1. jwilder
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    jwilder Member

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    Too many subplots?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jwilder, Dec 5, 2008.

    Hi all, this is my first post, and from the other posts I've read you all sound like a very helpful community. I hope you can provide some insight for me. I've been working on a fantasy/fiction novel, but I am worried I have too many sub-plots going. Right now I have 10 subplots intertwining four main characters and about five significant but minor characters. All this falls under the one main plot of the entire novel. Is this too much for an audience to follow and understand? I feel like all the subplots are vital, and add needed movement and development up to the peak critical moment of the storyline, but at the same time all the subplots feel very "busy" to me when I'm writing them and working them in with the storyline, which in itself is very complex. Am I being too vague? Maybe... maybe not? Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  2. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you write it clearly enough, then no it won't be a problem. That is a lot of sub-plots, but if you feel they are vital to the story then you need to go with it imo; but it's hard to tell whether it will work or not until you've written it to the best of your ability. And no one can enlighten you beforehand either. Bummer, huh?

    Good luck, and welcome to the forums.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Does every subplot force the MCs to their goal? As should every scene also.

    If a subplot doesn't do that then you can get rid of it for it doesn't serve that particular story.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I respectfully disagree with that. Subplots may oppose the character's movement toward the goal, or become a distraction (which amounts to the same thing).

    Subplots can also help round out a character without materially affecting the progress toward the main objective.

    Likewise, a scene should suppoert a plot or a subplot, but as long as it is relevant to some element of the various plot, it's not necessarily a waste.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually make subplots work toward the main goal. But, as Cogito said, that doesn't have to be the case. Just make sure your subplots aren't completely useless. They should develop the character, the world, or provide some sort of insight. Subplots that are there just for the sake of having something to do are wasted space IMO, and can make the main plot convoluted as they distract the reader with useless material.

    Depending on what you consider a subplot, ten may not be very much at all (in a novel). Some subplots are resolved within a few pages and some are almost as grand as the main plot. Not being able to find the car keys can be a subplot. (It can be a useful subplot too, if you're trying to show how careless or irresponsible a particular character is. Or maybe the villain hid the keys and this is all part of his master plan. :eek:)
     
  6. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I think that's about right for most novels with subplots. I mean in mine, I have kate's effort to keep a very destructive ship from President Carver's minions as the main plot...but then there's the manipulations of her former Intelligence Chief Claudio Reyes that have happened (and not stopped). Then there are moves by the President to destroy the democracy and place himself as Emperor, along with the infighting of his people. Then you have the fact that everyone surrounding Kate aren't what they seem-some might be working for Reyes you see-all with the goal of manipulating events to make sure she does what reyes wants: make sure Carver doesn't get his weapon...And I forgot to throw in the metaphysical aspect of her being a part of a long line of warrior-princesses' that save mankind from himself...

    So, you can tell there are lots of subplots happening at one time her, with the major arc being Kate's discovery of: 1. the biological weaponry Carver had illegally possessed. 2. The manipulation of Reys. 3. Her role in protecting mankind throughout history. 4. Surviving attempts on her life to make a move on the weapon...

    So there is nothing wrong with the subplots, just whether or not you can move your story along with them..
     
  7. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    What do you think?

    What do you feel more comfortable about? Do the subplots move your story forward or add to your tale? Can you consolidate the subplots?

    Subplots, as Cogito pointed out, don't have to move the story. Look at the movie "Explorers." Ethan Hawke's character's feelings toward the cute blonde classmate had nothing to do with the story except she join them on the adventure when the alien "kids" returned at the end of the movie.

    It was a subplot that didn't push, pull, or tow the main story. It did add to his character.

    I would suggest you keep them in, finish the novel, and then go back and whittle things down if you feel the need to. I find that new ideas and suggestions will represent themselves as the story progresses to help get everything to meld; one, two, or twenty subplots. In the end, it's how you write them, as I'm so often reminded.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen writing coaches say you should have at least one conflict per page. If you buy that, and accept that each conflict defines a plot or subplot, then a typical novel will have hundreds of subplots. Most will be minor, but they all contribute to developing the story and the characters.
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't consider characters arguing a subplot, but it is conflict.

    What I consider subplots are whole threads that tie into the story. They are significant.

    In my novel, Psy-Vamp, Gabe (16) is at a house party. The cops bust it up, and he leaves with Lizzy out the back door. They hop the fence in the backyard into the neighbor's backyard. Gabe fights a dog, and then after that he has to go back for Lizzy's friend Cole. He convinces the cop to let Cole go. I don't consider any of those conflicts subplots, but they are conflicts that slow the MCs down.

    An example of a subplot that should not be included in a story is the following. Suppose in Twilight, Jasper has a gambling problem, runs off to Vegas and loses a large chunk of the Cullen's wealth. It's interesting. It develops the world some more, and Jasper's character but it has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and so it shouldn't be included.

    It is better to create subplots that develop the character and that help strengthen the plot.
     

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