Subplot Weaving

So far, I have not written much about my current projects on this blog. In fact, I have only referenced them once, in which I talked about my ideas for a series of three novellas. I managed to start writing the second one first in this series, so I still have number one and three to plot out and write.

This series has been put on a hiatus because a new idea had popped in my head while I was finishing the second story. Excitement and enthusiasm are powerful tools for motivating the writer and I made the decision to put my series on hold in favor of starting this new one. The ideas for the story are flowing freely, and I’m enjoying it.

I tend to be a mix of an outliner and a pantser (someone who does not outline, but writes by the seat of their pants, if you will) when it comes to writing. My outlines tend to be loose and what I start with is not necessarily the path the finished product takes. With my new story that I am working on, outlining is definitely taking a forefront. Perhaps this is because that previous story I finished turned out to be more of the length of a novella than a novel, and I don’t really want that to happen this time.

I’ve been sitting down with Scrivener open and brainstorming ideas for scenes, and I am now starting to get a couple of ideas for some subplots. I think this is why my previous story ended up shorter than I intended. The subplots that should have made their way into the story never quite fully did.

So I have been researching some techniques for incorporating them, and wanted to share them with you.

How to Build Subplots From Multiple Viewpoints: This article from Writer’s Digest offers some reasons as to why subplots are helpful in a novel. It also discusses some points to be careful of (mainly having too many of them).

Adding Subplots to a Novel: Perhaps including subplots are the most difficult part. For me, I tend to have a singular focus when writing. I want to stick to a single storyline. This article suggests using that technique to approach the subplot. By focusing on just the one storyline, you can make sure it follows the traditional story structure and reaches a resolution. Later, you can cut each ot the subplots apart and incorporate them into the larger story.

7 Ways to Add Subplots to Your Novel: Another great article from Writer’s Digest that explains some common techniques for weaving those subplots in. While reading through them, one might jump out at you for your particular novel.

From these three articles and many other I browsed through, there are some basic things to keep in mind when using subplots:

  1. Make sure the subplot does in fact add to your story. Perhaps the subplot is necessary to add tension in an otherwise dull (but necessary) section of your novel. Maybe it helps further develop a character. Just make sure there is a reason for it.
  2. Be careful of creating too many threads. You want your reader to be able to keep track of what has happened and who is involved. Subplots can easily lead to more characters. Make sure your characters remain developed enough that they can stand apart from one another for the reader. After All, the subplot is there to enhance your novel, not confuse your reader.
  3. The subplot also needs to be concluded. Like the rest of your story, your subplots need to be concluded as well (even if it does end ambiguously). Make sure that when you start weaving it in, there is an end in sight for the subplot. It could be that it gets wrapped up in the climax with the main plot of your novel, or it might even converge with the main plot at some point. Either way, it needs to be resolved.

On that note, I need to spend some time considering my subplots and doing my own weaving.

Do you have any other tips or great article suggestions about subplots?


2 thoughts on “Subplot Weaving

  1. Great articles and many good points – thanks for collating them into your piece. You’re right that subplots need to be concluded. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a book and finding all the loose ends are just left dangling and the subplot characters are expected simply to dissolve into the background. The reader needs to be properly rewarded for their investment in reading the whole story, not just part of it.


    1. Every once in awhile I will read something and then try to remember what happened to a particular character, almost as if they disappeared, and it is frustrating. I love the idea of planning subplots almost like their own story and then breaking it up and sprinkling it through as necessary. Seems like a good way to avoid those loose threads.


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