Subplots: How Much Is Too Much?


It has occurred to me as I attempt to catch up on the novel posting that something I should discuss is subplots. I have been lax on the whole writing thing, and that is partly my fault and partly the fault of fate, which will be in another discussion of course.

As for subplots, I find that sometimes I start adding in so many of them that it gets to the point where I have to ask myself “how much is too much?” At this point it is literally impossible for me to, in a decent enough fashion, end WISB in one novel. I could end it, but it would mean the novel itself would be of a caliber I wouldn’t be proud of and I don’t think my readers, as few as they are, would be all that interested in a terribly shortwinded attempt to tie up all the loose ends. As such, we’ll just have to carry those over into a second book and see what happens from there.
Do any of you find the same problem with your subplots? I have quite a few going in WISB. Thus far the main plot is James trying to save Laura and get home. There are just too many subplots to name, and most of them are in the form of questions as I haven’t fleshed out enough of the ideas to adequately give an idea of the direction they are going.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “Subplots: How Much Is Too Much?

  1. I have that same problem with subplots. I was just talking to a friend the other day about it and realized that I needed to cut some characters out of my book because the subplots were getting overly complicated.

    Happy Writing and good luck with your novel.

  2. It’s not easy to determine how many subplots a story should have. The less it has, the more generic and common the plot. The more it has, the more complicated it becomes.

    I’ve encountered the same problem you have, with too many subplots. My story has 2 subplots right now, but it had more. It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to some of the characters, but I suppose the story as a whole is better off without them all.

  3. S-subplots? I’m not even sure how to define subplots in the case of my books. The main storyline is complex enough and I guess aspects of it could be split out into subplots, but they pretty much all tie together at the end, so I can’t say that they’re separate. :S

    Personally I hate stories with pile upon pile of subplots because they usually end up detracting from the main storyline. I especially hate ones that take you away from the main action, or that have such a difference in pace that it slows the storyline down. LotR is actually a good examplke of that. I had to trawl through the Frodo and Sam sections, because I thought Aragorn and co. were far more interesting!

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