Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holy Plot Holes, Batman!

Sometimes, it just happens that we miss something. A paragraph, or even a single sentence which makes no sense given what happens throughout the rest of the story. These are commonly called Plot Holes.

A perfect example of this would be Buzz from the movie Toy Story. Basically, if he really didn't believe he was a toy, he wouldn't have acted like it when Andy (or his parents) entered the room. Kinda throws off the whole movie, huh?

These things do slip through the cracks though. It's to be expected when you have a novel of 60,000, 70,000, or 100,000 words. Plot holes in books usually only last a single sentence or a paragraph, even if their repercussions span the entire work. In the Toy Story example above, Buzz pretty much does that through the entire movie. Pretending to be a toy whenever any human enters the room, even though he swears he's not one. Effectually, the whole movie falls apart if you think about it too long.

Of course, this is one of the things a good developmental editor looks for. Although, for holes that span the entire book, there's not much that can be done. Still, the more consistent you can make your work, the better it'll be. A big enough plot hole, even an irrelevant one, can pull the reader out of your story and that's the last thing you want.

If you have mind-control slime that takes people over at the slightest touch, your heroine can't take a bunch of it in the face without effect or explanation

If you establish that your town has a single road in and out, you can't set up a military roadblock and then have a character from out of town just show up in town like nobody's business.

I'm certainly not going to claim my own works are hole free. I had a minor one in my book Class 5 that I actually had pointed out to me in a few reviews. I took advantage of it being self-published to fix it though and upload the new version, but it was there, and I'm sure there's a few more that I still haven't caught.

My own plot hole that I fixed was simply not explaining the reasoning behind my character's actions, which didn't make much sense otherwise. It didn't help that the character in question wasn't in his right mind, so his actions weren't exactly a logical leap for most people. The fix was easy though, a couple sentences where someone questions his actions and he mentions his thinking. Problem solved.

So how to avoid plot holes? That's easy, just keep your eyes and your mind open during the multiple revisions your work should go through before it's published. Hire a good editor to go through your manuscript. Have beta readers give your work the once, or twice over. Basically, do everything you should normally do to make your work the best it can be.

Of course, some things may still slip through the cracks, and some things that are technically plot holes will be the axis upon which your story rotates. In that case, you just have to explain it away as best you can and/or hope nobody notices, like the Toy Story example.

Except everything's going to be noticed eventually, so it may be best to just not worry about it.

Don't worry. Be happy.

~ Shaun

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