Writing 101: Sub-Plots

Every book revolves around a central plot or theme, or should attempt to do so. But don't just stop there. Add new layers to your book, and more dimensions, with sub-plots.

Stories within Stories

Also referred to as side stories, sub-plots add extra story to your book. This can help you in a lot of different ways. Let's count them: 
  • More pages: If you're falling short of your desired word count, adding sub-plots will give you extra pages of text. 
  • Character development: Sub-plots are a perfect way to develop your characters, and make them feel more real. If your characters are learning and growing because of your sub-plots, then you're writing them the right way.
  • Complexity: Adding sub-plots adds more layers to the book, making it richer and more complex. More complex stories are often more rewarding stories, but there's a danger here as well. You don't want to muddy up your main plot too much, or make your story too convoluted. When it comes to sub-plots, a light touch is usually best.
Sub-plots can be very simple, taking place over just one scene, or become a long thread that weaves through the entire book. There are lots of good reasons to add sub-plots, but don't add them just to be adding stuff at random. Like every single word in your book, the sub-plots have to add something tangible. Make them relevant to the characters and to the overall plot. 

Always be wary of over-writing. Include sub-plots only when they bring something important to the book. Otherwise, don't do it.

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  1. I'm always a little wary with writing sub-plots. I know they add a great deal to the story, but I'm always afraid I'll loose track of either the main plot that way or that the sub plot never comes to its conclusion

  2. Good points, Arlette! An unresolved sub plot can be a big problem for readers.

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