back to list

Juggling the Plots

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Oct. 9, 2021

So often, the story doesn't simply have one plot, but many.

There's the A plot, the one that's the main conflict or problem that needs solving. Then there's the B plot, where secondary but still-important issues and problems are being addressed. And often there can even be a C and D plot, depending on how large the cast is and how much circumstances force them to be separated and fan out in the story's world.

The thing is, there's only one ‘camera’: the audience's attention can only be on one plot at a time. So how does one juggle all the plots without missing important points, without messing up the timeline, and without boring the audience on one and make them just want to switch to the other one?

There's no single answer to this, I think. Juggling the plots is an art in itself and every creator may have different ways of doing it. I can only share mine:

I make sure that when one plot ebbs, the other flows.

What I mean by this is that I do my best to design the plots in such a way that when things are at a general low in terms of suspense or stakes, I can switch to the other plot where things are at a general high and the stakes go up.

Are my characters in the A plot walking from one place to another, and it'll take some time? Time to switch to the B plot where someone might suddenly die. Is that death/handling of death done, and the characters there going about relatively mundane things? Time to snap back to the A plot, where my characters have arrived. That sort of thing.

I also keep them all advancing at relatively the same pace and rhythm. If the A plot is developing over a few days, the B plot will to (rather than, say, have it develop over months).

What (I hope) I am achieving with this is to keep interest and investment in all my plots without making the audience groan that I'm tearing them from one interesting plot to force them to watch something boring.

The general goal in juggling plots successfully is to keep audiences invested in all of them. And in the bottom line, I think that happens when all the plots push forward toward the ‘grand resolution’: they must both serve the same overarching story which needs to have all its ends tied, and give the audience the sense that things are advancing towards that overarching resolution. Each plot must feel important to the story, to the point that if it were omitted, the story would suffer.

How do you handle juggling many plots?

Don’t forget you can now advertise on DrunkDuck for just $2 in whichever ad spot you like! The money goes straight into running the site. Want to know more? Click this link here! Or, if you want to help us keep the lights on you can sponsor us on Patreon. Every bit helps us!

Special thanks to our patrons!!

Justnopoint - Banes - RMccool - Abt_Nihil - PhoenixIgnis - Gunwallace - Cdmalcolm1 - PaulEberhardt - dragonaur - Emma_Clare - FunctionCreep - Eustacheus - SinJinsoku - Smkinoshita - jerrie - Chickfighter - Andreas_Helixfinger - Tantz_Aerine - Epic Saveroom - Genejoke - Davey Do - Spark of Interest - Gullas - Damehelsing - Roma - NanoCritters - Scott D - Bluecuts34 - j1ceasar - Tinchel - PhillipDP - Teh Andeh - Peipei - Digital_Genesis - Hushicho - Sad Demon Comics - JediAnn Solo - Kiddermat - BitterBadger - Palouka - cheeko - Paneltastic - L.C.Stein - Zombienomicon - dpat57 - Bravo1102 - The Jagged - LoliGen



Banes at 2:46PM, Oct. 10, 2021

Egads, I’ve barely updated in so long. I know at one time I had A plot and B plot in each issue. That was partly because of wanting to have something for all the main cast to do in each story of possible, and also to break up the monotony of one storyline (probably modelling that after sitcoms and also one hour dramas like Deep Space Nine, which often had very satisfying b stories). I don’t know if it makes as much sense in a webcomic that’s posting and being read one page at a time usually - but it’s a nice way to have little cliffhangers, a change in tone once in awhile, and servicing a larger cast of characters. Good post!

usedbooks at 6:58PM, Oct. 9, 2021

I have a lot of trouble figuring out POV and framing narratives. Not necessarily the different plots (although that's part of it) but which scenes to show and which to skip for pacing or mystery or whatever. I usually show too much, make it too drawn out, and kill suspense. 🤷 There is a narrative device I've played with a couple times that works well, show a scene up to a climactic moment, then go back and show the events of the other plotline leading to the same scene. (Come to think of it, I believe you, Tantz, gave me that tip when I requested plot juggling advice.)

Andreas_Helixfinger at 6:54AM, Oct. 9, 2021

As much as I may admire these labyrinthian plot structures such as the ones I'm familiar with in video games (Ex: Metal Gear Solid, Legacy of Kain, Planescape: Torment) I don't think I'm capable enough of a writer to juggle and tie together that many plots and elements. Looking at the scripts I got qeued up I seem to push it no further then a two plots structure (Being that of the protagonist and a opposing character, or side character, respectively) or a one-to-three plot lines structure that are very linear, all plots pointing almost directly at the same end stop from the get go. My comic Endtide is laying out in the description that there are three factions (that is three groups of characters i.e three plot threads) who are all questing towards the same ultimate destination and it's a simple question of who gets there first and what will transpire when they all come crashing into one another getting there. Simple and fairly straight forward seems to be the way to go for me.

PaulEberhardt at 4:11AM, Oct. 9, 2021

This is why I like using first person narrators in my non-comic writing: it's an excuse for not having to juggle many plots at once. (Actually, it's just copping out, because it is quite possible to juggle as many plots as you like even with a 1st person narrator.) ;) If I try, it usually feels more like a football premier league conference broadcast than a story. I appreciate when other authors do that, though, and I'm awestruck when they can pull it off in a way that allows one to keep track and is enjoyable to read. As with non-linear storytelling as a related discipline there's this thin line between "mega-awesome" and "too much".

MOrgan at 2:51AM, Oct. 9, 2021

I think my Where the Nuts Come From story showed I juggle plots very badly. ;-) I accidentally put a character onto the wrong group, I changed my mind on how villainous a character was supposed to be, and it seemed like the story would never end.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+