Adding Complexity to Your Novel

When writers first get their idea for a novel, that idea ends up being the main plot. The main plot is extremely important because it’s what the novel is about. Without it there would be no story. However, only having a main plot leaves for a simple story. That’s where subplots come in.


Explore all the layers in a novel.

Subplots are very similar to the main plot except that they are smaller in scale. One of the great things about subplots is that they are woven into the story, so if you have moments within your novel where the main plot is slowing down, you can use your subplot(s) to bring tension back into the story.

Another thing that subplots add is believability. Real life doesn’t always move forward. There are constantly twists and turns. How many times have you made long term plans only to find yourself on a very different course? Something nearly always comes up to interrupt your plans, but that adds tension, excitement, and challenges…and, many times, you find you’ve learned something you otherwise won’t have along the way. Plus, subplots are a great way to learn more about the supporting characters.

If you’re a plotter, someone who plots out their novel, even if just in synopsis form, you’ll want to think about subplots as well as the main plot and interject them into your story. If you’re a panster, someone who writes by the seat of their pants (no plotting), you may end up with subplots during your first draft or you may not. Likely you’ll have to go back and fill in your draft with subplots.

Something to be aware of is to make sure that your subplots don’t overwhelm your main plot. The main plot is still the star of the show. Let it shine.

How do you go about handling subplots?

(Photo courtesy of The WVb.)

1 thought on “Adding Complexity to Your Novel

  1. Ellen Smith

    Great post! I’m a pantser- subplots just sort of show up while I’m drafting. While I’m editing, I develop them further (or cut them, if they aren’t working).


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