3 Subplot Disasters To Avoid

note-book-1492516-640x480Complex plots draw a reader into the story, craving that moment of awareness when all is unveiled at the end. The main plot alone can have many layers. These layers create depth in the story.

There is one particular kind of layer called a subplot that takes you on a journey through the eyes of another point of view character. Not all stories require a subplot, but it can add another dimension to your novel.

What is Subplot?

subplot is a secondary plot, or a strand of the main plot that runs parallel to it and supports it. … Not only does it show various aspects of the characters, connecting the readers with them, but also it is a story within a story – a sort of a subplot. (literary devices.net) ”

What is the Subplot’s Role?

It’s first and most important role is to support the plot. It may offer underlying threads to the spiritual thread of the book, but it must bring something to the overall plot that enriches it and completes it. It adds a multi-layered effect that intrigues readers and keeps them coming back for more.

3 Subplot Disasters To Avoid:

  1. Parallel Plots- This occurs when the plot and subplot merely share characters and a point in time. The subplot could stand alone and offers very little to the plot itself.
  2. Dangling Plot Thread– This occurs when a subplot does not feed back into the main plot at the end of the novel, supporting it’s conclusion. If it doesn’t impact the end of the novel in some way, it is left dangling with little purpose. It also happens when the subplot is incomplete and left without resolution.
  3. Competing Subplot- The subplot is supposed to strengthen the main plot, but when it competes with the main plot it creates the opposite effect. A subplot that overtakes the main plot in word count or interest level weakens it.

What do you think is the most complicated part of creating a subplot?

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3 Tips To Brainstorming Through Blank Page Paralysis

Photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

A story is a complex structure with multiple elements, each key to the overall success of a novel. Many key parts of story structure I learned through My Book Therapy’s coaches Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, and Lisa Jordan.

Their instruction helped me understand the spine of a novel and the elements required for a novel to be publication worthy.

Once all of the key elements are in place, an author still must put flesh on the bones of the story. It can be an overwhelming task. Is it any wonder that sometimes along the way writers get lost?

Do you struggle from Blank Page Paralysis?

Staring at a blank page, waiting for brilliance to strike can be frustrating. Instead of staying stuck, try the following strategies.

3 Tips To Brainstorming Through Blank Page Paralysis:

*Brainstorm From Setting. Determine the setting for the next scene. Brainstorm the sensory details and what is present in the setting. Determine who is there and what the mood is of the scene. As the setting begins to come to life, it becomes easier to visualize your character there and what their goal is next.

*Brainstorm From Character. Identify the Point of View character for the next scene. Brainstorm how they are feeling, what the goal is for them in the scene, and how the setting reflects their mood. Then brainstorm who and what is in the scene with the POV character that could cause obstacles to them reaching their goals.

*Brainstorm From Plot. Focus on what will happen in the coming scene that moves the plot forward. Determine where you need to be at the end of the scene and how the objectives of the Point of View character feeds into the plot. Brainstorm what could happen in the coming scene. Put no filters on the possibilities. When you are finished, select the one that best moves your story forward.

Need A Brainstorming Coach?

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December 6~16th

*Register for a brainstorming session between December 6-16th and get a $15 discount (Session may be scheduled to occur before January 31, 2017)

*Session sale price of $35 can be submitted through PayPal.

*To Register send a message through the contact form below. Use Sale Code: Holly616


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How Do You Get Out Of Blank Page Paralysis?

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 2 – Tips From The Show “Timeless”

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Plot has a rhythm that breathes on the page. Sometimes that rhythm goes rogue with a bit of help from the author. Not knowingly, of course, but rogue all the same. Getting stuck on a theme, or bogged down in the ordinary can create a lackluster plot.

If your plot’s gone rogue, there are a few things to analyze to salvage it from the heap. One of the key causes of a plot gone rogue is the lack of solid conflict and tension.

Let’s take a look at a clip from the new show Timeless to get a bit of insight into our stories.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue 2:

*Place the hero/heroine in the middle of the action.  Ask yourself if you have placed your hero/heroine as close to the action as possible. Notice in the clip of Timeless that the heroine is in the same booth with Abraham Lincoln. The writer realized how much more dramatic it would be to place the heroine there.

Removing the hero/heroine too far from the action, can make a plot grow lethargic and dull. Analyze your story and reposition the hero/heroine in the middle of the danger or adventure.

