When you’re writing a novel, or a longer short story, you’ve got an opportunity to improve your reader engagement by developing one or more subplots.
Subplots add depth, detail, tension and intrigue to the whole story. They are a crucial part of your story, but often mis-used or mis-understood.
Purpose of Subplots
There are three main objectives to achieve with a subplot in your novel writing.
1. they add variety and interest to the story. No one wants to be bored to tears with flat characters and predictable plotting. The subplot allows you and the reader to explore some other interesting aspects of the story.
2. they support the main story line. If Shrek’s main story line is to get his swamp back, and to do that he has to rescue Princess Fiona, then having him fall in love with her is clearly a supporting subplot.
We often see characters behaving a little differently when they’re focused on a subplot. eg our action hero might slay dragons by day, but it’s the romantic interlude with the princess that brings out his tender side.
3. They introduce complications (tension) that affect the main story line. See the example above. Whenever romance is involved, there is lots of tension!
Types of Novel Subplots
To determine which type of subplot might work best in your novel, consider the different types of subplots you can explore:
1. Romantic - the tension develops here as characters fall in and out of love. So whenever your main character’s subplot involves romance, you know you can count on lots of interest.
2. Character conflict - tension appears when conflict arises between secondary character, so allowing these other characters to confront each other can add lots of interest.
3. Expository - this type of subplot provides background to events that have led the main characters to action. crucial, formative events in a character’s life can be brought out through subplot flashbacks, or visits to old haunts, or any number of ways.
we can use the subplot to weave in this background material.
Flashbacks are useful here, for example.
Which Type of Subplot Should I Choose for my Novel?
The subplot you choose should relate clearly to the main story goal. That way, whatever interesting things you want to do - romance, character conflicts, or background - you know they’ll work to support your main story. This is the key to an effective subplot: make it relevant to the main story line.
No matter what kind of subplot you choose to introduce in your story, keep it simple and focused. It should always reveal something more about the characters and it should always support the main story line. That’s it! Keep it simple, and your readers will love you.
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