October 23, 2020, 03:46:29 AM

Author Topic: Multiple plots in a book  (Read 840 times)

Offline ScarletBea

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Multiple plots in a book
« on: May 24, 2020, 12:05:04 PM »
When I started reading fantasy it seemed that all books had a single plot: a problem to be solved at the end, with an arc that spanned the book.
I don't know if it's the choice of books I'm reading now or things have changed, but now I'm finding more and more books with multiple plots, multiple battles/climaxes, multiple arcs, and they are so much better for it!

Have you noticed this too?
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Offline Peat

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2020, 12:43:35 PM »
When I started reading fantasy it seemed that all books had a single plot: a problem to be solved at the end, with an arc that spanned the book.
I don't know if it's the choice of books I'm reading now or things have changed, but now I'm finding more and more books with multiple plots, multiple battles/climaxes, multiple arcs, and they are so much better for it!

Have you noticed this too?

I was with you until the bolded; I'm finding too many books that either drag at the beginning as everything gets set up, or where there's a plot arc I simply don't care for at all, or where the plots never really sparkle and come to life because they just don't have enough space dedicated to them. And as I've thought about this, I think by too many, I mean pretty much all of them. If I'm thinking about the 'new' authors that I really enjoy and wholeheartedly recommend - and there's really not as many as I'd like - virtually all of them still cling to a simpler story; Barker, Gladstone, Novik in Teremaire, Brennan in Turning Darkness into Line, Wecker...

The only author I really feel excited for who goes for this big complexity from the off is De Bodard. That's it. Maybe Butcher with Codex Alera? There's a lot of authors where I've either explicitly or implicitly thought the criticism in my head - Miles Cameron in particular, but Jemisin, Abraham, Stephens - it didn't work for me. Schwaab lost me after one early PoV change, I think Gwynne did too.

Wow. I have to say, I didn't realise I feel so strongly about this, but apparently I do. And the thing is, I love multi-stranded books! But I think the branches have to come from a single trunk and that it's really hard to weave them all together well when they don't. And honestly, I don't think this current generation of writers is so much better than the preceding that they can do it when they can, and I wish agents & editors would tell them no (although clearly it is popular).

So thanks for posting this Bea as I wouldn't have connected the dots without you - but our tastes definitely disagree here!
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2020, 01:37:16 PM »
Your post is quite interesting, because I think we ended up referring to different things, and I see now how it could have been read that way.

Rather than the multiple POV with different stories happening at the same time and coming together at the end (which I also like, hehe, but it needs to be written properly), in this thread I was rather talking about a 'wavy line' of plot instead of the line just going up from beginning to end.

So basically we have a problem, we work towards resolution, there's a climax, and that battle/event/conclusion raises another problem, which gets worked on in a different way, leading to another battle/event/conclusion, and so on. Up and down, up and down, instead of up, up, up, the end!
So what do you think about this one?
« Last Edit: May 24, 2020, 01:39:13 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline isos81

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2020, 02:18:06 PM »
I like multiple plots if handled properly. Othwersie, they are all mess and distracting.

If a side plot is not interesting enough, I'm always eager to go back to the actual/exciting plot and the side plot feels boring. Can't give any example out of my head but this is my viewpoint :)
Kallor shrugged. 'I've walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I've commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I've spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2020, 02:29:22 PM »
I don't think multiple plots is a new thin per se. Looking to Lord of the Rings you have:
1-Destroy the Ring
2-Put Aragorn on the throne
3-Prevent Men from falling to evil.
Plus individual character arcs. e.g. Gollum's 'redemption'

What I think is new is that all these plots are being given equal weight. So in A Little Hatred, the rebellion of the lower classes is just as important as the war in the North.  Sometimes they're all strands of the same plot thread, other times they intersect with each other but are separate. Both of these I think works fine. The only time I don't like it is when there are multiple 'main' storylines that have nothing to do with each other. A minor side trek can be fun, but there's two competing plotlines going at the same time, I'm going to be less interested in one of them.

