The Recurring Subplot

So I was trying to decide just why I write so many romantic subplots into my stories.

There is the concept of writing what you want to read, of course, but why do I want to read that kind of subplot?

Is it because I am single? Because I’m pushing one of those arbitrary sell-by dates and I’m alone? Because I don’t know what love is?

I have dated. It’s been a while, admittedly, and I think it’s fair to say that what I thought was love wasn’t love. I still don’t know what that’s really like, not personally, and maybe I’m still curious about it, wanting to know what that’s like so I write to define it or even to have the experience through the characters.

I want to deny that. It feels like something to be ashamed of.

I think there is a bit more to it. At least, I hope there is.

I have to do a separate piece on why I choose broken characters, ones that have been through some very hard times in their lives, but I do write them almost too frequently. A part of most of my stories is how they overcome the bad in their lives and get to the end where they have a bit of “happy,” where they are recovering and have hope.

(It occurs to me that I need an article on why I write stories with optimistic endings, too.)

At any rate, I think that people who have been through the kinds of things that my characters have and overcome them deserve to have happy, full lives. That includes love. Not just any love, the kind of love that holds the promise of forever or at least the rest of their lives.

So there’s that. I’m still not sure that’s a good enough reason to include the subplot, but it’s part of why I do, at least.

A friend suggested that I should write stories without it so that people could be fulfilled without that love. I’m not necessarily against the idea, I keep saying I’ll leave the subplot out, but it finds its way back in more often than not.

In cases like that, I blame it on the banter between the characters. They’re not supposed to go there and find that connection, but they do. I say the characters write the story, not me, and they do. Sometimes they see things that I don’t or want things that I wasn’t planning on giving them. Or they’re hurt worse than I knew and need more to heal.

Maybe they’d all revolt if I tried to leave that subplot out? Or maybe they’d be glad? Not that the subplot ever felt forced, not to me, but maybe they’d rather not share that part of their lives. I don’t know.

Then again, by that argument, if the characters didn’t want it, it wouldn’t be there. I could say that it’s not my fault. I almost want to. Then it’s not about me or my issues.

We’ll see what happens next time I start a new story. Maybe the subplot won’t be there. Maybe the characters will keep it out. Maybe I will.

That doesn’t help with the stories that I’ve already written, of course. It doesn’t solve my dilemma with one of the stories I’m currently working on, either. Such a pesky subplot that one.

It’s Not the Author Who Matters

Going along with the characters tell the story idea, there’s this thing that’s been bugging me, and I think that in many ways I highlighted this with Any Other Reality.

Yes, that story is, in many ways, a spoof. It pokes fun at a type of fiction that–don’t get me wrong, I love. I have given many years of my life and much effort–almost blood, sweat, and tears to this type of writing.

What it really gets at, though, in the end, is the authors.

And I include myself in that number. I’m not immune. The pygmies are even mentioned.

I think one of the worst things a writer can do is forget to respect their characters. They’re human (sometimes) and bound to make mistakes, but they generally have reasons for the choices that they make. Ignoring their basic motivations and history to tell the story the way the author wants it is not right. It’s a bad process, and going down that road will not improve anyone’s storytelling. As a reader, when a character makes a choice that comes out of left field, you’ve just about lost me. Sometimes I stick around to see why they did that, and other times I’m just done. I can tell I won’t like where it’s going if that stuff happens.

Some equate writing to playing god. That’s something I’ve never liked.

I create characters, yes. I create worlds. They live in these worlds.

Does that make me the puppet master?

I try very hard not to be. They have reasons and motivations, and really, I’m just telling their story. It’s like I was a silent witness to it, not that I was telling them what to do. I wrote it down, but I didn’t interact.

So I feel the story is the main thing. It’s all that matters.

Forget I was even there.