Jan. 15, 2015

Does Your Plot Need A Subplot?

Writing good subplots can turn your book from mediocre to a bestseller listed on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Do you, as an indie author, want to be on this list? Do you think you can reach it by being included in an anthology sold for $.99 with a royalty split of $.35 between 7 other authors? What if YOU can generate this success with one book, YOUR book and earn the royalties that all authors are hoping for? One of the ways I believe you can achieve this is by adding a subplot so great, your name will be known all over the world.

Why a subplot?

I can answer that question easily. We are all familiar with The Wizard of Oz. But before I get into that, let’s define the word subplot so that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Bing’s dictionary defines a subplot as, 1. story secondary to main story: a second and less prominent story within a book, play, or movie. One of the most successful literary agents, Donald Maas, makes a reference in his NY Times Bestselling book, Writing the Breakout Novel, to a subplot as a way to add depth to secondary characters that brings them to life. My definition of a subplot is quite simple. It is a secondary path in your storyline that, when the secondary path connects to the main plot’s path, will have the effects of fireworks on the 4th of July.

Let’s skip backwards to The Wizard of Oz. We’ll use this book, because there won’t be any fear of including spoilers. One of the subplots was Dorothy having to kill the wicked witch. As a reader, we knew that Dorothy was a sweet innocent child from Kansas who had been swept away by a tornado to the Land of Oz. There she faces the wicked witch who wants Dorothy’s red slippers. The wicked witch doesn’t care anything about Dorothy, especially how Dorothy is a nice girl with a genuinely good heart (taking the time to rescue three others from their own dilemma while she faced her own). All the witch wants are those slippers. She’s powerful, and mean, and has enslaved people. Not mean you say? She set the scarecrow on fire and has flying monkeys to do her bidding. How can a sweet girl from Kansas compete against that?


A subplot was added.

You know the story. Now think of seeing the movie or reading the same story without the subplot of Dorothy having to kill the witch. Would it have made good reading if the witch had met her demise from some strange accident or the good witch, Glenda, killing her instead of Dorothy? Not at all! Pitting your characters against an impossible task is a suspense builder. Never ever shy away from doing this. All great books have one thing in common: TENSION. Without sufficient tension your book will plummet to a status of mediocre.

Will Dorothy survive?

How can she kill the witch?

We know Dorothy is a good girl with no fighting skills. Her friends are a dog, a scarecrow made of straw, a tin man with no heart and a cowardly lion. The witch has evil, flying monkeys and great powers. Readers were likely wondering if Dorothy will be turned into a slave and forced to stay in Oz forever when all the reader wanted was for Dorothy to get back to her family in Kansas. Do you see the intensity this subplot delivered? It changed the entire dynamics of the book from being mediocre to one well known and made into a movie. Although I’m using a children’s book as an example, I’m sure you’re getting the idea.

A well written book make readers wonder if YOUR character will survive whatever they’re going through. So I implore you to put your characters through the ringer while inventing your plot. Why do you think the 50 Shades trilogy was as success as it was? It wasn’t just the kinky sex between Anastasia and Christian Grey that women were into, but the SUBPLOTS that explored why both characters were the way they were, which caused them to be so fascinated with each other and gave them the glue to build a relationship between two people who would have never come together without it.

Add depth by adding that intriguing subplot to advance your story into one that will be unforgettable.