*Create an impossible choice between two competing values. In this clip the heroine is forced to decide whether to let Lincoln die, whom she has admired her whole life, or let him live, changing history forever. She doesn’t know whether her world will be the same, or not. A seemingly impossible choice. This is a part of plot I learned from my mentor Susan May Warren.

*Figure out what your hero/heroine’s fighting for. Recognize that deviating to far from the noble quest will result in a plot without an end point. The great climax will not occur. Slowly escalate tension in increments of least to most intense until you reach the climax.

Deescalating conflict can make for flat plot. Deescalation occurs when rabbit trails are followed away from the main plot. These can include over intensification of issues, unrelated story world or side plots, or even character distractions.

What television shows inspire you in plotting?

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 1

Photo by hamedreza ahmadi

Photo by hamedreza ahmadi

Have you ever had a plot take on a life of its own? You started down the path of story world with the best of intentions only to discover your plot soured and you’ve lost your way?

This can happen to the Seat-Of-The-Pants writer and the Careful Plotter as well. I land somewhere in the middle of those two and call myself a Purposeful Pantser. But whatever method you use to write, it can be sabotaged by a plot gone rogue.

Most plots can be salvaged if you don’t mind doing the painful work of cutting out the stray pen strokes that don’t belong in the masterpiece.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue is essential to meeting deadlines and avoiding writer’s block.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 1:

*Identify your own personal weaknesses.  

Photo by Myles Davidson

Photo by Myles Davidson

If you’re a Seat-Of-The-Pants writer, it may be a story structure break or a side track a character took that wasn’t helpful to the plot.

If you’re a Careful Plotter, the plot may be too predictable, have missing conflict pieces, or borders on episodic.

Possibly the underlying agenda of the story has taken over the plot, hiding tension from the reader.

Being honest with yourself is the first step in finding a solution. Identifying what you struggle with can help you salvage your plot.

*Revisit your story structure spine. 

Photo by Cathy Kaplan

Photo by Cathy Kaplan

Writing mentor Susan May Warren has taught me how to develop the spine in my novel, regardless of my writing style.

It must start with a character’s belief in a lie that drives their decisions. When sent on a noble quest, they change and grow. For tips on story structure/spine, check out: How To Create Believeable Character Change  and How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style. You can also check out the category Plot Development in the side menu.

If you’re looking for in depth information a great resource is My Book Therapy.

*Make sure your plot is not episodic. 

Photo by Andre Lubbe

Photo by Andre Lubbe

Television series are created in episodes. Each episode can stand alone, but there’s still an overarching theme or character’s story line that last for several seasons.

Novels must avoid interior stand alone plots, but strive to be about the overarching story.

For example:

A character’s noble quest may be to find their mother’s killer like Kate Beckett in the show Castle. But solving a murder in every chapter as they get closer to finding the answers to the overarching theme would most likely feel episodic. It allows the reader to walk away.

Instead try placing a hero/heroine on the job, while their life experiences are leading closer to the end goal. The noble quest must have conflicts on the path that escalate very clearly, until all is revealed and the character overcomes their greatest fear.

Next Tuesday I will share How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part II.

How do you salvage plots gone rogue?

How To Find Unique Flavor For Each Novel – Rearranging the Spice Drawer

Cooking at my house can be a blend of where east meets west sometimes. With a blend of Chinese and American cuisine you can imagine the amount of spices in our spice drawer. Make that two spice drawers.

The more variety of spices to choose from, the more diversity your dishes can have in flavor. This past week I organized our spice drawers and it made me think about what kind of spices I like best. Could I mix things up a bit to create more variety in our dinners?

Writing is much the same way. When we rearrange the spices we work with we create a more unique flavor for each novel.

Finding the unique flavor for each novel is as easy as changing up the following spices:

*Location. Varying the location of where a story takes place can change everything. It changes the details and richness that create story world.

*Occupations. Striving for more unique character occupations will change the direction of a story just because of the kinds of events and competence your character will inspire.

*Quirky Character Types. Not every story can have the same type of quirky characters. You select different ones for different novels. You may have a dry humor sidekick in one and a goth scientist in another.

*Who Gets The Point of View Scenes. You will always have point of view perspective from your hero and heroine, but the type of characters you give additional POV scenes to when developing a subplot can vary greatly.

*Villain Type. There are many different kinds of villains in all genre’s. Everything from the unintentional villain to the sociopath. Even Romance can have a villain of a blander variety. Mix up the villain type and adversity they create.

*Spiritual Thread. The spiritual truth in each of our novels should be varied. You may run into some that are similar due to series theme or focus, but you do want it to variate somewhat.

*Relationships. The success of different types of relationships for your hero and heroine should fluctuate. The heroine can’t always be adopted, or always have a poor relationship with her father. There should be a mix and match of different character relationships.

Remember that even though you rearrange the spice drawer, you are still the cook and your cuisine should have your signature style or voice.

What kind of things do you like to read in a novel that give it a unique flavor?

How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel – Help! I’ve Fallen Into The School Bus

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

If you are reading this blog, chances are I survived the back to school rush of 2016. Whew!

Four kids make back to school a challenge. There’s all of the Open Houses, school supply lists, clothes shopping, and new schedules. As luck would have it, my four children are attending three different schools, making it even more chaotic.

If you are a last minute shopper, or forgot a few items, you just might be duking it out Jingle All The Way style in isle ten. And if you are looking for a TI 84+ calculator. . . sorry, we got the last one.

This past week has been full of real life conflict that is enough to make any mom want to move to Australia with Alexander. Just like us, our characters’ lives are full of real life conflict, too.

Have you built that into the ebb and flow of your novel. Characters seem real when we give them the experiences we go through every day and they must navigate the potholes.

Here are a few tips on How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel that make it easier for readers to identify with your characters.

How To Add Real Life Conflict To Your Novel:

*Brainstorm a list of real life situations your character might face at the time of year your story takes place. It helps to focus in on the time of year when your novel takes place. List holidays, professional busy seasons, personal hobbies that might draw a character away from their goals, and even key times for other characters when they are not as supportive due to outside pressures.

*Select the events that are highest in conflict in conjunction with genre suitability. At Christmas, a chic-lit novel might have shopping woes and complicated to shop for mother-in-laws. Although those might work in a suspense, it would be much more helpful to make a character more vulnerable, having to shop after dark when there is a chance their stalker would wait for them in the parking lot while their arms were weighed down with packages. (For more on plot conflict and escalation techniques check out my book here.)

*Intensify the conflict by making us care even more. If a character has to chose between the dangers of facing that parking lot when your life is at risk and not finding a special gift for your mom’s last Christmas, the tension increases. The reader cares about the character’s safety and the last Christmas for a mom and her daughter. Using these competing values is a trick I learned from Susan May Warren in her book Deep And Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques.

What was the crazy part of your back-to-school season?

How To Create Believable Character Change

imaginary-island-1360364-640x360

Picture by Bensik lmeri

Have you ever met Supermom? You know, the mom who knows everything about being mom of the year and makes you look like you belong at amateur week?

Yeah. I’ve met her too. She is the one who I sweat bullets over becoming like, only to fall miserably on my face.

Face plant. That’s me.

If I were to take apart her journey, she probably didn’t get her Supermom status over night. There had to be some smaller steps along the way. No one can be that amazing instantly.

In fact, I bet she even failed at some time or another. Whew, that makes me feel a bit better.

Real life teaches us that talent and experience blend together to create change or growth in our lives. Our characters should grow the same way if their change is to be believable.

How To Create Believable Character Change:

*Define the clear start and end points. To show our character’s change we must identify where they are starting and ending. Then the midpoints are more easily defined.

*Identify small growth steps between the beginning and end points. People change in baby steps. The person who is terrified of water, won’t all of the sudden be an expert swimmer without first getting in the water and practicing.

*Identify small failures and obstacles that they overcome before complete transformation. If a character is not challenged as they reach for the end result, the reader does not value the change and it will make no impact on their lives as they read.

Example:

Lily struggles to trust anyone to do some of the homework in their group assignments. She can’t afford to get anything less than an “A”.

Here is what I might do to plot the change:

Start point– Lily will not let anyone else take home project work.

Midpoint– Lily lets someone take home project work, but checks it and makes changes before turning it in.

End Point– Lily lets someone else take home project work and trusts them enough to turn it in without checking their work.

Failures/Obstacles- Lily loses points because she did all of the work herself on the first project, Lily discovers she doesn’t know everything- changes something incorrectly on the project, and another one could be that her team mates resent her for taking control.

This is a simple example of how this might work. Think through the progression of how a character changes in your story. Make sure it is a logical progression and has baby steps.

Marlin in Finding Nemo is one of my favorite character change examples.

What is one of your favorite character changes in a book or movie?