The Power of a Good Subplot


So you are writing your brilliant novel. Agents and publishers would be crazy to reject it. Sounds great doesn’t it? While I cannot personally guarantee how well your novel will be received by anyone, one thing is certain, a good subplot will increase your books chances of success.

You are busy planning and plotting your main character, that’s great, however, your main character cannot exist in isolation. A subplot will enhance and expand your story, it will give your readers more than one reason to keep reading.

So what is subplot? It is a parallel story that runs alongside your main story. Its purpose could be to assist your main protagonist or to block your main protagonist from getting want they want. And certainly block them from getting what they want, easily!

If you have been following Sharon’s Writers Tidbits, you will know that I am a huge Stephen King fan. And interestingly enough rather than his more well-known works like Carrie, The Shining, Christine etc, my favourite Stephen King novel is Rose Madder (1995)

It tells the story of a woman Rose, who has been putting up with her husband’s abuse for years. She concludes after another attack that if she does not leave him, he will end up killing her. With me so far? But the twist is her husband is a cop and is particularly good at tracking people down.

So, there is the main story of an abused wife on the run, but the subplot being the violent unhinged cop (spouse) who makes it his mission to track down his wife. On the one hand we want to see Rose escape, but on the other hand we are wondering if her husband is going to catch up with her. And then, what is he going to do to her once he does!

Rose Madder is a good example of a main plot and subplot working perfectly to inject intrigue, tension and horror – after all it is a Stephen King creation! If you want to find out what happens in the end you will have to get the book and find out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

A good subplot can add contrast, depth and texture to a story, but it can do other things as well. Remember as a writer you want to keep your readers engaged.

A subplot can speed up or slow down your plot. If you feel your novel is moving towards the end too quickly a powerful subplot can add another page-turning dimension to your tale. Here, you can reveal, something that will help or impede your main character/main plot. And of course the opposite is true if you feel your novel is too long.

The purpose of a subplot therefore is to support your main story and carry it forward. It can add strength and complexity to your storytelling. Subplot can be a love interest, a villain, or even a haunted house. A word of warning though, don’t let your subplot dominate your story and leave your readers confused as to who or what your book is about.

Until next time

Happy writing! S

Published by Sharon's Writers Tidbits

Sharon is a writer who lives in north London and has a long-held passion for the art and craft of creative writing. Sharon's main interests are novels, short stories and poetry. She also enjoys writing non-fiction. She is an avid reader and has a threatening TBR pile of books!

2 thoughts on “The Power of a Good Subplot

  1. You’ve absolutely right. The problem I find is that the plot gets lost along the way. And that’s a clear sign of not focusing and sticking to the plan. I add on too many layers and that’s going to make a laborious story line. I could lose the reader. Thank you for putting it in perspective😘

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