Thread the Hook: Plot Threads & Finding Nemo

On my last post, I discussed my process of character, setting, and plot sketching.  Since then, I’ve created character sheets for my POV characters, developed my setting (which was fairly quick, considering I’m using the same small town I created for my last manuscript), and I’ve started to develop my basic plot sketch.

Next item:  Plot Threads.

Every writer has their own method for developing and keeping track of plot threads.  The number of plot threads you have will depend on a number of things, like complexity, number of POV’s, and the length of your manuscript.  Having too many threads will increase your word count and could confuse your readers.  Not having enough can leave your manuscript feeling one-dimensional, which isn’t good either.  Unfortunately, the only way to figure out the number that works for you is through trial and error.  I’ve had to go back and delete quite a few plot threads in my time to cut down word count.

So for today, I thought it would be fun to take one of my favorite Disney movies, Finding Nemo, and demonstrate some common threads:

1.      The Main Plot

This is the entire idea of the story, the whole reason for writing it, what everything else is working to achieve.  In Finding Nemo, the main plot would be Marlin’s quest to find his lost son.  Fairly self-explanatory.

2.      Subplots

These are all the sideline stories.  In Finding Nemo, some of the subplots include Dory’s short term memory, Gill’s desire to get back to the ocean, and Bruce’s support group for his fellow sharks (I’m havin’ fish tonight!).


I find subplots are most effective when they are used as tools to push the main plot along.  My subplots always collide together at some point, whether to create a mess for the characters or to help them find their way out of one.  Gill knows to send Nemo down the drain because “all drains lead to the ocean.”  Dory can’t remember Nemo’s name, but when she hears P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sidney, she knows exactly who Nemo is.  And it is Marlin’s tangle with the sharks that sends news to Nemo in the fish tank.

3.      Romance Thread

Though I don’t write strictly romance, I love a good romance thread.  Sometimes I have a couple.  I consider my romance thread a little bonus for the reader, but if you write romance it’s a necessity.  Although there isn’t a romance thread in Nemo, you could possibly look at Marlin’s growing friendship with Dory in a similar light.


4.      Themes

I LOVE themes.  I love linking them together and finding ways to represent them in my stories.  I love laying the little gems to be found later.  I love discovering how other writers portray their themes.  I love…Okay, I could seriously go on for hours about theme.  I’ll save that topic for another day.

Because my writing tends toward the literary side of things, I spend a lot of time developing my themes.  They are as important to the main plot/idea of my stories as anything else is.  Perhaps your style lends itself more to a heavy external plot and you won’t focus on theme as much as I do.

Trust is a major theme in Finding Nemo.  Marlin learning to trust his son and his new friend Dory, and Nemo learning to trust himself and his new fish tank mates.  Acceptance is another theme, demonstrated through Nemo’s and Gill’s “lucky fins,” as well as Marlin growing to accept Dory’s short term memory.


So there you have it — the main plot threads.  Once I’ve established my threads, I’ll start looking at where they fit into the arc of my story and my character development.  How do they work together to achieve my overall goal, and when is the best time to merge them together?  This could take some time, depending on how complex my story is.  Hopefully I will get through this in time for my next post, and then I can start plotting scene by scene!

What about you?  Do you plan all your threads from the beginning or see what comes up? I’d love to hear about it!

Jenna P


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