Basically, I think no matter how many plots you have going, there has to be a single major one that is *the* story you're trying to tell.
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Offline Peat

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2020, 06:12:43 PM »
Your post is quite interesting, because I think we ended up referring to different things, and I see now how it could have been read that way.

Rather than the multiple POV with different stories happening at the same time and coming together at the end (which I also like, hehe, but it needs to be written properly), in this thread I was rather talking about a 'wavy line' of plot instead of the line just going up from beginning to end.

So basically we have a problem, we work towards resolution, there's a climax, and that battle/event/conclusion raises another problem, which gets worked on in a different way, leading to another battle/event/conclusion, and so on. Up and down, up and down, instead of up, up, up, the end!
So what do you think about this one?


Ohhhhhh  :D

Like how Dominions of the Fallen is three related books, rather than one quest split up into three books?

Or just within particular books? Can you think of examples?

(I've just got back from the shops and am rather sleepy)
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2020, 07:23:33 PM »
I'm thinking specifically within one book, yes.
One example is what I'm reading now, hehe, The Priory of the Orange tree (you'll see exactly what I mean as you read), but I've seen this in the past.
The starless sea was another - I'll check my list to refresh my memory and come back to you with more.

Edit: maybe what I call 'multiple plots', others call simply sub-plots. Maybe I'm seeing things in a weird way...
« Last Edit: May 24, 2020, 08:09:54 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline xiagan

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2020, 09:07:53 PM »
Great topic!

I like both definitions Bea posted but agree that the one Peat despises has to be done really good to work.
What I like additionally to those goes in a similar direction. It's when once you are comfy in a book/series and you know what to generally expect, there are suddenly new layers, the world expands and you notice that what you've seen up to then and had assumed was all, was only a small piece of what's really happening.

Something like that happens, for example, in Cogman's Invisible Library series in the 6th book.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2020, 09:53:15 PM »
It's when once you are comfy in a book/series and you know what to generally expect, there are suddenly new layers, the world expands and you notice that what you've seen up to then and had assumed was all, was only a small piece of what's really happening.
Oh I really like this too!
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Offline Peat

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2020, 11:07:29 PM »
I'm thinking specifically within one book, yes.
One example is what I'm reading now, hehe, The Priory of the Orange tree (you'll see exactly what I mean as you read), but I've seen this in the past.
The starless sea was another - I'll check my list to refresh my memory and come back to you with more.

Edit: maybe what I call 'multiple plots', others call simply sub-plots. Maybe I'm seeing things in a weird way...

Hmm. I'll have to read Priory of the Orange Tree quicker then, as I've not read the other.  I think I'm grasping what you mean, but am not sure.

Is it sort of like -

Plot A: Set out to beat the Dark Lord. Escape Minions of Dark Lord. Beat Dark Lord's Lieutenant. Be Captured by Dark Lord. Escape and Beat the Dark Lord.

Plan B: Set out to become a Dragon Rider. Find Becoming a Dragon Rider makes you marked for death. Uncover spy against your Dragon Rider-ness but cause war. Fight war as a Dragon Rider. Win daring victory against odds as Dragon Rider.

Plot A is pretty familiar feeling and I think is what you're talking about the single one. The protagonist has the same overriding aim from beginning to end.

Plan B I think is what you're talking about as the new thing. The protagonist's aim shifts with every story section; each section feels like a new plot/arc in a way because the aim has shifted.

Am I close here?
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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2020, 06:18:33 AM »
As everyone else had said already, if it's done well I guess the book would be enjoyable (I'm not even sure of what I can put up as an example, hahah) I personally preferred books with a single person POV though, subplots or no.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2020, 09:17:33 AM »
Is it sort of like -

Plot A: Set out to beat the Dark Lord. Escape Minions of Dark Lord. Beat Dark Lord's Lieutenant. Be Captured by Dark Lord. Escape and Beat the Dark Lord.

Plan B: Set out to become a Dragon Rider. Find Becoming a Dragon Rider makes you marked for death. Uncover spy against your Dragon Rider-ness but cause war. Fight war as a Dragon Rider. Win daring victory against odds as Dragon Rider.

Plot A is pretty familiar feeling and I think is what you're talking about the single one. The protagonist has the same overriding aim from beginning to end.

