Interesting tips explaining how to build a subplot! Too important not to forget.

There is one element in plotting our story that we sometimes forget or neglect—the subplot.

The subplot is what rounds out a novel or screenplay, informing it with another shade of emotional colour to deliver a satisfying and entertaining experience.


It is the parallel narrative that allows the writer to explore theme, deepen characterisation, add tension or allow some relief. The subplot helps us understand the characters a bit better and gives a better sense of pace.



Love and other pursuits. In a thriller, the love story is often the subplot. Why? It gives breathing space for the action and shows a human side to the hero. In a romance, the subplot is used to explore the hero or heroine’s work, family or social elements. Why? It stops the love story from becoming cloying or overwhelming.

Against the grain. You can use the subplot to contradict the main plot, to show contrast or deliver irony. For example: a megalomaniac architect is building the city’s tallest building, but his relationship with his family is falling to the ground. The subplot shows how flaws affect the most powerful people.

Echo an idea. You can create a subplot that resonates with the themes inherent in the main storyline or creates subtle text. For example: a policewoman is brutally attacked and must find the assailant. In the subplot, she helps out at her daughter’s school to build paper butterflies. The subplot highlights the fragility and resilience of beauty.

Throw in an obstacle. You can use the subplot to complicate the life of your main character. For example: A top chef is preparing to open a new restaurant for a wealthy client. Instead of focusing on this success, he is lumped with a chatty and incompetent assistant. The subplot adds humour and shows the chef that he should lighten up in life.

Close threads. Of course, you can have more than one subplot, but remember a subplot should never overwhelm the main story or confuse the audience or reader. Keep the two plot threads so tightly intertwined that they flow seamlessly and coherently.


A great subplot should help you sustain your plot and illuminate the central characters. It is there to support—and never steal away—from your core story.






About N. M. Thomas

I was born in the West of France, a region I like a lot. We moved around a lot with my parents and ended up in Paris area when I was five. I lived around Paris area until I was twenty one and decided to move to England to improve my English (yes, just like that!) It wasn't easy to be in a country and a part of Britain itself (East Yorkshire)where I could not understand people talking to me. The accent was so important that it took me about a year to become fluent. I stayed there for four years and decided to go back home to Paris. I met my husband, who is American, and finally, only stayed just over a year in France as we moved to the United States. I've always loved literature and foreign languages. I speak fluent French and English, and know some Russian, Italian, Spanish and German. I started to write poems when I was a teenager. My dad actually influenced me a lot, he used to write beautiful poems in French (and I keep telling him he should publish them!)So, I carried on writing poems until I decided to start writing books. I've got two amazing children who keep me on my toes all day long so I only get some time to write at night, but I would not change that for the whole world! And I find inspirations from the music I listen, Lifehouse, Casting Crows, Fireflight and others, but also and mainly from instrumental music, original movie soundtracks (those I love!)
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