Sideplots, Shrapnel, & Rudyard Kipling: Day 38 of Project 365

Rudyard Kipling, the famous novelist was a res...

Rudyard Kipling: English author whose works include 'Jungle Book' and 'Just So Stories'

Small miseries, like small debts, hit us in so many places, and meet us at so many turns and corners, that what they want in weight, they make up in number, and render it less hazardous to stand the fire of one cannon ball, than a volley composed of such a shower of bullets.” – Rudyard Kipling

Your protagonist has one big problem, and that is what gives your story a beginning, middle, and end. It’s the big push that urges the reader forward.

Usually this big problem is the first thing in our minds as we begin our novels, but if they are the only thing in our mind, our story will fall flat within fifty pages of writing (assuming you are writing a full-length novel for that estimation).  You’ve got to keep that pace up, keep yourself and your reader interested, and find something new to say/happen on every page.

Sound tricky? That’s where subplots come in!

As Kipling says, it is far worse to stand underneath a shower of shrapnel than be hit by one big cannonball (though, of course, both of these events would suck).

And as all writers know, finding ways to torture our protagonists is part of the fun of writing a book!

So imagine with me if you will, your protagonist standing on top of a hill, with a large cannonball in hurtling towards him. He (or she) begins to run down the hill to get away from that large cannonball, and in his (or her) haste, rocks begin to slide loose and tumble around them. Suddenly your character must deal with the approaching cannonball, and a sudden rock slide that has started around her.

A story like that can’t help but be interesting.

Luckily, not all plots/sideplots need to be physical violence. (In fact, variety is good for character development!) Think along the lines of romance, finance/money problems, family, physical ailments, roommates, etc. All of these can be in the background of your story and create more problems as your protagonist moves forward.

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