Too many/ multiple plots?

by Jessica
(New Jersey, USA)

Question: My plot outline (or synopsis, not sure which) is this:

A college student nabs a spot on a prestigious touring production company's roster, but only as an understudy for a side character. While here she gains friends and enemies, knowledgeable insight into the entertainment industry and the vibe around it, and falls in love with the main actor of the show. Things are going normal until it seems the production itself has become haunted, mishaps happening almost daily. Is it really haunted, or is the show trying to be sabotaged? Will the girl get her guy, and hit it big in showbiz, her lifelong goal?

Now as I was making all the outlines and characters and using your website (which has helped tremendously in growing my idea and flushing it out) I realized I might have too many plots. I definitely want to keep the love plot because I initially wanted this to be romance oriented anyway (it's my favorite genre), but for meat, I definitely want to keep the main character's growth from wanting to be famous for unhealthy reasons to, with the help of the impact character (and love interest) she doesn't want to pursue it anymore (making it a comi-tragedy right?, well, in that particular plot in this story anyway.) That is the main plot.

As for the plot about the production being sabotaged, should I keep it? I love having stories with different things going on because sometimes I like following certain developments, like the love plot, or only the mystery plot, or etc. Also I like following all things at once. So should I keep all 3 plots, or leave out that one which isn't AS important as the other 2 main ones, but I put it there for ENTERTAINMENT value only.

Answer: Of course, I can't tell you what to do. That's up to you.

However, I don't think you have too many plots. In fact, dramatica theory would argue you may need to think about four throughlines.

Generally, in romance stories, love is not the main plot. Usually, there is an overall story which provides a vehicle for the two lovers to be put together. In this case, that would be the mystery of who is sabotaging the production. That is the first throughline.

Second throughline is the main characters's inner struggle. In this case, it is only a Comi-tragedy if she achieves the story goal but in doing so is left in a worse situation personally. If she solves the mystery and consequently winds up happier than before, that would be a happy ending. Sometimes characters start out with an idea of what they think would satisfy them, but by the end realize that their real satisfaction lies elsewhere.

Then there is the impact character throughline. In romance, the impact character is generally the love interest who presents a different approach to life, problems, etc. than the main character, so that she must decide at the crisis whether to adopt his approach in order to achieve the goal.

Finally, there is the story of their relationship, as distinct from their individual throughlines. In romance, this often follows a pattern of initial dislike followed by growing attraction, a relationship crisis, and finally a reconciliation and declaration of love.

Hope that helps.

Comments for Too many/ multiple plots?

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 30, 2012
More then four?
by: Anonymous

What if you had more then four throuhlines? Wouldn't that devleop the book even better?

You probably would with subplots, a-hem, anyway.

Aug 09, 2012
by: Glen

The reason Dramatica recommends four throughlines is that they represent four possible points of view:

1. An objective, omniscient point of view ("They").
2. The observer or main character's point of view ("I").
3. The observed or impact character's point of view ("You").
4. The point of view of the relationship between the observer and the observed ("We").

All four points of view are required for a complete look at the story.

Sure, you can add more throughlines or subplots, but they will probably be separate stories within the novel, perhaps thematically echoing the main story, or they may seem redundant.

Aug 17, 2012
even more plotlines...
by: Hazel L

My novel has at least 8 plotlines and I have managed the first third with the aid of your methods and with great difficulty, (45000 words)and now the middle third is completely defeating me! My head is as tangled up as mohair wool. (I don't like reading the middle sections of books myself so perhaps this is not surprising). How do I get rid of unwanted plotlines?

Aug 18, 2012
by: Glen

I suggest you focus on writing the main plotlines. You may find ways to resolve the excess subplots in later parts of the book. Alternatively, after you've finished a draft, you can go back and delete them, revise them, or find ways to wrap them up satisfactorily.

Aug 30, 2012
Using Dreamkit with Multiple Plots
by: Anonymous

I'm developing a complex story with mulitiple plot lines but confused on how to enter such a storyline, many subplots focused on different characters, into the Dramatica/DreamKit formula. Will I have to write out a synopsis for each subplot and protagonist characters then combine them later? Please help!!!!

Aug 30, 2012
by: Glen

If you have multiple subplots in the same novel, I would start by working out the main story and its four throughlines.

Sometimes you can develop small subplots using the character quads alone (submit this as a question if you want me to describe this). Unfortunately, it's easier to do with the full version of Dramatica.

You can also do it using theme-based sequences.

If you want to create a more fully developed subplot with its own main character, you may need to treat it as a separate story with its own story form. Just keep in mind that you may not need to fully develop every story. For instance, maybe you only need to develop one throughline for a particular subplot. Or maybe you only develop the concern, and thematic conflict for each throughline of a subplot, and leave out the other elements.

