Before we start, I am going to let you read my mind.
Tell me what I am going to cover in today’s writing prompt…
If you said subplot arcs, you are correct (and you need to go buy a lotto ticket).
As I am sure you are aware (look at me assuming things!), a subplot is a mini story within your main story line. These can happen because of an incident inside the main story or independent of.
The only real rule of a subplot is that it must, in some way, move another arc forward.
Usually this is where some of the protagonist growth will come from, other times it will help develop the main story more.
Either way, they are a great way to add twists and turns to your story. I love to use them in my suspense novels to add dead ends the readers can go down while trying to figure out “who dunnit?”
So, since you are a mind reader, I know that you know that today’s prompt will have you creating subplots for the story arc we worked so hard to make fun in yesterday’s prompt.
But, as always (well, sometimes, at least) I will throw a little curve ball at you to keep you on your toes.
Let’s take a look at the prompt.
Add a single subplot that begins before your inciting incident.
I am letting you in on a little secret of mine that I use to lure readers in. I expect you to harness this power and use it only for good. Also, I expect you to keep it to yourself.
Except when you share this blog post with your friends and writing groups, of course.
Here is what we know about writing a novel, hoping to get an agent and publisher:
- The first chapter must be the best chapter you ever wrote in your life.
- It must grab attention from the start and make the reader turn the page.
- The first chapter introduces us to a main character (good or bad) AND sets us up for the inciting incident.
Now, that can be a challenge. You have a lot of back story on your main character, and you need him or her to be a basic goof ball to start the story off with, so later he can grow into this fantastic world savior.
The problem with character backstory is that it is fucking boring. Capital B Capital ORING.
It is also essential. So, my first bit of free advice that will come up in the course: GET ON WITH IT.
Then, you throw in this little trick of mine (I didn’t invent it, probably).
Look back at yesterday’s writing prompt results. You will notice the main story now looks more like a fun ride. But there is still a small problem: we start at the beginning, and set the tone.
We get the reader into the story, let the antagonist be boring or unskilled and then we throw something at them to make them take action (inciting incident).
Problem? It doesn’t happen right away.
So I use what I call the “pre-inciting subplot.” This little beauty is killer. And it is easy to master.
How Does it Work, Though?
Alright, little chickpeas, let me tell you all about it.
Better yet! Let me explain it and you can try it out for yourself!
Okay, so the basic premise is that you need something exciting to happen right away to get the readers attention. You want them to go “Whoa! okay, hang on this is gonna be wild.”
But this isn’t any ordinary subplot. No. It starts off normal, then jumps to climax really fast (usually a page or two) and then is resolved long before the inciting incident.
Sometimes, I will make these my first chapter, or I will start it near the end of chapter 1 and have it wrapped up by mid-way through chapter 2.
The best part of the whole thing, though, is they don’t have to be huge.
Keep it simple. Keep it small. It works just the same.
You don’t need a lot of big Die Hard style explosions. A dead body that has a finger twitch just as a scene ends gets the job done, too.
So pull up your story arc that we have worked on for the last two days. Find your starting point and somewhere in that description I want you to make a secondary bullet point.
Add in “Pre-Inciting Subplot” as it’s title. Then, think of something cool to add in there. It only needs to be something that will grab immediate attention, somehow fits the story (in some small way) and is over before the inciting incident occurs.
Once you are done, post your updated story arc in the comment section below! I can’t wait to see it!