3 Qualities of Superb Subplots – Joined At The Hip

Photo by hbrinkman

Photo by hbrinkman

Subplots are one of my favorite parts of a longer novel. If I’m not careful once in a while my subplot character tries to take over my story. I love these characters so much, but a great subplot has specific qualities that enhance the main plot line of the story.

What exactly is the subplot?

A subplot is a secondary strand of plot that connects to the main plot and often complicates the life of the hero/heroine.

When are subplots used?

Typically, shorter novels of 60,000 words or less does not contain a subplot because there is not enough words to fully develop both a subplot and a main plot. Longer novels often have subplots, sometimes even more than one.

Examples of Subplot:

*Princess Bride- Wesley and Buttercup are the hero and heroine. The main plot centers around them finding one another again.

This clip shows the subplot with it’s Point of View Character:

*Pretty in Pink- Blaine and Andy are the main romance in this story. The story of Andy and Ducky’s friendship is a subplot.

3 Qualities of a Superb Subplot:

1. Connects back into the main plot. The subplot is not meant to be a parallel story with overlapping characters. It is tied intricately into the main plot. Without the main plot it wouldn’t stand completely alone. At the end of the story, the subplot must weave back into the ending in a meaningful way.

At the beginning the subplot might seem insignificant, but a superb subplot will eventually escalate the drama complicating the hero/heroine’s quest for their goal. For ultimate impact, the subplot can make the hero/heroine question their own quest by pitting what they want against what they need.

2. Feeds the spiritual thread. A superb subplot adds a new dimension to the spiritual thread. For example, if the spiritual thread is about forgiving others then the subplot would expound on that thread or deepen it in some way.

Main Plot: Forgiving Others

Subplot: Forgiving Family Who Have Wronged You

3. Adds richness to the story. A fabulous subplot will add richness to the plot through diversifying characters and deepening the plot to fill it with twists and surprises. It will give us a different point of view for the truth to be told. It creates the opportunity for more conflict and casts a wider net of interest for readers.

What is your favorite subplot of all time?


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.

2 thoughts on “3 Qualities of Superb Subplots – Joined At The Hip

  1. Great post. I’m trying to decide if I want a subplot in my next book…but first I need to see how many words the main plot takes. lol

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