What is a Subplot?
A question that I have been asking myself a lot recently is what exactly is a subplot? Well, a subplot is, to put things shortly, a plot. However, they are not as prominent as the main plot.
Caution!!! Heroes of Olympus Spoilers below!
For example, in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, the main plot is Percy and the rest of the Argo II crew trying to defeat Gaea, thus saving the world. You can tell that this a plot because there is a goal as well as resistance to reaching that goal. Resistance that lasts the entire series. Now, you should know that each POV (point of view) counts as at least one subplot. Even if the characters are generally doing the same thing, the way that they see the situation is going to differ, making each POV at least one subplot. Take the relationship between Percy and Annabeth, they are each going to see their relationship differently, get different things out of it, making each of their views of their relationship a different subplot.
Continuing on with out HoO example, the promise that Leo makes to Calypso is yet another subplot as Leo’s goal is to return to her and leave the island with her. And, yes, he does reach opposition on this front as well.
So subplots are basically plots that go on in the background while the main plot is the main focus of the story.
Why are Subplots Important?
If you are anything like me, then you don’t particularly like having to go over story structure to figure out what should happen in you novel, much less having to go over it over and over again to try and add a subplot or two. So why should you put in the extra time and effort to add subplots to your novel?
Well, first and foremost, subplots add extra depth and dimension to your story and help ensure that there are no particularly dull parts as you are able to switch focus when things are starting to get a bit slow.
They Help with Characterization
So not only do subplots add more dimension to your story, they also help with characterization. Subplots allow you to show what your characters are like in situations different from what the main plot provides. For example, if your plot puts your character in scenes where there is a lot of action, your readers will only see what your character is like when fighting or training. But, if you add in a subplot, say in this case a romantic subplot, your readers will also be able to see another side of the character that isn’t just a cold-blooded killer, making the feat of writing three dimensional characters a little bit easier.
They Help with Theme
Similarly to how subplots help with characterization, they also help with theme as they allow you to explore your story’s theme in different lights and angles.
They Should Advance the Main Plot
The main reason why I didn’t exactly grasp what a subplot is was that in most books, subplots bleed into the main plot. For example, in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, the subplot of Leo wanting to be with Calypso ties in very nicely to the main plot of defeating Gaea. It was for reasons like this that I didn’t exactly get what a subplot was as they helped further the plot, making me wonder whether they actually counted as subplots or if they were just part of the main plot.
In fact, the answer is both. Subplots are smaller plots woven into the story with the ability to add more depth, show more facets of characters, analyze the theme in different ways, and further the plot.
I hope this post helped, please share in the comments below.