Faber Session 12 – Conflict and Resolution


Blooming freezing up London Monday night so when I got off the Tube I dashed into the first coffee shop I could see spare seats in, which just happened to be Patisserie Valerie. I had a latte, a tart, and did some writing for an hour….bliss πŸ™‚

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Ok, on to Monday nights session πŸ™‚

We talked about having conflict in our stories, and the different forms of conflict there are. Internal, external, environmental, you know all this, right? And that posing a question, having a problem for your character to solve can carry the narrative all the way through your novel. That’s what makes up the plot….but what about sub plots?

I’m not sure I really understand sub plots. I mean, the general consensus is that sub plots are hard to pull off in first person…ok, I can kind of get that. And that when they are included in a 3rd person novel, that they feed into the main plot, but are independent to the main narrative.

Hmmmmm, I’m not sure I get it 😦

The only example that I knew that was given was My Fair Lady (Pygmalion) where Eliza’s father is getting married, and that would be a sub plot. Ok, well if that’s the case, my first draft of my WIP (But Not Forgotten) was all sub plot? Lol.

Help me out here guys? How would you define sub plot? Before tonight’s class I would have said it was something along the lines of, say, (sorry Jayne, your WIP was the only example I could think of) 4 women going on a cruise, and 1 of them is escaping an abusive husband. What happens to the other 3 women on board (one discovers she’s pregnant, one meets a bloke etc) are the sub plots, yeah? Or have I got that completely wrong? *groans*

Wow….this is the first lesson I’ve come away from being more confused after than I was before lol. On a lighter note, they have provided us with a rather nice Christmas Tree in our class room πŸ™‚

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49 thoughts on “Faber Session 12 – Conflict and Resolution

  1. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. If you haven’t, please do. Anyway, the main plot of movie is about a woman author who loses everything in her divorce, moves to Tuscany, Italy to start a new life. The subplots involve (1) a lesbian friend who is pregnant and is dumped by her significant other then shows up in Italy to be with her friend, and (2) an Italian woman she meets that is struggling with her own identiy issues and ends up being a part of the MC’s life, and (3) a young Polish boy who befriends the MC and falls in love with a young Italian girl who also becomes like family to the main character. All 3 sub stories have their own meaning and message to the plot of the main character…starting a new life with new friends and new family.. Without these, the mc could never grow and leave her past behind her to move on.

    I have a subplot post planned for next week. I hope you pop in and tell your friends because it’s a great topic. I have three subplots in my novel I’m working on and I think it helps to strengthen the story line. Just remember, subplots may connect to main plots, in either time and place or in thematic significance.

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    • That helped things make more sense. The subplots assist in the main one and can bring about growth in the life of the MC as well? Am I close?

      I’ve attempted subplots before, but generally stay away because they get too complicated. Not a strong suit of mine.

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      • In a nutshell, yes. Think about in Harry Potter when Harry trains “Dumbledore’s Army”. It’s not the main plot of the story. It’s a subplot that will help Harry to defeat Voldemort. The budding romance between Ron and Hermione is a subplot. They bring the reader closer to the characters and the main plot line. In Gone with the Wind, the story was about a woman trying to mend her life during and after the Civil War. Her love affairs with Ashley and Brett were subplots. Scarlet’s and Rhett’s daughter getting hurt was a subplot. Ashley’s and Melanie’s marriage and love for each other was a subplot.

        I hope I haven’t confused you more. πŸ™‚

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    • Ahhhhh, yes, I have, and this is what I don’t understand…..sub plots are loosely linked to the MC yes? But don’t actually involve them? So when you write them, you kind of come away from the main story? Is that right?

      Thanks Jenny xx

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      • No, not really. Say you write about a woman taking care of her dying husband as well as trying to manage her head-strung college student daughter. Every day when she ventures out from the home the mom runs into this young man. It never fails. They begin to share pleasantries and before long they are ‘friends’. The mom begins to think how wonderful it would be for her daughter to find someone like this man. The day comes and her husband dies and her daughter arrives home from school with who else on her arm but the man your MC has befriended on her outings – and they are secretly married. The mom’s meeting of the man doesn’t take the reader out of the story…it adds to the story and the depth of the character.

        Subplots don’t have to be about people, either. They can be about personal struggles, ideas, events that have happened, but they have to make the character grow or learn in some way. Lord of the Rings is filled with subplots but they all paved the way for Frodo to destroy the ring.

