Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do the Twist: Plots, Subplots and Story

Keep your main story in focus
The next installment of the editor's checklist for revising short and long fiction comprises plot, subplot and story. Here are questions to ask yourself while revising your work:
  • Plot: Does your plot move forward at a good pace, and progress in a way that is satisfying, slowing for the important events, and picking up speed for the less important?
  • Subplot(s): Even short fiction can have a subplot, but does the secondary story overshadow or confuse the main story? It should enhance it, either by contrast or comparison.
  • Story: Is the story engaging, immediate, original?
This is definitely a distillation of how to approach plot, subplot and story, but the list gets at the heart of the issue. The key is to ask yourself these same questions throughout the revision process. Even if your plot or subplot yields some twists, following this principle will keep your focus on the straight and narrow and help you avoid the rabbit trails that dilute instead of enhance your story. For the full editor's checklist, see this month's Online Editing Workshop.

Tip: Make two columns: one for the main plot and one for the subplot (you can add a column for each subplot). In each column, list the main events, or plot points. Compare the columns to see whether the events in your subplot(s) garner more interest than those in your main plot. If they overshadow the main story, consider what your main story really is.

Happy writing!     

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