Writing. Word weaving. Storytelling. It is an art form, one that is not easily mastered nor is it for the faint of heart, though many step up to take on the challenge.
Words hold power far greater than any other creative medium in all creation. If you are a fellow Believer in Christ then you know all creation was born from Words and words alone.
So when we as creative beings take up the mantle of weaving words like a glassblower before a fiery furnace we must act with the same depth of care that said artisan takes when handling the molten medium.
One wrong move and not only is the piece we are working on ruined but we just might have burned a hole through ourselves in the process…neither are good outcomes.
It only makes me wonder, as an indie author myself, why so many authors act so carelessly when handling the wordy flames as if we, the readers, are just not going to notice.
News flash…WE DO! And it’s infuriating!
And yet, even with this knowledge, some authors still make the costly mistake of insulting their readers’ intelligence with sloppy character behaviors and plot “twists”.
The truth is they twist something far beyond their plots, they twist our last nerve and put our trust in their craft in a strangling chokehold all will the willful addition of the plot hole.
What is a Plot Hole exactly?
A plot hole is an incongruent or inconsistent gap that takes place within a fictional storyline that disrupts or goes against the logical flow or previously established plot.
It’s like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, that leads to a well of confusion, going completely against the established order.
In short, it’s that moment in the book where we the reader, stop and ask, “What?! That makes no sense.” and worse of all, it never makes sense before the book comes to an end.
Sometimes authors will create these holes unwittingly, believing that they are making their narrative more robust by creating tension. And they are creating tension just not the right kind and doing so can be very costly.
Example 1: A young woman with a wounded past, one that involves the abuse of men and a fear of being abused again would not, and I mean NOT, seek to use the toilet in a seedy strip club filled to the brim with drunk men. She’s just not going to do it.
Example 2: A knight who is the leader of a large regiment of men, who knows that there is a price on his head and a handful of his men have gone missing while out on their own, is not, I repeat, NOT GOING TO GO OUT ALONE JUST BECAUSE HE IS ‘THE GUY!!!’, thinking that he, by himself can capture his foe. He knows better. The very fact that he is ‘the guy’, lets us know that he is wise enough not to take these kinds of careless risks.
Example 3: A seasoned detective who is known for having an uncanny sixth sense will not ignore the nagging itch that something might be wrong at home but because he needs eggs for breakfast in the morning he heads to the corner store for a quick stop.
All three of these “tension-building plot twists” have not done their stories any favors. In fact, they’ve made us the readers, either chuck the book across the room while we rant about the ridiculousness that just took place; made us erase the offensive tome from our tablet while we rant about the ridiculousness that just took place, or makes us write blog post ranting about the ridiculousness that just took place.
Or maybe they push us to drive the last nail in the coffin where we just cry about betrayal to our friends…all of them…on social media and beyond about the literary trust that an author just broke.
A bonus example of this is presenting your story from the cover art clear through to a third of your book as a plot with a Disney-grade rating of G only to decide R rating is really your thing for the rest of the story.
That is never a good move.
The Damage Done
Just like an unnoticed pothole in the road can cause immeasurable damage to one’s car even to the point of totaling the vehicle, so too can a plot hole cause damage not only to what was once a promising work of fiction but even an author’s credibility.
Plot holes detract and degrade strong bodies of work: They are literally the fly in the cream, the egg-shell in the fluffy scrambled eggs … the foreign dark hair in the soup you were just eating.
What was once a wonderful experience has just made your stomach turn. You either push the dish away or try to choke it down with misery.
They are the points in the road that break your literary car down and leave your storyline and readers stranded in the miserable middle of nowhere.
They Distract from the original line of the plot: When a glaring plot hole turns up, even for just a paragraph in a 400-page novel, once it has shown up, that is all the reader can focus on from that point on, questioning why it was there in the first place.
(And this is the biggest) Plot Holes can cost you the trust of your readers: When the trust of our readers is lost, we lose our following and our credibility as authors.
Not only will our readers abandon us and likely not partake of our next writing adventure, but they will warn off others from doing so. As Mr. Darcy put it in Pride and Prejudice, “I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself… My good opinion once lost is lost forever. – Fitzwilliam Darcy” And with that loss of trust goes our good review rating.
Plot holes left untended, send a message that you as the author do not care about your readers or that you are not a very good writer. The problem with this is that neither of those messages is true.
If you’ve managed to write the story and keep your readers engaged this far within the storyline then you ARE a good writer and you DO care. You just need to be reminded and act accordingly.
The Catalyst of the Plot Hole
You’re eager to continue with your storyline at all costs: Excitement about your project is always a good thing but you have to be careful not to allow it to drive you into a ditch.
Pacing yourself and allowing believable situations to happen in your story is paramount. Your eagerness unchecked can easily convince you that no one will notice the hole you’ve created by being hasty just because you wanted to get to that ‘scene’ you see in your head. … but we do.
You are writing while word weary and don’t have the energy to come up with a stronger plot connection to bridge the gap between Plot point A and C: Word weariness occurs when we simply need a break, are exhausted but continue to write because we just want to finish, so at the expense of your readers you create a rickety bridge called Plot Point B, and then think we are going to be okay walking across it and hope we done fall to the depths below.
Like with any project we try to tackle while tired, avoidable and costly mistakes are bound to happen. So just take a break and come back later. Take your time.
You honestly believe that what you are adding, although a complete deviation from the current plot, will somehow make the storyline more robust. But in the end, it deflates the story in a way that hinders its recovery from that point on.
How to Avoid the Plot Hole
GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS AND STICK WITH THE FACTS! This is the number one thing that we as writers can do. Spend time in our character’s heads, find out their likes and dislikes. Get to know them down to the minute details that don’t even make it into the book.
By knowing these things you will be extremely reticent to allow any type of inauthentic behavior to come forth from your characters.
We’ve gotten to know the characters. We are invested. If we’ve dedicated time and money to your written piece then you, the writer, should dedicate the necessary time and care in making sure that your readers won’t feel betrayed 100 or so pages in.
Writing Exercise Link Below
To help you along with this, I have created a Writing Excercise called “Coffee with Character … or Tea” that you can add to your writing practice and help you remain on track.
The reward of this exercise is to get to know your characters more intimately. The answers that you find out about these individuals are not necessarily tidbits you would add to beef up your plot, but they are the gems that really get you in the head and heart of the people who are acting out the story.
They make the flow so much more authentic. By knowing these little intimate details you will know what things your characters will and will not tolerate while you work and weave your plot around them.
I get it. It’s tough bridging one’s story into literary perfection. There are always going to be issues with word count, rambling, in excess of unnecessary scenes, grammar issues, and so on. These things are expected and mostly forgivable. But ludicrous, inexplicable behaviors that are beyond incongruent with your characters or plot are absolutely not.
Just as the glassblower has a final vision for his work, so too do writers, but let us be writers who embody the patience in our practice ensuring that each word we put to page is worthy of the piece we are writing and yielding the plot pinnacle of quality it deserves.