Plot outlines for subplots?

by Lynne
(Providence, RI, USA)

Question: Thank you for your helpful 8-step plot outline! I was wondering if you recommend having similar outlines for subplots? For example, if the main character's goal is to marry his girlfriend, but hers is to get into medical school, should there be a separate outline for each? Or is her "agenda" just part of the conflict that drives the protagonist's plot?

Answer: Each character can have a different agenda without necessarily needing their own subplot.

A subplot implies a separate series of events told from a different point of view - i.e. with its own main character. Subplots are often not as fully developed at the main plot. They may not have a complete set of four throughlines. They may be connected to the main plot by sharing an overall throughline or by sharing similar themes, or simply by sharing some characters.

In the example you give, if we see the girlfriend and her agenda only through the eyes of the main character, then it's not a subplot. If the story switchs to her point of view when telling the story of her effort to get into medical school, and if we see events in that story line which the main character does not perceive, then it's a subplot.

It's your choice how much to develop that subplot and where it should overlap with the main plot. Often in romances, each of the two lovers will be the main characters in their own story and the impact character in the other's. In other cases, your secondary character could have her own impact character.

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