Friday, February 11, 2011

Analyze Your Plot Arc for Subplots and Secondary Characters:

We are still working with that plot arc from several weeks ago. You know the drill by now -- use your outline to go over your plot and see what's missing and what's overdone.

  • Look at your subplots. Are they woven evenly throughout the manuscript? Do you need to give more attention to some, or space them out more evenly? 

  • Can any secondary characters be combined or eliminated?
The best way to do this is to use a different color highlighter is for each subplot and secondary character. That gives you a nice visual map of how often a person or plotline appears. For example, I did this exercise at the early outline stage for a book proposal I was developing. The main character was a 12-year-old boy. His slightly older brother, his major rival, held a strong role throughout the plot. Their litter sister had less of a role in the plot, but was still important to both plot and theme. By highlighting the chapters where she appeared in my outline, I noticed that she had little presence throughout the middle of the book. That warned me to find ways to include her in those middle scenes.

You can do this exercise after you have a complete draft as well, to find holes where you may have ignored a subplot or major secondary character for too long. (Note that you don't have to do this with every single person who appears in the manuscript. By secondary characters, I'm talking about those who still have an important role. If someone only appears once in passing -- a taxi driver or shop clerk, perhaps -- you don't need to mention them in your outline.)

For more help developing your secondary characters, see these earlier posts (you can also click on the "Secondary Characters" link to the lower right):

Not All Grandmothers Have White Hair (Making Minor Characters Fresh) 


  1. Just discovered your blog today abd love it.

  2. Great! Keep visiting, or subscribe. I post on Fridays. For this complete series on Novel Revision with the Plot Arc Exercise, click on the Novel Revision label to the lower right.

  3. I just found you today. Someone recommended you in another blog. I read a bit and your blogs seem very helpful to aspiring authors. I finished my novel but now need to edit it until polished enough to send out query letters. I can't afford an editor and have to find other means to complete my goal. Blogs like this have been a great help so far.