There are many types of subplots used in novels. Some types of subplots include a romantic subplot, political, macabre, artful/environmental subplots, historical subplots, thought path subplots, and character subplots. A subplot is a small story that is told throughout part, or all, of the main plot. There is no limit on how many subplots there can be, but there are limitations to how well authors can maintain such plots. There are a few key subplots that nearly every story uses.
These are subplots that provide great filler moments throughout a novel, especially when you’re experiencing writer’s block. Romantic subplots can be copy plots of other romantic scenes, which is why they’re great additions to the main plot when you are having difficulty proceeding.
Nearly every book utilizes this game of politics within their story. The only novels that can’t use this are those meant for a reading age that is too young to comprehend the complexities. These subplots are fantastic for filling in large gaps if you are having a tough time connecting sections of the main plot.
In a political subplot, a character explores the politics or social situations of their environment. This can range from how horribly a teen parent reacts to a situation, to a war room gathering where everyone discusses what’s supposed to happen. While politics usually mean dealing with some form of government, political subplots deal with environmental hierarchies.
You know that show that replays the same corny line during a mysterious investigation, or how a novel spends a useless amount of time describing the intentions of a bad person? This is a macabre subplot, and it tends to be quite useful in the beginning of fantasy novels. Good examples of novels that begin with macabre sub-plots are Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R.Tolkien, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter even maintains the macabre sub-plot and brings it into the main plot.
A macabre sub-plot carries its own story of horror fiction, but is useful for an aspect of the main plot. This is not to say that a description of how the murderer killed a victim is a subplot, but if that description is used to identify the difference between two different murderers then the description becomes a macabre sub-plot.
These sub-plots are very unique as they use the environment as if it has a story of its own. These sub-plots are very difficult to create, and even harder to maintain. They require an artistically tuned mind to describe how the environment has a story of its own. The sub-plot may be so subtle that the reader doesn’t take notice.
These subplots are extremely short and are useful when bringing in a new character that would not normally have been there. These subplots refer to something that has already happened but the reader is unaware of it. Most of the time, the historical subplot is introduced by using words such as two hours before or meanwhile. These subplots are often deeply tied into the main plot.
Thought Path Subplots
When you’ve got nothing to write and when all other subplots seem pointless, the thought path subplot is your savior. This is where you take the reader’s attention away from the storyline to explore a character’s thought process of everything that is happening or will happen.
These subplots are extremely difficult to maintain without losing focus on the main character. They are usually found within stories that use the past of an auxiliary character to describe actions that would otherwise be illogical. A character subplot is a small story behind a character or a secondary main plot that is heavily entwined with the main plot, such as a mother’s view and a daughter’s view.