Ever wonder why in Harry Potter they tell us about the love story of his friends? Or show some fun but random sequences which have no direct link with the main story?
In large, big novels, apart from the main theme and characters, authors add side stories which are called sub-plots. For example, in my first novel, "The Unending Maze", I added a sub plot of around 7-8 chapters where Amaya go to her maternal home for a few days and spend time with her mother, father and brother.
Now these characters are not the main part of the main theme of this novel, yet this part makes a very important part of a book and adds on to the evolution of characters.
A large novel doesn't travel from point A to point Z in a straight line. It travels from all points to all points. Let's take the example of Harry Potter again. It would have been so easy for J.K Rowling to simply finish the story of Harry and Voldemort in 5 pages stating the story in the most direct terms. But she didn't do this, she instead wrote several books under the Harry Potter Saga, around 8 parts, each part consisting of several pages and words. The movies are just the shortened version of the books.
Because the books are filled with many links and sub plots that makes up one complete amazing story. Same way, most, most authors who write full flashed novels add on to sub plots, sometimes even more than one to form a beautifully, intricate and a complex story.
Sub-plots are generally added in the middle of the book and is generally not too stretched. 5-10 chapters are more than enough to start and wrap up the sub plot. The sub plot or the side characters should never take away the limelight from the main theme and the main characters of the book. Sub plots should add on to the overall flavor of the book.
So how can you add a sub plot?
Well some of my most favorite sub plot ideas include a travel of main characters and meeting new characters in the book, or an event of death or wedding or birth or some sickness or revealing a family member's secret or a friend's life issue.
Some of these ideas give an excellent ground to build a sub plot and make the characters grow in their journey of the book.
Just like in life, we have little stories going on all around us, the stories which develop our character, very minute stories which makes our life more interesting, same way, it's the sub plots which adds on to the intensity of the book.