1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Fantasy Stories: Balancing The Fantasy Element With Plot Elements

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Addison, Aug 30, 2017.

  1. Addison

    Addison Auror

    So I recently came across some articles from the early seasons of Supernatural. After struggling with my stories, I figured I'd research and read how successful authors in the genre and audience did it. I read a part which really clicked for me.

    I don't remember it word for word but, after re-watching a few episodes, it made sense. While the brothers' goal in the episode is a monster, demon, ghost or some such, they don't really move forward in that regard until they make progress in their problems or obstacles in their personal life. Yeah seeing them kick supernatural butt is awesome. But think about it, we keep watching to see the brothers get through to the next day. Repair, save and maintain their relationship. Which is what the writers focused on. Basically once they fixed and finalized the brothers' personal arc of the episode, the supernatural part fit into place. The monsters are an awesome, thrilling subplot. They look like main plot but it's really the brother that drive everything.

    My story was having the opposite problem. My characters and the plot with the actual characters was taking a back seat and the magic and monsters was getting V.I.P seats. Now that I've taken a good long look at the characters, where they've been and where they're going, the plot has cleaned up so much and it looks SO much better. And I don't have the entire plot yet but what I have looks a lot better than the....THING I had before.

    Something to think about. Happy Writing!
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I get what you're saying but I don't think you can be quite so prescriptive. A good story needs three main elements. It needs a worldbuild, a plot arc and characters. And with different authors and different books one of those things will always take a front seat and one the back seat. For me with Supernatural - perhaps being less emotional, it's not the characters that sell the show. It's the overarching plot of heaven and hell. The characters esp Cas, come second, and the monsters third - because I've seen most of them before by now.

    But there are other products that work differently. I mean if we talk sci fi, the Foundation books are primarily plot driven works. Lord Valentine's Castle is primarily character driven and Dune is really sold by its incredible worldbuild. They're all brilliant works.

    I don't think I would say that there's any right way to approach this balancing act. But there is a clear wrong way. To leave out one of these elements or even two, so badly that what's left suffers.

    So to return to your own project, without knowing a thing about it, I would say go back to basics. Write a single sentence about what the story is about - eg Joe Blogs is out to save his girl from Jeff Blogs - and with that you should know what elements of your story you need to push hardest. If the story is about Joe Blogs, it's character driven and you need to push that while making sure that there's enough of the rest so that the rest isn't weakened.

    Cheers, Greg.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Recently I was listening to a Writing Excuses podcast on using the relationship element in stories, i.e. stories that include an important relationship between main characters (buddy cops, siblings, parent-child, mentor-student), and Mary Robinette Kowal brought up an idea previously discussed on the show: The Hollywood Formula. Usually in these types of stories, the two characters will have problems getting along, but they patch things up just before the climax to the main plot. The team comes together.

    More broadly, she's often mentioned a type of structure used when using subplots. Let's call the main plot M and use S for subplots:


    Basically, it's like using the various BB codes or HTML codes that have an opening and closing tag.

    You introduce the main plot to the reader, then you introduce subplot 1, then you introduce subplot 2. You resolve these various sub/plots in the reverse order.

    The idea's stuck with me.

    In that podcast on the relationship element, Brandon Sanderson piped in to say that a lot of stories are more like even hybrids rather than plot and subplot, in which the relationship plot and main plot are basically equal. So there's that to consider.

    Supernatural is incredibly formulaic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The show has legs. I've noticed that most of the longest lasting shows basically hook a viewer through the characters. I know I've enjoyed and stuck with many television shows simply because I liked the characters, even if some episodes aren't very good. But usually I like the basic premise of the show just as much and that also keeps me watching new episodes. For instance, I love a lot of the British mystery shows, I enjoy the basic premise but also the characters.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I think it's probably normal for there to be balance issues in your rough draft. It's one of those things you can fix in post, after you can see the whole picture written down in words. You can look at the story overall better after it's been finished, I think. You can point to certain scene and realize that one or more characters accidentally faded into the background there. Or perhaps in another scene you focused so much on particular internal character conflicts that it seems like the characters completely forgot that the world was at stake, etc.
  5. Helen

    Helen Inkling


    The story isn't about the monster, which is a device. It's about the characters.

Share This Page