Two plots in one story

by Anne
(Texas)

Hello! You answered my last question so satisfactorily, that I decided to come to you for this as well. My now heavily modified story involves two plotlines that affect each other so...much...that I can't figure out which one is the sub plot. I can't figure out how to outline it, and they are both SUPER important!


Its kinda like...one plot, teaches the main character how to resolve the second plot, and while the two plots never directly coincide, they have the same characters and the same theme. It's kinda - but not exactly - like, one of those super hero movies with all of the secret identity drama, except its not exactly secret identity stuff; it's just sorta... She goes out and does this great big "save the day thing" while at the same time having real trouble with her family and school. Like, "REAL" trouble. Like, "The POLICE are involved" trouble.

Also, Just a quick thing while I'm here, I can't figure out how many supernatural elements to add. I mean, the "save the world" plot relies heavily on them, but I'm not sure about how much 'normal' people should be involved...

Thoughts? Thanks.

Response: Okay, so you have an "A" plot and a "B" plot and you're wondering which is which?

Bear in mind that I haven't read your story. Sometimes you can have essentially two stories within the same novel that only marginally affect each other.

However, in this case, the fact that one teaches the main character how to solve the other suggests that you may have one story in which the throughlines are just a little more independent. (Dramatica theory would expect a complete story to have four throughlines.)

The Overall Throughline will be the plotline that affects more people in the story world. For instance, if one plotline involves your superhero or supernatural heroine saving the world,
then that will probably be the Overall Throughline or "A" plot.

At the same time, a well developed story will have a throughline for the main character's inner conflict and growth. This is the throughline where the main character wrestles with how to make the crucial choice at the climax that determines the outcome of the overall story. It's the throughline of how she is pressured to change and whether she decides to or not.

Many story structure approaches don't go beyond these two throughlines. However, a fully developed story will also have a throughline for the impact character - the character who provides an example of, or argues for, a different way of doing things. Seeing the impact character in action is what pressures the main character to change.

Finally, the relationship between the main and impact characters will also have its own throughline.

In some stories the throughlines are woven so closely together that they seem indistinguishable. In others, they are quite distinct.

As for your second question, it is a common enough device to have two throughlines or storylines take place on different levels, such as the real or physical world and the supernatural or fantasy world. As far back as Homer's The Odessy, writers would create a plotline involving the gods parallel and affect what was happening in the human world. You can see this device in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harry Potter and in recent superhero films like The Avengers and The Green Lantern.

Usually, it is the moment when the supernatural realm starts to intrude upon the real world that events take on a more serious tone. Breaking the boundaries between these realms suggests that the natural order of the universe is becoming damaged. Times when the supernatural enters into ordinary, everyday life, are frightening events for the human psyche. It's like finding out the bogeyman is real

Comments for Two plots in one story

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Aug 08, 2012
Thanks! This really helps me out!
by: Anne

Thank you very much for your help. I think I understand what I need to do, and I'm sure I can finnaly finish outlining soon and start actually WRITING...

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