My favorite. I am so at home with complex sub-plotting it gets me into trouble. How so? Because that throws me into series plotting... and series sells, but not for a first-time sale. (Easily).

A complex subplot is just what it says. You take the simple subplot and complicate it. This can involve a multitude of different tactics. My favorite, however, is adding in a story-line that can open up for a second book.

So, let's look at Amy, Paul, Edward and Eleanor, and let's back up before there's a conflict that ends our story. Let's add on to Eleanor's quest to save the servants.

Enter James and Julie. James and Julie died in the house as relatively young, and they were newly wedded. Let's make Edward very bad. Let's say Julie was his sister. She married James without his permission. Edward found out, he killed them both.

James and Julie are aware of each other in ghostly-form, and they long to have back the life that was taken from them. We'll make them very gut-wrenching characters that you want to cry over because of their lost love and their longing to be back together. We'll so this, so our sub-plot becomes interesting, not just nonsense going on.

In Eleanor's plan to free the souls, we will have a resolution (hopefully) for James and Julie.

We accomplish this by adding in additional scenes yet. We show the ghostly pair perhaps trying to hold hands. Wanting to touch, aching for a hug, a kiss. And Julie's ghostly sobs when she cannot.

James and Julie do not need to be aware of Eleanor's plan to free the souls. And, as far as the reader needs to know, the plan to free the souls, only frees them to find the light.

But James and Julie are searching for a means to be able to experience each other physically, even if they are still ghosts. We incorporate scenes to build this, and give them 'action' in working toward this goal.

So your story has gone from Paul and Amy need to admit love, to Paul and Amy need to admit love while Eleanor frees the souls, to Paul and Amy need to admit love while Eleanor frees the souls while James and Julie must find a way to have a real kiss.

Two separate plots that go on around the central plot. To tie this into series, perhaps close to the resolution of Paul and Amy, and Eleanor and Edward, we have EITHER James or Julie find physical form, but the other does not. Book2 becomes putting James and Julie together. (Which of course, must involve something entirely different than Paul and Amy.)

And that is what I personally find easiest to build.

Comments? Questions?



The Simple Subplot

1 Comment Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 2:06 AM


Basic definitions first. A sub plot is a plot that runs contiguously with the plot. It is a story within a story.

It cannot over-run your main plot, but it works in conjunction with what is going on. In romance, the main plot is always how the hero and heroine end up in a Happily Ever After. But there can be all kinds of sub plot issues.

A grand example of sub-plotting would be Tolkein (although that's really more epic plotting.) But using it as an example, you had several different factions all struggling with their own issues, that contributed to the greater whole.

So let's go back to the simple story we created yesterday.

We're going to take our poor heroine who doesn't have a belief in the supernatural, and our ghost hero and add in a little twist.

Yesterday all she had to do was admit her love, and he admit his, and they'd get their happy ever after. Not so tonight. That's not good enough.

To our heroine's frustration, not all the things that go bump in the night are the hero. And little does our heroine know... she's reincarnated and was our hero's love of his life, and he was taken captive for his love. She was also, however, married to a brutal man who killed her when he discovered he only owned her body, not her heart. Her aunt lived with them as well.

So let's give these folks some names now. Let's call our Heroine Amy, our Hero Paul, the crazy husband/ghost Edward, and the aunt Eleanor. There's also a whole passel of other souls trapped in here of servants Edward killed for various reasons.

Edward, upon seeing Amy return to this house has decided that she belongs to him. Paul... due to a lack of some disassociative issues... knows he is bound to his ghostly form by some power he cannot see. Nor does he understand.

Eleanor was attempting to do... something... so that the ill-fated lovers could be together way back when. Presently, she is aware of the fact that Edward binds Paul to his ghostly form because of his power over the souls he's held captive. Edward must be defeated, not only so that Paul can have Amy, but so that the souls can find "the light". Eleanor is trying to finegle events in the ghostly realm, to see that this happens.

So the sub plot becomes "Free the souls".