Sep 29, 2013
Sub plot or throughline
by: Clara27

I´m still a bit confused. I´m not sure what the difference is between sub plot and throughlines. Can you give me an example?

Sep 30, 2013
by: Glen

Example: The Hunger Games
The overall story concerns Katniss fighting for her family's survival. This includes taking her sister's place in the games and surviving so she can look after her.
The main character throughline concerns Katniss's inner conflict over putting on a pretense to satisfy the Capital's expectations versus following her own desires.
The impact character throughline concerns Peeta, who takes a different approach (just being himself).
The relationship throughline concerns the relationship between Katniss and Peeta and whether they are allies, lovers, enemies, etc.
All these throughlines intersect and provide different perspectives on the story.
In the film version, there is also a subplot added showing the relationship between President Snow and the Gamesmaster. This is largely unconnected to the rest of the story. It is there simply to illuminate the behind-the-scenes politics that Katniss is unaware of, so that the audience can understand why the games are happening.

Jun 06, 2014
Game Of Thrones Plot/SubPlot?
by: Anonymous

George Martin has 3 Main storylines. One doesn't even connect to the other two. Just the characters. Couldn't he just write the storyline that involves "The wall" as another story(book) since it really doesn't directly connect to the houses fighting for a throne?

And How does someone that has a complex story like his write a query letter when there are multiple MAIN storylines that loosely connect to each other and only cross by characters or mentions? Do they write the query letter based off ONE storyline? and how does they draw out they MAIN characters in the query letter if they have multiple main characters that connect to one another loosely or by only mentions?

And Can characters follow a seperate plot/storyline that gets tied up without the help of the main storyline or would that just be considered another novel?
For Example: One character investigates murders in a city. One character fighting for a position in the company he works for. One character is being haunted by demons.
Like could i write that as ONE novel where i can intervene the characters with each other ONLY and NOT they plot/storyline or would i have to connect EVERYTHING?

I know this is a bit much lol but im in desperate need of help because this is the blockage on my writing. I dont know if i have a complex story or just multiple novels woven into one. I appreciate the feedback and help.

Jun 06, 2014
by: Glen

I confess, I haven't read or seen Game of Thrones, so I can't say how "The Wall" plot relates to the overall story goal of obtaining the throne. However, if you are writing an epic series, you may have an overarching story goal for the entire series plus a story goal for each book. You may have plotlines that are told over the course of several books, so that a subplot in one book may be a setup for a major plot in the next.

I suspect that in a query letter you could start by describing the overall story. Something like, "It is a game of power politics in an iron-age fantasy world." Then you could zoom in on one main character by making the next sentence a logline. Something like: "X [sympathetic character] must struggle against [forewarnings] to [achieve the Story Goal] before [Consequence} can occur."

You might then move to the next character: "Meanwhile, [repeat logline formula for this character]." Then describe the crisis and resolution.

You can leave out the minor subplots. It may be enough to state that the story takes place in a world of "political intrigue" or "shifting alliances" or something that implies there are other subplots.

Remember that a query letter must only be one page, so you have to focus your plot summary very tightly on what will convey the biggest impact.

Jun 17, 2014
Same Problem As above
by: Shelby Mitchell

Hi, i was having the same problem as the person above about not knowing if i have multiple novels or not. I planning on entering NaNo month in november and i wanted to make sure i had a complete story.

My story is a crime/mystery novel and its basically about this city where the death rate is so high that the police department is unable to solve all crimes and murders so some cases get swept under the rug. Then thats when my SEVEIN MAIN characters come in. They all have a P.O.V chapter where they all trying to solve the cases about the deaths of they loved ones that got swept under the rug but they think the cases was swept under the rug for an much darker purpose.

Now each character is in different areas in the city. Each character has a different case to solve.

Now does that sound like SEVEN novels or is that still ONE novel. If i was to connect them (Just like the person above was stating) by mentioning or run-ins or connections throughout the cases or its still several novels.

Heads Up: These cases are not the only cases they planning on solving. I plan to write a series on these characters where in each book its a different case and different storylines.

I would really appreciate the help. =-)

Jun 20, 2014
To Shelby
by: Glen

I think it's really up to you how much you choose to develop each of these seven stories. If fully developed, each could be its own novel. Or it could be a comic book series similar to "Sin City." Each book could include cameos by the other characters.

You could also make one novel involving all seven characters whose combined forces eventually correct the problem in the story world. Bear in mind that seven is a lot. The more POV characters you have, the less of a connection the reader feels to any one of them, which moves your story closer to an omniscient mode of narration. You have to decide if that fits (for instance, if you want the city itself to be the main POV character) or if it is advantageous to privilege some of these characters more than the others.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero