how to write a novel

using subplots

Throwback Thursday

It’s #ThrowbackThursday, and we’re traveling in the wayback machine to just about this time last year to discuss how using subplots can deepen your story.

Using subplots to deepen your story

NOT ALL STORIES REQUIRE the addition of one or more subplots. Adding more to a rich, layered, and textured main plot could detract your reader.

NOT ALL STORIES REQUIRE the addition of one or more subplots. Using subplots can enhance your story. On the other hand, subplots can:

  • Deepen characterization by revealing flaws, strengths and growth.
  • Deepen theme.
  • Add complexity and momentum by diverting the reader’s attention from the main story, forcing tension until they can return to the main plot.
  • Introduce back-story, which in turn layers inner conflict, motive and invokes sympathy with the reader.
  • Introduce new characters.
  • Develop relationships.
  • Break up long scenes.
  • Control story tension.
  • Deepen conflict, making it more credible and complex.
  • Subplots can involve the main or secondary characters or both.

Like the main plot, subplots must follow the same rules. They should have a beginning, middle and end. At the end of the story, tie them up in the reverse order in which they were introduced. If “A” is the main plot, “B” is secondary and “C” is tertiary, they should be introduced as A, B, C, and closed out as C, B, A.

The subplot should not overshadow the main plot. Whatever happens in the subplot, never lose sight of the main line of action.

The number of subplot scenes should not outnumber main plot scenes.

Do not introduce so many subplots the reader is distracted from the main story. One to three is the rule of thumb. It’s hard to make characters and their problems distinct after that.

Subplots come in two varieties:

  1. Parallel. The characters know each other through a common link—the workplace, a vacation resort, a wedding, but their stories are independent of each other. This can be difficult to pull off, but the characters can learn from each other and influence each other’s storylines.
  2. Interwoven. This is the most common type of subplot. Tie the subplot to the main plot and any other subplots and increase the complexity of the story. The subplots should affect the main plot. If the subplot can be omitted from the story without affecting the main plot, does it belong?

Subplots should cover three areas:

  1. There should be connections between the sub and main plots. Interweave the relationships. The outcome of one affects something else.
  2. They should add complications to the main plot. If the hero is fighting for a promotion, reveal his alcoholic background, have his sponsor fall off the wagon, or he should.
  3. It should contrast the main plot. Don’t repeat what’s established, but explore different tones, purposes and ranges. Portray a variety of experiences to add depth and complexity to the overall story.

Adroit handling of subplots will enrich your story.

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Blessings,

Cheryl

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The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, including how to outline your novel

“O” is for outline in today’s #ThrowbackThursday

The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, including how to outline your novel

The Plot Thickens

“O” is for outline is lifted from 2017’s AtoZChallenge.

I’m borrowing content for today’s subject of how to outline a book from The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, a book I and a writing partner published about plotting.

IT’S TIME TO PUT SOME of these lessons into practice, and outline your story. I’m a big fan of outlining; it helps me stay organized and focused, and keeps me drifting off subject.

Your outline should be a living, breathing document, able to change as inspiration and your characters take you in new directions.

You’re going to spend a lot of time on your outline, tweaking it until order starts to take shape. Don’t be discouraged; it’s all worth it in the end.

First, brainstorm the heck out of your story. Nothing is off limits, nothing is a stupid idea. Write down all the elements you want to appear in your novel—the characters, their situations, the setting. Once you feel you’ve exhausted your imagination, start funneling your ideas into something more manageable by writing a summary, an abbreviated version of the main body of work.

Your outline should be a living, breathing document, able to change as inspiration and your characters take you in new directions.www.cherylsterlingbooks.com

Some of the things to consider:

  • Who is your main character? What happened in his back-story to shape him and prepare him for his challenge? Some authors make a complete character sketch for their major players. Some choose pictures, write bios, or create a vision board. Use whatever you’re most comfortable with to get a handle on your characters.
  • What conflicts will they face in the novel and how will they solve them? Remember, their problems will move the story.
  • What are their motivations to accept the challenges they’ve been presented?
  • What are they trying to achieve (their goals)? Their goals, motivations and conflicts should be internal as well as external.
  • Build your fictional world through setting.

Now list the plot points, the major milestones your character has to experience to get him to the end of the story. Use the Hero’s Journey section of this book to define them.

These plot points will become your scenes. Each scene must have a purpose. Something has to happen which drives the story forward. It will produce a change molded by conflict.

Summarize each scene in a few sentences. Use index cards, Post-Its, an Excel spreadsheet or (my favorite) Scrivener, to organize them.

Elements of a scene:

  • Who is in the scene?
  • Where does it take place?
  • Whose point of view is used?
  • Do the decisions made by the character move him closer or further from his goal?

Do your subplots tie into the main story?

Does your character suffer and grow and change until he can’t go back to the way he was at the story’s beginning?

You probably have an idea of how long you want your novel to be. Using the three or four act structure, break your estimated word count into the appropriate sections. Place your “must-have” scenes where you think they should fit in the overall structure. Take a step back.

Believe it or not, you’ve outlined your novel! Don’t be surprised if you deviate from it. Characters have a habit of taking over, but you’re in the driver’s seat!

Congratulate yourself and start writing!

Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge* will focus on the letter “P”.

#AtoZChallenge

 

 

 

Blessings until then,

Cheryl

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Avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings

How You Can Have a Riveting Book Without Sagging Middles and Lackluster Endings

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. A link to buy can be found here. The second chapter addresses how to avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings.

The novel’s middle is vital in holding your reader’s attention.

How to avoid sagging middles and lackluster endings

It’s where the protagonist will encounter the bulk of his trials and tribulations, where her strength will be tested and flaws exposed. It’s where you torture your darlings and force them through life-changing events. It sets up the major crisis at the end of the book and paves the way for a satisfying conclusion.

The middle is also where the writer is most likely to give up. After the first few chapters, he realizes the big bite he’s bitten off. How can he hold the tension? How can he up the stakes and plunge the antagonist into deeper and deeper trouble? In other words, how can he paint his hero into a corner then realistically get him out?

Continue reading Avoid Sagging Middles and Lackluster Endings #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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