12.37: Subplots

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

What makes a plot a subplot? Must subplots and main plots be linked by something more binding than the actual binding of the book?

In this episode we answer these questions, and ask and answer plenty more.

Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Consider the following four things – environment, characters, disruptions of status quo, and questions, and which one of these is driving your main plot. Now ask which of the remaining three can contain a disaster that drives a subplot. Write that bit.

Survivor edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj and JJ Pionke (coming soon from Lethe Press)

5 thoughts on “12.37: Subplots”

  1. This episode illuminates why Ender’s Game lost some of its luster for me. There’s a whole side-quest where Ender’s older siblings make a play for world domination through blogging and it never seems to intersect with the primary storyline. I kept wondering why it was there.

    (I also had strong doubts about the plausibility of the attempt but those are off-topic)

  2. This one I feel like sharing something from a book I once read called Supporting Character Secrets. Easily one of my favorite books I read when it came to handling support characters. Anyway, there’s something with subplots that stuck with me in it which I feel the sentiment was expressed in this episode and I wish to share it here as, who knows, it might help someone.

    “You know how a prism splits a beam of light into its elements? Subplots do the same thing with the main plot. Each subplot usually explores a different aspect of the main plot, giving your script more scope and allowing you to really dig into your theme. Subplots can keep a story from seeming too
    linear, and at the same time add to that main plot by showing us alternative world and stories that serve to comment on that main story. We want to keep our subplots as splinter beams from the main plot… yet make sure that each has a life and trajectory of its own. That way the subplots can
    “open up” our story and give us all kinds of different viewpoints on the subject at hand, without taking us too far off course.”

  3. I don’t know if this is strictly considered a parallel story line, but many non-fiction works have a narrow narrative-driven story line coupled with a wider environment story line. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, is a great example by combining vast amounts of information about the Chicago World’s Fair and a tighter story about a serial killer.

  4. I feel like the tagline should be changed to 20 minutes long because most of the recent episodes have been that length. Also, then they can start inching closer towards 25 minutes long 😛

  5. What if rock-collector has a close brother who is a surgeon that hails from a small town turned mythical being called to save the world, and collector’s death is a trigger to brother’s path and inevitable transformaton to this figure? I think you’re onto something, Brandon…

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