How To Plot A Novel – Plotter Or Pantser?

How To Plot A Novel -Featured

The debate goes on – how to plot a novel for success? Plotters tend to stick to a formula, to make sure that all the story elements are in place, while Pantsers say that it stifles creativity.

As with most points of view, there is merit in both sides of the argument and it also depends on the writer’s personality. Some say that they can’t even write the first line until they know what the last line of their novel is. Others say they like the thrill of not knowing where the story is going or what the characters are going to do.

I secretly think that there’s an element of both in all of us, both in life and when we write. Of course we want an exciting ride, but it’s also nice to know where the train is going, at least the general direction!

In the video below Mandi Lynn interviews Brittany Wang, fantasy author, about here approach to writing her stories.

How To Plot Your Novel – Some Tips For Beginners

Hello everyone, my name is Mandi Lynn. I’m the author of the fantasy novels, Essence, I am Mercy, and thriller novel, She’s Not Here, as well as the creator of AuthorTube Academy.

Today I have a special guest, Brittany Wang. Would you like to introduce yourself?

– Yes, hi guys, I’m Brittany Wang. I am an author of an upcoming YA fairy fantasy series, and I also have an AuthorTube channel and I also host a Facebook group called The Plotter Life Writers Facebook Group. We have about 300 members and it’s been so fun to collaborate there. So thanks for having me on your channel.

– Oh absolutely, and she also has an awesome Instagram that you should check out as well.

– Thank you.

How to plot a novel - plotter vs pantser– So today we discovered that I’m a pantser and she’s a plotter, so we’ve been doing some fun interviews so if you wanna hear an interview of her asking me all these questions about being a pantser, head over to her channel.

I will have a link to that video down below. But today, I’m gonna be interviewing Brittany about how she is a plotter and how that may work. Because I don’t know what that life is like. (intense music) So for those of you who don’t know, a plotter is someone who sits back and plots the whole novel before they start writing.

A pantser is just someone who just goes for it, which is what I do. (laughing) So, Brittany, why do you plot your book?

– Ah, okay, well I’m a person who love, we were talking about this on the other video, but like I love to have a plan. I just feel more secure (laughing) having a plan, but I also really love studying story structure and really understanding why stories work.


And with that, I really also enjoy just like the story of transformation, which is a lotta stories, and when I’m thinking about where I wanna take a story or even like the theme of a story, I wanna be like really purposeful about that. And you can definitely do that while you’re pantsing as well, but it’s hard for me to do that without a plan.


So I love to like sort of use story beats and just like a basic novel outline to figure out okay where am I going, even if that changes later, I love to at least have a direction. And then when I feel like I have that direction, I feel like I can sort of just fill in the holes from there and do that.

– How do you plot your novel technique-wise? Like do you have a certain way you go about plotting your novel?

How to plot a mystery novel tips– I’ve tried a bunch of different ways and I don’t know that I have a specific way yet, and again this is my first novel, so as we were talking about before, it could change from book to book. But right now I’ve tried Scrivener, but I really just like using a Word document.


I love sort of writing down all my ideas, maybe I’ll do that first on a piece of paper, but then I’ll start seeing connections and I’ll start seeing those story beats sorta pop up, like oh this is the inciting incident or this is the ending or this is the midpoint.


And then I’ll start organizing that on like a Word document. And then I also really loved when I started using a story bible or a novel bible, series bible, whatever you wanna call it, and I have a video about that.


But it just sorta takes each character profile, and I’m doing fantasy, so that’s a whole nother thing where you’re trying to do the world-building, and I love to wrap the world-building into the story, make that really purposeful, so I love brainstorming within that, even if it’s not in story form, within like those templates and then figuring out how do these things mesh into the story.


So between the outline and the series bible, those are like my main forms of plotting right now.

– I love the series bible, by the way.

– Oh good.

– Almost part of me wants to do it, even though I’m not a plotter. (laughing)

– You could it for editing too.

– That’s true, that’s true.

– Yeah yeah yeah.

– You can do that for editing.

– Right so you could even, whatever part of the process.

– Now we have Catio – Yes.

– Okay so since you’re a plotter, do you feel like the quality of the first draft is better?

Plot a novel template– Again I have nothing to compare it to personally, but I will say that when I’ve shown the first few chapters to some of my CPs, and they have said, hey, this actually feels more like a third draft or second or third draft, and I, yeah I think that it’s because I’m already like setting things up, I’m already able to like foreshadow certain things.


That being said, that particular draft was like, I did like a really rough like, I think for Camp NaNo, and that was like terrible. (laughing) So I wouldn’t show any of that to anyone. But it was just like I would speed through with the basic outline and then I was like, okay, now I’m gonna go back through.


So yeah, but they said that it felt like pretty strong, and I’m really happy with it, but there are also some drawbacks to that which we’ll talk, I’m sure we’ll talk about. (laughing)

– Now if you didn’t write fantasy, do you feel like you would still need like that plotted outline?

– Yeah, I feel like yeah, with fantasy, you do have like a lot of world-building that you’re trying to do, but I feel like with any story I would tell, even if it’s contemporary, like I would wanna do research about if it’s a real place or if I’m doing like a sci-fi or dystopian, like I’d wanna figure out like where am I (laughing) generally you know and try to pull some of those things in.


So I think for me, I might do a little less plotting, but I think generally naturally I would still go for some plotting. (laughing)

– You would need to.

– I would have fun with it, I can’t help it. The only other thing I would add is that doing like the plotting, and not just the plotting, but like research, so I didn’t get to ask you this in the other video, but like about how much research do you do, because even for like She’s Not Here, I know like you have some knowledge already previous to like where you work, but also do, did you do a lot of research? And for me I feel like I learn a lot during the research and it instructs my plotting.

– Right.

– So I don’t know if you wanted to add anything from that, but I just felt like that was, (laughing) it’s helpful for my plotting.

– Yeah, so working off the last question, do you feel like you have an easier time with draft two when it comes to the editing process? Do you reference your outline when you’re doing draft two?

How to plot a romance novel advice– Yes, I reference the outline and the draft. Right now I’m taking, I did a fast read-through of the first draft, and I took notes, even though I had an outline, there will still things that I pantsed as I was going. So it’s not like I’m plotting every single scene or every single moment or piece of dialogue.


It’s more just getting that picture and like that progression and any specific things I know I want in it, but then like yeah, there were definitely areas where I pantsed and I was like, oh I found out about this character, I found out more about this part of the world.


And so now I’m taking those like little markings in the draft and putting them into a Word document (laughing) which I just showed on my Instagram Stories, I might do another video about, but where I’m then transferring all of those notes and that will then change the outline.

– Right.

– Right now, so here’s one of the downsides, is that I think there are certain critical things in my last outline that will change based on this first draft, based on some of the pantsing that did happen, and some of the things that like didn’t, like I didn’t write as well as I thought I would, like I’m not completely happy with the ending that I plotted, even though it sounded really strong in the outline, it didn’t end up being super strong, hi. (laughing)


And so with that, like you can be as prepared as you can, but you can still end up having to trash a lot or having to rewrite a lot. For me I still feel better about having the plotting ahead of time, but that can be the downside.

– Just laughing. (laughing) Okay is this what we’re doing now? (laughing)

– She likes the book, no he.

– I’m sorry, he likes the books too. (laughing) Oh really likes the book. (laughing)

– Little destructive, okay, you can sit there, why not. All right, just get a little cat booty in the video. (book thumping) Oh thanks. – I want him, I want the attention.

– You can be the star now I guess. (laughing) Okay, (laughing) would you be able to pants a novel if you had to? Do you think you could do it?

