Juggling subplots

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ExiledStar

Baby penguin of DOOM
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So I'm working on my memoir, and I've got a basic plot outlined: basically, me vs. the Slovenian government. But I also have subplots about my relationships with various characters.

I'm struggling with the best way to arrange these stories. Chronologically? Should I shuffle them into some other order to make them better fit around the main plot? Should I devote an entire chapter to each of the other major characters and tell their whole stories in that one place? Or distribute the subplots more evenly through the book? Since there are sometimes months-long gaps in their stories, wouldn't that be confusing?

I'm nearly at my wits' end trying to figure all this out. Help!
 

Emily Winslow

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This may be the kind of thing you only discover through trial and error. My method is to write everything as it seems to flow well in the moment, and then assess and rearrange if needed. I accept that outliners find that stressful!

It is important for the main plot to push forward as the engine of the story; how do the subplots attach? So long as they are relevant to that main plot, they can attach in all kinds of ways, not just "well, this happened at the same time."

I've seen non-chronological order work well. Perhaps the main plot can be strictly chronological, with the subplots being introduced only as needed to support that forward thrust, even if the subplots themselves are flashbacks, or even flash-forwards.

I agree that it's nice if there is some kind of symmetrical system at work; I'm just not sure you can decide it in advance.
 

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