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  1. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    How many subplots is the norm?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Donal, Jul 15, 2010.

    Hi all, first novel here so expect a LOT of posts that you more experienced posters will find stupid :)

    I wont bore you with a synopsis of the novel or storyline but at the minute I have 3 plots that I seem quite on top of:

    Main plot: Man v himself (issues of identity and father-son relationship)
    Parallel plot: Man v Man (protagonist v antagonist)
    Subplot: Search for love (struggle with homosexuality)

    Right now those three plots link together quite well I feel with all three fueling the other plots on. However should I be looking to work in more plots or will these arise naturally as I introduce more secondary characters.

    Thanks

    Dónal
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Donal,

    It depends on your novel, how many subplots are in action.

    If you're unsure, look at other books that have been published which are similar to yours (length, genre, etc.). That should give you a good guide as to what readers (or at least editors) prefer.

    Some subplots may arise as you write. Possibly in the revision process (after the first draft) some will disappear.

    Partly what you have listed is conflicts, which certainly form the foundation of plot lines.

    Just to throw in, I think the number of subplots can be determined somewhat depending on the POV--probably fewer with 1st person POV as compared to 3rd person limited or especially omniscient--of course you could certainly find examples that would not follow this trend.

    I think the trick is that the subplots should not interfere with the progress of the main plot, keeping the story moving forward. Rather they add depth, interest, struggle, etc., to the story and make it a better read.

    Good luck moving forward!

    Terry
     
  3. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thanks Terry
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there is no norm!

    terry's advice is sound... as usual...
     
  5. Nalix
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    Nalix Member

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    The first question I would ask is what counts as a sub-plot? At some point you may mention something that could become a significant conflict, but doesn't necessarily develop into one. Some conflicts have multiple facets.

    I agree with mammamaia, there is no norm. Have as many sub-plots as is appropriate for the story. If the story is supposed to make the reader think and puzzle things out, then many might be appropriate (but even many mystery novels have only a single plot - though with many facets - and they are famous for doing this).

    There isn't much to comment on for the outline you offered us. It certainly could work, and in a way I think you answered your own question. If more plots are appropriate for your story they will arise naturally. Don't worry too much thinking about them, just write the story. I find that some of my favorite plots (and twists) are the ones I didn't plan on but just happened. If the story feels natural then you won't be too far off.
     
  6. MissBelle
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    MissBelle Member

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    For me,

    I like subplots. Especially when the charecters involved in the subplot are interesting, sorta quirky.

    How many subplots probably depends on how complex your main plot is. IF your main plot is really complicated and hard to follow with a lot of charecters to keep tack of, I would limit the subplots.

    And of course the length of the books will put limitations of how many subplots you can have.

    Good Luck.
     
  7. Herl
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    Herl Member

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    As Nalix said, it's not about the subplots because nothing is a subplot if it adds insight into the main plot or the characters or advances the plot. It's all about making the story look as a single line, even if in your head is more complicated than that. that is my honest opinion, though.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A single plot or subplot consists of a single actor (usually a character, but could be a group if acting as a single unit and all other components are the same), a single goal or objective, and a single motivation. You may combine multiple oppositions while still considering it a single subplot.

    A plot or subplot need not result in the actor reaching the goal. Oppositions may themselves be subplots.

    If a character has more than one motivation for reaching a goal, they should be treated as separate but overlapping subplots. Likewise if the same character has multiple objectives, even if they are related. The reason for treating them separately is that you can adjust each subplot's tension by manipulating the motivation and the oppositions. Also, the character may have to choose which goal is most important to achieve, so it helps in planning to treat them separately.

    So the answer to the core question of how many plots do you need, there is no answer other than "exactly as many as you need to tell your story."
     

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