Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Subplots as Children

This is rather random, but I was thinking this morning how much plotting and sub-plotting is like motherhood. We have the marriage--usually consisting of the protagonist and his/her issue; then we have the pregnancy--multiplication of issues or the 'Door of No Return' as awesome author James Scott Bell and writer of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure calls it. This then inevitably leads us to a child or children--our subplots.

Subplots can be as varied and vast as the number of children in a family. They can consist of diverse personalities, depth, and focus. Each can have his/her own roadway, branching off from the trunk just a tad or causing a great chasm in the plot--family. Minute threads of information can bead across one subplot, tugging on the main plot all while giving the reader a different view of the initial issue from the protagonist--discussions between mother/parent and child. The view is amazing, but sometimes limited depending on the person you decide to write in.

(Little note about person: Third person close is my personal favorite. It gives me the freedom to dive more publicly into my main characters head, but the liberty to share some views from supportive characters as well. I do really like first person, too; it's just more limiting.)

With multiple sub-plots--children--we can delve into many topics, some more subtly then others. Usually, there's one or two that stand out and thumb us in the face--just like children. Our focus veers toward those, yet is never fully taken off the other children--subplots. They, as the wallflowers, are as important and needy as the troublemakers or stone throwers.

All structure the story.

Subplots are a great way to paint borders, faint applique, or timid emotions in the background of our stories; whether fictional or nonfiction, this applies. Just like motherhood, our stories are colored by innumerable instances, experiences, opinions, and even a few little shop of horrors. (For those who haven't joined me on Facebook yet--& I'd love it if you would--I experienced a little shop of horror this morning. Here's my status: You Do The Math:6 yr old pucker hits carpeted stairs, then toilet + 11 yr old up-chucker who spews all over wooden floor, couch, chair, and any other surface she could find + sniffling, sneezing, ticked off 16 yr old who has to play in a varsity hockey game tonight = ?) Oh, and the 13 yr old is glued to the XBox--my background branch/subplot at the moment.

Yeah, you can laugh; it's okay. What was your latest little shop of horror? Fiction or nonfiction?


  1. wow! so sorry about the sick kids. I'm surprised you managed to post anything today in light of what your subplots were doing!

  2. Hah, no joke. But one must write, right?


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