This month my manuscript is with three trusted readers, and last week the first feedback letter came in. Suggestions about one of my subplots left me itching to revise. My reader gave me so many “Of Course!” moments. Journaling about a particular secondary character is ready to spill out of me. But I also know it’s important to give myself at least the rest of the month away, and this is why. Reading.
I’ll be honest. In addition to my eagerness to journal about secondary character, Ben, and unpack all my new discoveries about him, I am also a little afraid. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to see how to work new scenes about him into my existing draft. I don’t like to even think this, much less type it.
But then I am reading Love and Other Foreign Words (L&OFW) by Erin McCahan. (Which, by the way, has the most unique female YA protagonist I have read in while. Love you, Josie.) Anyway, I am rereading the ending, interested in how the romantic subplot serves the main arc about Josie and her sister Kate. And what I find is it does a lot more than serve the main arc.
There is a kiss (subplot) that inspires an essay which leads to a text offering some resolve to the conflict between Josie and her sister (main arc). But Josie is still left stewing over what to do about that kiss. Her struggle with this (subplot) actually causes her to reconcile with her sister’s fiancé (main arc) which causes her to realize she doesn’t want to lose that kisser as a friend (subplot), and so she decides to tell him ixnay on the romance, ruining everything and infusing her sister’s wedding with palpable pining and suspense.
Whether you’ve read L&OFW or not, I’m hoping you can see what I saw. In keeping with talk of love, the subplot is involved in a cause-effect relationship with the main arc. It’s more than thematic support. It’s more than Josie learns something in the subplot that helps her in the main arc. Events in the subplot actually cause events in the main arc and vice versa. That’s why L&OFW is so tight and powerful.
I feel great about this. Because it means I don’t have to worry about how what I find out about Ben will break my plot into a million pieces that won’t hold together again. I can journal all I need to about Ben. And when I am finished, I’m going to scan my new material and my old draft for Velcro. You know those little hooks and loops on Velcro? I am thinking they are like links of cause and effect, and they hold everything together in the tightest way. If I can find the Velcro, the whole thing should hold together even more tightly than it does now. (Sighs with relief.)