So, you’ve had your killer idea and are in the throws of writing your novel. The first few chapters are written and you are feeling pretty chuffed about your first draft going so well.
Then it happens!
Unexpectedly, your writing comes to a halt. Your character is in a (sticky) situation and you have absolutely no idea how to get them out of it.
The dreaded question of ‘what comes next?’ rears its ugly head…and you don’t have a clue!
You kind of know where you would like things to be by the end of the next chapter but you need that crucial insert to make sense of things and there is no available bridge.
If you know that spot, you have fallen into a plot hole before. I’m an expert at this! The three most common causes of getting stuck in plot holes (in my experience) and my suggested solutions are:
1. Not enough world-building
You just don’t know your story world well enough to come up with the solution because you don’t really understand the world’s limits and available options for solving your situation or for driving your plot forward.
The best solution is to stop and go back to the drawing board. Map out your world – literally if you must – and ask yourself: what would be the most plausible action for my character(s) to take, given the situation? Oh and don’t worry if you find that the character(s) should never have ended up in that particular situation at all. You can always go back and revise the plot to steer things into a different direction. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings!
2. Your characters aren’t flawed (enough)
I’ve had this problem far too many times to count. Yes, we all love a hero/ heroine. But if your characters aren’t flawed (or if their flaws are superficial), your story will most likely be full of holes – little dead-ends where the story is basically over because there is no driving force (i.e. a flaw) …and don’t you dare go anywhere near deus ex machina! Your character must be intrinsically motivated to drive the plot otherwise your story will just consist of waffle. Again, I had to learn this the hard way.
Avoid this issue by making sure that your characters (especially your main character) have at least one intrinsic flaw that will stop them from getting what they want until the climax of your story. There is plenty of online resources out there if you need some help coming up with good flaws. I recommend 123 Ideas for Character Flaws by Writers Write.
3. Missed opportunities
This is an interesting one because I don’t think it’s a particularly well-documented issue in the writing blog world but I noticed a while back that I have a bad habit of driving the plot along so swiftly (at times) that I forget about those little scenes that are sometimes crucial opportunities to allow the main character to acquire a skill, knowledge, or tool that can later be used to help drive the plot. Duh!
Don’t fall prey to such blunder by considering inserting such opportunity-laden scenes ahead of any crucial story junctions. Having that extra asset in your writer’s toolkit will help you steer clear of much grief down the line when you might be able to confidently leap over some plot holes (rather than dig yourself a deeper one).
To summarise: avoid plot holes…by…well…plotting. Map out your world, build flaws into your characters, and take every opportunity to equip your main characters for the adventure that lies ahead.
Disclaimer: I am a plotter at heart and if you prefer to write by the seat of your pants, maybe this advice isn’t for you…until the editing stage? I don’t really know how the dark art of pantsing works. 😛
Are you currently stuck in a plot hole or are you soaring above them like an eagle in flight? Share your experience in the comments and have a productive (plot hole free) Sunday.