Reading a recent interview with Lucy, HERE, I noticed the following reply she made to a question. It sums up her book pretty well, which is hard to do (when you write a lot it’s hard to sum it up quickly for somebody, like the elevator pitch or whatever).
However, it also demonstrates the value of subplots and putting your character up a tree and throwing rocks at them:
The most pressing matter is of course to recover the missing painting, but this is complicated by (2) unwanted police attention in the form of two nosey detectives who are most certainly not welcome sticking their noses into College business. (3) Head Porter is facing mysterious financial difficulties and his personal life seems to become more convoluted by the minute. (4) The Dean is offered an attractive proposition but is torn between his loyalties to Old College and his personal ambitions. (5) Our plucky heroine Deputy Head Porter is trying to hold it all together whilst being stalked by a shadowy, unseen stranger whose motives are highly dubious. There is also the matter of (6) an unexplained death, but no one seems to be too interested in that, for some reason.
Six things going in, ALL of them pretty important.
They aren’t minor stories, they’re the poles that hold up the tent.
The main story is about recovering the painting. That takes us from chapter 1 to “the end.”
But each of the other stories is almost important in its own right.
Which is why her stories are so good.