...or why the hell am I talking about weird stuff so late at night?
I dunno. Probably because it's just been bothering me. I read this book awhile ago. Screenwriting, right? Or maybe just Dwight Swain, but more than likely not. I read Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer a long time ago. Anyway this book talked about how to tell if a story line is a subplot or a plot thread. Maybe it was a lecture? I listen to bunches of them.
In my current wip I started out with the hero (his name is Tris) coming in full throttle to a fire which guts the place his family stores their crazy relatives. Then he finds a clue to his father's whereabouts. He hates his father and wants to kill him.
Now I thought this was a plot thread. A plot thread is a part of the plot, which if taken out, can not stand on its own. It is an integral part of the story in that it forms part of the structure you're building on. Sort of like that steel framework you stick inside poured concrete buildings. You need it, or the building would fall over.
So...enter plot thread two. Merlin wants to take over the family and Tris is in his way. I know, seriously--this is part of the story. I want it to be about Tris and his battle to accept who and what he is, and part of what he is the head of StallingCo Intelligence. Merlin and Tris need to be there. The thread in which Merlin runs his power play can't be taken out of the story or the story wouldn't go forward.
BUT, Tris's dad can be removed without much hassle, and his departure to subplot land won't affect the original story.
Which makes him a subplot. Something that can be removed, and while the original story might be weaker, it won't collapse, which makes for a true definition of subplot.
A subplot runs alongside the story, a story thread runs inside the story.
Subplots should always have some element of reinforcement to them. Like for example, if Tris has issues with control, (which he does), Merlin should have issues with control taken to a higher level. Your villain should reflect all that is bad about your hero. If Tris is a control freak, the reason Merlin resonates should be because his drive to control his surroundings has exploded into uncontrollable paranoia and murder.
That way when Tris has his ah-ha moment and stops himself from rushing headlong off the cliff of control-ism, and finds out love is the right answer (it's a love story, sorry. No...not really. It's a love story. That's just the way it is...see above. Romance writer. Struggling. My description. To thine own self be true, and I like my HEA's.)It's counterpointed in Merlin's failure to see the answer.
Which means it works on lots of levels, and I think the more levels you operate on, the greater chance of creating "buy-in".
Subplots and continuing series.
This changes if you want to use the subplot over a course of books. Then having Tris's dad show up would be a legit subplot, in book one. Or three. It doesn't have to be here and now. Having more than one book in a series planned out helps to divvy up with plot points and subplots.
boy, I'm tired. I'll probably write about this again when I can think...