Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Writing 101: Sub-Plots

Every book revolves around a central plot or theme, or should attempt to do so. But don't just stop there. Add new layers to your book, and more dimensions, with sub-plots.


Stories within Stories

Also referred to as side stories, sub-plots add extra story to your book. This can help you in a lot of different ways. Let's count them: 
  • More pages: If you're falling short of your desired word count, adding sub-plots will give you extra pages of text. 
  • Character development: Sub-plots are a perfect way to develop your characters, and make them feel more real. If your characters are learning and growing because of your sub-plots, then you're writing them the right way.
  • Complexity: Adding sub-plots adds more layers to the book, making it richer and more complex. More complex stories are often more rewarding stories, but there's a danger here as well. You don't want to muddy up your main plot too much, or make your story too convoluted. When it comes to sub-plots, a light touch is usually best.
Sub-plots can be very simple, taking place over just one scene, or become a long thread that weaves through the entire book. There are lots of good reasons to add sub-plots, but don't add them just to be adding stuff at random. Like every single word in your book, the sub-plots have to add something tangible. Make them relevant to the characters and to the overall plot. 

Always be wary of over-writing. Include sub-plots only when they bring something important to the book. Otherwise, don't do it.

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3 comments:

  1. I'm always a little wary with writing sub-plots. I know they add a great deal to the story, but I'm always afraid I'll loose track of either the main plot that way or that the sub plot never comes to its conclusion

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  2. Good points, Arlette! An unresolved sub plot can be a big problem for readers.

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