There are five words that always make me laugh whenever I watch one of the videos from the Youtube series below, hehehe! Because it's SO true for every story and every TV show and every movie that I've ever seen! And it's true for your work too. Can't help but to get a few chuckles out of it!
Those five words?
"Super easy! Barely an inconvenience!"
Don't worry, an explanation is coming.
One thing that I hope many of you will take from this week's discussion is the idea that any story...literally, ANY story...can be picked apart and scrutinized to the point where it simply might not work as an effective story anymore. Sad, but true.
I don't say this to discourage you guys. I say this to 'free' you. I say this to make you guys aware of the reality of the situation when it comes to writing a story of your very own. Especially if it's your first time. Please keep in mind that you are writing a fictional story. Let me repeat that before moving forward...you are writing a FICTIONAL story! You are creating something out of nothing. Your goal is to entertain an audience by getting your fictional main character from a fictional point A to a fictional point B, by whatever means you can use to advantage while keeping your readers locked in while you're doing it. You are creating a dramatic series of events to provide opportunities for your story to move forward. It's not real. NONE of this is real. It's a story. And it's meant to get your readers to enjoy the ride that you have planned for them.
(Unless, of course, it's autobiographical...in which case, that's real! LOL! But even then, who's to say that your memory is as accurate as t should be.)
I wanted to start this discussion with this statement, because I feel that it's really important for every writer to remember this when they go into writing their next project. PLEASE, keep in mind that you will never ever EVER be able to avoid or find your way around the "Why doesn't he just...?" crowd! Never! Not EVER! Hehehe! Trust me, I've spent 20 YEARS trying to write stories that the nitpickers couldn't possibly dismantle and make my main characters look hopelessly stupid, frustratingly clueless, and unforgivably fake! And those aren't MY words...that's from my fans who claim to actually love the stories I write.
Anyway, when writing a story and plotting it out, putting all of the pieces together to reach the desired effect that you're looking for...you have to construct a certain formula in order for your story to work in your head. You have to build a foundation and keep adding bricks until you reach the top and are able to put a roof on your project. It takes practice, but you learn to connect dots, bond events, set chain reactions in motion. But that doesn't mean that you won't miss something or slip up every now and then. It happens, and people will catch it and call you out on it. Sometimes, it's a plot hole that you can fill in and make your story better. And other times...just let it go. Hehehe, sometimes it's just a part of the story. Let readers know, 'This is something that we built, exclusively, for you to enjoy', right? Just...hopefully they'll enjoy it for what it is. It's all a matter of telling the best story that you can, and concentrating on what you feel is most important.
This can...and will...lead to plot holes in your story. Don't feel bad about it. This is inevitable. No writer is out there looking at ten thousand different alternative solutions for your main character's every thought and action in any given story. And even if you could, there would be ONE reader out there that saw ten thousand and two possibilities, and will bring it up anyway. You can't beat them, don't try.
This weekend, we talk about plot holes! Figuring out what you can fix, and what you should leave alone. And those unavoidable literary speedbumps in the road that we TRY to avoid...but still hit, despite our attempts to swerve around them at the last minute!
Before I start, take a look at some of the videos below. I really love these, as they always make me think about things I never thought of before and laugh! We're all potential suckers for a good (or bad) story sometimes. But, yes! There are plot holes in every movie you see! And if you sit there and make a sincere effort to pick everything apart...then yeah, I doubt any story/movie/TV show would make much sense at all. But...that's only if you work at stripping down every element of it. And where's the fun in that? LOL!
These are all parody versions of what these movies would be if broken down to their core. Many SPOILERS are involved! So, if you haven't seen the movies listed, then you may want to skip over that particular video. But, for those who have seen them all...
...Take note of the plot holes and conveniences included in this as the jokes fly by...
Hehehe, are you beginning to see what I'm talking about here? No story is exempt from contrivances or cliches. Plot holes pop up because we don't all see the world with the same eyes. That's something that you really have to keep in mind when you're trying to get around this problem in your writing. Something might be wrong with my car, and an experienced mechanic might tell me, "Well, why didn't you just move this wire to that wire and reroute the electric charge? Hehehe, or whatever. Ummm...ok, well I didn't think of that. Thanks, I guess? And you guys know how I struggle with programming and computer stuff that, I'm sure, makes me look like a full blown idiot to people who know computers much better than I do. But, hey...sorry. I didn't think of that either. Shame on me.
The point is, if you're going to share your art with a wide audience, they may see blindspots that you can't. And this is where having a Beta reader, or even multiple Betas, read your story (I suggest 'chapter by chapter', just in case you spin off in a direction that you can't come back from later) ahead of time. Maybe your friends and fans can pick out a few inconsistencies in your writing, and let you know before you get too far ahead of yourself. They can be extremely helpful in that regard.
