The plot is the spine of your story, the scaffolding upon which everything will be placed in order to create a full experience for the audience to immerse themselves in- be it a movie or a comic or a novel.
Just like the spine, however, there is a limit to how much narrative weight it can carry- how many things you can pile up on it before it's either buried or it collapses. If too many plot lines are presented, if too many plot devices are thrown at the audience, then you're running the risk of confusing or even losing them altogether.
Each plot line usually requires specific characters to be the focus. Since you can't have more than one or two main characters, usually there's an A plot and a B plot: the A plot is the main story, focusing on the main characters, and the B plot is a complementary substory usually involving secondary, supporting characters.
If the story is well written, the A plot and the B plot balance each other out well, and together they progress the story in a whole, organic manner: the A plot helps us get to know the main characters and the B plot the supporting ones, while the action pushes the story forward from different angles, until usually they converge for the third act or the final arc of the third act.
Usually the A plot takes up more time than the B plot, but they both have enough to ‘breathe’ so to speak, in order to become interesting and engaging and serve their function in the story.
When is a plot too busy?
Naturally when there are too many subplots. If there's an A plot, a B plot, a C plot and even a D plot all crammed together in a time length that is good enough only for an A and B plot, or even only for an A plot. If that happens, every single subplot suffers. Before the audience can be invested in one, we have to cut to the other, then ping pong to the third one and also make allusions to the fourth one. it is as distracting and off putting as an infodump, only at least with an infodump the audience feels they're being introduced to something coherent.
Now, if you're tackling a series, be it in movies, comics or novels, you have more time to develop the story, and you can afford more subplots. This is why some books are nearly impossible to adapt for the big screen, and why the MCU needed so many movies to present one massive story.
It's very hard sometimes not to include subplots we really love, but ultimately offer little to the main story and can happen off-screen without issue. But it has to be done, just like we don't present all our world building and all the details we have researched and know about our story's setting in the story proper.
How have you handled plots? Ever felt they may be too busy or had to wade through a busy plot of a story as part of the audience?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 22, 2020
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