What’s the Difference Between an A-B-C-C Plot and an In-C-C-Plot?


Have you heard the terms “A plot, B plot, and C plot” when talking about television shows and episodes? This refers to three main story arcs in each episode; for procedurals, this usually centers around their case of the week as A.

Structures may also be nestable, meaning one arrangement encloses another, and its members can be accessed using the arrow operator (->). This process is known as pass-by-reference.

A Story

A story is at the core of any script; it should grip audiences and make them care about your protagonist and their journey. Additionally, this story serves as the core theme, and most other in-c stories will work toward supporting it; procedurals often utilize this format by having their A story revolve around one case per week, while B and C stories focus on leads while “runners” like those seen in The Office may provide additional plotlines that have long-term repercussions (for instance the pranks played out over several episodes).

Writing out these various stories will help your show gain structure and achieve harmony, as well as deepen your protagonist’s arc and emphasize its themes.

B Story

A B Story is a secondary plotline that provides you with an opportunity to play out the theme of your script while adding depth and emotional resonance to its characters.

The goal of a B Story is to give your protagonist an experience that will enhance and deepen their life, helping them to overcome internal obstacles and reach a satisfying climax. While love stories tend to work best here, any situation or relationship that forces your protagonist to confront their problems and grow can serve this purpose just as effectively.

Most writers utilize the B Story to focus on an influential character, but this doesn’t have to be the case; it could instead involve business transactions, political upheaval, or obstacles that help your protagonist reach the climax of their central conflict.

Save the Cat contends that a B Story should take place immediately following the Break into Act Two, that is, after the Inciting Incident but before the Fun and Games section of your script. A typical B Story typically begins with an issue or conflict that threatens to undermine the protagonist’s world, triggering it all together, be it simple or complex, but should have profound life implications for our protagonist.

The B Story should also serve as a place for your protagonist to encounter an issue that challenges their beliefs, values, or choices – typically, this will take the form of an incremental/incline arc, but sometimes it could take on other states as well. Ideally, your B Story will shape their decision at the climax of their central conflict.

Mirroring both stories is a popular method for adding drama. This technique is mainly used by TV shows that use ensemble casts – examples such as Rick and Morty or South Park are great examples of this strategy.

Romance B Stories often utilize interweaved problems between A and B Story conflicts to add complexity and tension to their storyline. People living real lives also often have stories similar to this; here, too, it can be tricky for audiences to identify when problems overlap from either story arc. To ensure maximum audience interest, it’s essential that audiences can remember which is which.

C Story

In procedurals, the C story usually comprises some ongoing/macro plot thread that pays off in the long run (or, for comedies, quick gag scenes). While not as dramatic and immediate as A and B stories, its purpose should ultimately help advance plot points, character arcs, or themes; for instance, the A story might include C stories, such as recruiting new officers. Such “runner” stories don’t contain as many beats but still add depth to the narrative by providing another layer.

Runners may become significant parts of the narrative in time; however, they should always have some thematic connection to it.


The theme is the message a writer wants readers to take away from his characters and story. That is why Christ’s parables and Aesop’s fables endure, as do classic novels such as Les Mis and Catcher in the Rye that continue to be taught in schools; their themes touch hearts while altering ideologies.

A story’s theme goes deeper than a plot summary or moral. It represents what your protagonist will learn (or not know) by the end of the narrative arc, illustrated through character progression throughout. Instead, good themes should come naturally out of your characters’ struggles and experiences in their world.

Typically, protagonists begin the story with an inaccurate worldview or problem, then challenge and explore its gray areas throughout. Finally, at the conclusion, they synthesize and prove the true thematic statement. Meanwhile, side characters may offer exaggerated, inverted, mirrored, or complex views on the theme topic that help the protagonist evaluate and test his beliefs while learning something.

Theme can also refer to the world or society of your story and can be explored through symbols or characters that embody specific ideas. For instance, Moana depicts this theme through Maui’s struggles to get his heart back from Te Fiti; therefore, the Moana universe (or whatever fictional universe your story takes place in) depicts power struggles between themes in your account.