Subplots are like the side dishes in a well-cooked meal. They add interest, complexity, and variety to your main storyline. But what exactly are subplots? Simply put, they’re secondary stories that run parallel to your primary plot, enhancing it in various ways.
There are several types of subplots you can use to enrich your story. Romantic subplots are common, offering a love interest that can either help or hinder the protagonist. Then you have moral subplots, which focus on a character’s internal struggle with ethical dilemmas. Parallel subplots mirror the main plot but often involve secondary characters. Finally, contrast subplots serve to highlight the main plot by offering a contrasting storyline. For example, if your main plot centers around success achieved through hard work, a contrasting subplot might explore the consequences of taking shortcuts.
Subplots offer a chance for character development, and can heighten the main plot’s drama. For instance, a moral dilemma could make the protagonist’s choices more difficult and the stakes higher. Lastly, subplots can introduce conflict or even comic relief, adding layers to the emotional landscape of your story.
The key to a good subplot is integration. You don’t want your subplot to feel like a separate story; it needs to be woven into the main plot. The timing of when to introduce the subplot is essential. Too early might distract from setting up the main plot, and too late could feel forced. The pacing is just as important. The subplot should advance in parallel to the main plot, culminating in a way that enhances the main story’s climax.
However, tread carefully. One of the biggest mistakes is adding an unrelated subplot that doesn’t serve the main story. All scenes in your novel, including those in the subplot, should advance the story in some way. Character growth, story progression, understanding of motivations – whatever purpose the subplot serves, it does need a purpose.