Smoke and Mirrors

27 Sep

One of the best examples of smoke and mirrors is the TV show
Castle. Rick Castle is a pain in the
neck to beautiful homicide Detective Kate Beckett. He lives with his
very smart daughter and his actress mother who lost her fortune to a thieving

At the office, someone is always
getting killed, hence the homicide part. Whatever the motive for the murder,
you can bet the theme is mirrored at home with either the mother or the
daughter. In other words, Rick learns a lesson at work he later applies to a
situation at home. It’s all so neat and easy. Warning: this is not for the faint of spirit. The Castle stories
are so well written they have you wondering, how in the world can they possibly
tie these two situations together? You know they will, and the way they do is
half of the show. Rick comes home and magically fixes everything. Unlike real
life when the dad comes home and adds to the stress and confusion (Do not tell
my husband I wrote that. It’ll only add to the stress and confusion around

One episode that comes to mind was when
the daughter, Alexis, was uninvited to her best friend’s party, but Alexis’s
boyfriend wasn’t. The murder, as it turned out, was due to misplaced jealousy.
The reason Alexis was disinvited to
the party was because her best friend
was jealous of all the time Alexis spent with her boyfriend.

The trick is to have your subplot
mirror your main plot. For you pantsers…good luck. I know you can do it, but as
a plotter, I just don’t know how. For you plotters this is where all those
notecards, sticky notes and random scraps of paper come in handy.

It’s a step-by-step process.

  1. Decide
    what the main theme of the book is. This is not always easy. Writers have a
    tendency to write the same theme in each book.
  2. Now
    figure our two different ways to show the same thing.
  3. Choose
    the stronger idea for the main plot and less dynamic for the subplot.
  4. Populate
    each plot with the appropriate characters.
  5. Now
    the hard part. You have to come up with a unique way to tie the two plots
    together in the end. This usually happens after the black moment.

It all looks so easy. Just follow the
bouncing ball from step one through step five and you’re set. Ah, if writing
were only that easy.

You all know how things change in a
story. I hate when I’m writing along and a brilliant idea comes to me. If I
only change this one thing, the whole story will be so much better…Pulitzer
better. The problem with my bright ideas is they’re never come in a capsule. I
can’t just plop them in and the rest of the story flows along nicely. Nope. I
end up having to go back to the beginning and add my clever bits in flashes.

This has a tendency to screw with my
well thought out plot and of course, the subplot. With my new idea, I bust out
the note cards and filter in the changes. If I don’t, I’ll run the risk of my
flash of genius losing its touch on the rest of the story and thus, and the
dramatic punch will never happen.

Where does the smoke come in, you ask?
That’s the haze forming around my head as I burn brain cells trying to figure
out how the story will come together in the end.

Do you mirror your themes? If so, how
do you do it?


Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Idaho


18 responses to “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. johannaharness

    September 27, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    Great post, Peggy. It looks so much easier than it is, yeah? I recognize that haze.

  2. Carley Ash

    September 27, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Great information that I’d never considered. Thanks.

  3. Janis McCurry

    September 27, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Those pesky brilliant ideas will get you every time.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 27, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      The flash is sometimes blinding.

  4. Meredith Conner

    September 27, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    Can’t stand those brilliant flashes. I love the idea Peggy! I’ll have to try and work it into my next book – I couldn’t handle a flash of brilliance now that I can see the light at the end of this book 🙂

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 27, 2011 at 11:04 AM

      They seem to come at exactly wrong time, don’t they? A new book is always a great time to begin again.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    September 27, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    Those darn flashes – hot and otherwise – really muck up a well-considered plot. I’ve discovered herbs to manage the first and a new writing software (Writeway Pro) helps with the second. 😉 Another great post, Peggy.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 27, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      Darn those flashes! I’m going to give Writeway Pro a shot. Thanks.

  6. Kathy Bennett

    September 27, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Hi Peggy;

    Great article. I know my books all seem to revolved around the theme of trust. I’m able to mirror them in the internal and external conflict of the main characters. I don’t know how it happens – it’s not something I plan…it just ‘is’. At least that’s how it is in my debut book and now the next book (still in revisions).

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 27, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      I know, I do the same thing. It tells alot about who we are and what we value. Thanks for dropping by.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    September 27, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Stop, Peggy. You’re making my head hurt. Why can’t this be easy? Why? At least you’ve reminded us to “marry” our subplot with the plot.

    • Peggy Staggs

      September 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM

      Lynn, Lynn, Lynn…if it were easy everyone would do it.

  8. P. L. Parker

    September 28, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Brain is whirling – more so than normal!

  9. Peggy Staggs

    September 28, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    It’s a lot to think about.

  10. Clarissa Southwick

    October 1, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    Great advice, Peggy. I am in awe of your subplots and scraps of paper 🙂

  11. Mary Vine

    October 2, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Good blog, Peggy. It’s good stuff for me to keep in mind as I write my new wip.


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