1. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    I need subplots

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Writeorflight, Aug 9, 2020.

    I'm about to begin on the 2nd draft of my historical fiction novel, but I've realized that there aren't really any subplots. In the 1st draft I considered the main character's relationships with other characters as subplots, but the other characters are so interconnected with the main plot that they don't really feel like subplots at all.

    To phrase it simply, I have two questions:
    #1, Are integral relationships to the MC good subplots?

    #2, If not, what would good subplots for a character-driven book that focuses on survival and "overcoming anything" as it's theme, be?
     
  2. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I would say relationships are a good start, but whether or not they're subplots would depend on arc. Do these other characters have any story separate from the MC's? Do they learn or grow? That sort of thing.

    As far as suggesting subplots, personally, I would have to know a lot more about the main storyline.
     
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  3. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    If you've completed the first draft of your novel, you should already have enough text. The question is: Is that text interesting enough to keep the reader engaged in reading your work? If it is, you don't need to further complexity.
     
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  4. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    For further context: the story takes place in Colonial America (1700s) and the main character is an 11-year-old English girl who -along with her family and many others- are taken as captives by Native Americans. She is forced to march 300 miles midwinter into an unknown destination/fate. Each of her family members experiences the same journey with her, but have vastly different outcomes -A sister staying with the Natives, another being redeemed to nuns, her father returns to their home village, etc.-, I have given them each rough character arcs, but haven't really fleshed them out. I guess my concern is, if they're all experiencing the same journey (albeit with different outcomes at the end), it doesn't necessarily feel like a subplot but just part of what my MC is already going through? If that makes any sense.
     
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  5. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    That's an interesting way of looking at it, I never thought about it like that before. It interests me, but I like character-driven books. I think it could be made more interesting if there were other threads of story weaved in, irregardless of the MC's family, friends, etc. Thanks for your thoughts! I'll keep it in mind. Maybe all I need is a solid revision and it'll become clearer.
     
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  6. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe you could do with an alpha read? Not something that I would be able to do but before you rewrite, consider getting feedback.
     
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  7. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    It sounds like they start out the same but follow very different paths. That probably means it's not just a part of what she's going through. Maybe they need to be fleshed out, but I would say you have your subplots right there. I wouldn't tack on b-stories just on the notion that you "need" more subplots.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, @Rzero is right, in my opinion You already have your subplots. How does the sister get on who ends up with the nuns? How does their father get on, returning to the village (does he escape, or do the Indians let him go? And what happens to him. What does he decide to do when he gets home?) These are all subplots. These are characters we will care about and want to know their own stories, connected to the main one. They don't need to be POV characters, but we do want to know how they get on.

    I wouldn't overthink it. Just write the story as you see it. And make sure the loose ends are tied up at the end for each character, even if they have disappeared, never to be seen again. If characters' fates are left unmentioned, the reader will feel unsettled. So make sure all the named characters get their stories wound up in some way. Don't just forget them. But don't worry about deliberately creating subplots either. Sounds as if you already have some!

    Incidentally, your storyline seems to have a lot in common with Elizabeth George Speare's Calico Captive, which was a favourite book of mine (along with her others) when I was young. Probably don't look it out, as you don't want to end up with your own story tangled up with hers! But it's similar in structure. A girl (a bit older than yours) is captured with her family and taken on a long march from colonial America towards Canada, in the same time period. And all members of the family end up having different outcomes. And I'd say they were all subplots, but there was only one POV character—the girl.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  9. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    You're right, that makes a lot of sense. If I flesh them out a little bit, give them more noticeable arcs, I think it could work if done correctly. Thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate it!
     
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  10. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    This is all really good advice. After reading your comment I realized that her family members are practically already the subplots. With a bit of revision I'm sure I can make them stronger and more cohesive. And interesting you say that! I had actually wanted to read the Calico Captive as "research" for my own book, but haven't gotten around to it yet as I'm already reading so many on the subject. I'll keep your warning in mind -maybe finish a few more drafts to solidify the story before reading it- the last thing I want is to end up accidentally plagiarizing. Thanks so much for all of your advice, and for taking the time to respond, I appreciate it more than you know!
     
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  11. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    ...Is that a bad thing?

    Like, why do you feel you need subplots in the first place?
     
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  12. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    I originally thought it was a bad thing because I didn't want my story to come across as flat. If my MC has one goal, and there are absolutely no other smaller goals or interweaving story-lines throughout the scenes, I imagine my book wouldn't feel in-depth. And without depth stories quickly become boring to the reader. I've done a lot of research into creative writing and crafting novels, and many sources suggest adding subplots. Upon looking back at my first draft, I realized I didn't really have any (or so I thought). Thanks to the advice of the previous comments though, I've gotten back on track with my story.
     

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