Saturday, March 02, 2013

More Than Subplots

By Keith N Fisher

I read an article in Writer’s Digest that made me feel good about my writing. It was called building subplots from multiple viewpoints. It talked about the problems of having too many subplots, and I thought of my novel, The Hillside.

I got the idea for the book from the guest journal in the bed and breakfast room where I stayed once. Some of the guests use those journals to tell about themselves, and their experience at the B&B. I considered a book, that would be like the Love Boat or Fantasy Island combined. I felt it would be a great story, but I didn’t want to write it.

After trying to convince others, I felt compelled. There were several stories and they needed to be written. I began to draft. I almost quit, when I realized how difficult it would be to keep all the POV’s straight. Still, I persevered. The one thing all of the arcs had in common was the bed and breakfast. It was my grounding point. I ended up with thirteen main characters, and six different points of view.

Not all the characters interact, but the owner of the B&B knows them all, and she cares about them. After several chapters, I realized I had been writing several different books, and I had to make an intersecting time line to keep track of what came next. Eventually, I had to list each character on a whiteboard along with what scenes still needed to be written. Finally, I had to organize each chapter so everything fit together. I attached a picture of my spreadsheet. Each POV has a different color.

At one point, I re-wrote a story line to start it sooner. Another problem was finding plot holes where a character talks about something that hadn’t happened yet in the other story line.

In the Writer’s Digest article, the author talks about the problem of shattered focus. Readers complain that it was hard to keep the characters straight. Without really trying, I think I succeeded in writing individual characters. You will love some of them and hate others, but they are separate. A good test, is to ask yourself is there enough depth in that character to sustain a sequel to their story?

All things considered, I think I wrote a great book. After reading the article, I feel good about the end result. I wrote the story I didn’t want to write and even my critique group liked the characters.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

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