Sunday, November 03, 2019

The Weekend Writer: Like One Plot Isn't Difficult Enough

I am often frustrated reading books that include material that I feel doesn't serve the basic storyline. The main character in the mystery Truly Devious, for instance, suffers from anxiety. I never figured out why. Multitudes of children's books include sick siblings, estranged parents, and misunderstandings with friends when the books appear to be about something else entirely, like surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. And then how many adult mysteries have I read that included a romance when the book seems to be about restoring order to the world after a crime has been committed?

An article in the September issue of Writer's Digest by Jane K. Cleland called Subplots Aren't Secondary has led me to think that what I have been reading as random material may really be subplots. What's more, maybe I should be thinking about including some in my writing.

The Function Of Subplots, And They Have One

Subplots, Cleland says, should provide support to the main story by moving the plot along, developing character, controlling pacing, and contributing to the ending. In short, they should be doing a lot.

It sounds as if books should include two subplots:

  • One relating to an interpersonal relationship. Presumably those parental and friend issues I was just mentioning.
  • One relating to a nonfiction element.

Since they are supposed to support the main story, plotting a subplot should help generate material for that basic story and not just produce a lot of filler. They sound as if they could actually be...helpful.

As For Me And My Plots

In a couple of my unsold books I think I've created subplots without being aware that's what I was doing, particularly in terms of nonfiction elements. It's something I'll be paying a lot more attention to in the future.

Good article, if you can find it.

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