TA-DAA! Heeeere’s your subplot!
In that first mystery, I had a Plot A, Plot B…and a Plot C. Too much plot? Perhaps. But I liked the trinity feel of it, my variation of the rule of three.
It developed organically and it all felt fine. I was diligent about balancing them out properly, so that Plot A was the shining star and Plot B and C the back up singers. (No plot coups on my watch!)
In the next book, the second of the series, I’ve had to put more thought and intention into developing my subplots.
Plot A has a very clear direction (though not necessarily a clear path).
But Plot B and C? Not so much.
In fact, I’ve been in such a hurry to lay down the beginning of Plot A that I completely forgot about the others. It wasn’t until I re-read what I had from the start that I realized how heavy and off balanced and one focused it felt.
Wait! I gasped, smacking my forehead. I don’t have a subplot! What the heck is my subplot?
First, a reminder. Here’s the definition of a subplot: “it is the secondary or subordinate plot in a literary work”.
Subplots are great. I love how they break tension and yet crank it up.
They interject the main plot, giving that plot a chance to breathe. By doing so, they also create suspense…you now have to wait to get back to the main plot! But they also mirror the tension of that main plot, acting like an extra music note played a half a second later…and they all get faster and louder and faster.
So in reality, there is no break in tension. That’s an illusion! Really all you’ve done is shifted in your seat to look out a different window. But you’re still in the same vehicle, one that is still hurtling forward, and the speed is steadily increasing–
Subplots add complexity and nuance.
They really are fabulous.
Great. So where do I get one?
I ended up looking in these places:
Family and friends of your main character are a great source of subplot material. This is, in part, what I ended up doing. I’m mining my main character’s relationship troubles.
Themes & ‘Big Issues’
Search out a secondary area that mirrors your ‘big ideas’. Does your story deal with issues of abandonment? Well, then, find an abandonment plot that connects or mirrors or is similar to the main one. (In my book, reconciliation is something my main character struggles with. So finding other ways and means for my main character to obtain goal is part of my subplots.)
I’m writing mysteries and so it makes sense to have my main mystery be Plot A and then have some mini mysteries in my subplots.
These are some areas where you can find subplots. I’m sure there are more.
For me, this is what worked.
I think it’s good to sort out your plot threads every now and again. I tend to write organically–I am an organic plotter, not of the ‘outliner’ persuasion–but sometimes an analytical approach is needed and I’ve got to pause to take stock…or else I’ll just have a knotted mess! Grrrr.