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The Importance of Developing Engaging Subplots

How can you develop your story, add depth to your plot and create engaging & believable characters that will remain with readers long after they've turned the last page? This is where subplots are important.

The impact of your main plot is something that you probably give a considerable amount of thought to, perhaps even agonising over it for weeks or months as you develop twists, turns, a gripping climax and a well-considered ending. But never underestimate the power of adding subplots when writing a novel. None of us live in an isolated world or live lives that run in straight lines. Neither should your characters – unless relevant to the plot.

Subplots run alongside the main plot, often intertwining with the main story, adding humour to an otherwise dark story or simply making the world in which your main character lives more believable.

Subplots can be written in two ways: the first is that the subplot is also about the main character’s life. For example, the main plot might be based on Jasmine’s search for her missing father – a war correspondent who was kidnapped in in war-torn Afghanistan. The subplot could be a relationship that develops between Jasmine and her contact at the British Embassy.

Alternatively, the subplot could be about another character in the book. A well-developed subplot can engage the reader with the lives of other characters, enabling the readers to develop an interest in them as well as the main character. This can provide light relief to the reader and it enables the writer to change the mood or pace of a story.

In To The Moon and Back by Jill Mansell, a young, widowed woman finds it increasingly difficult to move on after the death of her husband. The author is an expert at creating subplots and characters who the reader becomes engaged with; this book is no exception, as you are equally interested in the life of her new next-door neighbour and that of her father.

So if you have neglected your subplots, revisit them to see how they can enhance your novel – but remember: they must be kept in the background and not be allowed to overshadow the main topic.

This article was written for us by The Writers' House UK. If you would like to read more about creating sub-plots, take a look at My Guide: How To Write A Novel.

If you found this article useful, you may want to take a look at:

How to write a novel - The Writers' House UK

Seven Secrets of Writing a Page Turner

Why characters are the heart of your novel & how you can write them effectively