1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you come up with good subplots?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Mar 23, 2012.

    I was outlining a story I plan on writing and realized it doesn't take up as much space (K) as I would like to and I thought about adding a couple of subplots (one per pov-character=2) but I'm not sure how to go about doing that: How does one think regarding this? I'd like something that puts them to the test, in something that doesn't concern the main plot, which makes them learn stuff, either about themselves or about life, and which also function to develop character. How should I think to come up with something good? How do you "choose" your subplots? Or do they just appear automatically? Could it be the right thing to do in these circumstances or am I adding it for the wrong reasons?
     
  2. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Hmmm, I usually come up with these stuff in the shower or while washing dishes. =D
    The way I looked at it was... I took each Character out individually, created a whole world for him/her, placed significant problems in his/her life and then involved the other characters in them. For example, one of them lives with his grandma, she drops ill someday and the other two characters help that one look after her. She talks to them about stuff and they learn to take responsibility through this sub-plot. Also, since my MC is an emotionless, cold sack of ice, forcing him to stand by a friend in such a situation helped him look at his so-neglected-mother differently.

    So, the way I see it is a sub-plot with a meaning and a purpose to develop a character's personality but not necessary always involving the MC directly. The more you show that those surrounding your MC have problems and a life the more realistic your whole plot will look.

    That's the way I approach it.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hate the idea of adding subplots just to pad out the length of the story. A subplot should grow out of the necessity of the storytelling, not just because "I'm 20K words short, so I'll add a subplot about my MC opening an ice cream stand on the moon."

    If you feel you have to add words, deepen what you have! Don't just add a juggling act or something to entertain people until the 80,000th word.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    hmm mine grow out of my story. How about looking at what you have, the characters you have and looks at what would be fun to write etc.
     
  5. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    They appear naturally. I'm a beginner, so I try to stick to only a plot, and not worry too much with subplots, so IF my story has a subplot, it's because I thought about it while writing it.
     
  6. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    I'd say all you need is a pen and paper and the time to scribble down whenever an idea comes. I try to browse a lot of things but mostly it just pops into my head. If it doesn't come, though, no need to force it.
     
  7. doghouse
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    Sometimes, quick research is in order.

    Subplots are something that should fit the story.

    As a good example of sharp over arcing story intertwined with subplot is in actual fact Guy Richie films, such as Snatch.

    I only say that, as I watched it the other day. But it is a good example of how subplots can intertwine. Also, a film is only two hours of your time.

    I apologize for my terseness, but it's late, i've just got in, and I need bed.

    Hope this has been of some help.
     
  8. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    I think that everything about the story (any story) should come and be natural. Adding something because the story was "too short" simply lowers it's quality, unless you manage to do it in a way so it feels natural. Maybe by refiguring the whole plot.
    I find the idea of "subplots" rather stupid, in my mind a story should be whole - every part of it is as important as the rest.
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Sub plots are usually much more interesting if they intersect with the main plot at some point - I think all of mine do. In fact I recently turned my main plot into a sub plot and created an entirely new main plot that it hangs off - basically the romance was originally the main plot, but now it's the catalyst for what happens in the main plot, plus it distracts my MC so much that he fails to pay full attention to what the antag is doing in the main plot. Within that sub plot there are other mini sub plots, which also intersect with the main plot... I think I have maybe 3 or 4 of those. These all came about as bolts of inspiration when I was quite a way into the story, and just naturally transpired from it. I honestly think that's the best way, rather than consciously trying to contrive one just to pad out word count...
     
  10. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    More than a few ways of looking at it.

    Your focal point is your hero and all other characters support the hero's goal. Even the antagonism supports the goal through provocation. So ask yourself how they'll support the goal and why.

    Your hero will go on a journey, so what provokes the others to come along and stick with it.

    Your characters will change too, so how will they change.

    Your characters will gain too, so how will they gain.
     
  11. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    I tend to approach stories with two main characters in mind who each have their own sort of subplot (I only choose two because I don't have enough experience to pull off more). For instance, in my only finished novella, the story is about how a prince and his mentor are taken prisoners-of-war and how the prince comes of age. The side stories relate to the two main characters: the prince falls in love (forbidden, of course), and the mentor writes letters and worries about what will happen to his family. Basically, my story didn't have a lot of structure, so I needed this things to draw out the characters and further the main coming-of-age theme. The subplots wouldn't have worked if they'd come out of nowhere, however, and I know because my first draft had one of those: we were "randomly" introduced to this minor character and heard his whole, long back story. But I came to the conclusion that it bogged the entire thing down and I ended up cutting most of it. The story is better for this elimination, but it is shorter.

    In your case, you're just in the outlining phase, so it's very hard to know. In my experience, outlines don't translate all that well to actual writing, so it seems likely that you'll think up some extra little bits and pieces as you go. But in general, I agree with what's been said here: don't pad because you feel like you have to.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Subplots are what my characters decide to do while I'm trying to get them to do what I want them to do.
     
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  13. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Ain't that the truth.
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks everyone, I was afraid you'd say that. :( So maybe I have to rethink the plot instead? In my first novel I didn't have any subplots, and in the second I think there might have been one, tiny one if at all. So I'm not very familiar with them, but your replies gave me something to think about. And Ed: I like that saying :)
     

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