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 →
We’ve been doing a lot of work on what makes a satisfying short story at the writing group, and here’s an easily digested summary of what we’ve discussed.
A memorable short story will say something about the human condition, encapsulating one idea succinctly, with each scene building towards a crisis point, followed by a point of realisation or moment of clarity. The issue you address at the start of the story should be the issue that is resolved at the end.
A good short story starts in the middle of the action and as close to the climax as possible. At the end of the story, the main character should be in a better place than at the beginning, enabling them to move forward.
Are you sure you’re starting your story at the right point? Are you approaching it from the best angle?
There’s an old joke about a driver who stops an elderly man and asks directions. The old man considers this for a while before replying, ‘Well, to begin with, I wouldn’t start from here….’
Sometimes, if you follow the strictly chronological sequence of events, you risk revealing too much to your readers and depriving them of the satisfaction of working things out for themselves. This is equally true of chapters, scenes and even whole novels. Should you describe a scene in detail, as it happens, or would it be better to come in later, after the event and leave the reader to fill in the gaps and draw their own conclusions?