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getting on track with subplots

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Dec. 11, 2020

A subplot is a co-current narrative that runs alongside the main plot, often providing context, character development or further world building. They can be used to build further tension, explore other perspectives or themes.

The theme is what the overall story means. A subplot allows you to lend more emotional weight to your story, as well provide reasons as to why your readers should care about the main story. For instance if two themes of your story are, there are multiple sides to one story and there are no true winners in war/conflict, your subplot can explore how the other side of a conflict, argument or event feels in comparison to the main protagonist, thus adding to the complex, emotional weight of the story.

It’s important to remember that the subplot must be relevant to the main narrative. Whether that be highlighting the growing tensions within the world or a character moment that sheds light on the dubious background of the protagonist,the subplot is there to support what the main plot is doing or trying to say. By utilising the subplot to provide further context to a conflict provides a future dilemma for the protag later, thus keeping your reader engaged.

The subplot is also where you can explore the reasons why the dear reader should be invested in the story without taking too much away from the main focus of the narrative. It can also provide much needed length if you're struggling without the middle section feeling like it's full of filler.

How have you planned your subplots? Do you think they are necessary for a story? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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bravo1102 at 3:04AM, Dec. 12, 2020

Everything feeds back into the main story. Every subplot should matter to the main storyline. The protagonist may be in the shower, but she'll find a few things awaiting her attention once she steps out. Watch a Rod Serlinf story and see how there's nothing there that doesn't need to be. Everything matters and expands on the main story. That is tight writing and a story where you can read a 100 pages or watch 45 minutes of a movie and not realize that the time has passed.

Banes at 11:20AM, Dec. 11, 2020

Yeah when it matches the theme it just feels right, and when it doesn’t it probably just feels weird/disconnected. Also a handy way to allow time to pass in the other story! When the MC is in the shower like KAM mentions xD

KAM at 4:34AM, Dec. 11, 2020

Years ago in Writer's Digest Lawrence Block was writing of a discussion he and Donald Westlake (I think) were having about subplots and neither really seemed to understand the term. After some thought and discussion, I think Westlake said, "Subplot is what happens when the main character is in the shower." ;-)

Corruption at 12:32AM, Dec. 11, 2020

Another use of subplot is to arrange for things to happen that affect the main plot without seeming to be contrived. For example, if somone acts OoC in the main plot, it may be because of something happening in a subplot (such as a character who is normally on the ball being distracted because of the stress his job putson his marriage) They can be used to further the plot, cause problems, or even be planted to create a spin-off latter, among other things.

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