1. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    I need help with subplots

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by shambles, Feb 22, 2016.

    So, my main storyline is about a teenage he boy named Gunnar who escapes poverty through his talent with music. The story is from the point of view of a girl MC though. I have several subplots already planned.

    One is focused on the issues that accompany living in poverty such as drugs, alcoholism, limited education and parental involvement, assault, and teen pregnancy. It will show how these issues affect the characters.

    Another subplot is about discrimination such as classism and racism including racial slurs and identity struggles.

    Another subplot is about how the local mill affects the community with pollution, jobs or lack thereof, and how the money goes to people outside the community.

    One other main subplot i have planned which I really want to show throughout the story is the ugly truth about poverty.

    I would greatly appreciate any input on these that you may have. I would also love the contribution of any ideas! Feel free to ask any questions or voice your concerns.
     
  2. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Some of this seems to be all part of the same plot or subplot. The mill, poverty, classism, jobs, money leaving the community all seem to revolve around the same thing. Which is fine. When I think of a subplot, I think of a story-line that could be completely removed from a story without affected the main plot. I use them to add depth to the characters. Such as having two characters becoming romantically involved, it won't change the story but it provides personality to the characters.
     
  3. LostThePlot
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    I would strongly suggest that you need fewer subplots not more.

    It's fine to show all of these things through the environment, the themes or hints in the dialogue but you are going to be hard pushed to do anything more than just show they are present. It's ok to write a book that's just telling it's own story. If you want to write specifically about these bigger social issues then write a book about them. To do each of these things real justice is a book in it's own right. And that's ok. There's loads of material there. But I think the worst thing you can do is shoe-horn in so much stuff together that we never really see the real face of what's happening.

    With the kind of space that you'd have to work with (say 30k words for all of these sub plots) you can only give the most facile depiction of what it's like to be an addict or a drunk or a police target. You just don't have the scope to take any of these anywhere interesting really beyond just showing messed up people and saying 'Isn't it dreadful?'. So pick one and focus on it, something that is directly there in the MCs life and his perspective (as someone escaping) can give you an interesting perspective to work from as (say) his love for his alcoholic parent is set against his desire to leave that life behind in the ghetto. But all this stuff together?

    In one of my projects a major part of one of my characters is that she's an addict. It's a huge part of her identity because she doesn't want to get clean and the person who she was before she discovered heroin is someone she's scared to become again. In her way she's happy with who she is as an addict. This is something that's explored through the course of four books that touches every aspect of her life and relationships. Showing these problems in a way that's genuinely worth reading - that makes you sympathize and understand and tugs on your heart strings takes a lot of space and (in universe) time so we can see how these things stay the same and the way it can sap hope and light out of a world. If that's not what you're writing then just almost tokenly touching on such issues is just that; token. Far from communicating the reality of poverty it just reinforces what the middle class already thinks it's like to be poor.

    Just tell the story you're telling. If any of these things are specifically a big deal to him personally, sure, show that. But if not just let it be in the background. It'll make for a tighter, more personal, more moving story.
     
  4. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Oh okay! Sorry, I just mislabeled it is all. I'm rather new to writing in a serious sense. Thank you though!

    What would I call these instead? I feel like I need a term for them. Would they be called subjects or something of the like?

    And I plan on having Gunnar and my MC Talyn eventually developing a romantic relationship. This would be a subplot, correct?

    I have another idea I'm ruminating on about a stray dog who keeps showing up throughout the story. It's supposed to be a metaphor for how the people feel about thenselves. The dog is alone, a mutt, and seems to not belong anywhere. In the end I want somebody to take the dog in. Would this be considered a subplot?

    And do you have any other ideas about things I could incorporate?

    Thanks again for your advice! It's much appreciated!
     
  5. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Okay, thank you! I'll consider eliminating a few of these things to tighten up the story a bit.
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    As for what you call all these things, I have no idea. I wasn't an English major and if any of my high school teachers knew I was writing they'd probably laugh.
    I like the dog idea, just remember the golden rule of Hollywood - Never kill the dog.
    How is the dog supposed to show "How people feel about themselves?" It sounds interesting.
    I'm toying with a similar thing with a recurring event happening throughout my WiP. I'm not sure if people will get the joke I'm making but I think it's fun.
     
  7. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Oh I agree with doggiedude - these are themes rather than subplots, and all of them can be worked quite well into the main plotline. Use character interactions, protagonist internal struggle and throw in lots of conflict and you have a deep story going.
     
  8. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    The dog is a stray mutt wandering around, not seeming to belong anywhere. That's how the kids in my story feel. They are mixed race, standing on that invisible line between two races and even more, they are stuck between two conflicting views of life. Poverty vs. Prosperity. I don't know, it's hard to explain really. I'll be able to explain it better once it's a concrete concept in my book. It's a rather new storyline though So it's more along the abstract at the moment.
     

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