Navigating Plot Holes: How to Find and Fix Plot Holes in Your Story

plotting revising
Navigating Plot Holes: How to Find and Fix Plot Holes in Your Story

Have you ever been engrossed in a book only to be jolted out of the story by a glaring inconsistency? Plot holes, those pesky gaps in the narrative or character development, can disrupt the flow of a story and undermine the reader's suspension of disbelief. While minor inconsistencies might be forgivable, major plot holes can leave readers frustrated and questioning the credibility of the entire story.

What are plot holes?

Plot holes are discrepancies or gaps in the storyline that can range from minor errors in details to major logical flaws in the plot. These errors can occur in any form of storytelling, including books, movies, and TV shows. While some plot holes may go unnoticed by readers, others can significantly detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Common types of plot holes

Plot holes come in various forms, but some of the most common types include continuity errors, character inconsistencies, and logical inconsistencies. Continuity errors involve discrepancies in details such as a character's appearance or the timeline of events. Character inconsistencies occur when a character's behavior or traits suddenly change without explanation. Logical inconsistencies refer to plot points that contradict the established rules or logic of the story's world.

How can you avoid plot holes?

While plot holes may be inevitable in a story's first draft, several strategies can help writers identify and address them during the revision process.

Tips to find and fix plot holes in your manuscript

1. Create a timeline

One effective way to avoid continuity errors is to create a timeline of events in your story. This timeline should include specific dates, times, and events to ensure consistency throughout the narrative.

Creating a timeline can be as simple as printing a blank calendar page from the internet or drawing one yourself on a piece of paper. This can be done before writing, or you can go through your first draft and plug each chapter into the corresponding dates. You want to ensure that you didn’t accidentally have back-to-back Fridays or go from ten a.m. to midnight when the transition says two hours passed.  By mapping out the chronology of your story, you can identify any discrepancies in the timeline and make the necessary revisions to maintain a sequence of events that makes sense.

2. Do your research

Thorough research is essential for ensuring accuracy and credibility in your writing. Whether you're writing historical fiction or contemporary romance, take the time to research relevant details such as historical events, cultural norms, and technical information. By incorporating accurate details into your story, you can avoid potential plot holes and enhance the overall authenticity of your narrative.

3. Follow the rules of your world

Every story world operates by its own set of rules, whether they involve magic, physics, or societal norms. Establishing and adhering to these rules is crucial for maintaining consistency and coherence in your narrative. Glaring plot holes can pull your reader out of the world you've created, especially in genres like fantasy and science fiction. If magic comes with a price in your story, ensure that characters face consequences for using it. Similarly, if your story is set in a specific time period or society, abide by the relevant customs and conventions to avoid logical inconsistencies.

4. Don't forget the payoff

Subplots and foreshadowing are powerful storytelling tools, but they can also lead to plot holes if left unresolved. Make sure that every subplot serves a purpose and contributes to the overall narrative arc of your story. If you introduce a plot element early on, ensure that it is resolved or paid off in a satisfying way by the end of the story. This principle, known as Chekhov's gun, helps maintain coherence and avoid dangling plot threads.

5. Keep track of details

Consistency is key when it comes to details such as character names, locations, and other recurring elements in your story. Keep a detailed record of these details to ensure consistency throughout your narrative. This can be done through a story bible, style sheet, or simply a dedicated notebook where you jot down important details as you write. By keeping track of these details, you can avoid minor gaps in story logic that might otherwise distract or confuse readers.

Bonus tip: Use beta readers to help find and fix plot holes

If you're working with a professional editor, part of their job will be to identify plot holes in the story, and suggest ways to fix them. Even if you're not working with an editor, it can help to have fresh eyes on your story before self-publishing or querying literary agents. Consider working with beta readers or critique partners to read your story with the specific aim of identifying any issues with the timeline, character motivations, or overall story threads. 

You're ready to fix plot holes in your story!

By implementing these strategies and techniques, you can identify and address plot holes in your manuscript, resulting in a more polished and cohesive story that captivates readers from beginning to end. Don't let plot holes derail your narrative—take the time to find and fix them, and watch your story shine.

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