Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Aviod a Literary Broken Neck (aka Plot Holes)

"A hole is nothing at all, but you can break your neck in it."
-Austin O'Malley

As writers we deal with pesky things called plot holes. According to Wikipedia
"a plot hole, or plothole, is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic established by the story's plot, or constitutes a blatant omission of relevant information regarding the plot." Basically the stuff that as readers we hate, and as writers we try our best to avoid.
When you read a book where a character breaks her leg in one chapter and in another chapter (set only a day after) said main character is kicking butt and taking names. PLOT HOLE! Unless you added something about a magical healer or the main character has magically healing bones, this probably wouldn't happen.
In my theater class, my teacher told us to FOLLOW THROUGH! She said if we were to talk with a German accent DON'T suddenly speak PERFECT English or if your character walks with a limp DON'T make him be able to run a marathon in less than a day. It doesn't make sense.
In my WIP, I realized that in my main premise of my novel had a GAPING plot hole. I fixed it of course, but if I continued my novel and never fixed it my possible future reader would be confused.
"A hole is nothing at all, but you can break your neck in it." I don't know if a plot hole is really nothing, but I thought the end was important. If you let your plot holes get too big the CAN break your neck (or in our case kill our story).
Most plot holes are discovered (I think) in the editting process. It important to look at your novel in a complete nonjudgmental third person POV. Yes, you and I know you're story is genius, but what would a nonjudgmental third person POV think? Would they start getting confused about how a dead cat in one chapter is suddenly doing dumpster dives for dinner. I mean he was dead... right?!?! Or did I just misread. *Flips back a few page* No the cat definitely died. They even had a funeral. So how is Mr. Fluffles in the dumpster still kicking? So remember even though YOU know that in book two you find out the cat has nine lives, the reader thinks a cat just came back to life. So either explain or delete it.
Also think aboout what you want the readers to assume. Know I know what you're thinking "don't assume it makes an *insert first three letters of assume* out of you and me." But assumptions in writing are important. If you are writing a murder mystery, and you want the reader to guess who is the killer you must make him a character. You can't just say in the last three pages the cops arrest the high school principle as the killer if the reader NEVER met him. This just made the past 300 pages irrelevant. So for things the reader must assume make sure they are probable things like the reader assuming that since your character has asthma he owns a inhaler. It would not be a surprise if said character pulls out an inhaler. It would by a surprise if said character suddenly does a Forest Gump and runs across the country without ONCE pulling out an inhaler. This is harder to fix since most of the time the assumption is obvious to you. You might think everyone with asthma doesn't need an inhaler because you best friend Bob has asthma and he pulled a Forest Gump, but to a reader, this is highly unlikely and even kinda scary. The best way to fix this is to ask someone who does not know Bob and you to read the story.
Plot holes are pesky and to fix them you need an outside opinion wither that means you being the nonjugmental third person or getting a friend read your novel. Hopefully, you can now avoid your literary broken neck.
BTW sorry for not post in the last four ish months. I don't have any excuses other than being busy. Hopefully I'll start posting again soon.


1 comment:

  1. I'm ALWAYS having problems with plotholes! Thanks so much for this post! Now I won't feel so discouraged when I see 'em gaping at me all huge and confusing, and I'll have the motivation to work on them :D