I've made many mistakes in my stories in the past that I didn't really think about until someone pointed it out to me. I've had someone in a wheelchair show up on the roof of an abandoned building without thinking about how he was able to get up all of those flights of steps without assistance. I've overlooked obvious answers to story conflicts, I've mixed up continuity issues, I've dropped the ball in potentially major scenes...but that's all a part of honing your craft. Live and learn, I suppose. I was trying to tell a story that would be excting and memorable to everyone who took a look at it, and I was definitely trying to guide it in a certain direction so I could achieve that. A young artist, Ruel, said about creating his own music, "Writing is exaggeration." And I really couldn't agree more.
It's not so unrealistic, you know? Any honest portrayal of our own lives might come off as convenient and contrived as well when seen through the eyes of an observer. Take a look at your own experiences, good times and bad. How closely does it play out to the stories you read online? Is it really all that complex? Sometimes, you meet your best friend by chance. Sometimes you fall in love with someone you didn't expect to care for. It happens. It almost feels like 'fate', when it does because...how the hell could I have been so lucky/unlucky on my own? Should our stories not reflect that in some way? Sure, we add a little flair here and there, but truth be told...a majority of the greatest moments of my life happened by 'accident'. Spontaneous reactions to unexpected opportunities. Falling for my best friend, losing my virginity, comng out to a few trusted friends, lucky breaks, and hilarious failures. Even writing my first story for Nifty. "What's the story behind that, Comsie???" I found Nifty by accident online one night, read a bunch of stories, wanted to write one of my own...so I sat down and wrote it. "Oh." Exactly! Not exactly a page turner, is it? Hehehe, but it's life! Exaggerated life, sure, but life just the same. That's what I write about. And that's been my personal experience.
I want flawed characters. I want spur of the moment mishaps and bumbled conversations and knee jerk reactions. As a writer, we all get the chance to plan and plot things out in order to create the story we're trying to tell. Stories that take place in the 'moment'. Readers, however..have a bit of an advantage. They have time to detach emotionally, take time, pause, back away from the situation, and crate a variety of alternate scenarios in their heads to poke giant holes in what you've written. Which makes sense, it's what readers do. But it's not always fair. Hehehe! Keep that in mind.
Have you ever had a heated argument with somebody, walked away angry, and spent the next few hours thinking, "I SHOULD have said this!" Or, "I should have pointed out how much they SUCK when they said that!" And hey...if you had time to think and analyze and push your emotions aside for a biting zinger that would knock your opponent to the floor in the heat of the moment...that would have been great. But, the truth is...we don't get a do-over. We don't get to remove ourselves from the situation and pick it apart from a distance until the moment is already over.
I say this because I believe that an author's passion is important, and writing should feel natural and fun to you guys. Create your vision, and have it play out the best way that you know how. You shouldn't be stressing yourself out, trying to outsmart the world's greatest detectives with every plot point and word of dialogue that you add to your project. You'll never get anything finished that way. Have confidence in your ability to craft a series of events that will get your characters where they need to go.
Create your story line, write it out, go back and self edit to see if your plot is missing anything or if there's anything that doesn't add up...and then give it to your Beta readers to see if maybe they can find some of the errors that you can't see for yourself. The big thing here is to get the story finished! If you need to add something or change something later to keep from confusing your audience or spoiling the suspension of disbelief...then so be it. But while I challenge you all to write the best story that you can at all times...please don't give yourselves brain aneurysms trying to fill in every plot hole and make your story 'critic proof'. It won't happen. There's no such thing as 'critic proof'. They're critics. Criticism is what they do. Hehehe! It's like trying to make a kite 'wind proof'. It's pointless. And you need that wind to make the kite fly, so why try?
A few more of these...
Plot holes occur...these things happen from time to time. Don't stress yourself out about it. I definitely challenge all writers to do their best to write as airtight a story as possible...but I'd be lying if I said I thought it was possible. Plot holes exist. Hehehe! If 'The Terminator' had a time machine...why not go back and kill Sarah Connor as a baby? Or her mom? Or her MOM'S mom? When the weaponry that could stop him didn't exist yet? Instead of becoming Batman...Bruce Wayne was a massively rich, highly influential, member of society? Why not create a giant, non-corrupt, police force to take care of all the crime in Gotham City, and take out all the crime at once, 'Elliott Ness' style? And how did the elderly farm couple in 'Superman' suddenly explain to everybody in their rural town that they have a new BABY living with them? How did they enroll him in school with no prints, no birth certificate, no previous history of him existing at all?
