Organizing Subplots on Your Storyboard

Think of your novel as a hearty stew. Your main plot is the meat and potatoes—solid, satisfying and absolutely essential. But what about the herbs and spices that give it that extra oomph? Or the sprinkle of barley to mix up the textures?

Those are your subplots—additional, supportive storylines that give depth and flavor to your narrative. But they must have a purpose!

Subplots vs. Main Plots

While your main plot is the big kahuna, the central driving force of your narrative, subplots are the smaller storylines that run parallel. They complement the main plot, adding complexity, depth, and often a hearty dash of intrigue. Remember, while subplots may be secondary, they are no less important—they’re the supporting actors that steal the show!

Example of a Subplot

Let’s say our main plot follows Jenna, a detective trying to solve a high-profile murder case. The subplot could involve Jenna’s personal life—her struggle to balance her demanding career with caring for her aging mother. This subplot not only gives Jenna’s character depth but also adds tension and emotional resonance to the main plot, making the reader root for Jenna even more.

Subplots are one of my favorite tools in writing. I often have several subplots running through any given book. Like my “Ironworld” series, for example. Avery Quinn attends art school in the city, but the main plot is about her discovery of mythical creatures living right under our noses. The subplot of her attending art school plays into her creative side and makes her question whether it’s all in her mind or not. 

Tips for Organizing Your Subplot on Your Storyboard

  1. Identify your subplot: Recognize the subplot and how it supports or complicates the main plot.
  2. Position carefully: Introduce the subplot at the right moment, typically after the main plot is established.
  3. Interweave: Ensure your subplot intersects with the main plot at strategic points.
  4. Balance: Be careful not to let the subplot overwhelm the main plot. It should enhance, not distract.
  5. Resolve: Wrap up your subplot before or as you conclude your main plot.

Think of your storyboard as a map of your narrative journey. It helps you visualize and organize your main plot and the intricate network of subplots. Embrace the subplot, and watch your story take on new layers of depth and complexity!