– You mean if I had like a gun to my head? (laughing)

– If I told you, you have to write this novel but you’re not allowed to outline it, would you be able to?

How to plot your novel step by step– I think I’d be able to. You know I’ve definitely done like some microfiction, like we were talking about flash fiction earlier, and I feel like yeah I could, I could probably do it in shorter spurts. But I feel like it would be really hard (laughing) to like, I would get into like a certain amount of chapters, then I would be like, ooh and then this thing and then, I sorta wanna write this down and like chronicle a little bit and like brainstorm a little bit to get there.


But if I had to, (laughing) I would, it would probably just take me awhile.

– Yeah. (laughing) If you had a gun to your head.

– Right, all right, which plotting still takes awhile, like I was plotting for months before I even wrote any like real words or any real pages. So that’s another downside, like sometimes you might get out like a full draft like sooner than like a plotter would.

– Right.

– So yeah, there’s that.

– So that was one of my next questions was how long it did take to plot a novel. But with that said, since you kinda sorta answered it, feel free to digest more if you’d like. But with that in mind, once you have the novel plotted, how long does it take to actually write it?

– Okay, well, so the current story that I’m working on, the seedling of the idea I like to say started in like middle school.


So I wrote like a 7,000 word, which actually, I might have pantsed that a little bit, I have, I can’t remember. But it was a complete story, and then, now that I’m like sorta getting really back into writing and like have this like trajectory of like I’m gonna publish this book, I really started getting serious about it like in January, and then I was plotting up until like the first Camp NaNo.


So that was like April. And then I tried to write the first like really messy draft (laughing) and I didn’t, I reached the end, but there were so many scenes that I didn’t even write because I was like I don’t even know what’s going on here.


And then I did more plotting between then and the next Camp NaNo and I tried to write the next draft, which I only got like 25,000 words, but it was something. (laughing) And then I had a goal throughout the summer to get the first real draft done by the end of August, which I did.


So that’s sort of the timeline, but even before then, there was more like plotting even before January that was like sprinkled. But once I got serious, it did take, what is that, like four or five months, somewhere around there, to get to a place where I was like okay, I feel comfortable diving in now. (laughing)

– Is there anything else you would like to add?

– I would just say that if you have pantsed your whole life and you really haven’t done any kind of plotting, I would just say to like try, just like you know there’s so many videos out there, especially if you’re struggling. If you’re not struggling, why mess up something that isn’t broken, right?


But if you’re having some struggles with it, there’s so many different forms of plotting, there’s so many different forms of outlining or approaches, and some of them are like really general and simple and you could do really quickly and some of them like take forever, like my process. (laughing)


SAo yeah, so I would just say that it’s something, especially to strengthen your idea or understanding of story structure to study that a little bit and even if you just have it in your head, then that helps produce I think a stronger story from the beginning.

– Thank you for joining us today in this discussion of plotting a novel. Thank you to Brittany Wang for joining. Be sure to check out her video down below so you can see her interview me on pantsing. Which one is superior?

Let us know in the comments down below. Give us your vote and say what you are and which one you think is better. Otherwise, that is it for today’s video. Be sure to give it a thumbs up, comment down below, and subscribe.

How To Plot A Novel Advice


How To Write Conflict – Creative Writing Basics

Conflict Definition In Novels

Writing a novel or story that works means including some essential ingredients. From a reader’s point of view (which is the only POV that should interest us!) conflicts between characters , and how they are resolved, is the energy that keeps them turning the pages. Is that a good thing? You bet – it’s why we write!

An author must take the characters he’s painstakingly created with loving care, and introduce turmoil of varying severity into their fictitious lives. How to write conflict, that is, creating, sustaining and resolving the events causing it, is a vital skill to develop when telling a story.

I’m not just referring to the main obstacles in the hero’s quest, but normal everyday stuff, like jealousy between friends, being irritated by someone’s arrogant attitude and any number of similar attacks on a normal person’s sanity.

