To Subplot or Not to Subplot: That is the Question

What is the purpose of a subplot? Well-written subplots should enhance the story in a different way, emphasize the theme and resolve by the end of the story. In addition, at some point, your subplot(s) must intersect with the main story and push the story forward to the end. Much like rivers and streams dumping into the same ocean.

The beauty about well-crafted subplots are that they can help weave dimension and complexity into the central plot, but they must be cautiously integrated and they must stay relevant to the theme. A good subplot should hike-up the drama by making it harder for the protagonist to achieve his or her goal. In other words, subplots effectiveness are dependent on the conflict that they bring to the protagonist.

The writer MUST maintain control over the main plot while bringing in a subplot. Robert McKee says, “The balance of emphasis between the central plot and subplot has to be carefully controlled, or the writer risks losing focus on the primary story.”

Here are a list of things that subplots do:
They introduce new characters
– They enhance your main story/plot.
– They can be the mirror opposite of your main story.
– They can introduce new characters.
– They can reveal the back-story of the main plot, and they always enhance the theme.
– They reveal exposition.
– They show simultaneous action that happens along side your main plot.
– They supply tension and conflict.

Subplots are also often referred to as the “B” story, which is a secondary story. Often times, it’s a love story that’s introduced into the storyline, and while it MUST support the main theme, it gives us a little breather from the central story. It’s like a temporary diversion.

2 thoughts on “To Subplot or Not to Subplot: That is the Question

  1. I think that without any subplots, the story would fall flat and the readers would be glad to finish it after it was over. They definitely make any story a lot more interesting, as long as the number of subplots doesn’t get too overwhelming.

    • In today’s film-making world, subplots are important, but they MUST be a part of the main action. Aristotle taught this, and that rule remains. Controlling subplots is paramount, for sure! 🙂

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