Last time I blogged, I talked about figuring out what happens next in a scene. That process helped me out considerably with the scene I was working on, along with a few scenes before that. However, I’ve been running into a new problem–figuring out how to get the ending to fit together.
The story I’m currently working on is supposed to be a romance with science fiction elements. One of the scenes I visualized for the ending was… well… not romantic. The characters stay together, but there’s this looming shadow of oppression hanging over them both.
Not exactly a happy ending.
I tried day-dreaming alternative ways the scene could play out. I originally had Special Forces tapping Cole’s phone, and so they overhear when Amy says that Mr. Rivera is a member of Challenge, a supposed terrorist organization. But then my husband pointed out that, as Cole’s supervisor, Mr. Rivera would be the one to hear the message first.
No Special Forces agents descending on the group, leading to a major fight scene that doesn’t end well for anybody. Not unless Tamara called the police earlier, but that didn’t make sense with her motives.
So I started plotting what might be said if Tamara and Cole sat down confront Mr. Rivera directly. One of the things I pictured Mr. Rivera saying was that not all members of Challenge were the bad guys. Then I realized that I already had the elements in place to include an actual bad guy who was working for Challenge.
All in the form of a separate subplot that I’d largely forgotten.
This is a scene from earlier in the story, one which made me realize I had an undeveloped subplot waiting to be used.
“What took you so long?” Amy looked up from her phone and raised an eyebrow. She was probably playing an EYEnet game, or something like that. “Get lost in the cafeteria? Or did you meet somebody cute downstairs?” She eyed my empty laundry basket suspiciously.
“Unless you count the police officer, not really.” I dropped onto the bed and yawned.
Admittedly, the guy had been cute. Light brown hair, closely cropped to his head. Square jaw, and a smattering of super-light freckles across his cheeks. Didn’t look badly built, either. But I’d been too worried about the ‘painting’ to dwell on his looks.
“Police officer?” She frowned and lowered her phone to her lap. “What happened?”
“Someone drew a picture on the wall.” I sighed, already removing my phone from my pocket to show her.
“A policeman came for a picture?”
“Not just any picture.” I passed her the phone. Her green eyes widened as she stared at the picture I’d taken. “You okay?”
I wrestled the phone back from her fingers. Her knuckles had gone white from how tight she was gripping that thing.
“Yeah,” she whispered. “Wish I’d thought of that.”
I blinked. “What?”
She laughed dismissively. “Using laundry detergent to paint a picture. It’s imaginative. Even if it is… well… you know.” Her voice dropped off, and her lips twisted into a frown. She was still eyeing my phone.
“Should I delete the picture?” I asked.
“You know… so it doesn’t look like I’m supporting them?”
She scoffed. “You? Supporting them? Please. You’re like… the community ideal. Or you will be, if the whole EYEnet Match thing works out. You already reported this to the police, didn’t you? That’s how they found it?”
“Then you’re fine. Long as you weren’t the one who painted it.” She swiveled around to her computer.
“I’m fine? Someone around here is painting terrorist symbols on campus. In our dorm.”
Amy shrugged. Her blond ponytail bobbed inconspicuously. “I’m not worried. It’s probably just a student wanting to cause a ruckus. And even if it is someone from Challenge, I still wouldn’t worry too much. Didn’t you read those articles I gave you? Most those people probably aren’t going to do an outright attack. They need allies, not enemies, and attacking innocent people isn’t going to win them brownie points.”
Originally, I had planned for Amy to be the one doing the painting, since she has ties to Challenge. But as I wrote this scene, I got the distinct impression that Amy wasn’t the culprit. While I want readers to wonder if she is the culprit, this scene is also foreshadowing. If I weave in other incidents similar to this one, I can hint that there’s someone else on campus who is leaving behind these symbols.
Someone being reckless.
When I get to the scene where Tamara and Cole must choose between reporting to the police that Mr. Rivera is part of Challenge, or working with him, it helps if they have someone to rally against. In this case, a rogue member of Challenge who might actually be a threat.
The stakes are high for both sides. If this rogue is discovered, they draw attention to the ‘good’ Challenge members–Mr. Rivera and Amy. In addition, if this rogue makes an attack, innocent people are at risk. Since Tamara is interested in finding out the truth behind Challenge, she’s likely to get involved. Cole may get involved to protect Tamara and learn more about his supervisor’s (Mr. Rivera’s) secrets, while Amy would get involved because she wants to dispel the notion that all members of Challenge are terrorists.
Thus, by following a subplot that got planted earlier in the story, I may have a way to bring both sides together, raise the stakes, and still have the potential for a happy-ever-after.
But that’s still to be determined.
Now that I know someone other than Amy is leaving the symbol in public places, I’ve got to decide who they are, what they want, and how far they’ll go to get that.
Lesson learned? Subplots can be a helpful tool to move your story along and flesh out the world.
I hope you enjoyed this post. :-)
Have you ever found a piece of foreshadowing or minor subplot to be useful later when writing a story?