NaNoCoDo #10 Subplots and Plot Shapes

So you have some idea what sort of story you’re writing, who your characters are and you’ve been living in your setting for the last month. But what is actually going to happen in your book? Is this a love story, a quest, a horror slasher? Whatever you plan, there are certain shortcuts to plot structures that will leave your reader happy at the end of your book.
More to the point, there are easy ways to leave them unhappy and your job is to avoid these!

Each plot or subplot has a definite story arc – it begins, things happen, it resolves. Even if a particular subplot is left open at the end, you still need to round it off ready to pick up in the sequel. Or in the reader’s mind.

And your book needs to have a single story arc that starts as close to the beginning as possible and ends climatically at the close of the book.

This is important.

If you begin with a character’s lousy love life, you end with them snogging the man (or woman, or alien) of their dreams. You do not end with their city being blown up – that’s a different story arc.
There is a contract with the reader. You will signal the end of your story by the beginning. You promise that you’ll end by wrapping up the tale they bought in to at the beginning.

Your subplots can start and begin in a convoluted way during the book – but your final paragraphs are to close the story you began in the first chapter. That’s how the reader knows they’ve finished your book. That’s what makes them happy.

The only time you can really dodge this rule is with murder mysteries. Your reader knows someone’s going to get killed fairly early on, so you can build up the tension for a few chapters. Otherwise, you must start by setting up your major plot. And finish with the same plot’s ending.

Okay – this might be too involved for a NaNoWriMo book. But there’s no harm in knowing what to aim for.

Sounds trivial, but I’ve seen stories which open with the heroine looking for love and close with her finding the hidden treasure. Gold is no substitute for love! If your story opens with a ghost being sighted – it doesn’t end with the hero and heroine walking away hand-in-hand.

It sounds trivial, but this is essential for a good story – whether it’s a book, a film or whatever. Even if you’re continuing for a ten-book saga, each volume must end with some sort of closure that relates to where it began.

Think about it.