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?

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?

Tips To Identify A Vanilla Plot – Hot Or Not?

Spicy foods and I have a longstanding relationship of unrequited love. See, my husband loves spicy foods, even if it burns his throat all the way down. It’s amazing he is still able to talk and breathe. There is nothing too spicy for him.

Me, on the other hand, I loathe spicy. As you can imagine this brings about some mischievous opportunities for my husband to slip a bit of spicy into my food. Don’t even mention the word wasabi.

I don’t like bland either. The whole vanilla frenzy never was my thing. Most of us like more flavor in what we eat. Readers are much the same about what they read. Vanilla can put them to sleep or even inspire them to find a better novel, discarding ours altogether.

In novels a vanilla plot is basically a story that may have been done before, or is so straight forward that it lacks the unexpected surprises readers love. Our stories need to have a spicy hot plot that keeps the reader guessing.

Tips To Identify A Vanilla Plot:

*Investigate the Market. If there are several books out there that are similar to yours, yours must have a big variation, or it runs the risk of being vanilla.

*No critique buddy surprises. When you are working on your novel, you should be asking your critique buddies if anything surprises them in what they’ve read. If not, you are running the risk of a vanilla plot.

*You aren’t excited about what you’ve written. If a writer is not excited about what they have written, who else is going to be? Probably no one. Lack of enthusiasm flows through your words onto the page.

*Predictable character decisions. Write down the major dilemmas that your hero or heroine have had to face. Then write down the decision of action they took. Poll your friends and see what they think is going to happen next with the character. If they can guess, you might want to change it up a bit. Especially, if they can guess them all.

*Nothing new to you in the story. Readers love to find out some new detail about something they didn’t know before. If you have nothing like this in your novel, you run the risk of being vanilla.

*If by reading the basic premise, your critique buddy already knows where it will end. In a romance, we know that the leads will end up together, but there should be some other unexpected journey pieces that land them at the happily ever after. If you don’t have a surprise ending, then you’d better have a surprising journey.

What makes you decide that a book is going to be boring?

3 Tips To Editing Your Manuscript – The Plight of Too Many Boxes

Photo by Gastonmag

Photo by Gastonmag

This past week chaos reigned at my house. Moving a family of six is no small thing. The number of boxes alone is staggering.

No matter how hard you try to get everything in the moving truck it seems like there are still things that don’t fit.

Editing your manuscript can be much the same way. There are so many words. Where do you begin to trim, cut, edit, or add?

This week’s move got me thinking about the editing process and how it compares. Here are 3 Tips To Editing Your Manuscript from my experiences with boxes and an oh-so-small 26 foot truck.

3 Tips To Editing Your Manuscript:

1. Define the Parameters. The size and shape of the truck made a huge difference in how we devised our packing plan. The same should be true of your manuscript’s length and genre.

Genre dictates the author’s style of writing. We each have our own flare, but we must also identify what makes our genre unique and avoid cutting style necessary to genre.

For example, romantic suspense can have more clipped sentences and shorter scenes. If you edited down your word count by making more clipped sentences in women’s fiction, you would lose the necessary style for your genre.

Additionally, the size of your manuscript may limit certain elements. Manuscripts 60,000 words or less cannot fully develop a subplot. If you are extending the subplot and your word count doesn’t allow for it, then an edit of words here would be wise.

When you edit, ask yourself these two guiding questions:

*Do the edits I’m making cut the style necessary to genre?

*Do the edits I’m making support the length of manuscript I’m trying to write?

2. Identify the Trim Percentage. This move we had lots of downsizing to do. Time to get

Photo by  riyasr

Photo by riyasr

rid of the baby toys the kids grew out of two years ago. I identified the percentage of things I wanted to get rid of in order to reach my goal.

Look at your manuscript the same way. Identify the percentage of trimming or adding you need to do to reach your word count range. Break it down into small pieces and aim to make that amount of meaningful changes to each segment.

When you edit ask yourself these two guiding questions:

*What percentage of my manuscript do I need to trim or add?

*Are the changes I am making meaningful?

3. Prioritize Content Importance. At some point during moving I got to the critical mass stage. There just was only so much more room in the truck.

Photo by Nob3L

Photo by Nob3L

When editing, start with the story structure edits essential to make the story strong. Your first priority is to engage and satisfy the reader. Tips on story structure can be found at My Book Therapy.

