OK, here’s something I learned today, from Robert McKee: Subplots.
Any subplot in a novel must fill one of four roles:
- To contradict the controlling idea of the central plot and thus enrich the film with irony.
- To resonate the controlling idea of the central plot and enrich the film with variations on a theme.
- To hold the audience’s attention if the central plot’s inciting incident must be delayed.
- To complicate the central plot.
If it doesn’t do one of these things, says McKee, it should be excised from the story.
I knew that my novel in progress was morphing out of control, reminiscent of The Blob (that’s the structure that reminds me of the blob, not the plot). I see now that when I sit down to make a final selection of scenes, I’m going to need to combine some subplots and eliminate others. That should bring it down from the 250k word monstrosity it’s threatening to become.
It’s going to be hard, though, because they all seem essential. But that’s the process of distillation that will include all that is truly essential, but nothing extra.
Story is turning out to be a great tool to make that happen.