There are certain phrases that you simply never want to hear from an editor. Top on my list? “This just feels slight.”
Yes, there are fixes including adding subplots but I’m always worried that these subplots will feel like they’ve just been tacked on. After all, I didn’t plan them as I was creating the story so, in a sense, they are tacked on. Fortunately, you can avoid this “tacked-on” feeling by creating parallels between your plots and subplots.
As I’ve been listening to the audio-book of The Target by David Baldacci, I’ve noticed these types of parallels between his plot and subplots especially in terms of setting. He has a main plot and numerous subplots. I’m not being cagey on purpose but it is sometimes hard with Baldacci to tell where one subplot ends and another begins. His working is far too complicated to ever be called slight.
Anyway, back to that setting. In this particular book, the setting that draws the plot and subplots together is prison, not a specific prison but prison in the generic sense. At one point, the main characters who are both CIA agents are sent to a training facility. Because it is “be reevaluated or stand trial,” they don’t have a choice and they have no freedom to leave. They are, for all practical purposes, in prison and are treated no better than prisoners. One subplot takes place in a prison in Alabama. The other subplot involves a character who grew up in a North Korean prison camp.
There are also strong parallels in the details used to describe these prisons. Cells and huts are described as windowless and dark. Characters who are no longer in these confining spaces spend a great deal of time gazing out windows, often looking for a variety of spies, either true-spies or snitches.
By including numerous parallels within the settings of his plot and sub-plots Baldacci creates a book that has depth and the layers needed to engage both an editor and a wide variety of readers. For more on creating depth in your writing, specifically depth in your characters, check out my post today at the Muffin.