To Do for Week 4: Subplots

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Don’t forget you can join the Facebook group #amnoveling outside for tips, encouragement, and fun. You’re also welcome to document your writing sessions on this silly Tumblr I made, “Every Day I Write the Book.

The theme for this week is: Playing with Blocks: Throughlines, A/B/C Stories, Plot Layers and Subplots

Inside:

T 9/10

  • Covering this week: Rebecca Brill

  • Week 3 Blog Post Due: Eric Alcorn

  • Quiz 3: Rex Pickett, Sideways (pp. 211-351)

Th 9/12

  • Discussion/Have Read: James Scott Bell chapters on “Scenes” and “Plotting Systems”

  • Weekly Words #3, due by Sunday 9/15 at 5 PM. Focus: Identify potential plot layers or subplots for your novel. Write about those subplots by creating a list of specific plot points for each. Think consciously about what different strands you can create and weave together. Follow the prompts for “Conflict” from DICE and “Confrontations” from LOCK. This is where you start thinking about how you’re going to make things happen and force the issues.

Outside

Suggested Reading

  • Finish Sideways

  • Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (esp. the chapters on plot layers, subplots, and weaving a story).
  • Michelle Hoover, “Plotting the Novel, Part III: Conflict”

  • James Scott Bell on “Confrontation”

  • My students are reading chapters 7 (Scenes) and 10 (Plotting Systems) in the Bell book, Plot and Structure.

  • This is one of those situations in which I’m not sure what to do. For the moment, the entire book by Bell is available as a pdf. Someone scanned in the whole thing and uploaded it as a pdf. You can find it if you want, but I’m not going to include the link here.  I highly recommend that you buy Bell’s book. You will need it.

  • Other books that might help: Blake Synder’s Save the Cat, Chris Vogler’s Writer’s Journey, and Robert McKee’s Story.

  • I wish there was a book like How Fiction Works by James Wood on this subject–plot and subplot. But as we all know, literary fiction eschews plot, so we novelists wind up learning from screenwriters.

Writing Assignment

Fill out this worksheet or Blake Snyder’s “Beat Sheet” or Syd Field’s Story Paradigm worksheet for:

  • Sideways (or another novel you’ve read recently)

  • Your own work-in-progress

Weekly Words #3

  • Focus: Identify potential plot layers or subplots for your novel. Write about those subplots by creating a list of specific plot points for each. Think consciously about what different strands you can create and weave together. Follow the prompts for “Conflict” from Hoover and “Confrontations” from Bell. This is where you start thinking about how you’re going to make things happen and force the issues.

I Want to Know

  • As you started “plotting out” your novel’s subplots, filling out these worksheets, how did you feel? Did it feel wrong or right?

  • This is where you start to determine whether you’re a plotter (outline person) or a pantser (no outline person) or somewhere in between.

  • It’s absolutely crucial that you understand this about yourself.

  • [I’m in the middle of the spectrum, but more towards the plotter/outline person side.]

  • What are you? Share with the group via FB or Twitter.

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2 Comments on “To Do for Week 4: Subplots”

  1. gailwerner says:

    Hey Cathy — quick question: So looking over both the Beat Sheet and Paradigm Worksheet, I guess I’m just curious at both insertions of page numbers. Both are in the 80-110 pg range, leading me to wonder, Are they wanting the writer to put together a VERY thorough outline (100 pages) of the book? Surely they’re not implying that a book’s second act (if it was a full novel) has to happen by pg. 25, right? Can you clarify on that? I want to be a plotter (and am leaning that way) but at the same time, am not sure I can extend that level of planning to 100 pages!


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