Monday, June 2, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Tip #11 - Plots and Subplots

What is plot?
For some reason plot is not easily defined, and yet if plot is missing in a book or movie we know it. How? We find ourselves shaking our heads saying, I don’t get it, and What is this story about? 
Plot is closely related to structure, in fact, the major structure plot points should reflect the plot.
There must be a problem or a quest. There must be obstacles that get in the way of solving the problem or continuing the quest. There must be a solution to the problem or a completion of the quest.
The plot problem in CLOCKWISE is the situation Casey finds herself in when she accidentally brings a boy she hardly knows, though is crushing on hard, back to the past.
In TWILIGHT the plot problem is a mortal girl falls in love with a vampire boy who could kill her even though he loves her.
HARRY POTTER is an example of a quest. He has to find a way to stop Voldemort from succeeding with his evil plans, a quest that continues through all seven books.
Most novel length books need more than just the plot to propel the story along. The plot is assisted with subplots. While the story can be told without subplots, subplots alone are not the story.
In CLOCKWISE one subplot involves Casey who is suddenly faced with the attentions of a wealthy suitor, an egotistical man who doesn’t know how to take a hint. In the present the subplots revolve around her family dynamics and the tension her trips with Nate cause with her best friend. Then there’s the SPOILER subplot that must not be named! =)
In TWILIGHT the main story revolves around Bella’s growing relationship with a vampire. The subplots include her friendship with Jacob and the secrets of his family, and her growing but awkward relationship with her father.
Can you pick out the subplots in HARRY POTTER?
Some people like to look at sub-plotting as braiding.  

Imagine the center strand as the main plot line and the outside strands are subplots. As you structure your story, the subplots twist around the plot creating a braid—a well developed novel.
You can have more than two subplots, of course, though not all books require it. Use whatever your story needs to build the plot, just remember that you have to tie up all the loose ends by the end of your story, including all subplots.
One important thing to remember while plotting is to keep your main character active. Though sometimes things will happen to him, you want your protagonist to be actively engaged. For instance, even though Casey traveled through time with Nate (something happened to her), her response to that is a series of things that she does.
Next post we'll look at pacing.

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