Subplots – adding texture to your novel

The other day I sat through a film featuring a subplot that had nothing whatever to do with the main thrust of the film. It didn’t reveal anything about the characters or the storyline, it didn’t hint at motivation, it wasn’t even a credible red herring. Completely irrelevant. I can’t even remember the title. However, it had an unexpected, but very useful consequence.

After the successful conclusion of an important subplot of my own, in which my mother in law was transferred to residential care when her dementia became too advanced to manage at home, I found myself with an unaccustomed amount of free writing time and not a word in my head. Tum-te-tumming at the keyboard I recalled the film with the inconsequential subplot and looked at it through the lens of my own perspective. What purpose should subplots serve in novels? Continue reading


Romantically inclined

My first one and a half novels were love stories. The plots were rather convoluted, and they strayed from the acceptable norm of romantic novels in lots of ways, but basically, they followed the traditional rules of romantic fiction. Even though the storylines featured fraud, death and dishonesty the stories were, at their hearts, romances.

The new novel, however, features much unpleasantness and a lot of humour, but I’m struggling to identify the romantic thread. With this in mind, I revisited the accumulated advice on writing romantic fiction to decide, once and for all, if what I was writing could be considered a romance.

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My Hero

Try this as a creative writing prompt:

Choose a well-known hero or heroine – doesn’t matter what sphere they inhabit.  They could be literary, cinematic, artistic, philosophical, historical; fact or fiction, living or dead. Maybe they’re a favourite fictional character, or a hated politician. They might be the same sex as you; they might not.

List their attributes – these traits can be positive or negative.

Now think yourself into the character and build a story, from the point of view of this real or imaginary person. Mould this 2-dimensional cut out into a real person. What motivates them? What do they like? What do they fear?

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Heroes and villains

I was on local radio yesterday evening, reading one of my stories and it occurred to me that the majority of the short stories I’ve written have happy endings and are mostly about quite pleasant people who come into contact with something or someone horrible. But I actually find it much easier to write about villains – malevolent people in horrible situations. Maybe it’s an unconscious urge to pit myself against the horrors of life and see who comes up smiling, or maybe it’s art reflecting reality. I can think myself into a villain’s mind without a problem – but does that say more about me than my creative ability?

Yesterday’s offering features one nasty piece of work, but it’s mainly a feel-good story. It’s called ‘Charity Ball’ and you’ll find it under the Short Stories tab.