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      • So, it’s ok to do that….go completely to another place with 2 characters that are NOT the MC so you kind of had a little story going on there?

        Which is what I had originally thought was a sub plot….but, in my last WIP I had a lot of that and was told it switched about too much 😦

        Perhaps the key is not to have too much of that lol

        Thanks Jenny x

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      • Um, let’s say you’re writing 1st person. I’m going to try to simplify because I tend to ramble. πŸ™‚ *really? handn’t noticed that, Jen. :-)*

        “Honey, I’m going to the store. I’ll see you later.” I went to the drug store but had to wait for the prescription. Sitting beside me was this young man, not so typical tall, dark and handsome, but there was something genuine and familiar in his smile. “Hello” I said. After ten minutes, I discovered he loves Picasso, is an art student and attends the same college as my daughter. I return home with my husband’s medication and hold his hand as he takes his dose. Even in his frailty, I still see a young man, a young art student who wanted nothing more to paint like Picasso. Was it fate I should meet such a young man who reminds me of my precious husband in his prime? I do hope to see the young man again. it would do this saddened heart some good.”

        In this example you don’t step away from the MC at all, yet it shows the beginning of a trend as well as why this young man becomes important to her.

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  2. Whenever I read your post’s it always amazes me how much thought and planning needs to go into a story. The planning etc never goes through your head when you actually read a book.

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  3. ah my poor ladies are gonna go through hell on that cruise!. yes I think you’re there, you have the main story and sub plots complement it

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      • Okay, I think I understand your dilemma. 4 women go on a cruise. 1 of them is escaping an abusive husband, another discovers she’s pregnant an another meets a guy. The other is the MC. What is it about each one of the 3 women that ties into the MC? Does she relate to Woman 1 (abused wife) because she once was married to an abusive husband and she coaxed her friend to go on the cruise to help her friend see the truth? Is she trying to help set her friend free? Woman #2 finds out she’s pregnant. Does she want the baby? If not and she wants an abortion, does this upset the MC because she’s been told she can’t ever have children of her own? Is there a morality issue involved? Will her friend’s decision break their friendship? Woman 3 meets a guy, but the guy is a sleaze bag and has been hitting on all the women on the boat. He’s a modern-day Casanova. Woman 3 is really falling for this guy and the MC sees what he is but doesn’t; want to hurt her friend. She’s never seen her friend so happy. What does she do? How does she break her friend’s heart? These are all subplots that relate back to the MC. they don’t take you from the story. You weave them into your MC’s life. The MC has to make decisions that will help her grow but also show her true self to the reader.

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      • You can’t have a subplot’ if your main character isn’t involved. If that’s the case, it’s two plots. Your MC has to be involved in some way, or it’s not a ‘sub’plot. If you have two stories runninng along side each other, they must tie up at the end. xxx

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      • Ahhhhh, now THAT’S what I mean!

        I’m now seriously thinking that But Not Forgotten was ALL subplot, and that’s why it didn’t work. Too much stuff going on where the MC wasn’t involved 😦

        Thanks Maddie πŸ™‚

        Xx

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      • Ahhhhh, now THAT’S what I mean!

        I’m now seriously thinking that But Not Forgotten was ALL subplot, and that’s why it didn’t work. Too much stuff going on where the MC wasn’t involved 😦

        Thanks Maddie πŸ™‚

        Xx

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  4. To me, subplots are the smaller stories inside the bigger, or main story. In my novel the big story is Bess’s love for James, and the main subplot is turning his estate in arable land. There are also smaller subplots that are unavoidable if, like me, your novel is set in a well known period in history like, The Second World War.

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      • No omniscient narrator. No, it’s all from Bess’s POV. The subplots happen throughout the main plot. They arepart of the story. Originally, Foxden Acres was as story about the land army, and land girls in WW2 with Bess falling in love with James, as the subplot. It changed as I was writing it.

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      • And that’s what I don’t get Maddie 😦

        If the sub plots are going on away from the action of the main plot, who’s telling that part if your MC isn’t involved in it? If she is involved, yeah, I get it, but if she isn’t (like it was explained to us on Monday night) then who’s POV is it?

        Hope you see now why I’m so confused lol

        Xx

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      • Ths subplots aren’t going on away from the action, they are going on at the same time. OK. During WW2 James asks Bess to come back to Foxden and turn the estate into arable land. She loves him, but he doesn’ t know. She returns to Foxden when the school she teaches at is closed and the children evacuated and the conflict comes when she is working with the labndgirls, doing what he asked, and has to see him with someone else. She is in love with him, while she’s working on the land and everything that hasppens happens in real time. Hope that’s of help. I have to go out now. We’ll speak late, It is a difficult one until it clicks. And it will click, I promise. xxx

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      • Yeah, mine was all to do with the main plot, going on at the same time just another character in another location, but too much of that can be confusing can’t it?

