You just got your manuscript back and you’ve been flagged for plot holes. What can you do? You’ve painted yourself into a corner, but don’t give up hope. The following post covers a few workarounds to get those dreaded plot holes filled in no time.
Before we begin, what type of plot hole do you have? Each section below will breakdown the type of plot hole, then offer a solution to fix it. Grab your shovel and let’s get started …
You have a character whom you said was born in 1985 ordering their first beer at a bar in 1987. You state in one chapter that a character’s mother is dead but, four chapters later, you introduce this (now alive) grandmother to their granddaughter. This is something that an amazing proofreader will tackle for you, but even they’re human and things slip by. Also, make their job easier and try to clean things up beforehand.
I’m not going to lie, these are the worst holes to fix. You’re literally messing with the time/space continuum of your manuscript. This could create tragic ripple effects when you go back in time to fix things. The solution, get organized.
I highly recommend that you take before and after notes. Maybe use one of those dot or bullet journals or create a flow chart. They can really help you visually layout timelines by character, scene, or plot development. Use different colors to identify before and after so you can see things from a big picture point of view. Then, once you see things from above, you can go back and change your errors.
Suddenly one of your vile characters does something kind. There’s no build-up or reason, they just do it. Well, you can’t do that. Readers will feel the falsehood and call you out on it. You need to drop some clues in the text earlier on so that the change in attitude is justified.
For this fix, search the character’s name and read through each scene where they appear. Can you add anything to aid their future change of heart? What subtle acts could you include that would gradually help readers understand a drastic personality change?
A character’s very tall in one chapter then has a short stature in the next. Another character grew up in the country then later waxes poetic about their urban upbringing. These details matter and can trip you up, especially if you’re writing a series.
Keeping a Story Bible is one way to keep all your information straight and accurate. You can build files for all your characters, locations, and plots and reference this information while you’re writing–or after you’ve written and you find yourself asking did that character really have a sister? If you’re back-building a bible, again, do searches for the characters’ names and read through all the scenes where they appear. You can take notes and do cross-referencing in this fashion and possibly find/fix errors.
Overlooking the Obvious
Sometimes you write a scene and later realize it isn’t plausible. For example, I once had a character locked in a tomb. She was freaking out, alone in the dark looking for a light. First, I had her use a lighter that she found in her pocket. Then I, the writer, was wondering how to get her out of the tomb.
It later occurred to me that, of course, she would have her cell phone in her pocket. Thank goodness my character was an unreliable alcoholic. I had the phone ring, startling her and then gave her some dialogue, a self-reflection on her own stupidity. This covered the obvious mistakes–why didn’t she a.) use the light on her phone and b.) immediately use her phone to call for help?
You might need to get creative with your own obvious mistakes, and you might not even see them at all. No one’s an island when it comes to writing. Therefore, it’s good to have beta readers, proofreaders, or friends who can help you before you publish all those plot holes.