Disentangling

I’ve been having trouble making progress on my current novel in progress. There are always glitches in these things. Usually if I get hung up on something for too long, I switch to another project for a while and then when I come back to it I can make some headway.

That hasn’t worked.

One of the troubles is that I found a big hole in my plot, and every idea I’ve had so far for fixing that hole causes a bunch of other parts to unravel.

On the other hand, while I’ve been writing and deleting and rewriting scenes, I did discover a solution to another problem. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing a light fantasy in an epic fantasy wrapper (with anthropomorphic tropes), so of course there is an epic battle at the climax of the plot. I know most of what happens in the battle, including who lives and who dies (just because it’s light fantasy doesn’t mean it’s all fluffy). But there is one very important bit that I hadn’t figured out yet.

While I was going through all the previously written scenes, thinking about what I would have to change to fix the big plot hole, I found not one, but two points where I foreshadowed a way for one of the good guys to do something that will seem to be impossible. It’s another of those points where you wonder if your subconscious planned it all along and slipped those little bits in, or if you’re just noticing a possibility after the fact.

I still haven’t fixed the plot hole. I’m still struggling in the morass that chapter 13 and 14 have been for months, now.

I did get several new scenes written in the last week, and fixed a few that were not quite fitting together.

I should pause here to explain what I mean by a plot hole (some people like to spell it plothole, as if it is a play on the word pothole). The formal definition is a gap or inconsistency in a story which contradicts the internal logic established by the narrative. It can include things such as characters behaving in highly unlikely and unbelievable ways, impossible events, or events which happen for no apparent reason.

It’s import to recall that we define the words “unlikely,” “unbelievable,” and “impossible” relative to the world established within the narrative rather than the real world:

  • Unlikely within the narrative
  • Unbelievable in the context of the story and its imaginary environment
  • Impossible within the setting

In other words, in the real world dragons don’t fly overhead and sorcerers can’t hurl balls of fire from their hands by saying a few difficult-to-pronounce words. Those things are impossible in the real world, but if you’re writing a particular kind of sword & sorcery fantasy tale, they’re everyday occurrences. So having a dragon swoop down on our heroes, breathe fire at some houses setting a whole neighborhood aflame, and snatching a character off the ground would be an impossible event and constitute a major flaw if one were writing a gritty contemporary murder mystery set in a 21st century European city, but it’s a perfectly reasonable plot development in a fantasy story provided you have already established that dragons exits, can fly, et cetera.

Oh, and one other thing: some inconsistencies only constitute a plot hole if they’re integral to the plot. In other words, you can have minor events happen for no apparent reason, if they’re obviously just incidental or humorous. You might have a random stranger say something rude to one of your main characters, and never have that stranger appear again, never explain why the stranger was rude, et cetera, in a scene somewhere because the main character’s reaction gives you a hint about her personality, or it just makes an otherwise depressing scene have a moment of levity, or whatever. It’s when the flaw or contradiction is too blatant to ignore, or the plot hinges on an event that makes no sense and is never explained that you have a problem.

You can even redeem a whole series of such inexplicable behaviors by a character if, by the end of the story, an explanation or context is revealed.

In my current case, I have two issues: a group of characters have absolutely no valid reason or motivation to go to the place where I need them to be for everything else to work out, and I have an important mystical object they are supposed to bring with them in two places at the same time.

The first one is particularly troublesome because the way everything is currently written, they not only have no motive to go, they have every reason to perform a particularly nasty action where they are, giving great advantage to themselves and making a bunch of stuff that my story requires simply not possible.

For the second one, some people might suggest, “Well, you said it’s a big magic item, can’t you just say that one of its powers is to be in two places at once?” First, that’s just lazy and would only be suggested by someone who doesn’t respect the genre. Second, no, if the thing can be in two places at once that creates far more problems and pretty much makes the entire novel impossible, so no thanks.

I know there is a solution to both problems, and I know that fixing it is going to require revising a bunch of scenes. It’s possible that the issue has an easy fix, logistically, that my subconscious is shying away from because it knows a whole lot of revising would be required and it just doesn’t wanna.

I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, sympathy and dark chocolate are appreciated.


Perhaps a better use of your time than reading about my writing struggles, I’d like to remind people that it’s Banned Books Week. Click the link, check out the list of challenged books, and find out what you can do to protect everyone’s right to read! Also, check out The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! this week for more information.


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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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