Plot holes are a pain for you and your readers. You have this amazing story, but how can you keep track of it all to avoid discrepancies? It’s difficult, I know. But understand that plot holes are normal. Some of the most popular stories out their contain plot holes.
However, this should stop you from avoiding them all together. Plot holes can make or break your story. So, today I am going to go over what a plot hole is, and how you can avoid them before they happen. Because, let’s face it, plot holes are much harder to deal with after you’ve written your story. So, let’s take care of it before it happens!
- What Is A Plot Hole?
- 1. Write With Purpose
- 2. Educate Yourself
- 3. Set “Rules” To Your Book
- 4. When In Doubt, Keep It Simple
- 5. Keep A Plot Outline As You Write
- FAQ About Plot Holes
- Let’s Talk About It!
What Is A Plot Hole?
By definition, a plot hole is an inconsistency or discrepancy in the story (setting, character development, etc.) of a book. Plot holes happen because when your writing, you can’t remember everything. So, you forget a few details from the beginning, and it clashes with something you wrote or forgot to write about later in the book.
Perhaps you made a big deal about a physical feature or skill that someone had, and then you never bring it up again. That can leave your readers wondering why you told them about it.
Or maybe a character gets injured, but then they are fine afterwards and can keep up with the other characters. Or maybe you don’t adhere to the layout of a place you mentioned before. These minor or major mistakes can take your reader out of the story, and that is the last thing you want to do.
So, what can you do, and how can you do it to avoid these mistakes? That is what I am going to share with you today.
1. Write With Purpose
What do I mean by “write with purpose”? I mean, have a reason for each thing you write about. For every character, point of view, setting, object, etc., know what the point behind it is. If there isn’t a point, the story will lack, and you will make mistakes. You should even have a purpose behind descriptions.
For example, don’t mention a character’s eyes unless it is a defining feature for them. In the Witcher series, Yennefer is a major character. One of her defining features is that she has purple eyes. It is a part of what makes her Yennefer. She cares about beauty and everyone see’s her as beautiful. So, there was a point to Andrzej Sapkowski writing about her physical features. Read my Witcher Blood of Elves Book Review.
When you write with purpose, you also write with clarity. This is because the more you have a reason to write about an aspect of your book, the more clear it becomes for the reader. They become more engaged. This simple tool helps with world building, character development, and writing quality. Which, by the way, are all crucial aspects of a book.
How To Write With Purpose
Well, that is all fine and dandy, but how do you write with purpose? Simple. Answer two types of questions. The first question you should answer is: Who are you writing for? You could answer this with an age range and a genre. This book is for adults who love historical fiction. Or this book is for young adults who love romance and fantasy.
Next, you need to ask yourself questions about the aspects of your book as they come along. Why did I include this character? Why did I talk about their skills/physical attributes/mental characteristics? How can they move the story along? Why did I write about this place? What significance does it bring to the story?
This could go on and on, but here are some fill in the blank questions you can ask:
- Why did I include BLANK?
- Why did I describe BLANK?
- How can BLANK add to the story?
- How can BLANK help progress the story?
- What significance does BLANK give?
Answer these questions with one sentence each and you will know the purpose behind each aspect of your book. Read to the end of this post for a full template that will help you write your book. The template will help you write with purpose, and so much more.
2. Educate Yourself
Does your book involve any of this from the actual world:
- events (wars, genocide, technological advancement, etc.)
- places (Italy, Chicago, Greece, India, etc.)
- cultures (Western, Latin, Middle Eastern, etc.)
- activities (street fights, boxing, painting, etc.)
- objects (paintings, swords, submarines, etc)
Does your story adhere to anything from the fictional world:
- Genre (fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc.)
- Creatures (dragons, trolls, cyborgs, etc.)
- Government (kingdoms, anarchy, dictatorship, etc.)
- Ways of life (gender roles, work, food, etc.)
All the above is important if you want consistency. Plot holes showcase a lack of consistency. If you educate yourself or write about what you know, your book will read a lot smoother, and it will be less likely that you will have plot holes.
