May 3, 2014


Dear M,

Everything in writing sounds easier than it actually is. You can talk about a topic and say, this is how it is done. Then you pick up the paper and look at it for hours, writing something, trying to implement what you had just spoken about, strike it out (or type something, delete it out), and this could go on for hours.

I have been obsessed with writing sub-plots. I had a chance to explore the sub-plots in some books I was reading. I haven't been very good with sub-plots though.

Here are some things that I observed.

Sub-plots have many purposes

We know the theme and plot of the novel. So when the protagonist strays too far from the path, we know we're headed out for a sub-plot. Sub-plots either serve to push the main plot forward, or to develop the characters along the way.

Sub-plots could be distracting

Recently I read reviews where a reader complained that the deviation from the path was very distracting and irritating. Many readers (if not most), I have noticed, are impatient to get to the end of it. Taking the longer route isn't for them.

Some sub-plots are very promising

We would just want to go into them and breathe deeply; some sub-plots are exciting and we are sad when they're over.

Will the story work without them?

I think the defining factor will be, will the story remain the same if the sub-plot is removed? Cut out an entire chapter and see if anything is different. If not, it probably is best edited out.


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