5 Ways A Sub-Plot Improves Your Story

5 Ways A Sub-Plot Improves Your Story


In this post, we look at five ways a sub-plot improves your story.

Not Second Place, But Side By Side

There is one element in plotting our story that we sometimes forget or neglect—the sub-plot.

The sub-plot is what rounds out a novel or screenplay, informing it with another shade of emotional colour to deliver a satisfying and entertaining experience.

It is the parallel narrative that allows the writer to explore theme, deepen characterisation, add tension or allow some relief. The sub-plot helps us understand the characters a bit better and gives a better sense of pace.

5 Ways A Sub-Plot Improves Your Story

  1. Love and other pursuits. In a thriller, the love story is often the subplot. Why? It gives breathing space for the action and shows a human side to the hero. In a romance, the sub-plot is used to explore the hero or heroine’s work, family or social elements. Why? It stops the love story from becoming cloying or overwhelming.
  2. Against the grain. You can use the sub-plot to contradict the main plot, to show contrast or deliver irony. For example: a megalomaniac architect is building the city’s tallest building, but his relationship with his family is falling to the ground. The sub-plot shows how flaws affect the most powerful people.
  3. Echo an idea. You can create a sub-plot that resonates with the themes inherent in the main storyline or creates subtle text. For example: a policewoman is brutally attacked and must find the assailant. In the sub-plot, she helps out at her daughter’s school to build paper butterflies. The sub-plot highlights the fragility and resilience of beauty.
  4. Throw in an obstacle. You can use the sub-plot to complicate the life of your main character. For example: A top chef is preparing to open a new restaurant for a wealthy client. Instead of focusing on this success, he is lumped with a chatty and incompetent assistant. The sub-plot adds humour and shows the chef that he should lighten up in life.
  5. Close threads. Of course, you can have more than one sub-plot, but remember a sub-plot should never overwhelm the main story or confuse the audience or reader. Keep the two plot threads so tightly intertwined that they flow seamlessly and coherently.

A great sub-plot should help you sustain your plot and illuminate the central characters. It is there to support—and never steal away—from your core story.

LOOK! If you want an in-depth lesson on sub-plots with exercises, please buy The 6 Sub-Plots Workbook.

Source for Image

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:
  1. Setting – Are we there yet?
  2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
  3. The Inconsolable Writer – From Distraction to Inspiration in Four Easy Steps

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