Writer Tips Advice Blog 2 Jan 21 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the last Writer Tips Advice Blog, we went over how to interest readers in general. For this issue of the blog, I will take up another tip that relates, can enhance, reader interest: subplots.
When writers compose their stories for sale, they should do so for one purpose only ‒ to interest readers in them so that they want to read them. Thus, that is the reason for including one or more subplots. A subplot could enhance the theme of the central plot. Or, it could be contrary to it, thereby highlighting the central plot by contrast. Whereas the inciting incident of the central plot must occur in the story, the inciting incident of a subplot could occur in the story or in the back story, alluded to, or not.
Whereas a novel could have no subplots or as many as four or more depending on the length of the novel, a short story would only justify one subplot, or none. Many fine short stories have no subplots. A novel without subplots in probably lacking relationship complications.
A subplot cannot be a separate story with no connection to your main plot. It must conjoin with the main plot. Its crisis and climax must fit in with the central plot such that its omission would detract from the main line of your story. Properly written, subplots increase reader interest. Improperly written, misplaced or too many put forth, they tend to pull a reader off the main theme and decrease reader interest.
For an example, let’s look at my short speculative-fiction story “Her Dingy-world Escape” from my book “Eve of Valor: 25 Tales.” In this tale, the older a person becomes, the faster he or she is. People in this world can escape it by running fast enough and having the correct thoughts while running. The protagonist wants to escape, and she tries to. The subplot involves her boyfriend, a friend of his and a master. These three bet on the outcome of escape attempts and seek to manipulate those trying to escape. They bet on the main-plot protagonist’s (Dede’s) attempts after manipulating her to lose. They are involved in a subplot antagonistic to her goal. They fail, she tricks them and escapes. However, they complicate the theme and plot, contrasting it with their belief that it is impossible to escape, and those seemingly having escaped must have cheated. Readers are interested because they wonder how she will overcome the intentions behind the subplot.
How does the writer know a story will interest readers? The broad answer to this question is to learn or know what readers want from a genre and a story in the genre. What many writers have are readers who critique the output for reader interest. A good reader is invaluable. Another approach is to read extensively in a specific genre and especially those well-known and successful authors therein. Analyze, don’t just read for pleasure. What do they do to create interest? Why are you interested or why are you not?
Thirdly, learn to write on how to create interest. That’s about it.
In the next of the blog in the category of reader and writer tips, I’ll discuss another way to create reader interest.