the organic sub-plot

Remember when I discussed whether I was going to expand my novel-in-progress to include a sub-plot? At the time, a few people suggested I just write the novel as planned and then return to it on the rewrite and add the sub-plot in.

A lot of people, in fact.

Well, being stubborn, I refused to do it that way. I figured either I’d write it as-is and expand the main plot (the search for a missing relic) to fill the necessary space, or else I’d go back and revise extensively now so the remainder of the book could have the sub-plot become intimately woven in with the main plot.

In the end, I chose the latter option. Last week I went back and started revising the early sections to include the sub-plot, which is the potential closing of the main character’s birth center. Her sub-plot resonates nicely with the other main character’s main problem (the destruction of a church) and it should get some tension going between the pair of them, as if they need any more of that.  (The two MCs are constantly butting heads. I love how they interact, but they’re both a bit stubborn.)

And here’s why I rejected so much good advice to do it this way: because now that I see the pair of plots woven together, I see how the inner need of one MC can be resolved during the same scene where the sub-plot comes to a head. Whereas if they were parallel but not intersecting, it would feel more episodic.  He has this revelation.  She wins this victory.  But instead, at the darkest moment of her fight, he can lift his head and realize something that gives him the strength to continue his.

I’ll give another example, more concrete: with this subplot, the main character will have to address a committee, whereas before she was just going to go on delivering babies and doing prenatals.  There’s a character involved in the main plot who thinks he recognizes Tessa, but he doesn’t know from where.  In the end of the book, when she’s wearing her winter coat, he remembers who she looks like. I’d figured she’d just be wearing that coat that day, or it would have become winter. But now, because she needs to address the committee, her husband can surprise her with the gift of a new coat so she can “look the part” and be more professional than she appears in her ratty old coat.

Integral, interwoven storylines.  That’s how I like them. Everything just feels tighter that way, and more organic.


  1. cricketB

    Looking forward to it!