Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thinking about subplots...

...I guess this isn't really anything about story arcs or character building, just random stuff I've been thinking about while I do the sixty mile commute. It's a long drive, and I could do it in the dark with my eyes closed.

I've been over on Scott Eagen's blog--not his agent-ing one, but his regular blog where he's been thinking about category versus single title. Not in the normal way, where people explain how to use category as a springboard, but how to "be" category and what makes it different. I think it's his soapbox, because I recognize the amount of thought that went into his theories. After sleeping on it, I understand what he's driving at. Probably from the other direction, lol. But I get the picture.

Like Brockmann, and not to keep bringing her up--but she's almost a textbook example of the IM author moving to single title. Her IM books used the same plots and characters she later cannibalized in her Troubleshooter series. I see a lot of Jake Robinson from The Admiral's Bride in Max Bhagat.

In her first single titles, she did a historical subplot to flesh out her word count, and. eh--it was alright, but I always skipped that part anyway, so I was actually reading the "IM" section, what Scott called the "condensed" story. Then she started experimenting with continuing character arcs that spanned multiple books while keeping the standard h/h arcs and HEA in the current book. And her books took off.

It's easy to track her progress from Bodyguard, standard IM plot with padding, to Unsung Hero, standard IM plot but a little edgier and historical subplot, to Over the Edge, her first full on four character arc book, which is actually two IM plots--one in real-time and one as a continuity.

Scott pointed out a series book is condensed, without fillers or subplots, but isn't necessarily thinner. It's simply layered within the general theme of that particular line, which makes Brockmann's double IM plot structure--one of which is long and drawn out--almost elegant in it's simplicity., I've been reading other reviews on Hot Contract.

Not that I don't like to think I'm spiffy fabulous--some people love me and some don't--but the common theme in those who don't is my extra people. I love the real-time and continuing character structure. I love reading it, I love writing it. But...I think it works better in a bigger book. After edits and stuff, mine dropped some scenes and word count.

I keep my people I need more plot, or less people. I can't stay in this limbo-land between 100k and category length.

Then again--I've also been wondering if it's simply a perception issue? Do people automatically see what they expect they're buying and get disappointed or happy depending on how that meets their needs? Say--if I were a mass-market single title--would people have wondered what the secondaries were doing in my plot, or would they have taken it in stride? I dunno.


Unhinged said...

Well, keeping in mind that everything is subjective and what one person loves, another won't...I prefer a concentrated effort on no more than three major characters in a plot-heavy story. The reason is because I read FOR the characters--it's important to me that I connect in some way with the characters--the better to get that vicarious high and all, yanno.

Since I'm a romance reader and writer junkie, my "true" preference would be a 95% focus on the H/h. Getting readers comfortable with the two mains is difficult enough. Secondary characters usually take more time...

The thing about a series? You have plenty of time to flesh out the secondary characters. (Not that I know this PERSONALLY. I'm writing here from a READER'S point of view.)

I think you'd want to tease readers about secondary characters and their history.

Make readers wonder--but don't give them too much--because you want to concentrate on the two main characters and their story. I get impatient with books that switch between characters and story lines. I want to follow the two I'm interested in, no interruptions.

Well, I don't mind plot-ly interruptions, but throwing in more characters can be disruptive for me. For someone else, this could be the opposite.

(Which just reinforces what all we writers know: write for ourselves first and always. Some people will get what we write, some won't. But what's most important is that the WRITER gets what she writes.)

But IMHO, secondary characters should enhance what is happening between the two main characters. Their inclusion in the story should be necessary.

wubbilly, wubbilly, wubbilly

vicky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alice Audrey said...

Anticipation makes a huge difference, and not merely in category vs. single title. Consider the load of expectations the average reader brings to the entire genre of Romance. It MUST have the hero and heroine end up together or you'll hear a LOT of complaints. Don't believe me? Check out some of the things people say over at Romantic Time's forums. However, I'm not sure why people would bring the expectation of fewer characters to an epub. Is there something I'm not seeing?

jodi said...

I'm leaning toward epubs being the new Harlequin, because for some reason--maybe it's just me?? I see the trend toward shorter pieces, along the lines of Silhouette RS, Harlequin American, Blaze/SE, old loveswepts and older Ellora Caves--let me rephrase that. What I mean is the mainstream-er stuff is shorter, and the heavily erotic is usually short anyway (NO offense meant to anyone) Which streamlines stuff.

I know it's more of an open environment, but thats more for cross genre, heat level, and settings, people, sexual preferences. I'm thinking it's the whole it's an "epub" it's short. Rather than a kindle download which doesn't yet (or maybe will never?) have the stigma of shortness, because lots of them are different formats for NY pubbed stuff.

I'm probably wrong and tired. Lack of caffeine does that. I need to go buy a four pack of AMP or something.

jodi said...

oops, did I use my other google account to comment? That was an oopsie and now it's gone--like magic, lol...(I was wondering why the avatar seemed a little off)

Unhinged said...

What? You mean you responded to my comment and it went kablooey?

I'm thinking epubs are going to grow in popularity, too. Technology and gadgets are making it convenient.

I like the idea of shorts becoming more popular, too. I think I'll do better trying to write short...

jodi said...

er, no--what I meant was I used my editor-persona. You saw the words, and heard me, but what was actually there was uhm...the other "me". (lol!!! Mini-me, maxi-me? Me-who-shall-not-be named...) *snurkle*