Writing Tips

Asking Why to Prevent Plot Holes

Writing a story is basically describing a series of events in chronological order. Whether or not your story is fiction or non-fiction, you are taking your readers along the path your characters have walked.

Plot holes happen when the author hasn’t asked these very important questions: “Why did that happen?” and “Why did that happen this way?” and “Why did they say that?”

It may seem obvious, but it is an easy enough mistake to make. If the holes are big enough, readers will not only find them but loudly point them out.

Every work has at least one place where the audience finds a reason to object to the plot, no matter how famous or how successful. Sometimes, the plot holes aren’t real holes but just misunderstanding or lack of information for the audience.

“Why didn’t Gandalf just as the eagles to fly Frodo to Mount Doom?”

“Who was the architect of the Death Star? How did they miss such a vital flaw in the design?”

These are just two examples of famous works with questions raised by the audience. There are answers to these questions, some of which are human error and arrogance in Star Wars, and others are far more complex for The Lord of the Rings. Even so, when readers raise these questions it means that the “why” wasn’t adequately explained or obvious.

When you’ve completed your first draft and you return for your first edit and rewrite, this is the time to really begin asking these questions. Understanding the why will not only help to build your plot but also help you get to know your characters.

If you have two people traveling from point a. to point b, by car, and it is a mere 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, it shouldn’t take them from dawn until dusk. Why would it take that long? Did they stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Did they have to run a few errands?

This requires a revision. If you must have your first scene at dawn and your second scene at dusk, then remove the distance that is being traveled. Perhaps you could add in another scene that takes place in between.  In the end, it may require changing your timeline.

If the evil villain is attempting to capture the hero, why did he wait three days to begin pursuit? Were his black robes at the cleaners? Did his army all have a case of the flu? Making changes will make the story better.

Not all holes will be so glaringly obvious. Take time to read and, if you’re able, have others read your work as well. Sometimes it’s easier for someone else to point out the places that make sense to the writer. After all, we already know why.

Are there any plot holes you’ve seen that drive you crazy?

As always, thanks for reading.

By way of announcement I’ve finished the first revision of Book One and I’m starting the final edit this week!