This post we continue to look at the idea of tiered subplots, their major distinctions, functions, modes of arcing, and prominence in different parts of the story. While 1st Tier subplots are very caught up in the story’s central conflict, 2nd Tier Subplots play a different role.
In my eyes, a 2nd Tier Subplot is often what I think of as a complication plot. In Eleanor and Park, think Tina. Where otherwise things might work out easily for Park and Eleanor, there is Tina. She plays Eleanor’s bully, initially. Her backstory, a former relationship with Park, gives him a socially successful reputation to overcome. Dealing with Tina actually ends up bringing Eleanor and Park closer, and in the end Tina helps shepherd them to safety when on the run from Ritchie. So a 2nd Tier Plot often provides a challenge and an opportunity to grow for the main character(s).
So this 2nd Tier Plot can be a catalyst for a protagonist’s arcing journey, helping him to see things in a new way. It is because of Tina that Park is forced to face his own biases about popularity and choose what counts more for him –reputation or true passion. Sometimes the supporting character involved also shows a small arc of change. Though not developed nearly to the degree of the parental relationships discussed in my last post, Tina does change from a two-dimensional bully who sticks sanitary pads on Eleanor’s gym locker to someone who can show sympathy, someone who even has issues of her own when it comes to growing up, friendship, survival, and romance. My observation has been, though a 2nd Tier plot may be planted early with occasional reminders, it rears its head in Part III of the Hero’s Journey. So though we meet Tina on the bus in Chapter 1, her story comes between Park and Eleanor in Part III just as things get serious for him with Eleanor.
Stay tuned next post for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Tier Subplots and a subplot-summarizing chart!
Great fan art by Simini Blocker!