Try a Braid

In long fiction, plots don't merely alternate with subplots: they're often woven together in something very like a braid. One strand loops around to the outside, out of sight, then warps in or under to briefly become the central point before warping off for another turn.

Once you have your initial situation running, with the major characters established and facing some crucial problem the reader can tell isn't going to go away, a braided plot won't just continue on. You'll bring in a new subject, one that has some new plot thread which you make clear but leave unresolved so that the reader can see that there are more developments to come.

You can braid that way two, three, even four times before you pick up strand A again and continue to new developments in that plot for a little while. Then C loops back, and B perhaps crosses over it to make a new pattern. Aha! Here comes D!

The stronger and clearer your individual plot threads are, the thicker the braid you can make. But a braid, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest element. If one plot thread—especially your main one—is fragile, delicate, subtle, even confusing, be careful not to warp it more than it will stand or strangle it with subplots pulling this way and that. A braided plot can have so many twists and turns that it becomes something like a lump of fouled fishing line no sane reader's going to try to disentangle.

Be sure there's always a strong central narrative thread the reader can follow in spite of diversions and interruptions.

If your central plot is built on hints and slow unfoldings rather than on a series of clear and decisive developments, cut the number of subplots way back, maybe even to none. Conversely, if your main plot is as direct as a falling piano (something like boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl find one another), then braiding can broaden your story's scope and add narrative interest to an otherwise thin, straight-line, and predictable tale.

Multiple-strand plotting can yield a good solid braid if you watch out for dangling loose ends and keep tension strong at all times. Try a two or three strand braid, to start with. Then, as you learn the feel, you can expand to as many strands as you have pages and plot enough to spin out of your imagination.

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Responses

  • Elisa
    How to write a braid story?
    7 years ago
  • linda allen
    What is a braided story in creative writing?
    7 years ago

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