Posted by: nancycurteman | March 18, 2011

How Subplots Enrich Your Mystery Novel

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Subplots can enrich your mystery novel by adding tension, romance, humor or suspense. A subplot is simply a shorter story in the context of your novel that evolves either from your mystery story, along side it or is interwoven into your main plot.

In interwoven subplots, the outcome of the main story depends in some way on the outcome of the subplot. For example, a secondary character who is an illegal immigrant risks deportation to report the kidnapping of a little girl and subsequently aids in the girl’s safe return to her parents.

Subplots may involve your main characters having more than one thing happening in their lives simultaneously. In a mystery novel it might be solving a crime and finding romance.

Subplots often involve supporting characters who have their own stories. Telling their stories rounds out secondary characters by presenting them with their own challenges to solve. Interesting secondary characters can enhance your mystery novel.

An occasional switch to a subplot story at a tension-pact moment in your main plot can heighten suspense in your mystery story.

Here are some points to remember about writing subplots:

• Connect your subplots and main plot by using common settings or situations.

• Show relationships between the subplot characters and the main characters.

• Subplots are not replays of the main plot. The situations must be different, but still impact your novel’s outcome.

• Like the main plot, subplots always have beginnings, middles and ends.

• Limit the number of subplots in your novel. Too many subplots can erase the importance of the main story.

Skillfully written subplots are an excellent way to enrich your mystery novel.

Additional mystery writing tips:

How to Create Sympathetic Mystery Novel Characters
How to Create Minor Characters in Your Mystery Novel
The Romantic Heroine in a Mystery Novel
Developing Characters is No Mystery


  1. I enjoy subplots ~ especially those that add humor or romance into the mix without being so tangential that they seem contrived.

    Your first point is perfect:

    • Connect your subplots and main plot by using common settings or situations.

    Thanks, NC!


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  6. Great advice! Thank you.


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