Writing Parallel Plots and Conflicts

Image Copyright Warner Bros. 2002

It’s no secret that as mother and daughter, Lorelai and Rory have a ton in common. It’s also pretty clear that Amy Sherman-Palladino planned for their lives to mirror each other in many ways despite Lorelai’s burning desire to raise her daughter entirely differently from how she was raised.

While an entire thesis could be written about that one thematic concept and how it shows up throughout the series, let’s focus on the episode level: that’s where we can subplots and main characters connect in and overlap in ways that evoke strong emotions, connect themes, and keep the audience riveted.

From the very first scene, Gilmore Girls crams a ton of information into a small space without it feeling forced, there for the audience’s benefit. How’d they do that, and how can we?

Image © Warner Brothers Pictures 2000

One of the easiest writing sins to commit, and one of the hardest to fix, is the dreaded info dump.

What is it? Piling on information that the reader really, really needs, but doing it in a way that ruins the story. The two most likely ways of messing this up are by either making the story’s momentum come to a screeching halt, or by shoving the information into the story in an unnatural way. As you’d expect, Amy Sherman-Palladino does neither in Gilmore Girls, not even in the very first scene of the entire series.

First Scenes Are Rife with Info-dump Possibilities

They’re the first time we see anything of the story, the characters, the world. So much information the audience needs!

Before you start cramming…

Welcome to In Omnia Paratus!

If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, you probably know that the title comes from the Life and Death Brigade, and that our subtitle, Life Is Short. Write Well, is a riff on a line from Lorelai (the original: Life is short. Talk fast.)

Posts will be twice a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That’s when you’ll find writing lessons drawn from the hit Warner Bros show and the writing genius that is Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator and writer of Gilmore Girls.

Who Are We?

We’re both writers and fans of the show, having binged it multiple times each. We’ve both taught at and helped run numerous writing conferences, and we love the written word.

Or: Don’t Be Dumb or Cruel

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

A new version of short generational memory (or lack of basic understanding of history) has reared its head, and it’s not only ugly.

It’s also stupid and dangerous.

And 100% counter to what Christ taught. We’ll get to that later, but first:

A quick look at the history of infectious disease.

Ignaz Semmelweis (b. 1818) worked with medical students in Vienna in a position that today in the U.S. we’d call chief resident. His students often worked in the cadaver lab right before checking on the women in the maternity ward who were recovering from giving birth.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

That’s Literally NOT What We Believe

Oh, I get it. I do. I’ve fallen victim to the idea. Even as a child, I worried for the salvation of those around me. You know the drill, that in heaven, our family table might have an empty seat.

That someone we love won’t make it.

This concept is so messed up that it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, how sad of an excuse for heaven would it be if we’re sad there?

Having that kind of misunderstanding of the Plan of Salvation and Latter-day Saint beliefs in the afterlife are understandable . . . …

You Really Do Want the Pages Covered in Ink

Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

Over the years, I’ve judged various writing contests, from a local Halloween-themed contest, which I judged for over a decade, to an international contest, and a bunch in between.

Over the years, several commonalities stood out about the entries.

I could almost guarantee that relatively new writers would have many of the following problems:

  • Point of View issues: No point of view. Or poor execution of point of view. Or some funky version of an omniscient narrator. None of which worked.
  • Telling instead of showing, which is especially weak when it’s during moments that should be tense or emotional.
  • Punctuation mistakes. Not only are sentences punctuated incorrectly (which editors hate)…

Knowing How It Works Is Crucial

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

Back in the 80s, I attended elementary school in a country with a state religion, which meant Christmas and Easter services at the nearby Lutheran church, weekly messages from a pastor piped through the school’s PA system, and regular religion classes. All very foreign to me as a child used to the U.S. system, where church and state are strictly separated.

(My mom loves to tell the story about how I said that the Lutheran services were really weird to me, and after I understood the language, they were even weirder. …

And How to Avoid Them

Photo by Malik Owais on Unsplash

Several years ago, I pulled out an ancient manuscript of mine and read through the first few pages. At first I was pleasantly surprised; the writing and dialogue weren’t too bad. I still thought the language was fresh and fun.

One big problem, though: the point of view was nonexistent.

While some of my favorite authors, like L M Montgomery and Charles Dickens, could get away with either not having a point of view or using an omniscient point of view, that method is far less likely to work today.

Omniscient POV went so entirely out of fashion that even…

(And What’s a Pantser?)

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

You’ve likely heard the debate between two basic camps of writers: those who swear by outlining and those who shun it, instead discovering their story organically as they go.

Which is right?

Well, both. And neither.

Outliners swear by the idea that if you think through the entire story from start to finish, you’ll be able to write a pretty solid book in your first draft. The story will have a better shape, it won’t be directionless, and you won’t waste time wandering around and driving into ruts and having to back up. …

A Simple Tool for Ratcheting the Tension & Keeping Your Readers

Photo by Nick Abrams on Unsplash

I’ve read countless manuscripts from beginning writers that go something like this:

Mary and Steve sit around talking and talking and talking. Maybe they’re eating something and they talk about the food. Great cookies, he says. Thanks, she replies. I tried a new recipe.

They might be walking around the streets of some city (often New York, maybe San Francisco), and we get the surroundings described a lot. (Honking cars, smog, whatever.)

We have background information on the characters’ lives dropped in from the sky — what’s often called an info dump.


I yawn. At this point, I keep reading…

Annette Lyon

USA Today bestselling & award-winning author of women’s fiction & romance. Word nerd. Chocoholic. Mom. https://taplink.cc/annette.lyon

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store