1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    when to write the subplot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jwatson, Sep 16, 2009.

    I'm sure most of us have, at some time or another, had trouble with length and content.
    Once I was committed, I had trouble with my novel because I got straight to the point and my first draft was incredibly short. And that's when I learned: subplots!
    This, I learned, helps develop characters.
    My question is, how do you know when a subplot is acceptable?
    If the only point it shows is a characteristic of your character, (not necessarily your main character) should it be included?


    Another slightly different question...
    I've asked before, but I'll ask again because I really get stumped sometimes:
    Have you ever been writing about your character traveling? Apart from the description, I really want to incorporate something else. I have time pass, I have thoughts about his problem pass, and I just don't feel it's time to stop there.
    Someone once said, make it interesting, maybe your character comes across a poisonous snake etc, but then I doubt myself on obstacles similar to this because it really does not help the plot or, overall, the entire story.
     
  2. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    Maybe he could come across someone who is suffering a similar problem, a person with which he could bounce ideas off and better figure out how to best tackle with the problem, or understand the problem better.

    Alternatively, if he's travelling with a close friend for example, he could talk to them about it and see if it helps make more sense to him. Maybe it will, maybe it won't.

    Whatever you decide to add, I suggest it be relevant to the plot. I'm not sure a poisonous snake would be quite appropriate :D
     
  3. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    it's called exploration of your world which leads to the main plot
    or
    to create small obstacles which leads to small plots which ties to the main plot.

    If your characters is passing through a jungle or something, you can make the character be warned by a random passing guy about snakes or something or describe something else that hints at snakes.

    That way the random factor of a snake suddenly attacking doesn't appear. Instead, make the event flow naturally with the environment.
     
  4. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think subplots are interesting when the character is overcoming a fear. So lets say he has a fear of heights. I would make a mountain pass a necessary destination/avenue on the journey.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't understand the question...how do youknow when a subplot is acceptable? To who? For what? A subplot is no different to any other piece of your writing, no different rules apply. Maybe if you clarify what you mean I can help more.
     
  6. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    As a matter of personal preference I prefer subplots to introduced as early on as possible. I can't stand when half way through a book the author starts branching off on seemingly irrelevant tangents. But again this is my opinion. Take it or leave it.

    With traveling scenes, a mistake a lot of writers particularly in the fantasy genre make make, is that is is not good enough for their characters to go from A to B. Something interesting of exiting should happen along the way. And so our hero's must cross the insurmountable mountains of Yarggg! navigate the sprawling lost underground city of Hrun, do battle with fearsome ice ghasts, trolls, orcs ect.
     
  7. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    My subplots are always, in some way, intregral components of the main story.

    When I look at well-written epics like A Song of Ice and Fire, I don't see any sub-stories that can be cut. There are no 'extra' stories that exist to show character. It's all main story, a huge tapestry with many threads. Granted, the whole thing could probably be shortened by leaving certain things out, but it would inevitably affect the overall scenario.

    If subplots exist to enhance The Story, add drama, suspence, and intrigue the reader, then good. But it should be seemless. It shouldn't look like a subplot. I see subplots as extra threads. If what you have instead are walmart-purchased mittens and baby blankets sewn into your tapestry, that's just. . crap. Sub-plots should not be 'filler'.

    If you've ever watched a popular anime series, you'll know what I mean. They write an interesting story with lots of drama and suspence, captivate millions of viewers, and then say "Hey, let's make a sub-plot!" The main story goes on hold. It's like the whole thing has entered some kind of time-suspension stasis, and suddenly the characters are thrust into a craptacular adventure that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. A good many viewers tune out at that point, myself included. When the fillers finally come to an end, it's like Y2K party time on community forums. Like a world war has ended. Break out the champagne! The fillers are over!

    It's that bad.

    Don't write fillers. Enhance The Story. Make The Story bigger and better than it was. If you can't do that, then. . *shrug* . . you've got a novella. Don't screw it up.
     
  8. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    It's usually done in anime because of two things:
    1. Most anime are based on manga, which are not done yet. They add subplots to lengthen the series while waiting for the writer to finish/write more of the manga.

    2. Popular animes will usually have useless subplots with no ties to the main story usually because they want to exploit the anime's value and make more money.
     
  9. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I think Kas said it best on subplots, but as for travelling...

    If you want to use travelling to add character development then you should either have your character encounter people whose situation paralells his own, or who inspire him to reflect upon his situation possibly leading to some sort of epiphany. The best example of this is Hamlet, where the titular character encounters first the players and then Fortinbras, both of whom cause him to soliloquise about his own shortcomings in comparison and both of which lead to a decision which advances the action of the play.
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks everyone.
    I really hope the finished product wont be a novella.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    question makes no sense to me, since the novel form virtually mandates the story have subplots, to make the storyline long/complex enough to be a novel... and they will 'grow' out of the main plot naturally, not be a conscious decision of the writer to 'add' one here or there...

    there are many valid reasons for subplots to arise, that being only one of them... a subplot need not be more complex than that, if such exposition needed...
     
  12. luckyprophet
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    luckyprophet Member

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    Subplots are interesting ... I like lots of them!
    You can have (and not necessarily write) paralel storylines for each character.

    The ones related to the main idea of the writing should go in, maybe ... Maybe not.

    Point is: a paralel storyline is supposed to be there for whatever question/curiosity anyone (you or someone else) might have about a character. As well as, in some situations, a character might need an alibi :rolleyes: :D

    P~
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Make sure you understand the difference between a plot and a storyline.

    a storyline is a chronology of events. It may mention mnotivations, but it's still only a timeline of what takes place in the story.

    A plot consists of an actor, a goal or objective, a motivation, and an opposition. The actor is the character the plot applies to. The goal or objective is whatthe actor is striving toward. The motivation is the force that drives the actor toward that goal. For the same goal, you could have a weak or a strong motivation: A worker wants to complete a big sale because his pride demands he be the top salesman for the eighth consecutive month (weak), or because he needs the commission to meet his mortgage and keep his family from becoming homeless (stronger). Finally, the opposition is an obstacle or resistance the actor must overcome to reach the goal.

    Oppositions often take the form of a (sub)plot. For example, the eight-time salesman of the month could be competing for the same big contract.

    Plots and subplots are what drive most events in a storyline. If you keep the relationship of the plots in a story in mind, it's a lot easier to see where there is a place for adding, removing, or modifying subplots to improve a story.

    In particular, adding opposition subplots can be used to build conflict and tension, which can enlarge the story without diluting it.
     
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  14. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    I'll just add this from Jim Butcher's LiveJournal:

    He's got a few more examples of ways to do subplots on the same page:
    http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/1865.html

    One thing this author stresses is to have a plan when you're writing your story, something I find difficult to do. When I have a plan, I stray from it, but I guess it's probably better to have ideas than not. With the story I'm currently writing, I'm about 25% of the way through, but I still don't have a clear picture of how it will end. That concerns me. If I don't know how my main plot will end, how can I effectively plan one or two subplots? I think for me, the answer is that I'm going to just do my best and the first goal is to finish the damn thing. I'll be thinking of subplots along the way, and if I don't get things right the first time, there's always the second draft (and third, fourth, etc.).
     
  15. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thank you both, Cogito and Sorites. That was some good clarification that I really needed. It's just what I needed to get back into my groove. Thanks to everyone who commented as well, this was some great feedback even though it was, to some, a vague question.
     

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