Once you have satisfied the story structure elements, then dig into the scene edits to tighten your writing to perfection.

When you edit ask yourself these two guiding questions:

*Have I prioritized what is essential to story structure before editing scenes?

*Are there edits I need to make to satisfy the reader?

When I edit I usually add words from the rough draft to the final draft. How about you? What is editing like for you?

How To Add A Twist To Your Story – Tips From “Frozen”

Photo by Ayla87

Photo by Ayla87

Have you ever despised the linear, flat story line you have going in your novel? If each scene outcome is predictable and you worry your reader will lose interest, then it is time for a change.

Maybe it’s time for an unexpected twist. Easier said than done, right? Still, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

Using a technique that I call fringe plotting, or Susan May Warren’s similar technique of peripheral plotting, you can easily bring in believable twists to mix things up.

What exactly is fringe plotting?

It is finding the details or story components on the edge of your current story line and drawing them into the plot in an unexpected way.

Take a look at this clip from Frozen:

What is the fringe plot detail in this clip? The camera man. He is the unexpected element that plays into the clip. It makes the other characters act completely different.

Who is on the fringe of the scene or story line you are working on? How will they make the characters act differently?

Now, notice the carrot. The carrot is an object on the fringe of the plot when Olaf is sitting on the moose’s back and he doesn’t want to move. It is unexpected that Olaf takes off his nose as incentive, but the nose was there all along waiting to be noticed.

What objects or incentives could there be in your character’s scene that are on the fringe going unnoticed?

In the clip from Frozen it seems so simple, but when we look at our stories it appears complicated sometimes. Break it down in the following way.

Describe these things as they relate to your scenes, characters, or story line:


*Friends, Family, Co-workers, Side Characters

*Events- Town Seasons, Holidays, Charities, Calendar

*Values – Things valued in the scene, lives, or backdrop of the story.

Once you identify these things, think of how they intersect with your character’s life and then you may find some of those carrot style twists you are looking for in your novel.

What is your favorite Disney Movie for surprises?

3 Tips To Brainstorming A Subplot – Mommy Mayhem Hits The Page

Photo by lusi

Photo by lusi

At the end of the day have you ever just flopped down on the couch and stared at the chaos around you? Just the other day that was me.

Packing four lunches, picking up kids from school, five doctor appointments, supper, homework, laundry, dishes, and oh where oh where did I leave my sense of orientation along the way?

So, at the end of the day there I sat. Kids in bed, house akimbo, feet aching, asking myself how in the world I would be able to write tonight. It was the stage of the game to add in a subplot and I just didn’t know if I could put anything other than drivel on the page.

Then the basket of laundry on the couch, the broom in the corner, and my feet, yes my feet, started me thinking about how to brainstorm subplot. The room was the main plot, it told the story of a non Martha Stewart, but lived in look. The subplot was found in the things along the edges that supported the main room.

Silly way to think of it, eh?

But that picture is something that I truly needed to see when I first starting writing subplots.

Let’s set the stage: The main plot is a woman who is trying to keep her house clean and she is somewhat successful.


1. Brainstorm a list of story elements around the edges of your main plot that could help feed into the plot. The subplot is connected to the plot, not it’s own parallel story. I learned this very important tip from Susan May Warren.

At the end of the book, the subplot must flow into the story, not be a story of its own. List everything you see on the edges of the story.

2. Brainstorm a list of the physical elements involved with the perimeter’s objects or people. For example, if in step one I listed a broom as part of the edges, I might now attach a person to it, or emotions. What if the person who sweeps is my son and he tries to avoid it at all costs? That could build into the subplot.

3. Brainstorm a list of how the physical elements and story elements can feed back into your story. If my son sweeps the floor, but hates to, then I can create a subplot that shows him fighting his own battle with cleaning. The main plot may be the Mom trying to accomplish everything. The subplot could be the son who fights sweeping and makes her life more difficult, but in the end he realizes the benefits of sweeping and decides for himself that he wants to help.

This is an oversimplification of subplot, but you get the idea. Brainstorming around the edges of your hero/heroine’s life will help you come up with a variety of choices that could feed back into the subplot.

What is your favorite subplot of all time?