Subplots and side characters serve an important narrative role in fiction. They fill out the world and break up the story so that the main cast aren’t overwhelmed with solving every problem. This is why authors should give just as much love and attention to them as they do the main plot and characters. But there are some books in which the subplots and the characters within them are actually better than the main plot. Sometimes you find yourself dragging through the main plot and waiting with anticipation for the subplot to start up again. These are some subplots which I liked far better than the novel’s main plot (again, this is all opinion based, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if I include something you like):
Eragon – Roran’s story
The main plot: A Gary-Stu stumbles upon an adorable baby dragon and a bunch of other abilities and makes a lot of powerful friends. They travel the world of inexplicable geography to rip of Star Wars and every other fantasy story ever to take down the evil emperor, who is only evil because the author says he is. At one point the protagonist spends an entire chapter hanging around some woods and thinking about how ants are neat.
The sub plot: A normal farm boy with no special powers or privileges goes out into a world he barely knows to avenge his fallen father, save the survivors of his village, and rescue his true love, all so that he can return to living a normal life with the ones he loves.
The Hunger Games – Basically any of the other subplots
The main plot: A girl appears on a reality tv death show, takes down the government, and still has time for the most overblown love triangle ever. All for a poorly thought out social commentary that rich people are bad (who knew?).
The sub plot: Two kindred spirits both suffering from post-traumatic stress have a forbidden romance with one of them being used by the President as a sex slave, yet still help the other deal with their mental issues. When they finally wind up happy together, one of them is unceremoniously killed off-page.
The other sub plot: At age 12, Rue is already caring for her younger siblings until she is chosen for The Hunger Games, or super happy death camp. She survives for a long time thanks to her hiding abilities until her death sparks the first riot amongst the regular population which leads to the takedown of the government.
His Dark Materials – Mary Malone and the mulefa
The main plot: Two super special awesome kids with overpowered plot devices go on a quest to kill God, despite having no real qualms against him, go to the world of the dead just because they can, and have a tragic ending for no real reason. The message is that religion is a lie, even though God and the afterlife literally exist in this multiverse.
The sub plot: A nun-turned-scientist discovers gateways between worlds and comes to live with a bizarre alternate reality race who help her uncover the nature of the entire universe and how to save it.
The Princess Bride – Inigo Montoya’s revenge
The main plot: In the book version at least, two overblown romance novel stereotypes with no real personalities or likeable attributes go through a bunch of overblown romance novel clichés and almost die for each other BECAUSE TRUE LOVE!!
The sub plot: A man who witnessed his father’s murder as a child dedicates his entire life to avenging him, but instead becomes a washed up drunk assisting the main idiots with their stupid problems. He finally gets his revenge in the most awesome fight scene ever and becomes a legendary pirate, showing us how far a person will really go for the sake of true love.
I read Eragon about 10 years ago, and have never revisited the series. At this point, all I can really remember is wondering what would happen to Roran.
Jessica Wood said:
The other books go into much more detail, but you have to sit through a lot of padding to get to the good stuff.
I watched the first Hunger Games to see if I would be attracted to the trilogy, but regretfully — no. But I know what you mean by The Amber Spyglass, not quite up to the promise of the first two books and a tad overlong but maybe a reread may change my mind. Ditto for The Princess Bride.
Jessica Wood said:
Oh good, so I’m not the only one who thinks that.