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Constructing a good subplot

Constructing a good subplot is an essential skill for writers, whether you are working on a novel, screenplay, or any other form of storytelling. Subplots add depth, complexity, and intrigue to your main plot, making your story more engaging and enjoyable for readers or audiences. Here are some steps to help you construct a good subplot:

Define the Purpose of the Subplot

Understanding the purpose of your subplot is crucial because it guides your decision-making throughout the writing process. Ask yourself what you want to achieve with this subplot. Are you looking to provide a deeper exploration of a character’s past? Do you want to introduce a new challenge that the main characters must face? Or perhaps you want to reveal critical information that impacts the main plot’s outcome. Clarifying the purpose helps you stay focused and ensures that the subplot serves a meaningful role in your story.

Connect the Subplot to the Main Plot

The subplot should be organically intertwined with the main plot. Look for connections, themes, or events that overlap between the two storylines. This connection could be through shared characters, locations, or a cause-and-effect relationship. By doing so, the subplot complements and enhances the main plot, contributing to a more immersive and cohesive narrative.

Create Unique and Compelling Characters

Just like your main characters, the characters involved in the subplot should be well-developed, interesting, and relatable. Give them their own goals, conflicts, and motivations, distinct from the main characters. This adds depth to the subplot and engages readers on multiple levels, fostering a deeper emotional investment in the story.

Establish Conflict and Stakes

Every subplot needs its own conflict and stakes to keep readers engaged. This could involve personal struggles, interpersonal conflicts, or external obstacles. The stakes should matter to the characters involved and potentially have an impact on the main plot. By doing so, the subplot gains significance, and readers feel compelled to see how it unfolds.

Introduce a New Setting or Perspective

Use the subplot as an opportunity to explore new settings or introduce different perspectives. This not only adds variety to your story but also enriches the world you’ve created. The new setting could be a different city, country, or even a fantastical realm. Exploring unique perspectives can also help you delve into subplots that might address social, cultural, or moral themes, broadening the story’s scope.

Timing and Pacing

Pay attention to the timing and pacing of your subplot’s introduction and development. Ideally, the subplot should be introduced at a point in the main story where it complements and enhances the central narrative. Avoid introducing the subplot too early, as it might divert readers’ attention from the main plot, and avoid resolving it too quickly, as it may feel rushed and unsatisfying.

Avoid Subplots That Overshadow the Main Plot

While subplots add depth and complexity, they should not overshadow the main plot. The main plot should remain the focal point, and the subplot should complement and support it. If a subplot becomes too dominant, it risks distracting readers and diluting the impact of the central storyline.

Use Subplots for Foreshadowing or Parallel Storylines

Subplots offer a great opportunity for foreshadowing events that will unfold in the main plot. Through subtle hints and clues, you can create anticipation and suspense in your readers. Alternatively, you can explore parallel storylines that eventually converge with the main plot, adding layers of complexity and intrigue.

Tie Up Loose Ends

A well-constructed subplot should have a resolution or at least a clear direction. Tie up loose ends in a satisfying way, even if the subplot’s resolution isn’t as elaborate as the main plot’s conclusion. Leaving readers with unresolved plotlines can be frustrating and leave a sense of incompleteness.

Edit and Revise

As with any aspect of your writing, be prepared to edit and revise the subplot. Carefully review its integration into the main story, character development, pacing, and impact on the overall narrative. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure the subplot enhances the overall reading experience.

By thoughtfully constructing and weaving your subplot into the main plot, you create a rich and captivating storytelling experience that keeps readers engrossed from beginning to end. Subplots, when executed skillfully, contribute to the depth and complexity of your narrative, leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

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Published inWritingWriting tips


  1. A. H. A. H.

    Love this! Super practical steps that anyone can try! Thanks for sharing

  2. Wow – this post taught me so much about writing! I’m not an author but it’s so interested to read through the different steps and ideas!

  3. Fantastic advise. I love writing stories and while my main plot tends to be strong, I know my subplots need work. I’ll be using this advice to ensure I have better subplots in my stories going forward.

  4. It’s a struggle not to add too much to the subplot because the fear it may take away from the story. Great article!

  5. I totally agree! Whenever I read a book that doesn’t have at least a couple good subplots I always feel like something is lacking.

  6. Thanks for sharing your tips, they sound very helpful and I will definitely try them out!

  7. Great article. I happen to think Game of Thrones and The Wire did excellent jobs at creating subplots that were both relevant and intriguing.

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