The difference between a main plot, side plot and subplot – (how to write satisfying fiction)

I’ve put a lot of effort into plot outlines and templates for writing fiction, but the deeper stuff is sometimes trickier to convey. After all, you can have a brilliant outline that still fails to generate any interest.

Intrigue is about delayed gratification which means, information management: not giving away important reveals too earlier; or glossing them over in the text. Importantly, this is not yet about writing style or word choice.

But it is critical to get right. Recently I had the opportunity to develop some of my ideas for a fiction-writing summit called “Escape the Plot Forest.” I’m posting my slides here so you can look through them – there’s a useful scene checklist at the end, though it’s different from my much longer list of essential elements for every scene.

One of the coolest topics I tried to tackle, is distinguishing between the main plot, side plot and subplot – in a way that deepens your story without it getting confusing.

Main Plot, Side Plot, Subplot (what’s the difference?)

I think this slide is super important, so I made a 40 minute presentation of just this one slide… but it’s packed with content so it’ll help a ton if you’re having trouble figuring out your story and want to make sure it’s gripping and powerful.

You can register for the presentation to hear the whole thing. Or grab my guide to writing fiction (BookCraft) and see how everything fits together.

Want to hear this full presentation? Check out Escape the Plot Forest.

PS. I often feel like I’m speaking into the void, but it’s SO affirming to read through the comments so thanks for those of you who attended! You can still watch the replays.

“All I can say is WOW! I’ve never seen plot broken out to highlight the emotional elements before, and this is exactly what I’ve felt has been missing! Thank you so much for your wisdom, Derek!!! I’m 1/2 hour in and I’ve already learned so much! There’s so much advice on structure, but this delves into the emotion, and I love that!”

“Wow…I mean, just WOW! One of the most informative sessions I’ve seen in all of the webinars I’ve watched on writing. I will be reviewing this one for sure.”

Some people were overwhelmed so the moderator wrote: “That’s understandable. Derek is intense. Sometimes it’s fine to absorb what you can from each talk.” 😂

About Derek Murphy

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.
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