A subplot is a mini-story woven into your main story. It could involve your main character having two things going on at the same time (such as finding love while solving a mystery) or it can involve secondary characters having their own issues.
Now you don’t absolutely need to include a subplot into your story but there are many good reasons to include one.
- It adds depth to your story.
- If the subplot involves secondary characters, it can make them more rounded and complete.
- It can help build tension. (You can leave your main story line hanging and switch to the subplot to keep your reader wondering what happens.)
- Subplots can pile on problems for the main character or perhaps distract them from their course.
- It can reveal information to your main character or to your reader
- It can set up characters for multi-book series
Now your subplot could run parallel to your main story. Think of this as basically a different story that is independent of your plot. Sometimes this is done with many minor characters who have come together for some purpose – a book club, reunion, or vacation for example. The story would then follow each character as his or her situation is explored. In this case, the actual storylines may or may not influence each other.
Or your subplot can be interwoven into your main storyline. Often in this situation, the outcome of your main plot will depend in some way to the outcome of the subplot. So basically, don’t include some sort of random story that really doesn’t add to your main plot. You want to have it add something to the story rather than distract or cover unimportant events or characters.
Be sure to resolve your subplot in a satisfactory manner – unless you plan to complete them in another book. And if you do this, make sure your reader knows your intention.
So do I think novels need subplots? Yes, I do. It brings realism to your story. This is because it mimics real life. Very rarely is only one thing going on in your life. You are constantly juggling many different things and so should your characters.