Lately on Our Write Side, I’ve been exploring the question “when is enough, enough?” I wrote two companion articles, and the second one focuses on subplots. Here’s a quick intro, or you can skip ahead and read the full article.
“Sub” means “under”, so a subplot is a plot line of your book that occurs underneath the main events of your story. Some books and genres get by just fine with only one plot. This is especially true if you are writing for a younger audience and you are worried about them getting lost. Or, if you have an extremely intricate main plot, you may be worried about piling too much on even an adult reader.
However, chances are you will need more than one thing going on within a story to hit all of the beats and make your story feel full. At minimum, Blake Snyder suggests the “B Story” in his beat sheet, which is the relationship that is the most important to the protagonist and often carries the theme of the story. Romantic subplots are extremely common across genres, but that isn’t the only type of relationship that can play a starring role in a subplot. In a romance, the subplots could be basically anything else that is happening the frames the romantic relationship and causes additional conflict.
Keep in mind you should NEVER pile on extra fluff to reach a higher word count. Readers, potential publishers, and agents hate that. Each of your subplots must serve a higher purpose and be integrated into your plot arc, your character’s arc, and/or the reader’s experience of your story.
If you want to find out more about the 7 reasons to add a subplot I identified, along with advice for instituting your changes, check out the full article on Our Write Side.