May 31, 2011

Subplot & Secondary Characters: Keeping Them in Line

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I've decided to counter my last post, Les Miserables and Plot Focus, simply because I love secondary characters, subplot, and the opportunity for humor, depth, and humanity substory can bring. The trick is to find the right balance.

Some of my favorite characters I've written are NOT main characters. They are vibrant, quirky, loveable, or morose. Could the story have been written without them? I'd like to think the answer is no. They are integral in supporting the main plot, but keeping them in their place is important. Maybe that's why they are who they are, to pack a punch in the little spotlight they get.

I think of subplots as a webbing, running under, around, and through the main storyline, moving things along and coloring it up a bit. It's so great when the main story gets to intersect with a subplot in an unexpected or only hoped-for way, shifting the story into overdrive.

But I can't let the webbing get in the way and gum up the storyline. I'm not talking about conflict. Subplots are great for building up conflict, and that's a good thing. I'm talking about causing problems with pacing, flow, getting the story where it needs to go. This is where charts and outlines are extremely helpful, and I've seen some impressive organization by fellow authors.

This is not my plot outline. I find it comforting Ms. Rowling uses lined notebook paper.

So, I'm still studying, still learning, and I'm still trying to find that balance. Any tips?

1 comment:

L.T. Elliot said...

That is the coolest thing I've seen today. *drool*

I have the same issue with subplot characters. Sometimes that weedy little interloper wants to steal the show but I have to prune them back where they belong. =]

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