Plan B I think is what you're talking about as the new thing. The protagonist's aim shifts with every story section; each section feels like a new plot/arc in a way because the aim has shifted.

Am I close here?
Argh, why can't we be sitting together at a table chatting about this? It would be so much easier to explain with gestures and half sentences, and immediate questions/answers ;D

It's more, all within one book:
Plot 1.1: Dark Lord rules the world, young hero dreams of defeating him. She trains hard, grows up, moves to the city and after a few more things there's a big battle and defeats the Dark Lord. But as he lay dying, he mentioned this special stone that would allow his work to continue. Plot 1.2: Now the hero must learn about that and find out where the stone is. Eventually that happens and she learns the story that the Dark Lord was actually the second in command to a more evil entity, that lives far away and reappears every 500 years. Plot 1.3: Hero must defeat this new entity with new weapons.
--> so there are actually 3 conclusions, almost each a "normal book" in its own right, but in this case not.

You know this happens when you're preparing for a big climax and can't put the story down but you're still halfway (or somewhere far from the end) of the book - more will come.

So your 'plot B' is closer to my idea, yes, but it lacked that sense of urgency that the middle climaxes/conclusions also have.

Right?
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Offline Peat

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2020, 06:49:10 PM »
Is it sort of like -

Plot A: Set out to beat the Dark Lord. Escape Minions of Dark Lord. Beat Dark Lord's Lieutenant. Be Captured by Dark Lord. Escape and Beat the Dark Lord.

Plan B: Set out to become a Dragon Rider. Find Becoming a Dragon Rider makes you marked for death. Uncover spy against your Dragon Rider-ness but cause war. Fight war as a Dragon Rider. Win daring victory against odds as Dragon Rider.

Plot A is pretty familiar feeling and I think is what you're talking about the single one. The protagonist has the same overriding aim from beginning to end.

Plan B I think is what you're talking about as the new thing. The protagonist's aim shifts with every story section; each section feels like a new plot/arc in a way because the aim has shifted.

Am I close here?
Argh, why can't we be sitting together at a table chatting about this? It would be so much easier to explain with gestures and half sentences, and immediate questions/answers ;D

It's more, all within one book:
Plot 1.1: Dark Lord rules the world, young hero dreams of defeating him. She trains hard, grows up, moves to the city and after a few more things there's a big battle and defeats the Dark Lord. But as he lay dying, he mentioned this special stone that would allow his work to continue. Plot 1.2: Now the hero must learn about that and find out where the stone is. Eventually that happens and she learns the story that the Dark Lord was actually the second in command to a more evil entity, that lives far away and reappears every 500 years. Plot 1.3: Hero must defeat this new entity with new weapons.
--> so there are actually 3 conclusions, almost each a "normal book" in its own right, but in this case not.

You know this happens when you're preparing for a big climax and can't put the story down but you're still halfway (or somewhere far from the end) of the book - more will come.

So your 'plot B' is closer to my idea, yes, but it lacked that sense of urgency that the middle climaxes/conclusions also have.

Right?

Aha! I'm with you now I think.

I'm actually doing re-reads now on two fairly old series where the books (and overall arc) do at times approach that - The Empire Trilogy where each political challenge beaten leads to another; and the Deverry Cycle, which is hard to explain due to a bunch of reincarnation plots. But yes, I do think it seems to happen more often now.

And I think it's part of a move in the genre being more character-based than plot-based. If you're following the character's arc, then it's easier to have this sort of thing I think.

And I am in favour of it :)
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Offline DCuervonegro

Re: Multiple plots in a book
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2020, 02:38:51 AM »
In order to better explore a world, rather than just a single story, authors are coming up with the more realistic approach of multiple plots. This, however, does not mean better story, but it does help a lot with the world-building, with easing on the expositions and in having more intricate and deeper plotlines. As a whole, I prefer it too, but it has its misgivings. Some characters are not as interesting as others, or you flatly hate them. Also, you may super interested in some event only to have it hindered by the tales of others. This may add to the drama of the book and the anticipation, but I still see people read faster and get more excited with one main plot and one main set of protagonists.