Today–continuing on the topic of content edits in fiction–I want to talk about subplots. About balance between subplots. It’s SOOO hard to do. It’s hard because each subplot has its own tone, mood, and theme. Each also has its own pacing.
Ideally these tones, moods, and themes, as well as pacing, will differ somewhat from the major plot arc and from each other. After all, variety is a large part of what makes a novel readable.
Each subplot brings a different focus and different approach that ideally blend in with the rest of the work without diluting it.
Perhaps “blend” gives the wrong image, though.
You don’t want a smoothie of a novel…. A good smoothie has no variety. It’s uniform throughout. While you want uniform quality, that’s different.
The fact is, good novels blend by striation. A good novel is a trifle.
You want a TRIFLE of a novel. (Novels have layers…. Like onions and ogres, or at least Shrek the Ogre. And like parfaits. Ain’t nobody ever said, “No, I don’t want no parfait.”)
MY ISSUE: THE LAYERS ARE TOO BIG
I have a romantic subplot causing issues in my WIP (a sword and sorcery novel).
Well, I guess it’s not causing LOTS of problems. The layers are just too chunky.
The problem is that the first half of the book is heavy on action. It involves breaking up a slavery ring and stopping abductions from a coastal town. It’s pretty much on par with the way I usually write and what I usually do with my novels.
It focuses on bravery, courage, and sacrifice. It’s about DOING.
At the start of the second half, a romance subplot has taken over. It’s not over the top in any way; it just takes up a lot of page time.
It’s much more philosophical in nature. It focuses on integrity, resolve, and resignation. It’s more about BEING.
And that’s a good balance overall: life is always a balance between doing and discovering how we want to be. The people we want to be.
The way my fiction is set up, though, there is an obvious pacing issue. The “doing” establishes a pace that then just lags, lags, lags when the love story plot comes into play.
MY SOLUTION: THIN THE LAYERS OUT
I need to thin the layers out. I’m lucky in that there is lots of action at the END of the second half. (I mean, I’m writing sword and sorcery, so there needs to be something exciting going on.)
I just need to cut down the love story subplot. Cut down as much as possible and where I can, weave its advancement into the second half’s action segments.
I’m not doing that just yet, because my current editing pass is to make sure the overall plot holds together. Nothing in the love story plot feels inconsistent or “wrong” in some way; there’s just too much of it.
Cutting back is for my next editing pass: after I have the basic story tight and coherent, because there’s a lot overall that needs tightening.
As I hope this post made clear (and as I’ve mentioned in passing once before), pacing is really a content issue. It relates strongly to the extent of and arrangement of your content.
I hope to go into that tomorrow. For now I’m curious about your thoughts related to parfaits and smoothies! What do you think about balance between subplots? How do you try to balance yours?
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the page. You might also find these related posts helpful:
- What’s the role of romance in fantasy literature?
- What authors can learn from ogres: on “happily ever after”
- Content Edits versus Flow Edits
- Creative Writing Workship: Breaking Down Content Edits