If you ask me my favorite character in almost any book, I’ll name a minor character. For example, in the Harry Potter series, I’ll list off Lupin, Ron, Luna, Neville, Hermione, Draco, Tonks, Hedwig…Harry won’t even show up on my mental radar.
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Subplots and minor characters add depth, humor (Legolas and Gimli in LOTR, anybody?), and variety to your story. They’ll help make your world three-dimensional, enable the reader to understand your main character’s motivations and passions, and empathize and feel the conflicts in their own hearts as they read.
But subplots can be a tough cookie. They can easily get lost in the bigger points of your story. They’re figurative punch can be diminished by poor writing. And they can easily confuse your readers.
THREE MAIN TRAITS OF THE SUBPLOT
A strong subplot has three main traits:
They are consistent
They are straightforward
They influence the main character and plot in some way, big or small
It is important to remember that your subplot is just that: sub. It is not the big cheese or the main event. Your subplots add depth and dimension to your story and world but they don’t need to take off on their own.
Unless your story gets famous and gains a rich and deep fan fiction following…which is also totally possible.
There are five best practices for strong subplots. These will guarantee your minor characters and rabbit trails are fully fleshed out and will deliver the punch you want them to.
SUBPLOTS ARE INFLUENCED BY THE GREATER SOCIETY OF YOUR STORY
One of my absolute favorite examples of this is the relationship between Lupin and Tonks in the Harry Potter books. Lupin is of course, a werewolf, which causes him several difficulties in living his daily life. It’s hard for him to find a job, make a living wage, and even though he found love in Tonks, their relationship still has it’s trouble.
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Lupin’s lot in life is largely influenced by society views him, which gives us readers a better understanding of wizard in society as a whole. Harry’s relationship with Lupin also clues the reader into their personalities and values, allowing us to know both of them better.