The dreaded plot hole. Nobody likes to hear that they have holes in their story. It’s a lot of work to fill in those gaps and find every spot in your manuscript that refers to the offending bump in the road. But what are they, really? It’s a bit of a buzz word, yet it’s rare that someone could point to a particular spot in your story and holler out, “There! Right there is a plot hole!”

What is the big deal with plot holes, anyway? As long as you can drive down the road and get from point A to point B, who cares if there are bumps along the way? It can certainly be a more enjoyable ride without them. Passenger and driver can get lost in the sounds of the road or the conversation. They can lose themselves in the music coming through the speakers.

Readers want to get lost in your story, believe everything you tell them, and feel something. Plot holes, much like pot holes, cause bumps in the ride. It can prevent that suspension of disbelief and jerk them out of the story, reminding them that after all, it is just a story. As an author, your job is to keep them from remembering that. Keep them in your story for as long as possible, let them waste precious fuel by burning the midnight oil.

Basically a plot hole is an inconsistency in the story or plot line. When editing I take into account several different types of inconsistency and make specific suggestions on how to fill those holes.

Description consistency is probably the easiest to mess up, but fortunately it’s one of the easiest to fix. This can range from character to setting and can include issues in eye color, what type of car is driven, the spelling of names and even what time of year it is. It’s the little details like this that will make the world and the people feel real.

Each story has a specific set of rules the author establishes that must stay consistent throughout. This doesn’t just apply to fantasy, although it’s probably the first one that comes to mind. If a mermaid can only survive outside of water for twenty-four hours, then a mermaid character can’t then spend a week exploring New York. The same is true for drama and those stories set in the real world; gravity pulls things toward the ground, and the earth rotates in a 24 hour period. These rules can’t be changed without explanation.

Major factual errors can create plot holes, especially when writing historical fiction, police procedurals, mysteries, and some sci-fi. Clothing choices and technology in historical fiction and forensics techniques in a mystery will all play vital roles in making the stories feel real, true, and as if they’re unfolding in front of the reader. If the factual error is a major plot point, as in the entire investigation leans on this error, then a sinkhole has just been found in the road and there is debris everywhere. And that can take some time and effort to clean up.

Plot holes can range from huge issues, causing a story to fall completely apart, to minor ones that will keep the reader from fully immersing themselves in the story. Patch up as many of those holes as possible to create a smooth ride for you reader. A smooth story will be hard for your reader to put down and will keep them asking for more.

When you’re done paving over what you can, I can teach you to lay asphalt so your readers have a smooth and enjoyable ride.

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