If you read much, you already know novels are not limited to a single plot thread. A lot of books I’ve read have a main plot, at least one subplot, and a character arc. Your main plot is the scaffold on which you build the story and measure progress. Character arcs and sub-plots add depth and richness to the tale. But have you ever read a novel and wondered why a sidekick went “there” when they said they were going “here?” That goes back to the promise you make in the beginning. When you create a sub-plot or character arc, keep it relevant to the character’s main plot and growth.
For example, in my first attempt at a novel, my main character sets out to find her father after her mother dies. Her main objective is to travel to the place her mother said her father lived. Along the way, she falls in with a group of adventurers that lead her on a side-quest. Coincidently, a couple of the group members know who her father is and are very hush-hush about him. Their promise is to introduce her to the man, but they won’t tell her much about him.
I’m not entirely sure how much to reveal to young Meegan, because her father is not the man her mother thought he was. I believe the side-quest makes sense because the MC needs to grow before being hit with truth so soon after losing her beloved mother. She has life lessons to learn along the way about love and betrayal. Meegan is a naive young half-elf who leads a tranquil and sheltered life until her world is shattered when slavers discover their home, murder her mother, and take her captive.
Her journey with the adventuring party is intended to give her the knowledge she will need to survive in the world. Those lessons won’t always be easy ones. She will grow as a person and have to make decisions that will leave indelible marks on her psyche. Only then will she be ready to face her future. Now that I have a little more knowledge, I can get her going again and figure out where she needs to grow.
I’m still on the first draft stage of most projects, so I have a lot of work ahead of me. As I learn, I’ll add to my stories and expand on my knowledge. For now, though, I’ll feel my way and share my journey with you.