Building a Subplot (A RavenCon 2022 panel)

There I was, nearly recovered from Balticon, trying to make time to watch some rerun videos, when I remembered I hadn’t shared all my final notes from RavenCon!

Here are my notes on ‘Building a Subplot’, with Terry Brooks, Stuart Jaffe, Nancy Northcott, and Peter Prellwitz, moderated by Bryan Nowak.

The description was as follows:

The more issues the characters face in a novel, the bigger the story feels. Yet the subplot can’t take over the book. Come hear authors discuss weaving a subplot into your main plot and balancing the story between them.

As always, the panel didn’t stick strictly to the schedule description.

Everything is going to change as a writer, over the years — unless you’re an automaton.” – Terry Brooks (or something very like that.)

What is a Subplot?

  • For some, it is what runs beneath the story, the theme that ties everything together
  • For some, it’s what tries to kill the protagonist (Moby Dick, The Martian)
  • And for some, it’s subplots, all the way down (Lord of the Rings)

5 Tips for Writing Subplots

  1. Keep it related to the story
    • Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings, the monkey pirates in Moana — both seem like plot points shoved into a different story
  2. Everything in the story should lead to the next plot point — or at least set something up
    • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the original play were simply distracting — (although their spin-off was much better.)
  3. Use them to add depth to the story, (in retrospect), by adding context to earlier plot points
  4. Reread your works and take nuggets that worked in the original context, then expand them to pay off 3 books later
  5. Death can end a subplot

Recommended Stories/Authors

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LeRue by VE Schwab
  • Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
  • Norman Mailer for his twisty plots
  • Mayor of Easttown

The panel clearly didn’t have time to do subplots justice.
Are there any tips you think need to be on this list?
Any favorite twisty stories to recommend?

1 Comment

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s