WOW. We just went without the Internet or cable television for a week, after a storm knocked a tree down on the cables that run from the house to the pole (narrowly missing the power as well, because other trees caught the top of the falling tree just short of that), and it was tough. I went to Starbucks a couple of times with my tablet to check mail, and I used an antenna to pick up some local stations to monitor the weather, but otherwise I was without global communication (LOL). I knew that Facebook was my major social outlet (most of my close friends keep in touch that way), but I didn't realize how isolated I would feel once I couldn't check in regularly.)
The world is wired in nowadays. I needed to do LOTS of business transactions by phone, and I'd always be regaled with how much easier it would be if I'd only come into the 21st century and do it online. I explained to people, and they said to move. (LOL)
ANYWAY! Let's talk for a moment about plot nuts and bolts, something I learned about in a long-Long-ago workshop that's worthy of your attention if you want to write stories.
(The article "Plot Nuts and Bolts" by Shalanna Collins is copyright 2016. A version of this appeared years ago on the FUTURES Web magazine site, but has been offline for a while.)
You've heard people talk about teaching or learning "the nuts and bolts of writing," right? Some time ago, SF writer Michael Stackpole coined the term "plot bolt," and now I'd like to discuss the concept, along with the nut that sometimes goes with it (and I'm not talking about the writer.)
What, you may ask, is a plot bolt? Just as a bolt fastens objects together by sticking through them and "hanging them from the holes," a plot bolt extends _through_ the plot of a story and helps to hold the parts together. Plot bolts pull a story together by helping the reader to see the connections and how things "all come together as a connected whole." The role can be played by a minor character (a "foil," for you literary types) who flits between the two major characters--perhaps the nosy neighbor ? la Mrs. Kravitz on "Bewitched," or a pet bird who flies between the two houses, or a cat like Pyewacket who runs away and has to be rescued; maybe, instead, it's a "maguffin" or semi-valuable object like the Maltese Falcon. These "minor" things are not so minor, and their scenes are not mere incidents, because the items or characters keep reappearing, helping to complete the circle of the story.
In the film "Bell, Book, and Candle," the cat familiar Pyewacket goes over to the Jimmy Stewart character's house and causes him to march over to the Kim Novak character's shop to return him? The cat also causes several other events in the tale connected to reconciliations or another fight. When he runs away, the viewers know that Gillian has lost her powers from being in love. All these functions bolt the story together at places where we'd otherwise have no connections (or maybe have to rely on coincidences).
Character "business," "tics," or "tags" may also add to the wholeness of the whole. Perhaps a characteristic little bit of action like Shalanna tugging at her earlobe when she's lying can irritate Drynxnyrd at first, until he figures out that she's always fibbing (she wouldn't go further than a compassionate white lie) or telling the incomplete story when she does it, and this can reveal to the hero later that she's not telling him the whole truth about that old boyfriend of hers who shows up later. It is something that starts out as characterization, and then the reader giggles when she sees it, but later she exclaims, "Of course! I should have expected that to be useful."
In Mary Stewart's THE GABRIEL HOUNDS, the narrator always reacts to the presence of a cat, even when she can't see it. This is established in an early chapter, when a kitten spooks her. Later in the book, she realizes that another character, supposedly a relative of hers, is an impostor, because the real relative shares this reaction--but the impostor doesn't even jump when a cat walks into the room. This one's related to all the movie scenes in which a character is "passing" for another character UNTIL the dog growls or snaps at him or her, and people realize that can't be good old Harryette. . . .
A plot bolt basically ties one strand of the plot into an entirely different strand. This may be the only thing that makes the subplots related. It's the realization of the reader that the romantic subplot that's been running through the last five chapters has just crossed paths with the minding-the-store thread, and they mesh. The reader doesn't see it coming in advance, but once it's there, it's inevitable. It's the only way things *could* be. And the book is praised as "tightly plotted."
Next time, the PLOT NUT (nope, that's not a fan who has all the plotlines in the old STAR TREK series memorized) and how it ties these bolts together so we have a framework that makes sense and the reader gets a wild ride through the tale.