Wednesday, January 20, 2010

5 Subplot Blunders to Avoid

Subplots are important in a novel to create a multi-layered effect, but there are certain blunders to avoid when using them. Here’s a look at five common subplot mistakes:

-Weakening of the main story. This happens when subplots are more interesting than the main plot or when they go off into so many directions it’s hard for the reader to follow the main story.

-Competing. Subplots shouldn’t take up the same word count as the main plot, nor should the reader ever be away from the main story for too long.

-Adding word count. A subplot should never be written simply to add words to the story. There should always be a reason for the subplot and it should be tied, in some way, to the main story.

-Forgetting the rising and falling. The subplot should be considered a mini story and treated as such with a rising and falling sequence which, in the end, shows some sort of growth or change.

-Resolving incorrectly. With more than one subplot, it’s important not to resolve all of them simultaneously or in the climax of the main story. Resolving one subplot at a time causes a stronger focus on the remaining plots.

Are you guilty of any of these blunders? Which ones?

19 comments:

  1. Great post! I have spent the past year rewriting my YA novel, which was guilty of 1 and 2. What should have been a subplot turned into a parallel plot that never tied into the main plot. (Wow, there was a lot of 'plot' in that sentence!)

    Anyway, I love how concisely you spell out these blunders. Thanks!

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  2. Occasionally my subplots will come in strong during slower times in the main plot, which sometimes means I am guilty of #1. I do like to spread the resolutions all over the place though!

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  3. Great post! Very short and to the point!!!! In A Bitch Named Karma, I think I handle subplots very well. In Spellbound, well....not so sure.

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  4. Oh, this is a wonderful post! Thanks for it. Such an important topic that is often neglected.

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  5. Oh, that's a great list. I definitely need to watch out for some of those. I think maybe #1 most of all. Thanks!

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  6. This is great! Sometimes I get so into my subplot it blurs the lines of the real deal. I'm a story teller. The more the better right? ;)

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  7. Very good post. This is something I need to think about with my WIP. Thanks.

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  8. Since I'm not exactly sure what a subplot is, I can't say for sure. (scratching head)

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  9. Resolving is hard for me. I seem to end up resolving too early or too late. :{
    Winged Writer

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  10. dumb ones are never good either :)

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  11. I don't worry too much about subplots. They just sort of evolve on their own. That said, I recently had a subplot start to take over the main story, and I realized that there might be two books connected to the same story.

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  12. Thank you, Lynnette! This is really helpful, for a quick bullet-point glance to make sure I'm on target.

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  13. Great reminders, Lynette! I actually outline each chapter before starting and as I think about my chapter, I decide what is essential to the story and try to include only those things that will help advance my main plot--even the subplots.

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  14. I do rely on subplots to strengthen my main story - or the main characters. I think secondary characters play a vital role in the MC growth.

    So, I'm sure I fall into one or more of the pitfalls.

    Especially in the first novel, because the subplot there is a set up for the next book.

    This post forces me to actually think about my writing goals.

    .........dhole

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  15. I'm playing with subplots in my rewrite. Thanks for this list of pitfalls. It'll help me to consider all the angles.

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  16. Just to clarify, when I said I wasn't sure what a subplot is, I was referring to something I read recently (and can't find again) about two types of secondary plots. One of them supports the main plot and can't be removed without leaving major plot holes. The other type is independent of the main plot, and can be removed easily.

    I can't remember which of these is technically called a "subplot."

    I have a couple of the first type of secondary plots that are woven into the main one, but none that run independent of it.

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  17. Great post - thanks! I'm glad to have discovered your blog.

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  18. I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out my plot vs. my subplot(s) in my book I'm writing. When I read your blog, it helped strengthen my focus on what I need to do.

    Thank you!!

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