Guest post by Eric Beltran
When writing a script for a film or video production, usually the last thing on anyone’s mind is the development of a subplot. Well, maybe not the last thing, but it is definitely not the first as you’re going to need, at the very least, the actual central plot first.
So then, what the heck is a subplot anyways? It may seem like unnecessary work to do on top of the already complicated task of writing a screenplay, but that is very much not the case.
Why should you even waist your time working on a subplot when the story you are writing is difficult enough already? The truth is, the subplot may be the thing that ties it all together, and allows it all to fall into place.
Think of subplots like branches on a tree…
If your screenplay was a tree, then your main plot would no doubt be the trunk. And if the trunk’s your main plot, then the roots of the tree would be your theme or themes.
In the same vein, you can think of the subplots of your screenplay as the branches on the tree. They are the parts of the tree, the story, that are reaching out for sunlight, trying to attract the rays, twisted and seemingly random, but firmly connected nonetheless.
That’s the most important thing to remember about subplots for a film or video production of any nature or size. They must be connected to the main plot of the story, the foundation, and thus connected to the theme(s) of your screenplay as well.
In essence, subplots are the smaller plots that are going to help enhance and further progress your main plot. They are the smaller stories that are cleverly woven into your main story. Without these branches, the tree looks barren and dull, and your story will feel flat.
Subplots present distinct tools to the storyteller…
In your subplots, you can introduce new characters, present some new and difficult issues to the protagonist, or, especially with more plot-driven stories, you can build your emotional core. The one thing you should not do with your subplot, however, is ignore it.
The fact is, subplots are going to help improve your overall storytelling. For one, they can provide a welcomed break and infuse the story with a new personality, or they can give the audience a moment to digest all of the information they’ve received thus far.
Subplots can also help to develop or flesh out a backstory for the protagonist or other characters, which can make them more identifiable to the audience. And again, they can help sculpt and mold, perhaps even illuminate, the overall theme of your story.
Therefore, when writing your screenplay for a film or video production, it is important to take the necessary time to thoroughly plan out the subplots. You should take as much time as you would take in developing your main plot. After all, they’re just as important.
Now for the how…
It is important that the subplots have their own beginning, middle, and end. Also, you want to avoid seeming too random with your subplots. While they should always be intended to use to enhance the overall story, they can easily distract from it too.
Some subplots may seem random at times, but they should never actually be completely disconnected from the main plot. If they are, they’re a separate story and don’t belong in another.
It is also important that subplots come to a conclusion, just like the main plot, and that they are resolved. It’s not mandatory that they be resolved at the same point that the main plot is resolved, but if that is possible and is what you think fits the story, then go for it.
More often, though, subplots start coming to an end towards the end of the second act or by the middle of the third, depending on how crucial they are to the overall plot and how they affect its outcome.
Just because they’re called subplots, that doesn’t mean they deserve subpar effort.
Most full-length scripts have somewhere around 2-3 subplots. They are a vital part of any screenplay and add a variety of layers to the story, layers that provide the storyteller with some extra toys to play with.
So, do not ignore subplots and their proper creation, no matter what. And when you start building them, make sure not to brush them off to the side so that when you return to them, no one cares or remembers. They need to build towards something just as the main plot does.
So, even when setting out on a short-form film or video production, give subplots their due thought and consideration. If you give them the time and effort they deserve, they’ll only serve to enhance the overall effect your project has on the audience.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.