Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Plot Hole

Happy New Year, everyone! I apologize for the delay of this post. I was visiting family for the holidays and only returned recently. At least I can say I had a great time this year, and I managed to get a variety of fantastic photographs of roads in the winter. I like photographs of roads, and I like photographs of winter. Three hours of photographing roads in winter was highly enjoyable.

With that short side trip out of the way, onto the writing related subject!


Arguably, the plot is one of the most important parts of your novel. It is the whole point of the story. The plot determines what your characters need to do versus what reactions they have and *actually* do. It is the plot that is responsible for many headaches author's suffer over the course of their writing careers. With writing blocks, where authors cannot seem to form the next phase of the plot, coupled with the infamous plot hole, there are more downfalls than anything else when it comes to this subject.

The Plot Hole

What most people are concerned with is the plot hole. It is the most obvious form of writing problem and can stop new and experienced author alike dead in their tracks. The plot hole is many things. It is a show stopper, an annoyance, and something feared as people work on their stories. Below, you will find some of the common characteristics and symptoms of plot holes.

1: Inconsistancy.

At first, this is more of an error than an actual plot hole. However, it is not uncommon for inconsistancies in writing to bloom into a plot hole. Allow me to give you an example. Let us say that we have a story about a woman who has been kidnapped by three men because she is the daughter of a noble. So far, so good. However, let us take it a step further and have one of the men doing the kidnapping a noble -- of the same family. This is the potential for a plot hole. Right now, it isn't, but if the story develops so that the group is targetting all members of that noble family, you will need to justify just how that man came to be in that group. If not done correctly, it becomes a plot hole. If done properly, it is a plot device. More on plot devices later, however.

2: Developed Personalities turn into Plot Holes

One problem that many writers do not anticipate is the growth and development of their main characters. This often means that the story you originally came up with never comes to pass because your characters would not take an action required for it to do so. So, you end up writing a story with a certain ending in mind, but your character decides to take the north road instead of the south road. All of those loose ends that you were planning on wrapping up have a tendancy to become plot holes. This is ok. If your story has developed in this way, you can go back and close the holes later. However, you need to be aware of them come editing time.

3: You forgot about something

I'm guilty of this frequently. Editing is often a blend of fixing sentences, structure and all of those little things I have forgotten I had intended to do but never actually got around to doing! This can result in adding a lot more words than you anticipated, or cutting out a lot to remove the threads you were tossing around in your mind as you were writing and forgot about. Take heart, however. Even professional writers make this mistake. Having forgotten about something does not mean you cannot have a good book. The difference between a good writer and a 'bad' one is that the good one will either find a way to add that forgotten bit in later or make it so that the reader forgets about it as well. (After all, random 'what the hell?' moments happen in the real world as well...) A bad writer, or an experienced one, may end up sweating out the majority of their body weight over a small issue they had forgotten. A golden rule to remember is this: it is your book. You can fix it.

4: Ideas that evolve while you write.

Writing can be an extremely fun and creative process. When you come up with new ideas, these ideas evolve. This evolution can very easily lead to the plot hole. Most new writers -- and even experienced ones -- will allow the plot holes to form at this stage. First drafts are meant for this. However, if you are a writer who dislikes second drafts, this will cause you a significant number of problems.

Let us face the truth: there is little that you can do as a writer that does not have the potential to turn into a blazing plot hole that threatens to devour your writing. But, what can you do about it?

Let's find out.

Resolving Plot Holes

This is the second thing people think of when they are addressing a plot hole. Fixing a plot hole is important. A good book ties up as many loose strings as possible. When a series ends, you want a sense of closure. While a standalone or series is in the middle, closure is not as necessary. At the end of the book (or series), however, you want your readers to feel satisfied. Leaving plot holes can remove this feeling.

In order to resolve your plot holes, you must have a plot. If you have a plot hole and wish to resolve it, don't just resolve it right away. Stop now. This is not step two.

Identifying your Plot

Plot Holes exist because you have a plot. Isn't that fancy? However, resolving plot holes before you have outlined your entire novel can result in the creation of even more plot holes. Note cards, white boards or notes on paper -- no matter how you go about it, it is important that you identify all aspects of your plot. Only then can you determine how you can resolve a plot hole without adding a new plot hole to your story.

When you identify your plot and your apparent holes, you may even be able to add more depth to your novel. Sometimes plot holes are golden treasures in disguise. Consider what you can do with your plot hole before you pick up your shovel. Sometimes there are inconsistencies in the plot that need fixed, and sometimes there are just plots you did not pursue far enough. This is for you to decide.

Now you can go back and resolve whatever plot holes that you may have.

Here are a few sites that also cover the infamous plot hole:

Wikipedia's Entry on the Plot Hole

Cracked's 8 Classic Movie Plot Holes
: This isn't for books, but it does demonstrate just how movies and books can get away with plot holes.

Leah Michelle's Take on the Plot Hole

Truth be told, I don't use a lot of resources when I fix plot holes. I just do it. However, as I find more interesting sites, I'll try to get them listed here.

No comments:

Post a Comment