Introduce Two or More Subplots Simultaneously

One huge problem with novice screenplays is that they start an interesting scene and then end it. Then they start a different scene and then end that one too. This constant start and stop motion makes the entire screenplay feel like a disjointed series of unrelated scenes that constantly start and stop.

To avoid this problem, what you need to do is introduce a second subplot while telling the story of the first subplot. In “Star Wars,” the first subplot we learn about is that Darth Vader has captured Princess Leia because he’s looking for something, but we don’t quite know what initially. In the opening scene, Darth Vader boards Princess Leia’s starship, captured her, and then finds out that R2D2 ejected in an escape pod and likely holds whatever Darth Vader is looking for. That short scene ends in a cliffhanger because we want to know what Darth Vader’s looking for and what happens when he gets it.

However, this scene starts two more subplots. First, there’s the subplot of what happens to R2D2 and C3PO. Second, there’s the subplot of what happens to Princess Leia. Before we can find the answer to this question, another subplot arrives when we first meet Luke and learn that he wants to get off his uncle’s farm, but his uncle convinces him to stay one more season. So now Luke’s subplot involves whether he’ll ever get off his boring planet. In the middle of Luke’s initial subplot, we learn a little more about what happened to R2D2 as they’re captured and sold to Luke and his uncle. Then R2D2 accidentally displays the hologram of Princess Leia, which continues the subplot of what Darth Vader was looking for.

Here’s how to wreck “Star Wars.” First, write a scene that explains everything upfront that Darth Vader is looking for the stolen Death Star plans in R2D2 so that’s why he captured Princess Leia. That immediately deflates any suspense because now we know everything. By knowing everything, we suddenly cease to care as much because we’re no longer actively involved but just getting information spoon-fed down our throats.

Then once we know that Darth Vader is looking for the stolen Death Star plans, start another scene explaining that Princess Leia is hiding the Death Star plans in R2D2. Now show R2D2 getting captured and showing Luke the hologram of Princess Leia. Since we know everything already, the hologram now is redundant and boring.

By telling too much, you erase any possibility of suspense. By telling one subplot so we know everything before starting another subplot, we’re suddenly bored because nothing seems to matter and nothing seems connected.

On the other hand, by overlapping subplots and dribbling out information a little bit at a time, you create greater suspense while maintaining a constant level of action and movement. Which type of story do you think will be more attractive to watch?

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Google-Horizontal-Ad”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Story Structure

Previous article

No Risk, No Interest
Story Structure

Next article

Nobody Knows Anything