Shot through the heart and you’re to blame

darlin’ you give b plots a bad name.

You play your part and I make my name

you give b plots a bad name.

-My thanks to Bon Jovi for writing songs so easy to parody.

So just what is a b plot you ask. I’m glad you did. Let’s pretend I am writing a novel about a time traveling journalist, the main plot is that fantasy and what happens to him in that fantasy. But man can not stand alone. So let’s give him a wife who’s constantly being irritated by the fact that he leaves his breakfast dishes on the side of the sink every morning instead of putting them in the dishwasher. Now if we leave it at that the story is somewhat flat. The wife serves no purpose other than to put her husband’s dishes in the dishwasher each morning when he pops off to another time line. (And we wouldn’t want that now would we honey?) So how does one write a purposeful b plot?

Thankfully Norwescon provided a panel for that too.

-Humanizing your characters adds a level to your storytelling.

-The A plot and the B plot should thematically work together. The resolution of one should resolve the other.

-Even though men do not emote you need to help your reader feel their emotions, because they do have them.

Common Mistakes in B plots:

-B plot characters that are robots designed to serve the A plot character.

-The relationship moves too fast, with instalove.

-Writers add the B plot as an after thought.

-Lack of romantic conflict in the B plot.

I’ll add a mistake that frequently bothers me when I read fiction. I’ll use a little quote from my son who didn’t know I could hear him while he was playing lego star wars. “No Luke, don’t destroy Boba, he’s really a Jedi in disguise as a bounty hunter.” Unless you are a five year old, these one sentence reveals of epic proportion that change the entire direction of the saga, will not fly no matter how high it’s midiclorian count.

Your B plot can add a lot of emotional resonance if you give it some forethought. Don’t just toss in a relationship robot to do your main character’s bidding, unless you’re writing for Joss Whedon.

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