Don’t Fall in a Plot Hole! Cover It with a Rug.
It’s the middle of NaNoWriMo, and, as those participating probably know by now, the middle of the month is often the most challenging. It’s when the shine of an idea wears off and the realities of its potentials and limitations set in. It’s when the pretty, smooth road on your story map turns into a reality rife with potential pot holes… I mean, plot holes.
Don’t let those plot holes stop you, though. The best thing to do for a plot hole is to fill it… eventually. You’re sprinting to 50,000 words and may not have time immediately to go back and explain or foreshadow. For now, however, as you delve deep into your story world, there are some strategies to distract from these gaping holes, strategies used by successful stories that actually left those holes in.
Warning! Spoilers below for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Futurama.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
In this book, Harry is chosen for the Triwizard Tournament, a deadly competition for the honor of his school, only to discover at the end that it was all a plot by Voldemort and his followers to get him off school grounds so they could use his blood to give Voldemort a new body… and kill him, of course. When he reaches the cup at the end of the final competition, it turns out to be a portkey that transports him away.
Okay. I’m going to give a lot of leeway here. Sure, they could have used anything as a portkey at any time, but the Triwizard Cup is an especially good one for the following reasons:
• The tournament is known for deadly accidents, thus, providing a handy explanation for Harry’s death.
• The final competition takes place at the end of the year, and it took a long time to get Voldemort ready for a new body.
But those reasons still don’t quite cut it. Here’s a much safer route the Death Eaters could have taken:
• Leave Harry out of the tournament. No big spotlight means people don’t notice his whereabouts.
• Do wait for the final competition. It gives the Death Eaters the time they need, and the excitement and crowds of the competition provide much needed distraction and cover.
• Kids get injured—often seriously—at Hogwarts all the time. Come up with a plausible accident (and there are tons) and make it look convincing.
Why you might not notice it
There. Were. Dragons! And mermaids! And a sketchy reporter-beetle. And a creepy maze. Oh yeah, and the dual Bartemius Crouches and oh-my-gosh so much exciting and distracting stuff. Spectacle, pure and simple. Rowling needed Harry in the spotlight for this, even though it was a huge risk for the Death Eaters to take, so she made the competition so interesting that on the first read I didn’t notice the hole. And when I did, I didn’t care.
Futurama, “Spanish Fry”
Fry’s nose is stolen by aliens to sell as an aphrodisiac. Fry, Leela, and Bender visit Lrrr, of Omicron Persei 8, who bought Fry’s nose, hoping to convince him to return it. Lrrr decides he wants a rather different body part from Fry.
The Professor has a cloning machine. Fry could have a new nose by afternoon. The crew even brings this up, but Fry dismisses it, with the flimsy excuse that he’d have to teach a new one how to snort milk.
Why you might not notice it
Again, spectacle. There’s a sketchy bazaar where somebody’s roasting an automobile in the background. Then the crew goes to visit Lrrr to watch scary alien Lrrr and his wife bicker over their relationship problems in a hilariously mundane fashion. By the time Lrrr decides to chop off Fry’s you-know, I’d forgotten all about the cloning option.
So, what does this tell us?
If you have to have a plot hole, cover it with flash. Make the world of your story so darn interesting that everybody forgets all about that logical flaw. Now, the middle of a draft, is the best time for that. You should be deep into heart of your story, exploring new facets of the world, really pushing your concept to its potential. It’s no excuse not to try and fill your holes in December (even if you only fill them with an explanation about teaching a nose tricks), but know that popular stories like these prove that spectacle can trump logic.
Connie B. Dowell writes, edits, and tutors in Virginia. For fun, she counts plot holes in books and T.V. shows. One day, she will know how many plot holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. You can find her at http://bookechoes.com/