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Author Topic: Plot versus subplot  (Read 23894 times)

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Vicky03

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Plot versus subplot
« on: 03/06-08:28 »

I was discussing a subplot with a friend and we got into the subject of what makes a good subplot.

Any thoughts?
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superpsycho

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Re: Plot versus subplot
« Reply #1 on: 03/06-08:47 »

I was discussing a subplot with a friend and we got into the subject of what makes a good subplot.

Any thoughts?
Subplots help to keep things interesting as the main story and plot unfold. Not every scene in a story can be kept interesting. Subplots help to fill the natural flat points within a story. Often they can fill out character, provide a contrast to the primary plot, or fill out some part of a story.

Good subplots usually are made up of the same things good plots are made of, conflict and turmoil.
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The Deposed King

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Re: Plot versus subplot
« Reply #2 on: 03/06-21:00 »

Subplots help to keep things interesting as the main story and plot unfold. Not every scene in a story can be kept interesting. Subplots help to fill the natural flat points within a story. Often they can fill out character, provide a contrast to the primary plot, or fill out some part of a story.

Good subplots usually are made up of the same things as good plots are made of, conflict and turmoil.

Sub-plots are a great place for humor, or to introduce something into the main story line.  Something that having some random character show up and just give to the hero, would otherwise make the reader roll their eyes and start muttering under their breath about lazy ass writers home jobbing MC through the story by giving them a bunch of gimme's.

To avoid the home job feel, you have a secondary character or story line introduced that keeps things fresh, shows the struggle for something and illustrates both why this is important and why the MC got it.  Like with Star Wars, watching Obeywon sneaking around shutting off stuff in the death star and then dealing with Darth Vader, made both a cool sub-plot and brought real passion and dering do to the main plot of Luke, Solo and Leah escaping the Death Star.  At the same time it also made Vader more evil, more of a bad ass and it also made their escape from the death star into something actually kind of believable.

Or for instance with my latest book Admiral's Lady: Ashes for Ashes, Blood for Blood.  I had a lot of intense combat and go-go-go.  The reader needed a break, so I cut away to a scene with some people we'd never met before.  It was a cosmic news network reporter giving them a little galactic and domestic news, all of which focused on our MC's husband or local government actions and policies, which impact our characters immensely.  It was humorous and a window into things the readers have wanted to know for several books and it was also a way to break up the pace of the book, in a natural way.  Three birds were dealt with by one chapter.  A chapter that that was really nothing more than one extended scene in the newsroom.

Will we ever see those particular reporters again?  Not likely but it could happen.  Will there be more news reporter type scenes?  I think I did one other one so far in a series of 5 main line books and two novellas.

Alternately I had in Admiral's Revenge my fifth and latest mainline book, a sub-plot that was a recruiting drive.  We've been functioning with minimal crew for the past few books and expanding with more ships.  We needed more people.  But I didn't just want to gimme the MC so I took some secondary characters and sent them off on a 3 chapter recruiting drive.  I used those scenes to break the flow of the main plot which was pete and re-pete in a boat as they smashed Bug ships and while plot critical couldn't be in there as one big continuous lump.  So I had some fun with the recruiting drive.  It both show cased how we're going to be staffing the 'fleet' that we're going to have at the end of the book under the auspices of fully crewing their current ships, as well as interjects some humor into the story and finally breaks the flow of the main plot, making the action when we return to it that much more impactful.  Instead of being numbed by yet another battle, we're on the edge of our seats wondering if this time we're going to lose the ship (since we've already lost one ship out from under us in previous books).

Sometimes you can only do two, or even only one thing with a sub-plot.  But as you get going you'll figure it out.  The important thing is to write it down.

Some authors say you have to write 1-3 books before your improved enough as an author to write good books.  Others 3-5.  Personally I was in the 3-5 range.  Now that's not to say that my 1st book isn't and wasn't a winner.  Its more that without my brother I would never have got it out the door or out the door and up on amazon, it would have stunk on ice.

Now he's helped me with the 3-5 and I'd say he'll only take the 1-3 route.

But I digress.  When a secondary character spots a potentially mission failing problem, like a pending engine failure, and then fixes it so the story can progress and the bad guys get trounced, that's a sub-plot.  Or when the MC is after the Demon of Undoing but has to stop for her weekend visit with mom to have tuna and casserole and lie to her (by omission or open words) about how safe and careful she's being out there in the big bad world and how she's really not in any danger at all mom, that's a sub-plot.  Maybe mom gives her, her aunt june's old knitting needles and our character is first rolling her eyes and then when she finds out aunt june was a former super villain (known as the Red Shawl) who used to make impenetrable magic cloth armor using her magic knitting needles and regular thread (only usable by a member of the bloodline), she's instead pulling out her hair in job lots because she threw mom's old knitting primers in the trash as both inappropriate to her current field and a patriarchal induced way of keeping generations of good women down and now realizes this could be her only way of keeping a good woman going and her handful of trusty sidekicks out of the grave when they go and face the rampaging Dragon and his horde of slasher minions.

But before she can do much other in the way of crafting horribly misshapen and terribly itcy, woolen shirts and pants, she has to get back to tracking down and stopping the Demon's infernal minions as they plan to rampage through the city zoo!

A sub-plot is what you make it.  Its a diversion that lets some of the real world trickle into your story and lets your reader take a breather.  It can also give your character current use buffs, like daddy's magic sword, or future use buffs, like Aunt June's secret way of making the equivalent of magic kevlar armor using nothing but knitting needles, surplus thread from the dollar store and a hoop stitch.  So that next book, after our grand heroine appears on scene, red eyed and missing entire patches of her hair, and wearing an impenetrable set of ill fitting pants that itch and pinch and bind something fierce, the readers are invested!  The idea that they enable her to walk right into the path of a dragon's fiery breath, so long as she covers her face first, its not only believable but an actually expected natural progression of the plot!

This is also a nice lead in to start the next book, showcasing a power up buff, the ground work of which was laid in the first third of the first book and has now come to fruition, and also indicating that our now hoop stitching heroine has upped her game and is going after bigger and badder baddies.

Hoped some of this helped.




The Deposed King
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Vicky03

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Re: Plot versus subplot
« Reply #3 on: 03/20-15:11 »

Thanks for your thoughts guys. It actually helps and has given me and my friend a lot of food for thought.
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Sum0123

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Re: Plot versus subplot
« Reply #4 on: 03/20-08:07 »

Well, I'm making a fantasy story, and I need some help.

I just can't think of a plot. :(

I want vampires, and werewolves (because I'm addicted to twilight)

and I need a plot for my story.

The title is "Sweet Dreams." :)
Update: No, I don't wanna make this public. I'm just bored and want to write a simple story, about like 30 pages. LOL.

Well, I said I'm addicted to twilight, but okay.
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superpsycho

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Re: Plot versus subplot
« Reply #5 on: 03/20-09:30 »

Well, I'm making a fantasy story, and I need some help.

I just can't think of a plot. :(

I want vampires, and werewolves (because I'm addicted to twilight)

and I need a plot for my story.

The title is "Sweet Dreams." :)
Update: No, I don't wanna make this public. I'm just bored and want to write a simple story, about like 30 pages. LOL.

Well, I said I'm addicted to twilight, but okay.
Try taking a classic story, fable or myth and rewrite it. You can try looking for an ending or theme first.
Example: Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court'
Change it up so as your protagonist is chasing his enemy, the villain steals or creates a time machine so he/she can go back in time to kill the first of the line.

From this or any other premise, you can go on to change and shape it as you please. If nothing else, going over old stories for an idea will help get some mental juices flowing.
 
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