Pantsing a Novel: Plot

We’re back and talking about plot today. Yesterday, I talked a little bit about plot and shared a good plot development question that I’d heard somewhere.

Generally when you think about plot, what comes to your mind?

I usually think of the events or action of the story, the main plot line, however, plot is more than that. It’s all the action going on in the story. There is the main plot line and then every good book has subplots, other things that are going on.

My husband and I came across Twilight on Netflix a couple days ago and watched it, so I’ll use that as an example of plot and subplots (it’s been out long enough so I believe I can safely talk about it).

The main plot line is, of course, the story between Bella and Edward. All the events of the story support the development of this plot line.

However, there are a number of other subplots:
Bella and Jacob
The Cullen storyline
The ‘non-vegetarian’ vampire plotline
The school plot line
Bella and her dad
Bella and her mom

All of these different plots have actions and sequences that aren’t directly related to the Bella/Edward storyline, but add a deepness and a richness to the story that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

When I think of my own fantasy work, which is still in first draft development stage, I have my main character Tamerna, and then I have other characters with their own plot and storylines that support the story, but aren’t directly related to Tamerna’s newfound mission for her life.

When you look at your own novel or story, think about what the main story arc is and that is your major plot line. The forward movement of the story is directly related to the development, and ultimately fulfillment, of this storyline. Everything you add that isn’t directly related to that are your subplots and all novel-length stories should have subplots.

Since I focus on pantsing here, let’s talk pants-specific.

As you write your first draft, don’t stress too much about figuring out subplots. The point of the pantsed first draft is to get the story on the page from start to finish. Once you have the main storyline and action done, then you can start to figure out what you’ve already added for subplots (even if they aren’t well-developed) and where you might be able to add more if they are needed.

Side note: Don’t add subplots just because. They need to have purpose and function.

You will edit through your manuscript a BUNCH of times, so you will have time to fully develop your characters, flesh out subplots, and add or delete subplots as necessary. Another way to think about this is to see the main plot as a horizontal line through your story, like this:

Main Plot Line                                                                                  


Subplots are additional lines:

 Main Plot Line                                                                                                

Subplot 1                          

Subplot 2                                         

Subplot 3                                                        

These subplots could certain run the length of the entire novel as well, but they don’t necessarily need to, either. The idea is to think of subplots as additional layers that makes the story thicker, more complex, and more interesting.

Can you describe the main plot of your story? How many subplots do you have? Do you feel this is enough or do you have more adjustments to make?


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