To put it into context, I am going to take you back to high school. If you cared about getting a good grade on a paper, would you make sure you knew what you were talking about before you wrote it? The answer is yes. The same goes for your book. The more you know, the less likely you are to make mistakes, be careless in your writing, or forget something along the way.
You know how to make a PB&J so well that you’d never forget the ingredients or utensil(s) when making one. The same goes for your book. Immerse yourself into the world of your novel. Pretend like it is your world, so it feels natural. I promise that if you do this, you won’t make the mistake of explaining the wrong sword movement or contradicting yourself throughout your writing.
How To Educate Yourself Without Going Down A Rabbit Hole
Keep it simple. Write a list of what you know and don’t know. Then, one at a time, learn about the things you don’t know. Keep a reference to all your resources so you can go back to it if you aren’t sure. Get a basis for each item on your list that you don’t know.
Then, as you are writing, stop where you are unsure of something and look at your references to ensure you write about it correctly. This way of educating yourself will stop you from staying in the “forever learning” stage. So allow me to give you an example:
- Step 1: Create a list
- Step 2: Learn one by one
- Step 3: Gather the basic elements of each topic
- Step 4: Keep the references
- Step 5: Use the references each time the topics come up in the book
- navigating land
- culture of my story
I don’t know:
- fantasy creatures
- swords and armor
Now that I have my list, I need to look at what I need to learn, one at a time.
I would first start with educating myself about fantasy creatures. I would write out what creatures I need to learn about and then look up information about them. One way I could do this is by finding bestiary’s.
Then I would choose one, keep it as a reference, and stick to it. I would read through my creatures and make sure I have a general understanding of each one. Now, every time that creature comes up (fighting it, conversation between characters, etc.), I would pull up the bestiary and make sure that what I am saying is accurate.
Next on my list are swords and armor. First, I would decide if I want my swords and armor to reference from actual life or if I want to pull from elements of the fantasy world. Then I would learn about swords first.
I would learn which style of fighting I want to implement into my book. I would keep a reference of the movements of the sword and my body (posture stance, force), the swords necessary for that style (if that’s a thing, I don’t actually know anything about swords), maybe a bit of history on it, and last, how to care for the sword.
I would get a general idea of what sword or swords I want to use, what style or styles I want to use, and what fantastical elements I want to implement. Then I would keep a reference for each of these aspects. Lastly, anytime a sword is mentioned in my book, I would pull up my references and make sure it is accurate. Then I would do the same thing with armor.
The last of my list is monarchies. I would get a general definition of what a monarchy is. Then I would educate myself on the general structure. By structure, I mean what are the requirements for a government to be a monarchy?
After I answer that, I would then find references for the common laws present in a monarchy, holidays/events, how is the ruler treated, what is a definite no-no, etc. Basically, I would use the basic structure as a guide to find the references. Last, just as in the other two, I would use my references anytime something from the structure of the monarchy came up in my book to ensure accuracy.
3. Set “Rules” To Your Book
If you have rules that you must follow, you won’t break them. Set rules in place before you write so that way you lessen the chance of plot holes happening. Some rules you might want to make could be about:
- Character development
- Writing and editing
How to set rules to your book
You might wonder how to set rules or even how to come up with rules for your book. So, let me help you out. As far as the how goes, simply write out the distinct elements of each book and pick which ones you want to apply rules to. Here are some rules you could use.
- Don’t create a subplot if you will not provide a solution.
- Don’t edit as you write. Write first, then edit.
- Don’t use cliches when your characters are talking.
- Always tell the truth.
These are just a couple of ideas. You don’t have to have a lot of rules. Just make a couple to keep you focused. I strongly suggest using the second rule in my example. This will stop you from never finishing the book.
Plus, when you edit, you might forget to add or take away something from your outline (explained later). Always move forward, that is the purpose of setting rules.
4. When In Doubt, Keep It Simple
Simple writing involves clarity and readability. It will help you with the pace of your novel and to avoid plot holes. Why does this help? Because, in simple writing, you avoid the mumbo jumbo. It eliminates fluff, run-on sentences, and information that doesn’t move your story along. Simple writing will be easy too if you use it with the previous steps.
