Where For Art Thou Subplot?

So I didn’t write yesterday.  In large part, this was because after a day playing catch up at work, I came home and passed out on the sofa as soon as I fed the dogs.  But also because I’m at a bit of a standstill.  There is a necessary time gap between where I am and what I know happens next…and it’s too long for nothing to be going on.  SOMETHING important should be happening there.  But I don’t know what.

My various CPs all said the same thing: Subplot.

When I got to thinking about it…I have not written a subplot in the last three years.  Short stories and novellas don’t have room for subplots by design.  And Red really didn’t have any.  Well, I guess the whole mean girls thread was a bit of a subplot, but it wasn’t a conscious kind of thing–just something I used to work on Elodie’s character arc.  I have, for all intents and purposes, trained myself OUT of thinking about them.  Which is ironic considering how much of a complicated pantser I used to be.

Subplots can, I think, be a dangerous thing, particularly to new writers.  They give you a certain latitude for straying from the central plot that can be a problem.  Certainly, when well executed, they add a lot to a book.  It’s got me mulling over what the components are of a good subplot.  I  hadn’t planned one for this book, and I don’t want to just throw something in to take up space.  Hoping things will clarify as I finish up the sinus meds.

Are you a fan of subplots (as a reader OR a writer)?  What makes a good subplot to you?


5 thoughts on “Where For Art Thou Subplot?

  1. Hmmm. I’ve never really given subplots much thought, but if I had to say anything about them, it would be that subplots should be subtle. If you’re being taken out of the narrative of the main plot to explore a subplot, then it’s not being done very well, but if I subplot develops through the events of the main plot in a natural, organic way that doesn’t distract from the main plot but enhances it, then it’s all good. I read and write a lot of fantasy; there are subplots galore in those big epic fantasties, but they key is that they’re all inexplicably tied to the main plot. More often than not, the subplots exist so the main plot can grow…

    The best subplot is one you don’t even realize is a subplot, really.

  2. I think L.S. nailed it with the “organic” qualifier for a subplot. It needs to be something that folds in and fits the overarching plot, one that, if you take it out, will affect the main plot. Maybe without that subplot, the same events will trigger a different outcome, or different events will happen to trigger the same outcome.

    For example, the relationship build-up (or collapse) of two minor characters might be a subplot, but that they get together (or break up) might put them in a situation or emotional place that affects what those characters do in the climax.

    While a subplot needn’t be that tied into the main one, I do think it needs to connect in some way.

  3. I like when there’s one or two subplots, and the reader doesn’t realize it, but they end up being part of the main plot later. That being said, I don’t mind a subplot that’s interesting and may let you know a little more about the characters, but it doesn’t HAVE to completely belong to the main plot.

  4. I love sub-plots. They’re big in thrillers, so I suppose incorporating them from the get-go was a given. As long as they’re captivating and well written I say brin ’em on.

  5. I agree with the above comments. Though subplots aren’t something that should be, as you said, simply thrown in as filler, they can make a great addition to the story… the way a complimenting side-dish can add to your enjoyment of the main course.

    Yes… food. I had to go there. lol

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