Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Subplot Dilemma

Last month, I gathered a year’s worth of scattered, hand-written pages of story ideas, partially written scenes, character development, etc., for a work in progress.

Then I roughly organized those pages and my previously typed computer documents into four sections (the four quarters of the W-plot) in a large three-ring notebook. After shuffling scenes around, I fine-tuned the chronology for each of the four quarters of the plot.

Next, I created a color-coded spreadsheet of the story scenes. At a glance, the colors identify the main plot, the subplots, and the red herrings. But I must admit, categorization of some story elements stumped me.

A subplot requires a beginning, middle, and end, just like the main plot. And, just like the main plot, a problem or conflict should drive the subplot’s action.

A secondary character has a secret. The secret’s thread has a beginning, middle, end, and is driven by a conflict. The entire thread occurs in one act.

Must a subplot weave throughout the entire story like the main plot, or can it be introduced, developed, and resolved in one act?

My color-coding dilemma: is this secret a subplot, or merely a red herring?