Okay, this entire post is going to be littered with plot spoilers so if you haven’t read David Baldacci’s The Fix you may just want to come back later. Although I normally listen to his work on audiobook, I took the opportunity to read this one and found a novel that uses the subplot to strengthen various points in the plot.
Let the plot spoilers begin! You were warned. No, seriously. I did warn you.
Amos Decker is walking up toward the entrance to FBI headquarters when he sees a man shoot a woman in the back of the head. Before Decker can reach the man, he shoots himself committing suicide. From this point to the end of the book Decker and his cohorts are trying to figure out what happened. Why did this FBI contractor kill a woman he seemingly had no connection to? Why do it outside FBI headquarters? Could this man have been a spy, unbeknownst to his wife and daughters?
As they gather information they come up with more and more questions. Eventually the realize that a family member was in trouble and this gave the bad guys the leverage they needed to turn the contractor into a killer.
But the FBI makes some mistakes as they gather the information. They make assumptions concerning the roles of men vs the roles of women. Because of these mistakes, not everything makes sense and it takes them time to fill in the blanks. But the mistakes that they make in the subplot (how did the bad guys get him involved) are mirrored by the mistakes that they make in the main plot (was there a connection between the murderer and his victim.
Because the same mistakes are made at both levels, it strengthens the themes and the plot points surrounding the assumptions we as a society make regarding gender roles.
Everything is layered and nuanced if you can use your plot and subplot to mirror plot points, errors, and themes. Try it and see if your story doesn’t feel tighter and more cohesive.