge with this short book is introducing the goal earlier.
What type of manuscripts are you crafting and what are your character’s goals? Tell me about the throughline in your stories.