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21.06.2011 13:31    Comments: 0    Categories: Fiction Elements  Fiction Writing  Plotting  Structure  Writing Craft  Writing Plot  Writing Tips  Writing Subplot      Tags: plot  plotting  subplots  

All you people working on novels will be glad to hear, this section deals completely with you. A novel must have at least one subplot; otherwise all you have written is a really long short story. As Levin puts it: "A novel is not only longer than a short story, it's wider." (Get That Novel Written)

Remember the definition of a plot? A plot is a series of causally related events that emerge from a series of ever-intensifying conflicts and prove a premise at the end. A subplot must follow this definition too, proving the same premise that the main plot does. But it's smaller because it takes less space in the novel and it serves the main plot.

Are you limited to only one subplot? No, never. You can put in as many as you think the story can hold. Some novels end up with two plots of nearly equal size with subplots with subplots of their own. Anna Karenina's subplot dealing with Levin (discussed in Writing Tutorial #6) covers as many pages as the main plot. My story Reunions has one main plot concerning Exhaust's takeover of the Fury and three subplots dealing with Throttle and Charley's romance, Modo and Sparks's relationship, and Vinnie and Tala's romance. It all depends on what you want to do. I like to give each of the bros and Charley the same time as the others. The only thing to remember is that the subplot cannot be events thrown in to take up space. They must connect to the plot in some fashion to make the novel a concise whole. There are three different types of subplots: the plot-linked, premise-bound, and social context.

The plot-linked are subplots that drive the main plot forward by their events. It is also the most intrinsic to write. It usually arises out of the character's agendas. For example in my crossover novel, I have included scenes of Limburger and the other villain actually planning the attacks on the good guys. One of the reasons to show these scenes is so it doesn't look like I'm manipulating events arbitrarily. But it creates a subplot that moves the main plot forward, and foreshadows what troubles will soon affect the good guys.

Levin's subplot in Anna Karenina is an example of the premise-bound subplot. Subplots like this do not have to intersect with the main plot as often as a plot-linked subplot would. The premise in Anan's plot is adultery leads to death. Levin's plot is the trials of a new marriage that end with his religious conversion. Its premise is that fidelity leads to salvation and proves the main premise by offering an opposite truth.

Social context is a subplot that is provided by the setting of a novel. Historical novels are the best example of this. Gone With the Wind is set during the United States's Civil War and that conflict provides action in several key scenes. A Tale of Two Cities is set during the French Revolution, for the same reasons. Can you use social context as a subplot for a fanfic? Why not? The war on Mars can be social context and so can aliens living on Earth.

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