Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writing World Wednesday: Plot, Bones, and Meat

Note: After this post, I'll be addressing Writing World Wednesday as 3W. (WWW looks mushed.)

For years, one of my hobbies has been joint-story-creations with one of my followers, Z.G. Writer (Visit her here at Key to Eden! She's just starting out, so give her some support (: ). One of the stories we've been working on crashed...hard... We knew some things that needed to be addressed, but I still felt like there was something wrong... I just couldn't put my finger on it...

One night, as I lay thinking about it in bed three hours after I should've gone, I pondered. What is it that makes a story function? The plot, of course; and the characters. The characters can drive the plot, or the plot can drive the characters. Additionally, the world can be a stimulant as well. But what if there just isn't enough? The characters can't all be so connected to the plot that they...

Then it hit me. Something I know that's crucial to a work-in-progress, something we actually have plenty of, but...somehow, it seemed we needed another.


Oh, sure, we've got subplots. Thing is, some subplots are specific to certain characters. The trauma upon two characters, the romance between a few others, or the past between some of them. It hit me: We need a new subplot that includes everyone.

Am I driving you crazy, Z.G.? (I haven't told her the subplot idea yet.)

Upon hitting the realization plot points, subplots, specific-character subplots, and pure plot are all different, I had a discussion with the amazing Charlee Vale. It went like this:

Me: Though it kind of bogs you down sometimes, you NEED subplots.
Charlee: With discretion, or at least you need the illusion that some characters have other stuff going on in their lives.
Me: Yeah, of course. The characters help build the plot. But the plot needs more to it than just one goal.

The main plot? The BIG conclusion? Those are the bones of the story. Then you have the subplot with your characters, the one that makes you love and care about them. That's the muscle.

After that, you need subplots that don't have readers focused only on the MAIN plot. A law I go by is, "people have fifteen minutes of an attention span." Don't have characters discussing ONE plot point for fifteen minutes. They'll put the book down and find something more interesting to do, like laundry. Laundry isn't interesting. Don't let that happen. These plots are the skin of your story, what makes it so interesting to look at and speak to.

(Am I explaining this very well? Metaphor: Book vs. really-attractive-person. The better developed plot/subplot/world/characters, the more attractive the person. Wow, how superficial am I?)

That's just something I've been thinking of lately. Don't get me wrong: the joint-operation story is awesome. It was just slowing down, and I wanted to speed it up with a plot point that includes everyone. If you ever worry about something like that, consider: You may have subplots, but do you have enough...or too many? Keep an eye on them.


  1. Huh. I guess subplots must be the sort of thing I incorporate subconsciously or something, but stopping to think about it (as you have caused me to do), I can't for the life of me recall how I do it. O.O

    Ah, no, wait, I think I know: It's whenever I ask myself, "Meanwhile, what's happening over here?" I don't think of them as subplots, but I guess that's what they are -- the bits happening on the side that I have to juggle and weave into the main whatsit of the story. (Yes. "Whatsit". The wordsmith hasn't breakfasted yet.)

    Any event, all that to say, yes, you bring up good reminders. Subplots are good. long as they don't veer so far afield that the reader never understands what they have to do with anything. YA books don't tend to do that as much as books for adults, I think, which is why I'll often prefer YA: It sticks to the point better.

  2. *Nods gravely* I honestly think YA books are the new pinnacle in plot structure nowadays. Haha, story whatsits! We all have those moments. Your wordsmith will awaken soon!

  3. Damn you, I know exactly what you're talking about too! I will eventually dig it out of you, I know I will!

  4. Ahem... Very good blog post though. :)