June 14, 2018

Thursday Thoughts: How to Find & Fix Plot Holes

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my current burnout level means that I’m trying to reduce the amount of time this blog takes while still ensuring that I’m sharing good stuff with you all. *smile*

If you missed the announcement:

For at least June, July, and August, my blogging schedule will be as follows:

  • Tuesdays: New blog content like usual.
  • Thursdays: Sharing other content:
    • guest posts,
    • rerunning older posts,
    • favorite post I discovered online that week,
    • linking to all the writing-related posts I tweeted about that week,
    • etc., etc.

So today, I’m sharing a fantastic post by Claire Bradshaw that I found a few months ago over at Writer’s Edit. Even though this is an older find, I think it’s appropriate to highlight today because it ties in with our recent topic of plot holes.

Recognize “Plot” Holes Beyond Just Our Plot

As we discussed last time, both here and at my guest post at Writers Helping Writers, plot holes can also sneak into our character development and our worldbuilding. But we haven’t yet talked about a step-by-step process for identifying or fixing any plot holes we have, so let’s dig deeper today.

First, we need to make sure we’ll recognize plot holes when we come across them:

  • Inconsistencies in the plot and/or plot events:
    Plot problems can include:

    • those related to time and place—who’s doing what when
    • illogical or lacking story-plot flow—events or character actions have no reason for happening, or they couldn’t happen due to other events
    • gaps—questions are left conveniently unanswered (“Wait, how did they escape?”)
  • Inconsistencies in characters and/or their development:
    Character problems can include:

    • contradictory—their behavior or knowledge doesn’t match previous information (with no explanation for the difference)
    • puppet-like behavior—characters’ actions are too convenient, lack motivation, or make sense only from the perspective of plot requirements
    • broken arc—characters’ goals, stakes, or motivations are forgotten, ignored, or change with no explanation
  • Inconsistencies in the story’s worldbuilding:
    Worldbuilding problems can include:

    • explanations of why something is important or can’t be done
    • characters’ backstories (and in how it affects the plot and/or story)
    • settings, props, or science/religious/cultural details (places/things characters interact with)
    • political, power, or magic systems (and how they affect the characters, plot, and/or story)
    • character details (name, age, job, physical description, personality details/quirks, etc.)

Finding and Fixing Plot Holes

Now let’s talk about Claire’s post…

She points out four methods to identify plot holes in our story:

  1. Read and take notes
  2. Outline and ask questions
  3. Create story bible
  4. Use beta readers (and/or developmental editors)

Then she shares four steps to fix plot holes:

  1. Explore alternative “what if”s
  2. Watch out for ripples affecting the rest of the story
  3. Try simplifying
  4. Dig in and work

Don’t Let a Fix Create More Holes

Claire’s second step of fixing plot holes is especially important. My beta buddy Angela Quarles and I refer to these ripples as “stitches,” and how we can sometimes see the stitches left when trying to make fixes.

When we make changes to one part of our story, we can easily “break” other aspects of our story. We could have:

  • a setup that’s missing a payoff or vice versa
  • foreshadowing that no longer works
  • contradictory information
  • a break in story-flow logic, etc.

For lots of great tips and insights into this process, get all the details from Claire on how to get rid of our plot holes… *smile*

How To Find And Fix Plot Holes In Your Novel
— by Claire Bradshaw

P.S. Book News!

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I entered my latest story into a handful of well-respected published-author contests. I’ve now heard from all five of those contests, and…

Stone-Cold Heart has finaled in four contests!

Stone-Cold Heart cover

Stone-Cold Heart is a finalist in:

(The only contest I entered and didn’t final in was the uber-competitive RITA contest, which I wasn’t seriously hoping to final in because it is so big (2000 entries!). Every entry I read as a judge was somewhere between very good and nearly perfect, and not a one of those stories I loved finaled either.)

Also check out the June FREE For All & Giveaway Event
June 11-15!

To show their appreciation, your favorite romance authors have come together to offer a book for FREE on Amazon. Download one or all. Maybe you’ll find your next favorite author.
PLUS Enter to win the giveaway!

(Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t worry. Read with the FREE Kindle App.)

Have you struggled to find or fix plot holes in your stories? Will these tips help you? Do you struggle more to find plot holes or to fix them without breaking other aspects of your story? Do you have any advice to add to these insights? What processes have been most helpful to you in finding or fixing plot holes?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks! If you are stuck with your characters having painted themselves into a corner, I suggest asking someone else for an outcome. They will have a different perspective and different expertise to you. They may suggest a diversion or a related issue that had not occurred to you.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Plot holes do annoy me, found in many films I am afraid which is why some people have the idea that writing a story is easy.


Congratulations! That is so awesome!

Click to grab Unintended Guardian for FREE!