I was recently asked by the Coalition Community on Inkitt to do a webinar centered around plotting stories and how to incorporate subplots. I thought it would be nice to post about my research for those interested in this topic.
I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to writing and the mechanisms involved. I can only speak from my own experience with writing and reading the works of others. I will say that I’m a huge fan of a lot of moving parts within a story because it makes it exciting for me to put the puzzle pieces together along with the main characters. Because of this, a lot of what I write and read have complex plotlines.
So, what is a plot?
Well, let’s get an expert opinion on this.
In a narrative or creative writing, a plot is the sequence of events that make up a story, whether it’s told, written, filmed, or sung. The plot is the story, and more specifically, how the story develops, unfolds, and moves in time.Plot Definition by Literary Terms
Ok, so the plot is the story. What are the elements?
Let’s dig deep into our brains and pull out our 5th grade literature material.
- Exposition – This is where you introduce your story. The characters. The setting. The whole shebang. Generally, this lasts for the first few chapters and eventually leads into introducing your main plot.
- Rising Action – The plot thickens! This is where something occurs in the story like an inciting incident that drives your story into motion. Along the way, more events will occur that increase the action and tension within the story. (Some of these events may spur subplots!)
- Climax – This is the point where everything comes to a head. It’s the peak moment that the reader has been waiting for.
- Falling Action – This is where your plot is rounding itself up towards a conclusion of the story. For example: the bad guy is dead, or the guy got the girl.
- Resolution – This is where you tie up those loose ends and end your story. Or if you’re planning on a series, this would be a great time for that cliffhanger!
Now that I know what plot is, what’s the best way to get started?
If you were to google how to plot a story, you would probably stumble upon multiple answers. For me, I follow a simple process.
- Pick your genre – write about what you like and know!
- Pick your point of view – I try to do this first because it helps with the brainstorming process. If you’re going to write in 1st person, then you know you can only “see” from that person’s point of view. Or if you choose 3rd person, then you have a little more to work with.
- Time to brainstorm! What kind of characters do you want? Where is the story to take place? These kinds of ideas will help you figure out what type of story you want to write, how it fits in the genre, and the main conflict.
- What is your main plot? Your story should have a central conflict that is the whole point of the story. Without this, your book won’t be cohesive and will leave readers confused.
- Create a brief outline – this doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out. If you’re like me, then a lot of the story will come as you write it, but it’s good to know kind of where the story is heading.
Tell me about these subplots you mentioned before.
I’d love to! But I think this quote says it best.
A subplot is a narrative thread that is woven through a book to support the elements of the main plot. A subplot can build out the conflict in the main plot or it can be a vehicle for a secondary character’s storyline. Either way, subplots have their own story arc.Subplot Definition by MasterClass
So, what’s the point of adding a subplot?
Subplots, in my opinion, make your story interesting and add depth. I use subplots as a way to flesh out characters, intensify the action, and give more information within the story without detracting too much away from the central plot. In many cases, subplots aid the main character by providing information, support, props, different scenes, and much more. This adds to driving your story forward by building a cohesive plotline and ridding your work of dreaded plot holes.
Come again? Plot holes?
Think of your plot like a road. If it’s smooth, all goes well. But if there’s a pothole in the road, it could cause a flat tire. This is what happens when readers find plot holes in your story. It takes them out of their element and they get hit with a big dose of reality instead of staying submerged in the fantastical story you’ve just created. So, sometimes, subplots are a lifesaver. For example:
Let’s say you have a story of a hero going on an epic quest to save a princess. That’s all fine and dandy, but the hero is a poor farmer with nothing but a pitchfork and we know that, as a reader, won’t hold up against the dragon guarding her. So, what will our hero do?
Well, in this example, the quest to save the princess is the main goal or plot of the story. Our plot hole is that it’s known no human weapon can slay a dragon.
Now, let’s say, the hero has to go on a side quest for a mystical sword said to have the ability to cut through anything including dragon skin.
Now we have a subplot where the hero has to find this new weapon before he can achieve the main plot. Not only will it make his journey more interesting to read about, but now we have something that fills the plot hole in the story.
Thanks for the tips. Where can I find more information about this stuff for my story?
There are many resources out there, but here are a few sites that I like:
- MasterClass – Plots
- Author Learning Center – Plot Elements
- MasterClass – Subplots
- Literary Devices – Subplot Examples
As always, happy writing!