Having discussed essential moments in a plot, we can move on to subplots. Subplots are great for adding depth, buffer, and realism to any story. But often enough, this neat little device is abused and ends up disappointing the reader. So what exactly is a good subplot?
Subplot should not be confused with a separate story thread. Sometimes a book will have two separate stories that may end up intertwining at the end. Jacobean plays like The Changeling always have a second story that goes its own way until the end.
A subplot is different. It’s a little tangent that related to the main plot and will end up having some effect or getting effected by the main story.
Subplots without Relevance
The worst thing you can do is have a subplot that ends up having no relevance for the main plot. Jeffery Archer’s Only Time Will Tell surprised me with this because he’s usually such a great author. So, it starts with this poor boy, Harry, getting admitted into a posh school. His best friend, Giles, starts stealing things all of a sudden. Why does he steal? To pin the blame on Harry? Because he’s got some deep psychological need to steal? What will be the consequences for Harry and his friendship with Giles? The answer to all this?
Giles gets caught, his father pays the school some money, and he comes back to school. That’s the end of that. Did it do anything to affect the course of the protagonist, Harry’s, story? No.
|"...of the foul German spectre: |
Frustrating. Not only did it waste my time but it built up so many questions in me and then flipped on its head by seeming to be the most intriguing part of the story to the stupidest. What I call- the punctured tire effect.
Subplots with Relevance
This is just about any subplot of a good story. Jane Eyre has the subplot of Bertha Mason. Had she just been a mad woman that roams around the house, it would’ve created some initial suspense but eventually seemed pointless. Her subplot comes into a direct clash with Jane’s because her existence prevents Jane’s marriage to Rochester.
Wuthering Heights’ subplot of Isabella and Heathcliff’s marriage sets the scene for the second generation of drama. Had it not happened, Linton Heathcliff would’ve never been born and Heathcliff would’ve had no means to gain Linton’s property though young Cathy.
Regardless of how you insert them in a story, your subplots should always have some effect on the main plot. It can be in a large way or a small one, but relevance is key.