Writing Conflict Can Sometimes Be Helped By The Novel Genre

Conflict In A Novel

The genre of your story can direct you towards the kind of conflict that needs creating. The conflictual events are the catapults that shoot the novel forwards and they are ever-present. The genre will loosely dictate the kind of situations that can unfold, giving rise to a particular kind of conflict. In a fantasy world, a dragon might breathe fire all over us, or simply be very annoying, continually telling us where we are going wrong.

A sci-fi novel presents a whole gamut of possibilities, from evil scientists to slimy aliens bent on entering our bodies by any means possible! (Made myself shudder a little there!) The kind of conflict, the severity and the nature of the event causing it will surely be affected by the genre.

In a historical novel, a character stepping out of the scope of accepted normal social behavior could be a source of conflict, while in an adventure novel, a hero dragging his legs through a jungle swamp while covered in leeches might deliver the goods.

Conflict Often Surprises The Characters In A Novel – Sometimes the Author Too!

essential conflictFor all levels of conflict, the astute writer looks for new and interesting ways to deliver conflictual situations, perhaps introducing something entirely new into the genre – readers love this!

Many stories within a genre follow the same old formula and it can get boring, frankly. There’s an old adage from movie making that comes to my mind, when the producer says ‘Give me the same old story that people love, but tell it in a new way.’

You know that the story arc needs a certain structure if it’s to grab and hold the reader, but it’s not a straight-jacket. There’s plenty of room to bring surprises into your conflicts. Try to work within the genre in a different point of view. Be fresh. Don’t follow the same old pattern with the inevitable clichés.

Remember when the first Girl-Vampire book came out and was a massive hit? I can’t even remember what it was called now, but within weeks there were any number of vampire romance novels bedecking book-store shelves all over the world. Don’t do it!

Conflict Brings Tension Brings Emotional Highs Brings Happy Readers

Lets not get confused about terms here. People often say tension when they mean conflict, and vice-versa. Lets separate them in this way: Conflict is the actual physical or verbal situation, while tension is the emotional state resulting from it, so conflict causes tension and not the other way round. It’s up to the author to write prose that conveys the emotional turmoil felt by the characters to the reader.

Depending on the narrative point of view, emotions can conveyed by thoughts, actions or dialogue – the only tools a writer has, in fact. The crux of the matter is to help a reader feel involved in what is going on and what the characters in the novel are going through. It needs to matter to them, if your book is going to be successful.

More Details About Writing Conflict In Novels, Please

Conflict in relationshipsConflict is the life-blood of any story, whatever the theme, genre or setting. It may be external to the characters or the emotional turmoil between them, but it should always be there.

You might think that the only important conflict in a story is at the climax, when the hero and villain clash for the last time, but you would be wrong. The first thing to realise while crafting your masterpiece is that conflict is everywhere. It’s clear and present, but also promised just around the corner.

It’s conflict that makes relationships interesting to read about, particular if it focuses on an issue the reader can readily relate to. It is conflict that persuades, cajoles or angers our hero into new directions and pushes him to overcome challenges.

Creative Writing Is All About Conflict, In Varying Degrees

The wise author introduces it often, even if it’s hardly noticeable and subtle. It may be the taxi-driver who is rude, a suspicious lover or a demanding parent. The important thing is that the whole gamut of emotions is displayed – this is all about real life, folks!

A novel should reflect real life, but more so, accentuating daily conflicts to show how they conspire to impede our hero’s progress to succeeding at his quest. Of course, the main conflicts will naturally be well-marked by the careful writer in the story planning stage, in the form of barriers of ever-increasing tension to the hero’s desired conclusion.

This is what the story arc is all about: Building to the climax in the rising action phase, before relaxing back into a stable situation in resolution phase.

Example Of Writing Conflict Into A Simple Story Scene

Everyday ConflictMany situations can cause conflict, even planning a pleasant night at a restaurant. The reader loves it because it’s more vibrant and real than witnessing an obviously fictitious take amble on with few highs or lows. This is not what fiction is all about.

