Subplots in our stories

In our everyday world, our lives criss- cross, overlap and collide. The “subplots” or multitude of co-existing daily experiences of our lives are the connective threads that weave together our intertwined destinies. They remind us that we depend on one another, whether through happy and healthy relationships or inescapable conflicts. We need each other in order to enrich the texture of our lives. The subplots of our lives- the various ways we are connected to one another- perhaps through situations at work versus experiences with family, or educational pursuits versus parenting goals deepen our mutual main plot – to survive.

A story may need subplots the same way our lives need them. The characters in each subplot should be in close proximity to one another and they need a good reason to be in the same story at all as they intersect in one another’s lives. Each subplot needs to affect the outcome of the main plot. Perhaps one moral dilemna is solved that will ultimately support the moral environment of the entire novel.

Subplots broaden the scope of the story’s escalating tension or action,which ultimately have the purpose of reflecting the theme of the novel. Just as each subplot or situation of our lives works together to strengthen the connecting fibers that comprise our own stories, they should intersect and collide throughout the novel- enriching and deepening the main plotline along the way.

But the writer must keep in mind that the subplots must illuminate and uphold the theme or themes running through the main plotline and they must be supportive, not separate. By creating separate subplots beneath the layers or even running parallel to the main plotline, the writer risks isolating each “sub storyline” and frustrating the reader who may lose the ability to focus on too many separate plots going on at the same time. Multitasking is a good thing but only when the main goal is eventually reached and not lost along the way.

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