I got you at sugar wafer cookie didn’t I? They come in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. It came to mind these little treats are similar to subplots. Delicate sugar enhances the flavor of the thin layers of crunchy shell. When writing a subplot you want it to build up, relate to and add to the main plot.
Subplots have their own story questions just as the main story does and its own arc as well. They add complications to the main story line but not detract from it. Without subplots you don’t have a novel. If you have trouble understanding subplots think of it this way: they’re like the thin delicate layers of a sugar wafer cookie. Every layer is a subplot, all working together to bring you that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth crunch. Wait a minute, I mean the subplots are carefully and seamlessly woven through the story.
Each of the subplots relate to the main characters, tell a parallel love story of secondary characters, foreshadowing or can be used as a flashback. A word of warning about flashbacks – use flashbacks with caution, they jerk the reader out of the story and slow the pacing to a crawl.
You can’t just stick any story thread in anywhere. Like when you test spaghetti, throwing it at the wall to see whether or not it adheres. Planning is needed for subplots as much for the main plot. The subplots also serve another important purpose: they keep you from having a sagging middle. Remember though, not all subplots run the entire length of the book. Some end, others pick up where another left off and a few stay until the end. Hopefully, the visual of the cookies can help when you’re crafting subplots.
James Scott Bell, kindly gave me permission to use this information on the number of subplots in a novel.
James Scott Bell
A subplot is not merely a plot “complication.” A subplot has its own reason for being, and weaves in and out of (or back and forth with) the main plot.
That being so, here is my formula for the maximum number of subplots, by word count, you can have in your novel (a novel being a minimum of 60,000 words).
60k words: 1 subplot (e.g., in a category romance, you might have the female Lead plotline, and the love interest plotline, which intersect)
Over 100 k: 5
There is no 6. Six subplots is too many for any length, unless your name is Stephen King.
I think if you have more subplots than suggested number mentioned above, they will either overwhelm or detract from the main plot. I hope this blog post has helped you understand what subplots do and how they’re used in novels.
Thank you for stopping by!
All my best, Tambra Nicole Kendall