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Weaving Subplots in a Crime Thriller

Writing a crime thriller is a lot of fun but it requires a great deal of planning. I have always admired authors who are able to churn out a book or two every year! It seems like a daunting task and those who can deliver engaging content consistently, are master storytellers. Classics penned by legends like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Patricia Highsmith, Satyajit Ray, Sharadindu Bandopadhyay, and G.K Chesterton among others, never lose their charm. Not just the main plot, the subplots embedded in the narrative make the novels timeless.

The hook

A crime writer needs to hook the readers with a fast-paced and persuasive first chapter. In today’s digital age when people have so many distractions at their fingertips, a well-written, action-packed ‘beginning’ is essential to keep the reader engaged.


Once the basic setting has been created, it is important to weave in subplots to the main story. The sub-stories should always take the main narrative forward and not be mere fillers. For instance, if I have described a flower pot’s movement from the garden to the bedroom in chapter 1, a later chapter should justify why that was done. Subplots enable authors to build characters, establish motives for committing a crime, and engage readers.

Creating conflicts

Once the characters start talking to one another, there are conflicts. Stories help create conflicts and add intrigue. Readers often judge characters based on how they interact with each other. It is important to avoid stereotypes. Original characters stand out, even if they are weird and not likeable.

Twists and surprises

Complex story-threads allow the author to introduce twists that can add suspense and surprise the reader. Through a story twist, a character that your reader loved so long can become a villain. Once the reader starts abhorring this character, the author might add another twist justifying the character’s action. Readers sometimes end up empathising with characters they dislike.

Show, don’t tell

Weaving Subplots in a Crime Thriller Moitrayee Bhaduri 2 | Page When we have subplots in the story, it is easier to establish personality traits of the key characters. We don’t need to write sentences like ‘He was an angry, young man’ when the emotion can be established with a sub[1]story.

Point of view

Stories help the author establish a point-of-view for the novel. The main protagonist who can be a detective or a law enforcement official usually unties the knots created through subplots using a point-of-view. Stories enable readers to deep-dive into the mind of the detective and connect the dots.

Nail-biting finish

If the stories within the main plot are edgy, the author can create a surprise ending, especially in a whodunit. Readers like me, who are addicted to crime-fiction, enjoy solving the case along with the fictional detective. Complex stories entwined with the main plot help authors avoid predictable endings.

To sum up

While the plot is all important, subplots make the narrative gripping and unputdownable. Stories ring in variety. A thriller cannot be boring nor can it have suspense on every page. So, the build-up to the suspense must be exciting. Stories make that possible.

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