SUBPLOTS: HOW AND WHEN TO USE THEM
A subplot is subordinate to the main plot of a literary work or film.
The Purposes of Adding a Subplot
- To add depth to and round out other characters
- To deepen the characterization of the main characters by exploring their desires, relationships, life issues, vulnerabilities, and growth
- To affect the main plot and drive the main characters to act in ways they otherwise might not
- To make the story multi-layered
- To help the writer of a long storyline by having more than one plot to sustain the story
- To add to the tension, by steering away from the main plot at a cliff-hanger point, hoping the reader will keep wondering, keep reading until you steer back to the main plot
Types of Subplots
- Parallel: These subplots involve characters who know each other, but these subplots are completely independent of each other or of the main plot.
- Interwoven: These are complex and the outcome of the main plot depends in some way on the outcome of the subplot.
- Comic Relief: Explore humorous situations or add funny secondary characters
- Reflection of Main Plot: Explore a conflict or problem in the main plot, such as secondary characters overcoming obstacles that the main characters need to learn to do
- Contrast: Compare and contrast a character introduced in the main plot
- Complications: Raise the stakes of the main plot by adding physical or emotional intimacy
- Clues: Feed in information to be used later in the main plot, such as in romances and mysteries
How to Write a Subplot
- Create a subplot (or subplots) that will add depth to the main storyline and pull the reader though the story.
- Alternate plot and subplot, such as in alternate chapters.
- Structure a subplot like the main plot, with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Weave the plot and subplot together, advancing each as the story moves forward.
- Make sure the protagonist is the most important character in the story. The secondary character should never outweigh the protagonist or share equal time.
- Subplots should end either right before the main plot, or when the main plot ends.