Imagine a couple planning to go out for an anniversary meal – it’s amazing how something so banal can quickly become uncomfortable and a source of friction between two people who normally have a close relationship:-

“I thought we’d go to Giovani’s this year, for a change,” Mike muttered from behind his newspaper. His mind recalled the warm look his wife gave always directs towards the manager of Pete’s Diner, their regular dining spot.

“Oh darling! We met at Pete’s. I know it’s corny, but it’s a tradition. I love it.”

“Just thought it’d be a change, that’s all. Pete’s isn’t the same since Vince took over.”

“He strikes me as rather nice. Quite dishy in fact, if a girl was interested.”

Mike squirmed in his seat. “Takes all sorts, I suppose.”

“Is that what it’s about? Vince?”

“Don’t be silly!”

“It is, isn’t it? You’re jealous. How funny.”

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The above scenario may end well or not, but it serves to illustrate how a simple trip out to the restaurant for an anniversary meal can bring conflict. How much more interesting than if his wife had simply said, “OK, dear. Whatever you say.”

Conflict can be almost non-existent, generated by a fleeting encounter with a rude store assistant, but it’s a good idea to have a little in every scene and conversation throughout a novel. In real-life, we might pretend to brush off this type of irritation, but in reality they stay with us, coloring our mood for the rest of the day.

Support characters are, by definition, of minor importance and can be used to bring small conflicts of the nature described above, while the closer relationships of the main characters serve to present deeper emotional upsets. The biggest conflicts should be created by the main antagonist, the villain of the story.

Sarah Crawford talks about “Writing Better Fiction: How To Increase Conflict and Tension” in the video:
Video Transcript:

Conflict is essential for any good story. It’s nice to have interesting characters but if there’s no conflict there really isn’t a plot. If you think about all the books that you love, I guarantee you somewhere in there, you’re going to find some conflict.


So if you’re looking at a your fiction and you’re thinking about ways that you can increase the conflict and amp up the tension so that your readers will be more interested in what’s going on, I’m going to give you a few tips that will help you to do that.


The first thing you want to do is to raise the stakes. One way to accomplish this is to ask the question, “what will happen if my protagonist does not reach his or her goal by the end?” In a story like The Hunger Games, for example, this goes to the extreme, and you know if Katniss doesn’t reach her goal by the end, she’s going to be dead.


Sometimes its more subtle than that, especially if you have the story centering around internal conflict, but if you are going through and you’re looking for ways to amp things up in your plot to keep the readers interested, ask yourself if there’s anywhere where you can raise the stakes.


The next thing you want to do is to complicate the story. No one wants to read about normal people going about their day and nothing happening, so ask yourself “what kind of obstacles can you throw in your protagonist’s way”? How could this situation that they are in get any worse? What kind of problems or issues will come up that they have to deal with?


It’s always nice if you put your characters in a situation that seems impossible, where the readers are asking themselves “how is she going to get out of this?” You want to keep the reader interested, that’s the most important thing, especially if you’re writing with the goal to entertain your audience.


Don’t let your characters off easy – put them in difficult situations, put them in trying situations, give them obstacles, make them go on a journey or rise to the occasion or overcome challenges. These are the kind of things that people want to read about.


The next thing you can do, give your characters conflicting goals. If you have a character that wants to get divorced, for example, and then their husband wants to stay married, that’s obviously going to create some conflict. Now one of them is going to have to sacrifice or compromise or by the end they’re going to have to reach some kind of resolution.


One of them is going to have to change or learn something or grow. One good way to help with this is to go through and list all of your characters and write out what each character wants. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll discover things about the story that I wouldn’t have even thought of otherwise.


Another thing that will definitely increase the tension and the pressure is to give your character a deadline. This could be something as intense as “you have to solve this puzzle by the end 10 minutes or the bomb’s going to go off”. It could be something a little less intense like “you have one month to sell your house”.


