Enhancing Mysteries with Subplots

Jul 29, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Debbie De Louise

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Memory Makers by Debbie De Louise and links to purchase it.

What does a missing cat, a kidnapped toddler, and the one-year-old murder of a woman on her anniversary night have in common? They are all subplots in my new novel, Memory Makers. The main plot features Lauren Phelps, a 28-year-old woman who was kidnapped along with her sister twenty-five years ago. Lauren escaped her captor, but her older sister, Patty, was found dead in the woods. The killer was never found. Suffering from nightmares of the “shadow man” for years afterward, Lauren consulted numerous doctors and psychologists to help her recall the face of Patty’s killer. When Lauren sees a notice calling for volunteers for a clinical trial of a new memory drug, she signs up to participate hoping that the new drug will help her regain her lost memories from that summer day.

While readers may find the main plot of a mystery intriguing, subplots that tie into it enhance the story and make it fuller. Imagine eating dinner at a restaurant and only ordering the main course. Isn’t it better to pair a nice steak with a baked potato and a vegetable and maybe add an appetizer and dessert? Think of subplots the same way, as side servings to the book’s main entrée. They are usually introduced early in the novel and are resolved toward the end.

Common mystery subplots involve a romance between the main character and a supporting character. In Memory Makers, there are two men vying for Lauren’s attention. Brian is a fellow clinical trial participant seeking to recall who murdered his wife because he only caught a glimpse of her killer. Rick is Lauren’s partner in the kidnapping division whose fiancée cheated on him. Who will Lauren choose?

Debbie De Louise

Other types of subplots besides romantic ones include conflict and expository subplots. Conflicts between characters add depth to a story’s cast. In Memory Makers, Brian and Rick are at odds with one another for their obvious interest in Lauren. Expository subplots involve cause and effect and reveal backstory about characters and/or the setting of the novel. Because Lauren survived being kidnapped, she suffered survivor’s guilt made more complex by the fact that she thought of herself as the less adored daughter. This is shown by her father referring to Patty as his “Baby Doll” and Lauren as “Little Squeaker.” Lauren’s mother also showed favoritism to her eldest daughter.

Subplots can also be vehicles for plot twists. Transitions from the main story to the subplot should be smooth so that they are easily followed by the reader and, ideally, are relevant to the events and themes of the main story. A reader may not even recognize subplots that are woven well into the threads of the book; but without them, they’ll notice the lack of tension, suspense, and character depth like a diner noticing the lack of side choices on a menu.

You can purchase Memory Makers on Amazon, and it is also available for free on Kindle Unlimited. You can find it here or use the link below and a portion will go to help support KRL.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Memory Makers, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “memory,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 8, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

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Debbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island. She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. She has published seven novels including the four-book Cobble Cove cozy mystery series. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats. All her books can be found on her Amazon author page: author.to/DebbieDeLouise. You can learn more on her website/blog.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



  1. Sounds fabulous! Would love to win

  2. We have a winner!


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