The Truth About Subplots – 5 Tips To Using A Subplot Successfully

I love reading complex plots and subplots in novels. The twists and turns intrigue me. My favorite authors are those that keep me guessing and surprise me with new twists. One of the best ways to bring in more complex plot potential is by adding a subplot. When done right, the subplot deepens the story. Done poorly, it makes us wonder why the subplot existed.

5 Tips To Using A Subplot Successfully:

1.  To develop a strong POV subplot, you need to have a longer novel with at least 70,000 words. Usually publishers don’t allow subplots in books shorter than 70,000. Read writing guidelines of the publishing house you are targeting carefully.

2. Subplot should usually start after the main POV characters are established. Many would recommend at the beginning of ACT 2 of your novel. It depends a bit on your writing style, but you definitely need your hero/heroine point of view characters established first. This is something I learned from Susan May Warren at the Great Lakes Get Away in 2009.

3. Subplots Point of View Characters need their own story arc and journey. This may be shorter with a bit less depth, but it needs to be there.

4. Subplots should feed back into the main plot by the end of the story. The subplot should have more connection to the main plot than just its characters. The story line themselves must mesh together as being important parts of the main plot. Be wary of parallel plots that don’t interweave. I learned this at the Storycrafters Retreat in Otsego, MN in 2009.

5.  Subplots are great tools to add an additional truth nuance to your main character’s journey. When the subplot point of view character’s journey has a truth that strengthens the main plot truth it adds richness to your story. This is not a replacement for feeding into the main plot, but in addition to it.

What are things you love a subplot to do?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

7 thoughts on “The Truth About Subplots – 5 Tips To Using A Subplot Successfully

  1. dtopliff says:

    Good truth, and somehow I’m able to see your full posts now–glad!

  2. M. Saint-Germain says:

    This is great info. Susie and her team are invaluable. In my current wip I think the subplot adds dimension and motivation to my pov character.

  3. I totally agree…except I’ve gone against the grain on my new wip and included a 3rd POV character in the first chapter. But his story is the inciting incident and immediately draws the reader into the book, that I decided to risk it. 🙂

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