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This is an extension to an earlier post. Below are some summaries for a novel outline using the Snowflake Method. I am looking for clarification if sections A and B are dual plots, of if section B is a subplot of section A (with the two tied together by the character Clarissa).

Section A:

Richard Conners is an affluent, woman abusing young business major sophomore at Andrews University in Shady Oaks, NY, and Beth Yang is a slightly older secret agent (called a moralpractor) in training for the Medical Sociological Moralist party, that is responsible for saving him from a villainous drug lord. Richard's days as a freewheeling fraternity brother are over when he begins to have visions of a fairytale world with a spirit named Clarissa that both challenges his view of himself and lands him in a university counseling group (that Beth monitors). When Richard does not comply with the group, he is forced into becoming indebted to Beth, a woman, for helping him gain a reprieve from long-term psychiatric treatment (she explains his visions as a religious awakening). The university puts Richard on trial again for mental illnesses when he helps Beth successfully follow a trail to the Andrews University board of regents' president, and Richard must give up the remainder of his freedom. Richard endures psychological torture in a secret psychiatric hospital while public pressure grows to the point where the facility releases him, the MSM party wins a hundred seats in Congress, and he marries Beth after much therapy.

Section B:

Ophelia Platescrubber is a forty year old scullery slave for the most popular restaurant in Kingdom's Crossing, the capitol city of the magic land of Alcadeny, and Duncan Musicman is an older feeble minded man who parades through the city's streets amusing the population with his one man band. When Ophelia petitions Saint Clarissa, the spirit who sees love in all hearts, to force Duncan to marry her, Clarissa tells Ophelia that she must prove to her that she has earned his trust first and she stipulates that she cannot learn magic to do it. When Duncan is imprisoned in a madhouse by the Duke of Alcadeny, Ophelia decides to learn magic to free him by restoring his sanity and falls out of favor with Clarissa. Duncan's sanity returned, Duncan loses his trust in Ophelia when she decides not to work magic when he leads a revolt against the Duke because she fears for his life if she tries (her magic is imperfect). Clarissa intervenes and helps Duncan overthrow the Duke on Ophelia's behalf, Duncan trusts Ophelia again, and they get married.

By the way, the Opheilia world influences the Richard world. Clarissa is a spirit that transcends both, and she appears as a medium, channel, spirit guide, body possession, clairaudient or clairvoyant effect, etc. Clarissa stipulates that Richard must learn from Ophelia's relationship troubles so he can mend his own. However, Richard right now does not influence Ophelia's world (although it maybe could?). There is also a definite theme of madness in both worlds -- this is intentional. Ophelia's world addresses how madness was treated in past societies; Ricahard's is a warning for the future.

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    Other than the literal name Clarissa, I'm not sure how you're tying the plots together at all. Can you clarify? These seem like two separate and unrelated stories. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 23 '16 at 19:30
  • You should edit that information into your question to make it more clear. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 24 '16 at 10:07
  • Have a look at "Cloud Atlas" it works with 5 different stories that, on the surface seem pretty unrelated, however there are several subtle connections. – Erk Jun 25 '16 at 9:48
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It appears that while there are echoing themes in both plots, they are still unrelated with the exception of a common deity. In that sense all stories set in a world of Christianity have something in common.

The traditional relationship between a plot and subplot is usually more intertwined: detective John Doe is searching for a serial killer, finds him and arrests him (plot). At the same time his ex-wife Jane asks him to help her move. While loading the truck they rekindle their relationship and get back together (subplot).

If you can read each of your stories separately and both hold as stand-alone pieces, it means they do not need really each other to complete themselves.

Having said that I would like to emphasize that I do not in any way question your artistic choice.

There are many brilliant examples of seemingly independent stories (Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" for example) delivered side by side with little or no correlation. It is all up to you after all, so why worry about labeling one "plot" and another "subplot"?

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There is no rule, set in stone, that a novel must have a single coherent plot; nor any law that demands that one thread be "the plot" and another only "the subplot". Indeed, there is something to be said for an artist taking conventions and breaking them quite deliberately.

That said having two plots, either side-by-side or one-after-the-other, already has their own conventions.

Consider the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. For example, A Study in Scarlet (although others followed this pattern). As novels, they essentially carry two separate stories. The first story is that of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, but the second story (in the case of A Study in Scarlet) is only tangentially related and does not involve Mr Holmes at all. In each case, the reader should eventually realise that the second story is a flashback explaining the history of the victim from the first story.

Neither story is a "subplot". At least, not in any way that we understand subplots. This is two thematically linked stories presented together.

Consider, Inversions by Iain M. Banks. This story alternates, chapter by chapter, between two apparently unrelated characters. There could even be some debate as to if the two stories happened at the same time, or even on the same planet. Nevertheless it is a truly great read and I recommend it.

Again, neither plot is a "subplot". Although there is some attempt to vaguely connect the two stories in the epilog nevertheless it is basically two plots in parallel.

Lew's answer gives additional examples of this artistic choice.

Given the great wealth of precedence for doing such, I would suggest that if this is the form that appeals to you then you should certainly use it.

In your own terminology, I could only call your pair of plots "dual plots". Although, what they are called is not half as important as how you write them.

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Sorry, but I see no real connection between the two plots ! Clarissa appears in the two stories, but that is all ! I don't think you can consider B as a subplot of A.

Do you plan to set any interactions between the characters of the two worlds ? Will the actions of Richard have any influence on the plot involving Ophelia (or vice-versa) ?

  • The themes of madness and imprisonment for madness also appear in both. The details of how those themes play out could create lots of additional parallels. Maybe. – Dale Hartley Emery Jun 23 '16 at 20:15
  • Yes, the Opheilia world influences the Richard world. Clarissa is a spirit that transcends both, and she appears as a medium, channel, spirit guide, body possession, clairaudient or clairvoyant effect, etc. Clarissa stipulates that Richard must learn from Ophelia's relationship troubles so he can mend his own. However, Richard right now does not influence Ophelia's world (although it maybe could?). There is also a definite theme of madness in both worlds -- this is intentional. Ophelia's world addresses how madness was treated in past societies; Ricahard's is a warning for the future. – user9885 Jun 23 '16 at 20:44

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