Layer it on.
Plot layers. One of my favorite books on the craft of writing is Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. It’s a wonderful tool to use after you’ve completed your first draft.
One thing Mr. Maass states is there are never too many plot layers. Plot layers are story lines that happen to the main characters. Subplots are story lines that happen to other characters.
In the book, One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, the main character Jess is a single mom working two jobs and can’t make ends meet. She’s a special single mom because one of her two kids is her ex-husband’s son from another relationship. Her ex took off two years earlier claiming he couldn’t deal with life and needed time to get his act together. Her daughter has a chance to attend a private school for gifted math students except Jess doesn’t have the money to send her, but if she can get Tanzie to the Math Olympiad on time her daughter might win a scholarship. But Jess has another problem. She doesn’t have a proper car or a license. She’s forced to take her ex’s beat up Rolls from the garage where it has sat untouched for two years. When she gets pulled over by the police, the car gets towed and her and her family are stranded on the side of the road when our hero steps in and offers them a ride. It’s going to take four days to get to the Olympiad and along the way Jess develops feelings for our hero. Those feelings prove to be a problem.
How many plot layers does Jess have? By my count. 7. Moyes does a wonderful job of weaving Jess’ plot layers around the subplots of the other characters and through out the book the reader is turning the page wondering how Jess is going to handle the next crisis thrown at her. Because every character in this story is flawed and real and Jess cares deeply about her children’s happiness she’ll do whatever it takes to make them so.
When you’ve finished with your first draft ask yourself how many layers does your main character have? Can you add more? I bet you can. How do those plot layers work with the subplot of the other characters? Does everything have a purpose?