Biggest Mistakes Writers Make With Subplots – Shannan E. Johnson

Writer/Instructor and Script Consultant Shannan E. Johnson (The Professional Pen): The Avengers has all of the superheroes there but we are not following each of them separately in all the things that they’re doing, right? We may be following them as a group and then following one or two of them who may be doing something separately and the others are just there for support in this particular movie. 

Film Courage: Do writers get confused with subplot versus plot? How do we know the difference? 

Shannan: I’m going to assume that if you’re saying subplot that you mean different storylines. That’s the way that I like to talk about it and I don’t think I’ve seen too many people get confused with it but not really knowing how to use them and make them impactful for each other. When I describe sub-characters I describe them as characters who are helping or hindering the protagonist’s goal. We only care about these sub-characters because they are pushing the A-story forward. That doesn’t mean that those characters don’t also have their own story lines because they’re people and they should be doing things other than walking around behind your protagonist all day. However the point of their stories is to eventually crash into the a story, eventually complicate the A-story, eventually help the A-story even if they look like they’re going this way at some point, they’re going to connect and I think some people miss that and they will then start to write an entirely different story for the B-story that has absolutely nothing to do with the A-story and now we’re watching these two stories go but…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

 

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About Shannan:

After grad school I became a junior creative executive at NBCUniversal at the Syfy Channel. I was there for the rebrand. Remember Sci Fi? Yeah, not really. Anywho, it was my job to help writers and producers take their ideas from pitch to production. I co-exec’d on Alphas, Being Human, Haven, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and more Syfy dramedies. This is how I honed my skill in all stages of the screenwriting process…(read more here).

 


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