By: Karen Woodward
Today I’d like to talk about something that puzzled me no end when I first began writing: subplots. I’ve been reading Robert McKee’s book, “Story” and what follows draws liberally from his insights.
The Shifting Sands of Terminology
Subplots, main subplots, main plots, central plots, minor arcs, major arcs, and so on. As I’ve read about writing over the years each of these terms has been pressed into service to describe the interwoven threads of a story.
The idea that I came away with—and it’s not at all a bad way of looking at it—is that a novel length story isn’t composed of just one plot but many. One of these plots will form the spine of the story and the other plots, the subplots, are woven around the spine, strengthening it, giving it depth and complexity.
The plot that forms the spine of the story, let’s call this the central plot, this plot line involves the main character’s pursuit of her goal, the obstacles she has to overcome, the cost of winning/failing as well as the final outcome.
But not all stories have subplots. There are good stories—heck, great stories!—that don’t have subplots. “The Fugitive” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” for example.
So, what’s the deal? Do we need subplots? If so, why? What do they do? What’s their function in a story?
Subplots are a tool—one of them—that will help get a writer through the Great Swampy Middle of Despair.
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Read the full article HERE!
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