Sometimes...you just can't address a million questions in one story. Every story you write can't be 'War & Peace' length. Every story can't have a 'Lord Of The Rings' foreword with history lessons and languages and world building bonuses. I definitely think that we, as writers, should always cover as many bases as we possibly can when we're working on a project...but, sometimes, you've just got to get your story to work the way you want it to work. Period.
The answer to a lot of question that readers may ask when it comes to plot holes is, quite simply..."Because the story would be OVER if I did it your way. And that wouldn't be satisfying at all." Hehehe! I cant imagine how boring my life would have been if I could go back and 'fix' everything to make it perfect. I'd be so dead inside. LOL!
However, don't take this to mean that you should ignore all of the comments you get when it comes to potential plot holes in your stories. Some of them CAN be fixed, and probably should be. Especially if you're getting the same questions fro a variety of different people. As always, hear your critics out, and then see if they're making a decent point. Is this plot hole big enough to cause your whole story to fall apart without addressing it? Or can you sneak it by with a few tricks and puffs of smoke?
If you find something that needs fixing, you might be surprised to know that you could probably correct the problem with a few sentences and get your story right back on course again. It may just be that simple. However...if you want to go the 'smoke and mirrors' route...hehehe, I can give away a few secrets on how you do that too.
- Focus on the moment. Bring the emotions on and put your readers in the moment with your protagonist if you can. Really dig deep into what they're thinking. What they're feeling. I will admit to being a full blown savant when it comes to teen angst in my stories. Hehehe! And it's easy for someone older and wiser to scream, "Why doesn't he just walk up and ask the other boy out already??? Jesus!" Take that argument and make it a part of the moment. Make that a part of your protagonist's inner monologue. Of COURSE he thought of that too, but, ummm..."I'm 15, I'm deep in the closet, and I'm being asked to approach the cutest boy I've ever seen for the first time ever while my body and emotions are working against me all at once!" Sometimes it helps to actually address the obvious (and probably more boring) solution to the problem, and use that confusing fluster of emotions to further explain why he may be taking a different option instead.
- Re-read your story from beginning to end, and try to ask yourselves the questions that readers might be asking later. How specific are they? Visualize them in your head. If you were to fix certain details, would it derail the events and special moments you had planned for future chapters? SOMETIMES...(probably bad advice, but...) you can let these things slide by for the sake of the story. I know that sounds lazy, but honestly, many readers will be along for the ride. They want to follow the roller coaster and just have fun. Whereas...if you were to sit on a roller coaster and concentrate on the physics of how it works and the probability of a tragic accident...um, it would be TERRIFYING! If you need your characters to suddenly run out into the street for some reason...have a fire alarm go off. Hehehe, because...'story'! Ugh, I hate to say that, and don't overuse that technique...but I'm being serious when I say that just has to be the answer sometimes. 'Because...'story'.
Why hasn't Marty McFly's trip back to the past screwed up the entire time continuum, creating paradoxes that threaten the existence of everything that he's ever known when he gets back to the future?
Why are Morpheus and Neo constantly jumping into the Matrix to free people when they can just go out and free them in real life and destroy the machines power supply in the process?
Or, as one of the videos called it, "A scene called 'shut the hell up, everybody!'" LOL! I hate to say it, but sometimes it's the only way to keep you from painting yourself into a corner. So embrace it.
- And, last but not least...the things you don't think you can fully explain without turning your plot on its head and messing things up? Don't. Keep those scenes short and sweet, allow the scene to serve its purpose, and hopefully you'll be able to move on to something else before readers start thinking twice about what just happened. Take a scene and follow it up with something with some emotional weight. A different focal point. If you're lucky, it'll act as the shiny object to keep readers progressing forward instead of slamming on the breaks and trying to figure things out. This is where pacing will be important for your story. If you provide too much lag time after a scene that might act as a plot hole in your story...you're dead in the water. Hehehe, so, before they can ask...just shout..."Look! Elephant!"
And then run away.
Alright, just a few more before I wrap this up!
Now...as I said before, PLEASE don't take this as a Comsie license to be lazy or cut corners when you're writing. You should give every story you create the heart and soul that it deserves. One hundred percent of your best effort. And then get your Betas to help you find all the little blindspots that you might have missed. Take pride in what you do, and always give it a champion effort. No excuses.
However...I wrote this article so you all realize that plot holes can, and probably WILL, happen. Know them for what they are, try to see if you can fix them without bringing your story to a screeching halt and having it fall to pieces...and if you occasionally run into a brick wall, where no other option is available to you, well...'Because...story.' Sometimes you've just got to go with your gut and hope it works for the best.
That sounds pretty difficult, choosing when to grind harder and when to let things slide...but I guarantee you...
...It's "Super easy! Barely an inconvenience!"
I hope this helps! And I'll seezya soon with more! ((Hugz))