        I think I’ll just stick to as fewer sub plots as possible lol

        Thanks Maddie πŸ™‚

        Xx

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  5. My own loose definition of a sub-plot is a story line that supports the main narrative thread in some way, while also offering a contrast and relief from it. In the My Fair Lady examply, Eliza’s father getting married could be said to support the themes of the novel and the journey Eliza was taking. He is seen to be moving on, not needing her so intensely any more, thus allowing her to finally grow up. Also, his marriage and happiness is demonstrating that it’s possible to be poor and happy, underlining the lesson Eliza needs to learn about turning her back on her humble beginnings.

    This is just off the top of my head, but most good subplots are integrel to the themes of the story, not just add-ons for light relief. In a crime novel, say, often there is a romantic sub-plot, but this in itslef is to underline the protaganist’s internal journey, or other life lessons. Often they link up at the end – the romantic interest needs to be rescued, or the hero has to make a choice based on the main plot and sub-plot elements. In a romance, the sub-plot might well involve periferal characters, but their character arcs, or journeys, will always either support or contrast the main lessons or choices the heroine is facing.

    Does this help? In my next novel, there is a sub-plot which takes place in the retirement home where Stella now works, involving two residents, both in their eighties, who are secretly in love. The resolution of this sub-plot will help Stella find her own resolution, and for the reader will underpin the relationship themes of the book.

    Long answer! Sorry πŸ™‚ x

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    • Thanks Jo πŸ™‚

      Yes, that’s what I thought a sub plot was, but, I guess I’m getting hung up on the fact that with my recent WIP I had sub plots left right and centre, the action switched locations and characters on a regular basis…so perhaps it was more sub plots than a main plot, if you know what I mean lol

      Xx

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    • Ha ha ha πŸ™‚

      Well, this has definitely been an eye opener! I didn’t realise that my last novel had too many, so now I KNOW how to prevent making that mistake this time lol

      I’m with you Robin, I think I’ll stick to a minimum πŸ˜‰

      Xx

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  6. I can honestly say you have more than enough excellent advice and explanations here to be going on with! Sub-plots need to add something to the main story and be linked to it in some way, as you now know! LOL!

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  7. Reading this I had to laugh because with my first WIP I didn’t have enough subplots! Nothing to put obstacles in front of the MC or help them move to the next phase. I’m learning how to deal with them better. Sounds like between the Faber classes and your blog readers, you’ve got a pretty good group helping you get where you need to be πŸ˜€

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  8. I think you have had a lot of good advice above and I think Joanne summed up a lot of what I would have said!

    I have been advised that it is good for the character to have one main goal and one main obstacle standing in their way – the overriding plot. For me Blood Red Road by Moira Young is a good example of this. I don’t think it is spoiling much to say the MC has a main aim which involves her brother. Yet along the way she has a sub plot romance – this romance never detracts from the main, brother goal, but it definitely isn’t the ‘main plot’. A paranormal story might have ‘KILL the VILLAIN’ as the main plot but the sub plots might be romance/coming to terms with her power etc – often feeding into and strengthening the main plot.

    I hope that helps. Also if you had too many plots before I recommend the exercise I have been given – summarise your main plot/action in one sentence ‘Billy Elliot wants to be a ballet dancer but his Dad doesn’t approve’ for example.

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    • Thanks Vikki πŸ™‚

      Yeah, the reason I’ve been getting so confused is that I tend to have say 2 or 3 plots running at the same time, rather than 1 main plot and 2 sub plots lol. Will definitely check out that book you mention, and give that exercise a go. Thanks honey xx

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  9. My sub plots tend to grow until they’re nearly as important as the main plot so I’m probably not the best person to ask!

    Think of crime novels where the detective has a romantic relationship at the time he/she is discovering ‘who dunnit’. Tracking down the murderer is the main plot, the romance is the sub plot. You could have the crime bit on its own, but having the subplot brings the character to life and makes th story more believable than it would be if the detective had no life away from work.

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  10. Oh no! More things to consider for the editing – very useful, again and the comments have been helpful. Notice too that I have finally remembered my password for wordpress! Saving these posts in a file for editing in january!

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