Anonymous asked you:
Hey, I have a little problem with my plot. My MC’s objective is, long story short, to bring a dictatorship down. That’s really the main plot, which he’ll only become aware a few chapters later in the story, but still the main plot. My biggest problem is, I have NO idea how to make it last a book. I do have some side-plots and I’m planning on making more, but I really don’t know how to make “bringing a dictatorship down” last a book AND be exciting…
Subplots are an extremely good way to beef up your book as long as those subplots have an impact on the story. Be careful with them. Filler stuff that does nothing for the characters or the plot will only throw a wrench at your pacing, or possibly even make it feel like the rising action in your story is inconsistent. You want to make sure your story feel like one whole, round, complete story, not different pieces of stories patched together (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case rock it out).
As you work on those subplots, think about these two things that might help you extend your story:
Character Arcs. If your plot isn’t enough to make a full book, ask yourself if you’re developing your characters enough.
Sometimes, a plot might get all the spotlight, and the characters suffer for it in exchange. Instead of reflections of people, as characters largely should be, we might end up seeing actual characters – as in, people that are taking stage directions and rehearsing lines. Avoid this and make sure your characters develop and change over the course of the plot.
- Character subplots. These are a great way to give your characters a chance to change and for your readers to really see them as people. Mini-quests, an old friend reappearing, the character going out of their way to do something for someone, etc. These are good tools to build on the character arc. These subplots, however, might take focus away from the main plot in favor of the character instead, so be aware of this.
- Adding additional characters. Perhaps your cast simply isn’t enough. Perhaps your cast isn’t built to contrast. Adding more personalities and giving them a purpose to fulfill, while also taking the time to round them out, can add different dimensions to your story.
- Adding additional POVs. This is similar to the above, only the next step up. If one perspective isn’t filling the quota, adding additional perspectives to tell different parts of the same story might help. And if you’re bringing down a dictatorship, there’s a lot of potential in the characters to choose from.
A Challenging Plot. Bringing a dictatorship down should require a great deal of intricate planning, but are your characters figuring out your plot too easily? Are they earning victories or are victories basically given to them?
- Complicate things. Break some bones, do something to the characters’ personal lives that makes it more difficult for them to achieve victories. If character has to go from point A of the plot to point B, don’t draw them a straight line. Throw a problematic storm onto their hiding ground. Leave a dead body on their path. Something that makes things difficult.
- Conflict of interest. Use plot to question morality. Sometimes characters know the right thing to do, but the “right thing” isn’t black and white. Maybe a character has trouble making decisions because achieving the goal will hurt someone, or lots of someones, or cause other turmoil. Maybe the character wants to achieve the goal because of the aforementioned. Maybe reasoning is flawed. Maybe deeper interests tempt them.
- Plot twists. It seems like the main character will safely make a deal with another character, when—PLOT TWIST! If your plot is progressing “as expected”, do something unexpected. Rip out all the seams and throw something in that no one would expect, least of all the characters.
Remember that exciting characters can make a less exciting plot more interesting, depending on what you do with them. If your book just isn’t holding up, turn to your characters instead. Have you spent enough time building them up? Is your cast dynamic and contrasting? Does each of your central characters pull their weight in the story? Do they add something?
If not, ask them what else they can do. Ask them if they have any secrets or phobias that might affect the plot. Look at what they’re missing and see what you can do in the story to fill that up while furthering the plot.