Whatever it is, if you give your character a time frame in which the goal has to be accomplished, that puts more pressure on your character and it kind of will increase the tension and raise the stakes. When you’re thinking about conflict it might be a good idea just to write out what you think the conflict is. You would be surprised how many people could write a hundred pages of a novel without actually knowing what the conflict is. I know, I’ve done that before!


You definitely want to know what your main conflict is. It’s good if you can use a combination of internal and external conflict. Internal conflict is when someone is having conflict within themselves. External conflict is when a character is having conflict with an outside force.


It can be another person or a situation, so you want to use a combination of the two. Once you’ve figured out the main conflict that’s going to run through your story the whole way, you can go through each scene and ask yourself “is this escalating the conflict? Is this propelling the plot forward? Does this increase the tension?”


If not, what are some ways that I can raise the stakes or make the situation more difficult? What are some obstacles I can put in my character’s path? Are there any… are there any unexpected situations that might come up?” Things like that.


Alright that’s all I have for today leave me a comment down below and let me know what you think about conflict and tension and if there are any helpful ways that you like to think about increasing the conflict. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel and subscribe to my mailing list, The Daily Writer, if you want to receive daily writing inspiration.

Sarah’s Blog:

What Are Subplots In A Story? A Definition Of Subplots.

In a previous post I did my best to try to define the Story Arc in terms that we can all understand and agree on. I don’t say this lightly, because even among the professionals, there are different definitions for story, plot and subplot.

A good starting point might be to give a broad definition for each before moving on.

It’s not a fat lot of good talking about these things if the concepts don’t mean the same thing to different people! The whole idea is make things a little clearer in order to make the path to a completed novel easier.

The Definition Of Story Vs Plot – Does Plot Mean Story?

The story is the broadest level of describing a sequence of events, so ‘man loves girl, loses girl, proves himself and wins her back’ represents a very basic story. The fascinating thing is that this story can be applied to many different themes and settings.

The hero can lose and win back the girl if he’s a cowboy or a spaceman far away into the future. It is the components of the story that define it further, which is to say, plot, characters, dialogue and narrative.

When it’s looked at in this way, it becomes obvious that the plot isn’t the same as story, but is a sub-category of it. Our story needs characters which are involved in events. The actions that the characters take in these situations is the plot. Just as there could be two or more story lines that run parallel and intertwine, so will there be subplots within them. These subsets are crafted by the author to augment the main story line and reinforce the overall story message, or them, that he’s trying to convey.

Writing Subplots – The Multi-dimensional Novel

planning - what are subplotsDefining your main story arc is one of the first vital steps in planning your novel, but care should be taken with the smaller stories within it, and their subplots.

These subsets are no less important as they add depth to the main story, enhancing it and giving it a depth and interest that gives the reader a much more satisfying experience.

That said, the author needs to be clear about plot/subplot hierarchy, ensuring that the subplots don’t overpower the main one of dilute the overall theme.

Subplots Need Planning Too – Make An Outline

It’s a great idea to build a database, or even a basic table, so that you can clearly see how any subplots slot into the broader framework of your novel.

For example, for some novels, there may be some chapters where they aren’t referenced at all, because they have no impact of the subject or event being covered. Often, a subplot re-appears just when necessary to drive the story in another direction, or give solutions that help the hero to overcome obstacles.

Dialogue Writing and More - Teachable Course Bundle

If you have just one subplot, then it would be fairly easy to run it alongside and in parallel with the plot. With several, it’s probably best to arrange the story line so that there are periods when they are not referred to at all. Don’t Worry – the reader knows they’re there!

Author Nicholas Sparks talks about writing:

Video Transcript:

“Hi – I’m Nicholas Sparks. I’m the author of The Notebook, Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, and most recently, See Me.

