Structuring your B story

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  • Structuring your B story

    Here I am asking another question so I apologise!

    I just wanted to know if the B story (as well as any other subplots) have a structure to them in the same way the main plot does?

    Any kind of help would be much appreciated.

  • #2
    Re: Structuring your B story

    Originally posted by Syringe View Post
    Here I am asking another question so I apologise!

    I just wanted to know if the B story (as well as any other subplots) have a structure to them in the same way the main plot does?

    Any kind of help would be much appreciated.
    yes they do. they are basically a story within your story. they have a beginning, middle and end. how many plot points will depend on how significance each new story will have.

    i created a grid, that is similar to what JK Rolling uses to outline her novels to keep track of all her story lines. if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.

    when i wrote my epic sci-fi post-apocalyptic action story there ended up being 5 main characters. there are two heroes and three allies. by the end, one of the antagonists (fake enemy) becomes one of the allies.

    there are two major antagonists that have minions working beneath them to hunt down and capture the heroes. one after each hero for their own reasons. The Republic's Prime Minister Ayres hunts down Tessa, Healer and heir to the throne (heroine), and Tartarus (Wasteland Warlord) hunts Novak & Styx (hero- renegade smuggler with a bounty on his head).

    the heroes and their allies become an ensemble cast by the end of the film to set up for sequels. i gave each character 4-5 plot points each. some plot points may be shared with other characters and some may not be shared because their story lines cross at certain points in the narrative.

    by doing this at the outlining stage i was able to create a very effective and concise outline that allowed me to write fast. i wrote the first draft of the spec over 4 1/2 weekends (Saturdays and Sundays writing 12 hours each day), resulting in 24 pages a weekend.

    so you know something about me, i don't believe in vomit drafts. that's just me. other writers do, i do not. my drafts and scenes are well written from the start. for example, when i write the scenes i include the scene transitions as i am writing. i know where my set ups go and where the pay offs are.

    keep in mind, that you need to remain open to inspiration as you write, because when you write one scene, something else may inspire you that makes your story better. i have a character i created because of the beats i created between characters and this one character sets up the future rebellion and sequels, or possibly future novels.

    i created a grid in excel. characters across the top, and plot points or (beats) going down. if you would like to take a gander at my plot point grid, i'll send you the initial copy for consideration. you may find something else works better.

    but regardless of whether you have two storylines or five, i've found that understanding where you want to go and what motivates each character at the start helps a lot with the process. in a less complicated story you may have only three major plot points for each story line. totally up to you.

    if you would like me to forward the grid respond here and i'll send it to the email you gave me.

    good luck,
    FA4

    and ask as many questions as you need. that's what this place is for.
    Last edited by finalact4; 05-14-2019, 11:03 AM.
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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    • #3
      Re: Structuring your B story

      Yeah take some hit movies to guide you.

      Die Hard. Sgt Al Powell is the perfect B-Story Arc. From desk cop to hero cop again - and he used his gun to save the day at end and before he shot a kid so he was a broken man/cop.

      As you can see, I'm a big fan of taking movies that you know so well to guide you in these things. It makes it a lot clearer in my eyes.

      And I would say, not every film has a B-Story arc. But maybe the side characters get to help the main guy save the day, so they are part of the A Story, but they are a different song on the album kind of thing.

      Every story is different.

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      • #4
        Re: Structuring your B story

        Thank you for your responses guys, it's a big help.

        I guess I want to know if the B Story has to cover the same plot points as the A story.

        Does the B Story have to have its own inciting incident, plot point 1, climax, etc...?

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        • #5
          Re: Structuring your B story

          Not at all. It's just a fancy term for a subplot in a story. In sitcoms you know it well. Famous sitcom CHEERS a-plot would be Sam might lose the bar and has to find money to pay off the bank, and the b-plot could be Fraiser has to tell his wife some bad news. Whatever.

          Seinfeld actually played with these and Curb as they will have like an B, C, D story that all come together for the A story... they played with the concept basically.

          Back to films, so no a b-story doesn't need all that stuff. I guess it could have it and you could force it and say it's all there, but I think that's too much thinking about it, than just doing it.

          Just think of the B-Story or C-Story as just a mini adventure inside the bigger story that may or may not connect, but is there to break up the A story so we don't get bored basically, right?

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          • #6
            Re: Structuring your B story

            the plot points don't have to cross over.

            but,

            it's more effective writing if a scene (not every scene) can advance more than one story line at a time. not easy to do, but being mindful of all story lines and where you are with them can be very helpful. that's called efficient writing.

            in the Scandal Pilot, Sweet Baby if you've seen it, there are three story lines.

            A Story - is the main story of 'fixing' a war veteran of murdering his fiance.

            B Story - Pope and the Potus relationship. she "takes care of" an intern accusing Fitz of a sexual relationship.

            C Story - is helping Stephen propose to his girlfriend.

            for anyone who is interested, i have a pdf that has 220 films and their major plot points. it's a large file, but if your email client can handle it, feel free to shoot me a note, here or in a PM, and i'll be happy to forward.

            an effective subplot should have at minimum 3 scenes or possibly beats. you need a beginning, middle and end. if you don't, you're not doing your job well. it doesn't have to have 5 plot points, but it can. it depends on the needs of the story.

            you've heard about tracking your story lines in "color," right? i know a lot of pro writers do this. Shonda Rhimes does this too when she breaks down each act's beats. when i designed the Pilot Template, i have three story lines each in a different color.

            in a 30 min sitcom you may not have but 2 storylines, if that.

            if you think of a show like Seinfeld, as i recall, there were always more than one story line because sometimes more than one character had a separate story to tell in a single episode.

            usually in films, the B story line is the love relationship. i'm not talking about in a romantic drama or rom-com. i mean, like in other genres.

            for example, in True Lies the A Story line is Arnold trying to stop the terrorists from setting off a bomb. the B Story is how his wife, Jamie Lee Curtus, needs to feel that she plays a more important and exciting role in their life. the C Story line is the father/daughter relationship. and if you want a really powerful film the antagonist can have their own/shared plot points as well. think of a movie like Die Hard, right? Hans has his own set of beats or plot points that drive his side of the story. it's not about over thinking it, structure is the 'beats' of the film. a plot point is a reversal beat.

            back to True Lies, Arnold finds a way to give his wife what she thinks she needs by including her in his work to help her feel the excitement and intrigue when she becomes, Doris, i think it was. there is also a story line with the daughter and father relationship. by the end all three characters have changed over the course of the film. Arnold has greater respect for his wife and is still stopping terrorists. His wife becomes a secret agent and partakes in the exciting spy world, and the daughter v father relationship is mended.

            that doesn't just happen my chance. it's well planned out. it's executed and optimized in every possible scene. beginning, middle and end. and it doesn't mean you have to have every beat mapped out, but good writers have it included right in their outlines.

            and what everyone forgets is that we, as human beings, innately know how to tell stories. when you begin to think about what each story means to the total story a lot of this comes naturally, right?

            the first draft is written with the heart.

            the second and consecutive drafts are rewritten with the head.

            good luck,
            FA4
            Last edited by finalact4; 05-15-2019, 02:20 PM.
            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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            • #7
              Re: Structuring your B story

              Thank you so much for your help again guys, I'm really grateful for your time and wisdom.

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