What Is A Subplot?

The plot is the why of a story. It’s what grounds the action while simultaneously propelling it forward; it provides context for the characters and their actions. So, what exactly is a subplot and how does it fit in?

A subplot is a secondary plot in a novel, typically used to help further develop characters and themes. The difference between a plot and a subplot lies in the fact that subplots are much smaller in scale.

While it may not hold as much water as the main plot, subplots can be used in a variety of ways and can serve different purposes.

If you want to add depth to your story, consider adding a conflict-oriented subplot. A secondary conflict between your characters not only adds depth, but it can also help you move the story forward in ways that you couldn’t otherwise with only your main plot.

An example of a subplot would be the romance between a main character and a secondary character. Unless the entire focus of your book is their love story, a romantic storyline would be considered a subplot as it works alongside the overarching main plot of the story.

Cause and effect
If x happens, then y is the result. No, this isn’t an algebra problem; it’s the mechanism you can use to develop a cause and effect subplot. It will act almost as a flashback of sorts, explaining how something came to be in the main plot. Consider it a supplemental backstory to add context to your overall story.

Yin and yang

While your plot is moving in one direction, you can incorporate a subplot that works in the opposite direction. Though they’re completely different, they work together in harmony to drive your storyline forward. Consider giving your main character and a secondary character a fear that they both have to overcome. The way that the two characters handle this same fear can help you develop each character’s storyline.

In order for subplots to make sense in your story, you need to make sure that they cohesively connect to the overall plot. A subplot can’t stand on its own. It needs a solid foundation to work from in order for it to make sense in the context of your book.

Copyright Dorrance Publishing, 2017

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