Subplots and complexities

So I know I’ve talked about the endless pushes to cut, but adding can have value too. Sometimes that value is in subplots and complexities. I think of the try-fail cycle often as I work on plotting things. These are reading about it things.

Writing Excuses

I love this podcast, I do keep looping back to it over and over. This discussion of pantsing talks about my favorite thing which is “yes-but/no-and.” This focuses on the try-fail cycle. Having a character just succeed and succeed is boring unless those successes just make things work. Successes that make things work are fantastically useful. Failures that make things worse are also useful.

Creating Subplots


Side Quests

Some people like them! I think it is important to remember that people like and enjoy the subplots.

(Yes, I’ve written on this before. This is more links and resources about it, hopefully helpful. It is something I think I will continue to come back to over and over. Character I don’t feel like I struggle with quite the way I struggle with good plotting skills. The thing I think that would make me better, weirdly would be doing something like running a tabletop roleplay game campaign, but that is a TON of work and requires knowing a LOT about the rules of the game. I am always in favor of throwing out the rules for a good storyline, which people who have been my GMs clearly know, but I think that works less well when you don’t have someone going, no no, there are rules, this isn’t all about the story.)

stat plots

I’m trying to make a plot/subplot joke but I feel like it isn’t turning out well…. Christophe Dang Ngoc Chan (cdang)



  1. Elizabeth

    I am always a bit confused by what is and isn’t a subplot. I like a romantic subplot in a story, or a plot in a romance story. 🙂

    I do think subplots are harder to pull off well and require more skill. I also think they are more difficult with the shorter books more popular today. In the past, I remember 500 page novels being a thing. Now it seems as if publishers want that kind of word count in a trilogy.

    But a trilogy also offers a much better chance to do subplots well. You have more space, more time, to develop them and wrap them into the main story I a meaningful way.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read them, but I remember Tadd Williams writing a series with a lot of seemingly unrelated sub plots that all culminated in the final epic ending.

    1. Mariah Avix

      I think there are still lots of doorstop plus size books. The Harry Potter books got longer and longer, Brandon Sanderson puts out a tome frequently, I can think of a lot of fantasy and a few sci-fi space operas (Peter F Hamilton jumps to mind as wildly disparate story lines) that are monsters.
      I think a lot of that is the audience, what your genre/readers expect? Romance? No, there is very little call for a straight romance that is 500+ especially from a new author. If you are established and have a market, they are much more willing to take a shot on something longer if they already know you make money. But that is because you have readers. As a reader? Picking up a 300,000 word book is a much bigger commitment than picking up a 75K word novel. I don’t even know if I like you or how you write, why would I commit that much time? So if the reader won’t take the chance, most publishers won’t either.


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