One of the most fun things in writing fiction is creating subplots.
Unfortunately when creating subplots it’s easy to (literally) lose the main thread of the plot. When this happens, readers stop reading. Let’s look at some tips to help.
When you’re writing fiction, your primary aim is to keep readers entertained, and reading
Firstly, let’s be realistic. Subplots require words. If you need those words for your primary plot and character development, keep your subplots short. Also consider that if you’re writing a short story or novella, you almost certainly won’t have space for a subplot.
Subplots are easy. All you need to remember is that a subplot isn’t just an unconnected story dumped into your book to bulk it up; it’s a way of adding richness to your story. A subplot always relates directly to your main story in some way.
Let’s look at how subplots can help when you’re writing fiction.
1. Subplots increase the tension and keep readers reading
No matter the genre, you need to keep readers entertained because they have many options for entertainment today. So your primary reason for developing a subplot is to increase tension. You want readers turning the pages wondering what will happen next.
You can manage subplots any way you choose, but I like to hint at the subplot in the Setup phase of a novel (the first 25%), then develop it, and have it alternate with the primary plot.
When you do this, you can hit an OMG! moment in your primary plot, and switch to your subplot for a couple of scenes to increase tension.
2. Use subplots for a change of pace: to add humor, or romance
You may love chocolate cake, but you don’t want to make an entire meal of it.
So, whatever your genre and main plot, a subplot can add a needed change of pace. Shakespeare often added humorous scenes to his tragedies. When there’s too much gloom and doom, you need a contrast so that readers appreciate the next horror scene.
Whatever your genre, humor is always welcome. Try creating a character or two for comic relief.
Consider adding a romantic subplot, if you’re writing in a genre (science fiction, thrillers, mysteries) which doesn’t need romance. In these genres, a romantic subplot not only aids character development, it also provides a useful change of pace.
3. Develop your characters: think opposites
Have you seen the movie The Odd Couple? It’s a gem because it’s the perfect illustration of a strategy you can use when you’re writing fiction to make your characters memorable.
Let’s say you’re writing a mystery. Your subplot could involve your sleuth’s hapless sidekick, as he tries to do something or other. The sidekick is the opposite of your sleuth — think Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
You may be writing a romance. A secondary character could be the polar opposite of your heroine or hero. Think Scarlett and Melanie in Gone With The Wind, and Jane and Lydia in Pride & Prejudice.
Not only does creating opposites help with your character development, the contrast between characters provides a change of pace.
Subplots make writing fiction easier
The change of pace which a subplot provides is often as beneficial to authors as it is to readers.
If you get stuck when you’re writing a novel, explore creating subplots. If a subplot adds nothing, you can remove it later.
Have fun with subplots, and write on. 🙂
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