Okay, we know we want to have subplots. But if we have several, how should we keep track of it all?
From my reading, everyone has their own method of tracking subplots, although, they do seem to have one thing in common and that’s a gird. Here’s one example of how JK Rowling does it. Other approaches include using index cards, whiteboards, spreadsheets, or storyboards. All attempting to organize and keep the subplots clear in the writer’s mind as they write. And for your downloading pleasure, I also found a link to Subplot Tracker Worksheet.
Examine your method and follow each plot/subplot from beginning to end. The subplots can be assigned colors to track them at a glance. The color also serves another purpose. It makes monitoring the balance of subplots and keeping them relatively equal, unless you’ve decided one is supposed to be larger/smaller. As you read in my previous post Subplots Add Character: Here’s How + Subplots and Why We Need Them.
There are two main reasons why planning is key.
One, subplots need a beginning, middle and end. Now, I don’t mean they start at the beginning of the book and end near the end. They can start and end anytime during the story or series. What I am reporting is they can’t be abandoned or forgotten.
Subplots contain their own questions
The subplot must live on, finish up, or in extreme cases, and this is the only time that I’m good with this, end in a cliff hanger. All questions must be addressed by the end of the storyline. Some questions that come up are: will the romance continue, is forgiveness possible, will past mistakes haunt a character indefinitely, did the purse snatcher get caught? Whatever it may be, don’t leave it dangling.
And two, subplots need to directly interact with the main plot. If for some reason the subplot doesn’t interfere, complicate, or interact with the plot it needs to be removed. Having a method to check, and double check that the subplot has purpose in the novel is paramount. Just like a scene, it needs its place in the overall story.
All mistakes can be fixed. When it comes to fixing subplots, or complicated story lines; think of what toppling, or removing, a domino in a delicate and detailed design. Everything might be fine until it hits the gap, then everything stops or goes in the wrong direction.
That is not what I want to try to fix. What about you? Have you methods that brought success, or mistakes you’d like us all to avoid. Be sure to share in the comments. 🙂