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What is a Subplot?

In literary terms, a subplot is a secondary storyline or plot that occurs at the same time as the primary plot or storyline. It might be referred to as a “B story” because it will run parallel to the main idea of the narrative and support it in some way. Subplots can be used to connect the main plots of an idea, bring in additional characters, or be used as a mechanism to add a twist to the primary plot.

In other words, a subplot adds another layer of realism into your story. Let’s face it: life doesn’t always move forward in the way we expect. People are juggling multiple tasks at once virtually every day. By incorporating this aspect of life into a story, it creates an interrupted narrative that adds validity to a fictional world.

If you’re trying to add a subplot into a narrative you’ve created, here is what you’re going to want to do.

#1. Add your subplot through an episodic format.

It seems so simple to just add a chapter here and there that follows the subplot, but that is an effective mechanism for adding depth to a story. Mark Twain used this method all of the time. As long as the subplot works with the primary plot and eventually connects the dots for the reader, there isn’t an issue in skipping back and forth.

For this method to work, you must avoid transitions. Tell a new story. Then return to your main story.

#2. Create a parallel world.

Another common method of adding a subplot is to create a separate, but equal parallel world for another character. It’s often seen in stories with the protagonist and the antagonist being specifically followed in the third person limited voice. Each story runs its course, with the final conflict in the narrative being the two plots crashing together into one final conclusion.

With this method, you’ll need to switch between subplots in an equal manner so the narrative remains balanced. Always start with the primary plot to avoid confusion.

#3. Use plot convergence for added suspense.

Sometimes this method is referred to as “swallowtailing” the subplot. It’s like having a parallel subplot, but instead of the two worlds coming together at the end of the story, they come together at some point in the middle.

The advantage of using this method of subplot addition is that it allows different characters or groups a chance to interact for longer periods of time.

Then there is an outcome that all of the subplots must accept in order to move forward. This allows you to begin a new story within your narrative as you explore the benefits and consequences from the conflict that occurs when the two subplots come together.

#4. Be omniscient, but from a limited point of view.

[ctt template=”8″ link=”7ed17″ via=”yes” ]If you have multiple characters that you want a reader to get to know in a personal way and each character contributes to the main plot, then moving in and out of each narrative is an effective way to weave multiple subplots together. @networlding[/ctt]writing-7 There is more freedom of movement in this type of writing. You can change to a different subplot at will.

The most effective way to use this omniscience is to write from a first person point of view for the main character, but add the subplots into the story through a third person perspective. This keeps the narrative consistent, but still personal.

#5. Create bookends with your plots.

For a narrative to be entertaining, there needs to be an unexpected twist that occurs for the reader. You can make this happen with a subplot by introducing it to the reader at the beginning of the story, but then not address the subplot until the end of the story. That’s why this method of inclusion is called “creating bookends.”

This method works when you’re able to add some foreshadowing to the subplot throughout the middle of the narrative without really addressing the secondary story in a head-on fashion. By the time the reader makes it to the end of the story, there’s a good chance they have forgotten about the subplot in the conscious mind, but not in their subconscious memory.

Tie the stories together and the reader will be delighted because the outcome makes logical sense and they realized it just in the nick of time.

What is a subplot? It is a way to add another layer of depth to the tapestries of your writing. Give the reader another story to follow and you’ll have a better chance to captivate them, from start to finish.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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