I think I have done as much as I can with the main plot, so I am in the process of adding a secondary plot. I plan to create the second problem coming out of the same general atmosphere as the main problem, that is, the situations in a village. I hope this will evoke additional sympathetic emotions from the reader and enhance the urgency for getting a solution for both problems.
The solution to the sub-plot will come about with the solution of the main plot. If I were writing in third person with an omniscient narrator, the characters of each plot would not necessarily know each other. In this case, the point of view is third person close to the main character. The main character will need to be acquainted with the characters in the secondary plot.
Some of my favorite books contain sub-plots. The Harry Potter books have lots of them. I especially find the story of Ron’s rat to be startling, with a big “EEuuuuu!!” factor. We never knew when Ron first got his rat how important it would later become.
In THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, the main plot is tightly woven around the boy, Jonas. The Giver seems like a man out of time, with no past and no future. So it comes as a great surprise to find out that the previous Receiver was his daughter. The presence of her piano in his house is a great foretelling device.
Who would have thought that onions would or could be the central element in a sub-plot. But in Louis Sachar’s HOLES, they are very important. In all of these examples, the sub-elements are added subtly and fit seamlessly into the main structure.
In researching for this article, I gleaned some information from Elizabeth Sims, a guest on Brian Klem’s blog, The Writer’s Dig.
The post is titled “7 Ways to Add Great Subplots to Your Novel.”
These are some reasons for including sub-plots in your novel.
- Advance your story in satisfying increments.
- Unleash transformative forces on your main characters: growth or corruption, gain or loss.
- Reveal information to your main characters or to the reader.
- Pivot your action, provide twists.
- Speed up or slow down your story’s pace.
- Induce mood: menace, comedy, pathos, triumph.
- Patch holes in (or solve other problems with) your main plot.
- Insert—or, even better, challenge!—a moral lesson.
Picture books are written tightly with little extraneous elements to detract the young child from the plot. We have to stay single-minded when we’re plotting out a picture book. But if we need enhancement in our middle grade and young adult novels, we must try to arrange it so that the sub-plots and additional characters are well-integrated and spring from the same well that the main plot flows from.