Saturday, 22 November 2014

Point of View and Subplot

Do you think each significant character in your plot needs a subplot? 

I haven't really thought about it like this before, but I have been overdosing lately on a favourite author, and realised that one of the ways in which she creates a multi-layered plot, and also makes all her main characters three-dimensional, is by creating subplots that eventually collide with the main one.

Now, I have subplots. But they're not usually specifically targeted at a character like that. In my last novel (which is not ready for the light of day) the subplot belonged to the police officer investigating my main character's crime. Then there was a very lightweight little plot which doesn't deserve to be called a subplot, which just fleshed out Mr Love Interest a bit. But perhaps Mr Love Interest needed a bit more going on.

In my current work, there is a triangle of characters, who I will name (somewhat misleadingly, but tough, I'm not going for a synopsis here) Mrs Main, Love Interest 1 and Love Interest 2. The conflict is between Mrs Main and Love Interest 1, so he doesn't really have a subplot. There are side issues arising, which Mrs Main doesn't know about immediately, but they're still part of the main plot. Love Interest 2 is crucial to the main plot in every way, but doesn't have his own subplot. 

He has a backstory - career, family, failed engagement, hobbies - the lot. The relevant parts will be in the story. He is a point of view character - I have written scenes through his eyes.

But does he need a subplot of his own? Would it make him more believable? Or would it complicate the story too much? 

I feel as though the lack of one may be undermining an important convention in the kind of books I read (and want to write). 

There is another character who is also vital to the whole, and the threads of her story weave into the main, underpin it and provides a different voice, told in a different tense and person. She is also important, and brings texture to the whole....but I'm not sure her story can really be called a subplot, either. 

So is this story too slim? I'm a long way through to be having doubts, and I think I may have to plough on and just has felt good so far, and it already needs serious pruning to make it a sensible length, so it isn't  as if it's flimsy in terms of length. But perhaps it lacks depth...

What do you think? Should all the main characters have a serious problem of their own going on 'on the side'?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Kindle and Paper

I love my Kindle. I love the way I can buy books at the click of a button at any time of day or night and be enjoying them in seconds. I love the fact I can take a huge pile of books on holiday without filling a suitcase. I love being a book consumer on a grand scale without running out of bookshelf room.

But I'm never going to be able to live without real books. An ebook can't replace a real one. When I read an ebook, there is a dimension less to the experience. It makes the experience shallower, and more forgettable. Frequently now, I don't know if I've read a book, even after reading the blurb. I recently got to the last paragraph of a book that I'd bought at the supermarket before realising I'd already got it on my Kindle!

I miss being able to handle a physical object - feel the weight of it, the thickness of the pages. I miss navigating through it - especially if I lose my place, or want to flick back to something - such a simple place-finding exercise is time-consuming and irritating on the Kindle. I don't get to read and savour a blurb before I open an ebook; I miss the aesthetic pleasure of the front and end pages - that delicious anticipation as you approach page 1. (Perhaps I am a bit of a book geek..?) I miss seeing the cover and title each time I reach for a book - that subtle reiteration of what I am reading, which is crucial, apparently, if I want to remember what I've read.

Are these things insignificant? Not for me. I find it incredible to cruise Amazon and realise that I don't know the name of a book, or what it looks like - that the plot is floating, fragmented and untethered, in my mind. It unsettles me. And rereading a book without realising it -  I'm sure this isn't just my age; I'm sure it's linked to this Kindle syndrome of reading text out of context - out of the context of real pages, a cover, illustration, blurb...

I've embraced the ebook revolution; I do love my Kindle. I've been excited about the power that authors now have to publish their own books with such ease. But now I'm wondering if there is a downside. If an unknown author publishes with KDP, and is lucky enough to have their book in great demand, it is disappointing to think that the memory of that book is likely to slide greasily out of the readers' memory within a week or two of reading. It doesn't bode well for that author, trying to build a fanbase when the very form of their book discourages memorability.

What do you think? Do you find it harder to retain digital text?