Plotting a Course for Subplots

The main storyline has a beginning, middle, and end. Easy enough,  just make sure your character solves his or her problem before you say “The End.”

What about subplots? How many is too many? The mistakes I made with subplots will hopefully help other writers avoid the traps I fell in.

LESSON #1 My first draft of AWESOME SAUCE had 11 different subplots. My first reader said, “There sure is a lot going on here.” Stepping back and viewing it from a distance, reading published works, revising, and reading some more brought me to the conclusion that 3-4 subplots are plenty for a middle grade novel. Quality over quantity is the old saying.

LESSON #2 Subplots should tie in with your main story line. Several of my subplots could have been separate novels in and of them selves and had little to do with the main storyline

LESSON #3 Subplots need a beginning, middle, and end just like the storyline. Enough said…

The main storyline of AWESOME SAUCE is about a boy searching for the father he has never met. I tied in four subplots that also told a mini-story but were integral to the main plot.

1. Everly is Hender’s personal female bully, though she started out more as a nuisance. Everly eventually opens the door allowing Hender to reach his goal but not until her bullying reaches epic proportions.

2. Jonson is Hender’s comical best friend and is the one giving Hender confidence. Hender realizes he can do things on his own even when a best friend can’t always been there to help.

Jonson gets ready to unload another “Joke Attack.”

3. Hender is a teacher’s worst case scenario. He rarely does homework, has been caught falling asleep in class, and spends a week in his closet avoiding the stress of school. It’s not until Hender gets a teacher who understands and an assignment that interests him that he exceeds all expectations.

4. Hender can’t find success until he discovers a way to use his strength of having an unmatched memory to finally be successful and make his mother proud.

Within the four subplots and the main storyline doses of tension, humor, and conflict were added.  25 months later I am getting closer to sharing Awesome Sauce with a bigger audience. Stay tuned!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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