I grew up loving a great story so it was always in my mind that I wanted to become a writer and yet I never really had the belief that I could become a writer in the sense that I could pay my bills.

When I was 28, then I’d had a couple of novels under my belt and it hit me that it was time to chase a dream so I work from 9:00 to midnight four or five days a week maybe a few hours on the weekend and the notebook was finished in about six months.

Inspiration can come from anywhere including my my own life. Message in a Bottle was inspired by my father after the death of my mother. A Walk to Remember was this story inspired by my sister, so you pulled bits and pieces from people that you know.

For the most part it takes a couple of months to conceive of a story. I start with a small inspiration, that can either be a theme or an event in my past, and little by little I stack the ideas until I reach the point where I’m fairly clear on what I want the novel to be.

The writing process, it usually is about six months long. It’s an average of four days a week and when I sit down to write. I write 2,000 words and that can take anywhere from four to seven hours.

See me is most similar to Safe-Haven or The Guardian, in that it really explores the theme of love and danger. For See Me, I wanted a different kind of suspense and tension that builds toward the end and so it’s a very twisty mystery thriller. With that said of course, See Mes is also a love story.

It is in the end two stories in one. It’s a film that of course I love and it’s a film that has become regarded as a modern classic. I guess it’s because everything about that film work Nick Cassavetes had an amazing view of what he wanted the film to be and course Nick was the director and then you had amazing performances.

It was a story that had both an epic quality but captured the intimacy of that young passionate love. If you want to be a writer you have to be willing to put up with the challenges of being a writer. The uncertainty the writer’s block, the sleepless nights, that loneliness, the ability to work in silence, the ability to give up time in the real world for time in a fantasy world.

I want to enthral, I want to have a story that’s interesting and original, a story that’s memorable and I want those stories to include characters that strike the reader as authentic and honest.”

An interview with author Nicholas Sparks Video Transcript (PDF Download)

The Story Has To Flow

How to write subplotsUsing any kind of template or outline planning tool is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s very useful for guidance in planning the chronology of events and how subplots intertwine and relate to the main plot.

However, the devices that authors refer to when discussing novel structure must be completely invisible to the reader, whose focus should be ‘what happens next?’

The plot and subplots are much more than a string of events arranged for the author’s convenience, but have to be subtly interwoven and crafted to provide a seamless reading experience that satisfies on a deeply emotional level, if the novel is to be runaway success.


Conflict, Tension and Answers To Important Questions

Approach the story line in terms of problems and solutions, where answering the questions posed drives the novel forward towards the end of the quest. The cumulative effect of these answers is the real message of the novel, it’s the theme. At the beginning you ask a large question, such as ‘is modern life too complex to be happy’, and the ending delivers the answer.

The whole premise of a novel in the first place is to see how other people, even fictitious ones, answer life’s challenges in a meaningful way that we can relate to in a human sense. The character’s actions and motivations become our own, if the author has crafted the story well. We become immersed in the world of the novel and identify with emotions and difficulties portrayed.

Who Inhabits Subplots? The Characters

subplot characters

A subplot may impact the story in a variety of ways, and the ‘support’ characters will necessarily have some sort of relationship with the hero or villain. Support characters normally don’t have the depth of main characters and tend not to undergo change throughout the novel (Character Arc).

However, in the case of a novel with two partner-heroes, a subplot revolving around one of the characters can serve to make the overall them more real and complex. After all, real life situations are complex.

If a subplot is intended to derive an obstacle or challenge to the hero, then the characters can be two-dimensional and, by definition, they don’t need to undergo changes to perform their role.

Subplots - Main and Support CharactersHow To Introduce Subplots Into Your Novel

Many novels have a powerful subplot that runs parallel to the plot. They are separate and written from a different perspective. For example, imagine two men trying to climb a mountain from opposite sides, each one overcoming different challenges in different ways.

