1. CharlestsWhitfield
    Offline

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    2

    Developing Subplots

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by CharlestsWhitfield, Jan 21, 2014.

    1. I am currently writing my first novel, and came across a problem. I can't develop proper subplots! I have my main plot all planned out, but when it comes to my subplots, I fall short. What is the most effect way to develop proper, relevant subplots?

    2. Lets say you planned your novel to be 40 chapters, other than the main plot, how many subplots would be necessary?
     
  2. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    Look at your characters, you have your MC and the plot line he has to follow right? Do any of them any that stand out? If not - why not? A novel needs a strong support cast as much as a movie does. If so - look at the strongest and out line a sub plot that runs parallel with the story or entwines or effects the main plot without losing its own integrity. Most novels have a subplot as it allows pace and provides a break from main story without taking the reader away from the environment you have created. (Mods- i apologize if not allowed to copy my post from another thread, but thought it was relevant)

    I like the sub plots that touch on the main through out the book, even if its just for half a scene and as you go further you see how it effects it. Number of subplots for 40 chapters could be 1 could be 20, but remember readers are human and we get confused easy, so maybe 3 max def no more if they are independent from the plot.
     
  3. CharlestsWhitfield
    Offline

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    2
  4. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes, I agree with this.

    I think you can take the pain out of 'developing subplots' by simply allowing your story to unfold.

    If your story is complex enough to be a novel, subplots will probably evolve anyway.

    If a character is in some kind of trouble, let's say, and somebody else helps him out ...well, why? What's this other character's motivation or agenda? Is there some reason they are both thrown together in this situation? That can mean a subplot.

    It's how the various stories entwine that make subplots.

    I'd just write your story and see what develops, rather than artificially creating subplots before you start. Come up with a cast of characters, give one of them a BIG problem to solve, and you're away.

    Maybe your character starts out with two best friends. However, these two friends you've created for your main character actually dislike each other—they come from opposite sides of the tracks, or whatever—although both are fond of him. A subplot could be that the two eventually do end up liking each other, maybe while working together to help the main character through his big problem.

    Conversely, the rich friend could betray the poor friend, and create more difficulties for the main character to solve. This would also be a subplot.

    Subplots need to come to some sort of conclusion, and this usually happens just before the climax of the main story.
     
    plothog likes this.
  5. CharlestsWhitfield
    Offline

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    2
    @jannert - Thanks for the advice.

    My next question would be, is it okay to have your main plot, and a subplot that doesn't touch the main plot? I have a subplot that I really want to tell, and it doesn't effect the characters actions until Book 2.
     
  6. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes, of course. You can do anything you want, as long as it works!
    Are you talking an actual subplot in book one (something that starts and finishes within the book?) or just hints about a plot that will not actually happen till book 2?
     
  7. CharlestsWhitfield
    Offline

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    2
    @jannert - Full subplot, it ends in Book 1, and in Book 2 it will be the driving force for the MC. I was just a little discouraged about proceeding, because I read that subplots should at some point touch the main plot, but I don't want it that way.
     
  8. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm not totally sure what you mean. Is it an entirely separate story, with no connections to the main plot whatsoever?
     
  9. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I think you should make the link between the main plot and the subplot clear - that doesn't mean they have to affect each other or cross paths, but the readers should know WHY they are reading a subplot that seems to have no bearing on the main plot. Readers are impatient people - I for one feel frustrated quickly (and I mean, within the space of 1-2 pages) if I do not immediately see how new characters and new settings are linked.

    Having said this, one of my friends has written a series and she has something like 7 main characters and half of these don't cross paths till one or two books later. She's self-published the first book but I don't think she's actively promoting it right now. She has, however, had 5 reviews, all of them 5 stars.

    If you're interested in seeing how she deals with her plots, here's the link: The Heiress of Healing by Sonya Lano.

    Her second book, which I've read some of but hasn't been published yet, features an entirely new set of characters. Only two key characters (and not the main protags either) and one secondary character from the first book are even present in the second book. They're all meant to connect in the third book I believe, but I have no idea what the third book is like.

    In other words - it's doable, but it's hard, and it's definitely not meant for everybody. If you're happy for your audience to be a little more specific, then it's fine.
     
  10. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    If you start to question why things certain are happening in your main plot, it can almost be hard not to write subplots. Jannert touched upon motivation of secondary characters. Often your main character will have other characters who help or hinder them. If you ask yourself why they would do this and you want to show it rather than tell it, this leads to a subplot. If your main character finds a way to resolve the central conflict of your story, you might find yourself asking why didn't he try this thing
    earlier. So maybe he needs to come
    to a realisation (maybe about himself) which he discovers via a subplot. If I start being highly questioning of my plot and then answer my questions via showing rather than telling then subplots seem to happen.
     
  11. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    Think of it as skimming a stone across water. The stone at points will have to touch the water to get where is going. The same with the plots. Just allow them to touch so we know that they are in the same universe. Others wise what stops it being 2 seperate short stories. Done right you can add interest to the plot without trying.
     
  12. CharlestsWhitfield
    Offline

    CharlestsWhitfield Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    2
    Sorry for the late post.

    @jannert- It doesn't connect with the main plot until I reach Book 2. The problem is I really want this subplot to happen.
    Without going into too much detail, here is what happens.

    A disaster opens up the book and from there it splits into 2 plots
    Main Plot: The MC is sent to investigate the disaster, find out who did it, and clean it up before it gets any worse.

    Subplot: The company that my MC works for is undergoing a restructuring as a result of this disaster, so the MC's managers must stop the restructuring.

    Problem: The restructuring doesn't affect the main character until Book 2. He knows about whats happening to his company and his bosses, but he wants to complete his task first. I wanted his reaction to the restructuring to be part of Book 2 as motivation.
    A small connection is made in the way the MC completes his task and the subplot. Its not as detailed and that's the only way it connects to the main plot.

    @Mckk- Thanks for the advice.
    You and jannert answered it perfectly. I just wanted clarification. Its doable but hard, as you say. Again it does connect but in a small way.

    @
    plothog - Thanks for the advice. I have been looking at the plot differently.

    I think you've given me another way to look at the plot and question it. The ideas are flowing better after I read your post. I never thought of questioning why for the other characters.

    @
    SuperVenom - Thanks for the advice.


    Both plots happened as a result of a disaster at the beginning of my novel. At first, thats all the two plots connected, but now I have rewritten and began to look at it from different perspectives.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  13. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    Awesome that's cool, just light touches like the beginning are great but carry it through such as the characters for the different plots referencing the disaster or an object or an another event. Hell have the main plot cut down a tree and have the sub plot use the stump as a table lol (ok that was a weak example). The plots don't have to trip over each other to co exist.
     

Share This Page