Writers write. It’s what we do. We’re driven to write. Getting through the first draft is a great, but it’s only scratching the surface of your story. The second, third, and fifteenth draft—if your insanity takes you that far. I’m not here to judge. Some people are driven into insanity when it comes to writing. I think we all do to some degree.
The problem is most of our stories have plot holes. These are the parts of your story that have gaps or inconsistencies. Such inconsistencies go against the flow of logic established by the story’s plot. Gaps can be minuscule in scale to the whole story, but they’re disastrous nonetheless. If your reader doesn’t mind a simple gap, well, you’ve gotten lucky. Too many of these sprinkled throughout the story and your reader will be unforgiving, put your book down and you’ve just jeopardized any future relationship with them.
As writers, we want everyone to love our stories. We thrive for great reviews. But if we don’t take the time to get the story right, then we’ve failed.
I’ve come up with a common list of potential plot holes to help you go back and look over your work. This isn’t an all-inclusive, but it’s a start.
Time of day
Your reader is sitting in their favorite chair, hot chocolate nearby and grab your book. They are looking forward to getting lost in the story. Great start and they haven’t even started reading yet. As writers, this is what we live for. Let’s look at the first example.
Jack is your protagonist and he’s walking the streets of Boston during a snowstorm to meet his girlfriend Sarah at a local diner for a quick lunch. She needs to get back to work for a one o’clock meeting. Sarah is a no-show. Maybe she got caught up at work and couldn’t make it. He calls several times and leaves a few messages for her to call back. Jack waits for an hour and leaves. He’s upset, not because she stood him up, okay, maybe a little, but she never called back. Jack storms outside into the warm night. Moonlight casts his shadow along the sidewalk. Can find the plot holes? Do you think your reader would notice?
Jack entered a local diner to meet his girlfriend Sarah for lunch. If we waited an hour, how could he walk outside into the warm night? Unless the reader explains why, the reader will be at a loss.
Here’s another example. Jack is walking the streets of Boston to meet his girlfriend, Sarah at a local diner for lunch. The rain is soaking his clothes and he wishes he’d brought an umbrella. He enters the diner and hugged Sarah.
“Glad you could make it,” Jack said. “You didn’t sound good on the phone. Is everything okay?”
The hostess approached. “Your table is ready.”
Jack starts to follow the hostess.
Sally grabbed his hand. “Wait. We need to talk.”
“I didn’t want to bring this up now, but I’ve started seeing someone else.”
“This is a joke, right?”
“I’m sorry. It just happened.” Sally kissed him on the cheek and left.
Did you find the plot holes here? Do you think your reader would notice?
In the first paragraph This may not sound like a story hole, but who would hug someone if their clothes are dripping with water. You’ve given the impression Jack’s clothes are dry.
Another is when Sally grabbed his hand. Who’s Sally? Shouldn’t this be Sarah.
It’s these little problems that can lead to big problems in your story.
Every time you have a plot hole your reader is jarred out of their suspension of disbelief and reminded they’re only reading a story. Do this too many times and your reader will put the book down.
One way to help avoid plot holes is to have several beta readers go over your story and give feedback. And make sure you have a great editor. And as Stephen King says, “Writing is rewriting.”
Good luck with your story.