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How To Write A Subplot

Every screenwriter needs to know how to write a subplot to bring depth and variety to their work.

As a seasoned screenplay consultant, I’ve written coverage on over 1,000 scripts and have learnt what makes a captivating subplot.

In this guide, I’ll explore the essence of how to write a subplot and give you three great tips to focus on.

write a subplot

What is a Subplot? Unraveling the Narrative Threads

Before we dive into the intricacies of how to write a subplot, let’s demystify the term.

A subplot is essentially a secondary storyline that runs parallel to the main narrative, introducing additional layers of complexity and depth to your script.

Think of it as a narrative side dish that complements the main course – it enhances the overall dining experience, making it more satisfying and memorable.

Write A Subplot That Creates Complicates & Conflict

The essence of a compelling subplot lies in its ability to intricately intertwine with the central plot, injecting conflict and complexity into the main thread of your story.

This interplay not only maintains the audience’s engagement but also propels the overarching narrative forward.

When crafting your subplot, consider the domino effect it will have on your primary characters, making their journey more unpredictable and emotionally charged.


How To Structure A Subplot

While subplots orbit the central narrative, they should possess their own distinct structure.

Treat your subplots as mini-stories within the grand tapestry of your script. Develop turning points specific to each subplot, strategically placed to sustain the overall pacing.

These turning points shouldn’t merely echo the main plot but contribute uniquely to the thematic development.

A perfect example is in Superbad, where McLovin’s antics with the two police officers take their own dramatic turns alongside the central plotline.

By giving subplots their own narrative rhythm, you can ensure they resonate with the audience, adding layers of intrigue without overshadowing the primary storyline.

write a subplot

Write A Subplot With Thematic Relevance

A well-crafted subplot is not just a diversion; it’s a thematic companion that offers a fresh perspective on your story’s central theme.

Secondary characters inhabiting the subplot should adopt positions that diverge from the main characters, exploring the central theme through their own unique lens.

This thematic exploration adds depth and nuance to your script, transforming it from a linear narrative into a multidimensional experience.

Whether it’s a different take on love, loyalty, or the human condition, subplots provide an avenue to enrich your story’s thematic landscape.

write a subplot

In conclusion, when you write a subplot, it isn’t about creating mere embellishment; it’s a strategic decision to elevate your storytelling craft.

By embracing the intricacies of subplots, you create a tapestry of narratives that captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression.

So, as you embark on your writing journey, remember these three pillars – complication, individual structure, and thematic relevance.

Weave them into your script, and watch as your story transforms into a rich and immersive experience, leaving your audience yearning for more.

Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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