Plot Holes and Other Show Stoppers by Heidi Thurston

They kissed – end of scene; Next scene they are sharing breakfast the following morning. Sounds familiar? Of course it does – at least to many of us at a certain age. Older movies and books left a lot to our imaginations.

That was okay then; we were used to it and easily filled in the rest. We never worried about the missing parts. Now, however, things are more explicit in both films and books. There are more details and we look for explanations and accuracy. We no longer find “plot holes” acceptable.

I recently found this opening sentence at the beginning of a chapter in a book I was reading: “After his trip he stopped to pick her up for dinner.” What trip? On prior pages, the author never bothered to let the reader know this man had taken a trip somewhere. A minor flaw, perhaps; none-the-less, it stopped the flow of my reading.

gator in pot hole

Similarly, there are often problems with numbers – especially, the right numbers! I am no mathematician, but I’m fanatic about matching ages and dates when I read a book. Ages can be tricky, and keeping a family tree in a novel that includes various generations is handy. In a book – written by a fairly well known author – I was informed early on that the main character was born in the year of the Pearl Harbor attack – 1941. This was fine until he celebrated his 40th birthday during one of the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations. Couldn’t have – he was only 35 years old at that time!

While I may dismiss a few grammatical errors, and even read past them, it is hard to overlook inconsistent dates and events. That is where a good editor comes in. At a conference, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network, I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by two experienced editors. They pointed out many common mistakes made by writers – especially new writers – and gave us a list with most of the common pitfalls. Prior to this event, and before writing my own novel, I considered the price of hiring of an editor quite high. After listening to the presenters and looking over my own work, I decided they were worth every penny.

If you cannot afford an editor, or are lucky enough to be married to one, at least have several friends or good acquaintances (preferably English teachers) look over your work; and ask them to be very honest and critical. In return, they might just settle for a lunch out and an autographed copy of your finished book.

Heidi Thurston’s novel “The Duchess, the Knight and the Leprechaun” is available on Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.

 

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Plot Holes and Other Show Stoppers by Heidi Thurston

  1. Editors are by far invaluable. It is so easy to make even the tiniest mistake in your writing or have giant holes and you may have gone through it with the finest toothed comb on the market yourself, but you’ll still find that when someone else reads it there’s a whole…hum, I mean hole the size of the Grand Canyon somewhere in the work because what you thought you understood isn’t what someone else thought or understood. That critical eye is crucial! I’ve been a part of a critique group now for the better part of a year and my writing has improved dramatically, but that is only one step. Nothing will ever replace a good editor.

  2. I agree with you about the inconsistent dates and events (three cheers for writers’ groups!) but I also cringe at grammatical and spelling errors. Very distracting, very confidence-draining.

  3. I am immensely grateful to my editor who spotted the tangling of timelines in Divide by Zero before it was released. It’s so much easier to spot these things in other people’s books, and also so easy to mess then up while self editing.

  4. I agree with you, Heidi, and all the commenters. I’d like to add that one should be careful in selecting someone to edit or critique our work if they are also friends. Often, friends will be less that totally honest for fear their comments may offend or hurt us. After all, they are our friends and may wish to remain so. They also may not be qualified. It’s always great to hear praise, but more important and useful to have an honest assessment by someone who really knows. With that said, I feel very strongly about professional editing. Editing of content, continuity, grammar, sentence structure, etc., especially on one’s first project, is essential. Once one’s work is out there in the cyber world or elsewhere, there is no going back to correct mistakes. If we want to be professional writers, we need to study diligently how to do that (the Chicago Manual of Style and Elements of Style and various grammer books have helped me), and then get the best editing help possible to insure our success. Our blog posts, emails, and any other place our writing is read, should be edited carefully before being submitted. Then, we can write to our heart’s content!

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