The narrative would shift from one to the other as they struggle to be the first one to the top. The subplots might come together at the summit, when the two meet. A similar method could be used for a criminal being chased by a cop, as in the movie ‘Catch Me If You Can‘.

Another common story trick is to show how various people from different walks of life pass through their own subplots before a common element brings them together in a surprise ending.

Take the time to explore how subplots can be woven together to fill out a story line, adding complexity – you’ll find that your novel is all the better for it.


Plot and Subplots: Creative Fiction Writing

Video Transcript:

You have the main plot of your story and in most plots basically you have the setup. You have forces in the plot that play out and a conclusion at the end and you want the conclusion to be satisfying to the viewer, to either resolve something change the status quo.

You want all the characters in the story to be an integral part of the plot. You want part of their personalities make them, give reasons to why they’re there and why they’re playing a part. But you don’t want the world that your story depicts to be one or two dimensional.

You want it to have real depth and so you want to give a feeling that it isn’t just the plot that is being played out. You don’t want to have the feeling like nothing was really happening before your story began.

As your characters enter the story, they’re already in the middle of their lives and they already have things going on. Things they need to do and the story itself. The real origins of the story – it’s a good idea to have them start way before the story ever begins.

And even though you’re not going to tell a lot of the very beginning of the story, when you bring your reader into the story, the things that are going on, they’re already happening. Some things have already happened but in the beginning the viewer gets oriented to what is already going on and thrown into the mix when it’s already happening.

And then they can follow it to to the climax, or logical conclusion of the main plot. Now one of the best ways to add depth to the story, you don’t want characters just to be automatons, following through the plot.

You want them to have real lives. You want them to have their own lives, things that are going on and the subplot is really good for this. So you have the main plot and on a piece of paper, outside of the story you’re writing, you’ve done a basic map of what happens in the plot.

It’s really clear in your mind and then what you can do is you can go and find the subplots. A really good way to start looking for them is to look at the two characters that are the most featured in the story. Are there things that happen between them? Do they have a relationship?

A relationship is always changing, so what is the story of the change in that relationship – that is usually a subplot. If you can find this for every character that’s in the story, they’re usually subplots about the relationships between those characters.

If their relationship is different than what it was when the story began, and you have the main plot happening and then you have these subplots happening right along with it. Soo you have this inner woven, all these different plots going on.

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The viewer is most likely paying attention to the main plot, but is also interested in the subplots and it’s really helpful to to write a more effective story if you’re really clear about all the subplots that are going.

You can use subplots to make your characters more three-dimensional because if they’re thinking that they need to fix the boat from sinking, but they’re also negating a divorce, then that’s a lot more about what real life is like.

It’s going to be a lot more convincing and it’s easier to time and and work with each plot separately to write more effectively. You can you can map out the main plot and then you can map out each subplot.

On another piece of paper think about each plot separately, outside of the story, then you can make more effective decisions about what happens in it. You can be clear about what is the set up of each plot. What are the forces that play out in that separate subplot and what is the conclusion or resolution, transformation and what whatever type of climax that particular plot has.

The thing about developing three-dimensional characters and a convincing world for your your viewer to inhabit, is about working with these complexities. Creating a three-dimensional character is not just about knowing what school they went to, what their parents were like, what their what their class background or financial about.

It’s good to think about those things but to create a really convincing three-dimensional character, have them living their own lives. They’re also living to fulfill your plot. They’re also doing the things that need to be done to push that plot forward but write them so that they’re living their own lives.

They have their own objectives. They have their own dreams they have their own ambitions, their own needs. They’re just trying to be for themselves and what they’re doing and everything that pushes the plot to its conclusion is the dynamics that will create very convincing characters.

Again, working with your story outside of just writing it. If you can, have a piece of paper and draw lines marking out when and in the story certain important things happen with each plot.

When exactly the conclusion happens. What is the transformation at the beginning of each plot? What is the status quo and at the end what has changed? How is it how are things no longer what they were before?