I think creating a successful plot is like building a high rise. Not that I’ve ever built a high rise, I’ve come as close as building a couple of decks—I’m pretty efficient with a nail gun--but keep reading and you'll get the gist.
In my current WIP, I came up with my character first and I had to build a plot around him. I’d have to say this is probably the first time I’ve written this way and at times, it’s been an exercise in trial and error.
As Shrek would say, “It’s like an onion, you have to peel back the layers.”
I think that’s what good plotting does, whether it’s your main plot or one of your subplots.
When I began Bix, I didn’t expect the Fed to stick around much after he dumped them in Cypher. But when I began reworking the beginning and started the book in a new place, I knew Frank had a history with Bix’s mom. Knowing that bit of info enabled me to drop a very subtle clue in the first chapter. It’s not overly obvious unless you know what is to come, but later on the reader, hopefully, will have an aha moment when the connection is revealed .
Foreshadowing is a successful plot device. You want to drop a hint about something that will pan out in the end (or at least somewhere down the road). You want to raise a question, subtle though it may be, to propel the reader to keep reading. I think that’s what good subplots do.
Bix originally began as a boy who’s overly short and youthful looking begins his junior year at a new school. That was my original concept. Except it wasn’t that original. Fish out of water stories are a dime a dozen, especially in the YA market.
So, then I had to come up with something different about his move. First I considered that his mom had a bad breakup and was leaving an abusive relationship. Too dark for the character I’d created. Then about halfway through the second chapter, I thought why not put him in witness protection?
It took me a few more chapters to realize that Cypher was an entire witness protection town and that became the new plot.
Bix is still short but that’s become a sub plot. There’s also a subplot about fanatical paintballers, a budding romance between Bix and Claire, his friendship with lesbian pixie Darby, her budding romance with Helen of Troy, not to mention the carnies, and is Frank really behind the things left on Bix’s doorstep?
While these are all connected to the mainframe, they serve as conduits to enhance the story. In my building they are like Wonkavaters. They can twist and turn at will, but always lead back to the main lobby.
After all, a building is a building is a building. It doesn’t become something special and unique until you add landscaping, interior design, lighting, and a glass elevator (hey, it’s my building and it needs a glass elevator).
What’s in your building?