In my last post, I mentioned two literary novels that I’d read on my vacation and found…uninspiring. The second of these books was the better of the two, largely because it had an amazing ending.

That richly satisfying ending transfigured the whole rest of the book, which I’d found a bit of a slog while I was reading.

As I ruminated why I’d felt this way, I realized that only the narrator hinged all the various subplots together, which made the book feel really disconnected and scattered. (This may have been the author’s intent, but as a reader I found it off-putting and distracting.)

But in spite of the slog and the randomness of the story, I’m actually glad I was stuck with no other reading material, because it meant I got to read that beautiful ending. I just wish the first 200 pages of the book had been as compelling and powerful.

Moral: All subplots must relate to the main plot and to each other in multiple places. Otherwise the story feels disjointed, the subplots seem tacked on, and the book feels thin. The connections among plot and subplots can be symbolic or visual (recurring images, for instance), but they must be clear, and they need to appear early on and keep building throughout the novel, so it feels like a tightly woven whole.