Not too long ago, I was watching my favorite TV show, ‘Bones’, and while I frequently think about the episodes after I’m done, this particular episode got me as a writer. The episode was no. 3 from the 5th season, entitled ‘The Plain in the Prodigy’. After the credits rolled and I was getting ready for bed, my mind kept mulling the plot and subplot over in my mind, and I noticed something.
Not only the plot, but the subplot, had the same themes going on.
Most of the time when I watch ‘Bones’ or my other favorite show, ‘House’, I don’t notice similarities between the main plot and the subplot in a given episode. ‘The Plain in the Prodigy’ was unique in this aspect.
In the episode, Booth and ‘Bones’ are tracking down the murderer of an Amish young man who’d been on his rumspringa, a period of ‘running around’ before becoming a member of the Amish church (see Wikipedia) usually away from the community, as it is in this case. The subplot revolves around supporting character Camille and her foster daughter, Michelle, who’s about 16, and is getting ready for a formal dance at her high school, and is debating becoming intimate with her boyfriend, 18, following the dance. (Camille, by the way, is horrified by this, as is Booth. Kudos to the writers on this episode. While they didn’t necessarily have the most pro-abstinence way of handling the situation, it was handled in a manner that made it an acceptable alternative. But, I digress.)
While some may not see the correlation, the writer in me noticed that both of these characters–Michelle and the murder victim–were going through traditional ‘coming of age’ rituals and trials for both their communities.
The connection between the two may be light, but it’s still there, and it’s got me thinking about how often we intentionally intertwine our subplots to be related to the main plot of our novels. Most of the time, I don’t see them being intertwined, especially in series books. But, isn’t it cool when they do? Doesn’t it make a bigger impact when the characters are dealing with essentially the same issue, but from different angles, kind of like in that episode of ‘Bones’?
While I haven’t intentionally done this in any of my novels, I’m going to be giving it some thought, and I’m going to try to see if there’s a way I can beef up my subplots so my characters are being challenged on the same topic from different angles. I hope you’ll do the same.
Photo of ‘Bones: The Plain in the Prodigy‘ from Fox.com/Bones