Now Amy and Paul have something affecting their plot, running simultaneously with their plot, that they cannot necessarily control. Yet, they are a part of it.

This is played out by creating a few scenes in the manuscript strictly from Eleanor and/or Edward's point of view, focusing on the plight of the souls. Separate, but equal. Good theme to apply to sub-plotting.

And in the end, as our hero and heroine are deciding they are in love, some battle (and it can be between any of the players/characters) defeats Edward and the souls are released. Both plots are resolved. Eleanor and her flock of souls go to the light. Paul joins Amy in the mortal realm as a modern, alive, man. Edward is chained/confined/dead/in hell wherever you want to put him just so he's not able to interact with the storyline at this point.

Simple Sub Plot.

But OH! How much fun it is to weave something more complex. Which we will talk about tomorrow. And this more complex can also lead into series plotting.



This is the simplest aspect of plotting. And one, oddly, I have great difficulty with.

Essentially, the elements are (for romance):
1. Hero
2. Heroine
3. A scenario that puts them together, that also drives them apart.
4. Goals, conflict and motivation -- which is not relevant to what I'm trying to talk about right now.

Let's look at a simple plot. Because I want to expand on this while I talk about the other two plotting aspects, I'm going to go with a paranormal plot.

So. Let's create our characters.

1. Our heroine is a thrill-seeker, but has absolutely no belief in anything paranormal.
2. Our hero is a ghost, killed in the victorian era by his wife.

And our setting: A group of friends have dared our heroine to join them in an attempt to stay in a haunted house overnight.

And the little details necessary to accomplish the storyline:
a. Our heroine has been having dreams about a handsome man who -- let's just say he has a body and knows how to use it.
b. Our hero has major trust issues (obviously) with women. But he wants to escape his damnation and confinement to this house where he died.

So. The simple plot is:
Our heroine must overcome her disbelief in the supernatural. Our hero must overcome his trust issues. When they can do this, and they admit to being in love, he will have his freedom -- to live again. Thus our Happy Ever After, a necessary romance element.

Simple. All one has to do is craft encounters in the haunted house and walah! The simple plot is achieved.

There are authors (like me) who find the simple plot far too boring to go that route. So tomorrow, we'll complicate it a bit.



I know I said we'd discuss heroines, but... well... that was a month ago. Much to my chagrin, I have been otherwise engaged. Namely in exploring and developing a plot line.

And that is where my brain is tonight.

As I wrapped up the last of a new paranormal romance, (very yummy), it occured to me I was short words. Which put me back into the scope of developing a sub-plot, only I have a resistance right now to extensive sub-plotting.

Don't get me wrong, I love sub-plots. But, I've been engrossed in completing a fantasy series with an epic sub-plot/plot and the last book is killing me. Not the romance part, but here's the part where the series ends. Therefore all the outstanding issues MUST be resolved. And they are so specific, that there's not a lot of room for letting the muse take over and just "going with the flow".

So, confronted with the need for words that didn't exist, I delved back into plotting. Plot-lines are tricky little buggers. You can't just insert things as you feel the need. In this case, I needed four additional scenes, but didn't want to get into anything that left too much hanging. Something mild is what I was after. But how?

Well, I discovered a nifty little trick that I -- the woman who gets out Excel spreadsheets and plots down to minute details -- am fascinated with. :Gasp: A sub-plot does not have to be complex!

It just has to exist.

Which means, when one is short on words, as long as the overall scope is touched on, there doesn't have to be significant name-dropping. Just enough "curiosity".

Which also led to my first attempt at creating a sub-plot that didn't particularly look like a sub-plot. Meaning, its entirely possible to create a sub-plot that no one knows about, adds character to the story, opens the possibility there may be more, but doesn't cement the book into later sequels.

For this week, I'm going to delve into this more. My plans are to cover basic plot approach, simple sub-plot, and complex sub-plot.

Come and join in on the fun! If you have comments or questions, I'd love to hear them.



"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
(History Channel International)



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