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secrets and spies

Caged Maiden

Article Team
So in my WIP I have two simultaneous plot lines. One is a love story centered around a young woman who is trying to make the best of a new marriage after her world falls apart. No problems there, I'm alright at writing the romance bits. But, my other plot line is equally important, and I'm sort of in need of some inspiration.

While the old church keeps Kanassa's citizens in a stranglehold, a new church is rising up, gaining in power because of its popular ideas and its desire to see all citizens held to both the laws of the gods and of men.
The high-ranking nobles, who receive many benefits from their longstanding support of the old church are against change, but the rising middle-class, merchants and bankers and the like, are calling for revolution. Corruption is rampant and while minor nobles and the wealthy families put pressure on the local government, no one can deny that anyone who stands against those in power tends to disappear or go quiet permanently.

Whispers sound in the shadows of Kanassa and an organization headed by influential people fights back, playing the hand they were dealt. Kill of be killed.

With spies in households, brothels, businesses, and the churches themselves, the small group of rebels use whatever tools they have at their disposal to tip the scale in their favor, trying to get close enough to the men pulling the strings to bring them down.

Okay, so I'm not much of a spy myself, and I question whether my story is compelling enough, but my question is this: How much is too much?

I can write an infinite number of scenes depicting the interactions between these factions, but I don't want to overshadow the other plot line. I already know I have issues with balance, so before I write way too much information into extra scenes, I wonder whether any of you have had to balance two plot lines like this and how you found a nice proportion.

I am trying to keep an element of mystery about who exactly is involved in the secrecy and plotting, but I wonder whether that is wise, or whether I should kick it up a notch and let the reader in on the secrets early.

Any suggestions would be welcome, whether it pertains to the general revelation of the mystery or about a particular scene which could be very effective in portraying the conflicts quickly. Thanks ahead of time.


After reading your synopsis I think slowly revealing the mystery & intrigue is the way to go.

I don't see any problems with the 2 existing plot lines really. Lots of opportunity for assumptions, red herrings, & reveals.

The complexity is going to need a thorough outline (at least I'd need that) & the realization that you may have to rewrite a lot of early material to fit in with how the story progresses.

Not sure if that helps much but it sounds like an interesting read.
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Myth Weaver
At this moment, given the situation you describe, the 'spies' you describe would be very paranoid, pretty much never admitting what they are doing to anybody. If they have to do spy stuff, they would try to make certain they had a legitimate 'cover' to go along with it. So...you'd be talking about inference: was Molly the Maid *really* just taking a bit longer than she should have cleaning the bishops study? And what of the ink smudges on her fingers? Was she really dashing a quick note off to her BF, or was she copying something else?


Exactly how do the plots relate to each other? Does your protag find herself mistaken for a spy and drawn in to this shadowy conflict, or is the rebellion merely a backdrop or a foil for her own life? Either of these scenarios would make for a very different tone to your story. I know which direction I'd lean personally, but as I'm not a newlywed woman rebuilding my life, maybe I'm a little biased. Middle-Earth Robert Ludlum trumps romance any day of the week.

I'd go so far as to say that a Romance and a Spy thriller are disparate enough that one thread would have to be subordinate to the other.
I think that if you know what you really want to write and which storyline really compels you to tell it, then blending in the other elements that support and improve that narrative becomes a lot easier.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
Her new husband is up to his neck in the rebellion, and it makes for some interesting interactions, because he doesn't want to tell her anything which might put her in danger, and he doesn't trust anyone. The rebels have a rat and are doing what they can to neutralize him, but when the danger hits close to home, he's forced to make some pretty hard choices.

From her POV, her husband is distant, suspicious, and cold. When he stumbles in at midnight she thinks he's a drunk, until she finds fresh blood the next morning. She hears someone talking to him behind a locked door, but no one ever leaves the room, and he receives some visitors which instantly points to suspicious activities.

So I like keeping the mystery going until about half way through the book when its reveled what part he's playing in all of this (chapter 11 about 35k words in) but I don't know whether a reader would want to be let in on the secret earlier, or whether the suspense is a good thing (because hands-down I believe it is). So I considered writing a few scenes where the various operatives of the rebels are working, but never showing who they are taking orders from. But the first half of the book is largely centered on the young woman and her own tragic story.

It is a love story first, but the other strife is a major part of the book because it influences how everyone's acting. Unfortunately, I don't know how to describe the tone. The love story is a bit cute and funny, but it's an important motivator for both characters' actions. And the rebels are pretty brutal and so are some of the scenes associated with them.

I appreciate the suggestions, I hope this additional information helps clarify what I didn't write earlier.
Krieger, are you kidding? Spy stories and love stories fit together like cloak and dagger!

Anihow, I see many possibilities for this. One of my own favourite techniques (via use of different POVs) is to let the reader know things the main character(s) don't. This can enable excruciating tension for the reader (watching the MC walk unknowingly into peril) if you get it right.

Might work for your story.


The two plot lines in my SF novel, Blitz appear even more disparate than this, but I strongly believe I can make it work. Not least because the plots lines are subordinate to the cores theme not the other way around.

On one side I have a love story. The Daughter of a rich business man tries to rebel by making a scene at some swanky gala do. Instead she ends up falling for some rogue gentleman, as if doing so would some how upset her Dad enough. There is a major twist towards the end of this plot thread, and I'm not going to spoil it. Lets just say its very scifi and plays into the theme of coping with change.

On the other side we have a finding-your-place/political intrigue/stop-the-bad-guy plot. There is the mechanic, Myra, trying to make ends meet, when one day some alluring "spacer" drops in with his damaged ship and his AI companion. Myra gets dragged into the world of pirating and even a rebellion against... woops! that would also spoil the twist.

The main intrigued here is "how do these two stories relate? They must do but I can't quite ... I'll have to read on and find out!"

It should work.


You have the perfect opportunity in your story to highlight the "world of secrecy". Who can be trusted, etc., etc. And I think in that sense you're two plot threads work perfectly together. They're both subordinate to the setting which provides a whole heap of conflict (and is almost a character in its own right if you think about it).

It should also work. I'll see if I can come back with any specific points for your plot... unless of course you don't need them ;)


I think it's important to give the spy plot some room in the first part of the book (and vice versa). Otherwise it may seem like a romance novel that suddenly turns into a spy novel.

In addition to explicit events, a more subtle tip-off would be to have the husband be particularly absent when big things are happening with the rebellion, either for or against them.