How To Keep It Simple
Simple writing involves these elements:
- Short to the point sentences
- Uses familiar and understandable words
- Is focused
So, how do you involve those elements into your writing? Easy. As you write, keep in mind the previous ways to avoid plot holes. The first element is to write short and to the point sentences. You do this by knowing what your writing about (educate yourself), understanding the purpose behind what your writing about, and applying the rules that you set for yourself.
I want to write about a dragon. A fact from a bestiary I have is that a dragon’s strength comes from its tail. That is my knowledge.
Now for the purpose. I want to write a scene where a knight is telling his tale of fighting a dragon. This scene is what will get the attention of a young woman who will become a main character in the story. Now I have my purpose.
A rule I have is to tell the truth. So I am sticking to what I found in bestiary’s about dragons. People who read a lot of stories about fantasy and the medieval era could know this fact about dragons. So sticking to the truth is best for appealing to my audience.
A poor example that does not adhere to simple writing could be:
“I snuck up on the dragon from behind so I could catch him by surprise and I lept onto his tail and with my strength I held on as the dragon swung it’s tail. I quickly climbed his tail, getting to his back, and then lastly to his neck where I slayed the dragon”.
A good example would be:
“From my training, I learned that sneaking up on a dragon from behind is a bad idea. My strength is no match for that of a dragon’s tail. So, I laid a trap before slaying the beast”.
Now, take this with a grain of salt because I did not do any further research beyond choosing the fact about the dragon’s tail. There could be many other elements to consider. For example, you could talk about the trap, if it breathes fire, etc.
The point here is that the poor example shows purpose only. It has no sign of education, adhering to the rule I set, or even considering my audience. It is a sloppy run-on sentence as well, which can affect the readability of your novel. The second example keeps the same ideas. However, it concisely applies purpose, education, and the rules I set for myself.
The good thing about simple writing is that you can go back to implement this after you have written your story. You should think about writing simply as you write. However, it should not detract you from your writing. Remember the other rule I told you about? Write, then edit. When editing your book, really apply simple writing so that way you are concisely telling a story and not boring your reader. The more you practice this, the more you will learn the moments to expand and contract your story.
5. Keep A Plot Outline As You Write
Not everyone writes a plot before they write their book. They like to be creative and think of things as they go. These types of writers let the story come to them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this form of writing. But if you want to avoid making mistakes, if you want to avoid plot holes in your novel, you need to keep an active plot outline as you are writing your story. If a new character makes its way into the story, write it down. If you find your characters going somewhere new, write it down. I could go on and on.
Keeping an outline helps you because you can catch inconsistencies during and after you have finished writing. All you have to do is go back through your outline and it will tell you where your plot holes are. Keeping a plot outline also inadvertently helps you with the flow of your story. It will point out what is and isn’t needed before you even get into heavy editing. Speaking of which, your editor and future self will thank you for keeping a plot outline, because that means they will have less to fix at the end.
How To Keep An Active Plot Outline
You can eliminate plot holes by simply answering every question you bring up in your story, and keeping track of the key elements that are in every story.
There are key elements that you should have in every one of your plot outlines:
- Writing style
- Characters. Writers Write has an excellent post on all the questions you could ask about your character.
- Problems and solutions within your story
However, keeping it all succinct, or knowing exactly how to write your outline can be daunting. So, I created a plot outline for you that addresses everything you will need to keep track of. Use it for every book or story you write. All you have to do is answer the questions within it as you write your novel.
FAQ About Plot Holes
Let’s Talk About It!
Today I went over what a plot hole is, and the 5 ways that you can avoid it. I also went over how you can put those 5 ways into action. Plot holes are a sticky mess, but hopefully I have helped you tackle this battle today. I’d like you to add to the list! Tell more ways you can be proactive about plot holes, or how you can deal with them after you’ve written your book. Comment away and let’s help out as many authors like you as we can!
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