Setting Up Subplots

Often long fiction will have more than one plot. The subplot(s) may run just a while before coming to resolution, or may continue through almost the whole story, being tied up just before the story's end. Sometimes subplots center on the main plot's protagonist, and sometimes they focus on one of the subordinate characters.

Well handled, they can deepen the story's context, offer ways to mirror or contrast with the main action, and be used in pacing to offer foreground motion while the main plot is in a temporary lull. When the main plot is busy, they can generate suspense when the narrative splits off to follow the subplot for a while before rejoining the main action, generally with added momentum and impact when they again converge.

If you're going to have one or more subplots centering on the main characters, start the first one running right after the beginning. For instance, your protagonist, Fred, not only wants to avoid rescuing Ginger from the roof—he also wants to prevent anybody else from rescuing her. This involves sabotaging the walkie-talkies before they're issued, one per boat crew. Or Fred is in fact a concert violinist and is worried that his flood rescue efforts will mean he won't be able to get to his solo appearance in Detroit. And he's worried Ginger may not have taken his centuries-old Stradivarius to safety up onto the roof with her. He wants to rescue the Strad, but not Ginger. Conflict!

But if you're going to have a subplot centering on somebody other than the protagonist, don't treat it separately just yet. (Remember Tiffany, stuck in the tree?) Instead, introduce the subordinate characters central to the subplot so the reader can get to know them before the narrative line splits off to follow them.

Maybe a flashback to the last argument between Ginger and Fred, when Tiffany ran out shouting that she wanted to live with Grandma. Then, when main plot and subplot are running simultaneously, you can switch off to follow Tiffany all by herself. Maybe she got caught in the tree while trying to run away to Grandma's house forever. Maybe she's worried about Grandma, or having second thoughts about running away. Maybe Grandma's up in the tree with her.

Whatever, it's an independent (though closely related) subplot. Lay some groundwork and establish your main plot firmly before splitting off to follow another line of action.

0 0

Post a comment