Authorguy's Blog

Subplots, paraplots, and coplots

Posted on: August 10, 2014


Just so you know, I never took a class, or one of those seminars in Creative Writing that people go on about, so if there is a ‘definition’ of these terms out there, I don’t know what it is. In fact I think I just invented the last two. The difference between them is in the relationship they have to the main plot, if there is one.

Subplots are usually pretty small, in the grand scheme of things.  In Stephen King’s Dead Zone there is a marvelous subplot about the hero John Smith teaching a young man to sidestep a learning disorder. He also uses his precognition to save the life of the young man and most of his graduating class by keeping them away from a building that he knows will burn to the ground. It’s a great section, one of my favorites, but if the whole thing had been cut or replaced with a different subplot, it probably wouldn’t have hurt anything. At best it’s a foreshadowing of larger and more public displays. A subplot can be either a comic device, two bumblers attempting to do what the two MCs do so easily, or a tragic device, a gentle romance that mirrors the disintegration of the MC’s marriage. A story might be diminished without it, but not derailed.

A paraplot is much more important. Where ‘sub’ implies a lower or lesser status, ‘para’ implies an equal footing between this plot and the main. Han and Leia’s romance is a subplot to The Empire Strikes Back, but Vader’s pursuit of them in order to use them to lure Luke into his trap is a paraplot. It could even be considered the main plot.  Only the fact that the main story of the trilogy is about Luke and the Jedi elevates his training sequences to paraplot status. My novel A Warrior Made has three paraplots, as different groups of characters have separate adventures inspired by the same event, that nonetheless interconnect and come together to resolve the main plot.

Like a paraplot, a coplot is also on an equal footing to the main plot, but where two paraplots are usually strongly connected, coplots are not. They might even seem like random and implausible coincidences if not done correctly. The Madness Season is a good story, but the necessary coming together of the elements needed to resolve it is extremely implausible. Given the relative stasis of the situation everyone was in, you can get away with saying it would have happened eventually, but that’s not  a great motivation. The characters are much more colorful and save the book for me. Once they do come together they form a single coherent plot that works pretty well.

A different form of coplot is in my novel St. Martin’s Moon, where the MC’s presence in the lunar colony sets several other characters in motion, but not coherent motion. Each has a different reaction, and does their own thing for their own reasons. They come together to resolve the major and minor plots without any of the agents knowing what they are doing, beyond accomplishing their own ends, none of which are related to the main plot. These are the only two examples of a coplot that I can think of, and I just thought of The Madness Season while I was writing this. (The current publishing business model doesn’t really work for coplotted books, as query synopses are much harder to write, so I don’t expect many of them to make it to the shelves.)

I hope if you can think of any novels that fit into that category you’ll mention it in the comments.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

Click here to Buy Now!

St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

Click cover to Buy Now!

Steampunk Santa

Click here to Buy Now!

Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

Click Here to BUY NOW!

Unbinding the Stone

Book 1

Click here to Buy Now!

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

Click here to BUY NOW!

Chasing His Own Tale

Click Here to Buy Now!

Click here to buy NOW!

Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

Click here to BUY NOW!

Off the Map

Author Guy’s Tweets

  • @bpcooper I appreciate the movie, Mr. Cooper. I do for others what I hope others would do for me, if they thought my work was worth it. 2 days ago
  • Started off with La La Land, a great musical, with a Casablanca-style romance. 6 days ago
  • I also tried Vertigo. Not a great film. The bad guy wins, the hero suffers, the female lead loses everything. A wasted couple of hours. 6 days ago
  • Just saw a great suspense movie called Time Lapse. A trio discovers a camera that photographs tomorrow. Great acting, tight story, no SFX. 6 days ago
  • The Power of Story authorguy.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/the… 3 weeks ago

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 633 other followers

What has gone before

Blog Stats

  • 8,533 hits
%d bloggers like this: