Are Subplots Necessary?

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

Incorporating Subplot

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.


12 thoughts on “Are Subplots Necessary?

  1. I can’t imagine writing a novel WITHOUT subplots.

  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Share YOUR thoughts with author Susan Leigh Noble 😀

  3. Great ideas! I can also see where it would really help to expand a story that may be a bit on the short side, while giving the whole story a lot more depth.

  4. Subplots can also be an byproduct of writing the characters and story. Sometimes the characters create their own subplots.

  5. Wonderful post. Thanks. 😀

  6. Good piece, Susan. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. SleepyDragon1320 says:

    Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    I automatically include sub-plots when writing and inevitably, they are romance sub-plots. Is this just me or does anyone else find themselves doing this?

  8. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    The subplots in my novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” not only tie into the main story and reinforce the central message, but they also tie into each other. Susan Leigh Noble’s points here are important to heed if you are writing a novel or even a memoir.
    Do you know a/b my debut novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador”? A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador:
    My husband made a video for my novel. He wrote the song too:

  9. Thanks for this post. I hope you don’t mind my sharing? 😉 ❤

  10. I’ve learn several excellent stuff here. Certainly
    value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot effort you put to create one of these wonderful informative website.

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