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The Evil Subplot of Doom

by Kellyn Roth |
March 2, 2016
Subplots are, essentially, smaller stories that interweave with the main plot of a novel to add to it.
A subplot in my novel The Dressmaker’s Secret is … um … come to think of it, The Dressmaker’s Secret doesn’t really have subplots, does it? Or maybe it does and I’ve forgotten.
New example! 😛
In The Hunger Games, the main plot was Katniss Everdeen winning the Games and not getting killed. A subplot was the romance between her and Peeta Mellark.
In Pride and Prejudice, the main plot was Elizabeth Bennet’s romance with Mr. Darcy. A subplot was Jane’s romance with Mr. Bingley.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the main plot was the trial of a wrongly accused African-American man. A subplot was Jem and Scout’s mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley.
I think you get the point. 🙂
Subplots are very important to many – most – books.

What should a subplot do?

  • It should connect to the main plot. A subplot that has nothing to do with the main plot is meaningless and will only serve to make you lose readers. If you’re running off on rabbits trails, your reader is setting the book down.

  • It should move the story forward. As every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, every word in your book should! 🙂

  • It should keep your reader interested, not only in the subplot, but in the main plot as well. Otherwise, your reader is going to put the book down … or write an unfavorable review … or both. 😉

  • It should be resolved. If your book is a first in a series, an unresolved subplot may be all right, though.

A few Do’s and Don’ts

Do create subplots that involve secondary characters. Don’t create subplots that involve characters that have nothing to do with the main character.
Do use characters, settings, and events that overlap. Don’t use characters, settings, and events completely unrelated to the main plot’s characters, settings, and events.
Do use the subplot to create anticipation and foreshadowing. Don’t pull the reader away from the main plot for too long.
Do make subplots interesting, creative, and three-dimensional. Don’t make subplots too complicated so that your readers will get lost in them.
Remember, the plot that really matters is the main plot. Remember that, though subplots can be very useful device’s for an author, they are also, after all, only subplots.
I used to put way to many subplots into my novels (and still do sometimes).
One example is a novel I wrote several years ago, The Heirs of the Trunk. I was recently going over it, and I realized that the main plot had become completely buried in subplot after subplot after subplot! It wasn’t a very good plot to begin with … but it was completely ruined by the many rabbit trails I surrounded it with.
Oftentimes a subplot should be made into its own novel … not included in another, suffocating both that plot and the one it’s trying support.
To sum up, subplots can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use them. So use them correctly! 😀
Until next time,
~Kellyn Roth, Infamous Subplotting Author

What do you think of my thoughts?

7 Responses

  1. I think I just have two plots that go together like two-ply yarn, know what I mean? Not a plot and sub-plot, because they’re both strong but one doesn’t override the other. (do they? 🙂

  2. Ooh, nice post! I like the layout with all the pictures and everything, and it flowed together really well, not to mention all of the great advice in there. 🙂

What do you think of my thoughts?

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