How To Avoid Plot Holes (Part II — Character Arcs)

A character’s arc includes when she enters and exits the story. Every character arc is a journey, and at the end of the journey, the character either succeeds at achieving his goal or he fails.

The moment a character enters a story, her character arc begins.

The first time a character appears, she must be introduced to the reader. This is where you decide how much time you spend on describing her and who she is in the story.

For a major character, put more emphasis on introducing the character and showing her goal(s). You either share the goal with the reader or make it an internal goal that will be revealed later. Either way, you as the author must know the goal.

For a minor character, write as little as possible and still keep the reader engaged and not confused.

You control how the information of a new character is presented. Consider her appearance, how she speaks, what her mannerisms are, her actions, and how she interacts with other characters.

When describing a character for the first time, describe the character so the reader:

  1. Can conjure up a physical image of the character.
  2. Understands the POV character’s interpretation of the new character.

Consider whose eyes the new character is being seen from and make the description something that character would think or feel.

For example, a rough and tumble character might look at a banker from a city and sneer at the manicured fingernails, whereas a pedicurist might look at the same character and be impressed with the care the person takes in her appearance.

Only include details that move the story forward. If a character’s length of time in his job is important then include that detail.

A character who has been a private detective for one day will act differently than a character who has been a private detective for ten years. If the job is not relevant to the story, then consider not including the detail when introducing the character.

After the character’s final scene, she may still have an impact on other characters in the novel, but she won’t grow or change again. Hence, it’s the end of her character arc.

At the end of the character arc, a reader should feel satisfied. Did the character achieve his goal? Did he fail? That’s up to you as an author to decide, but you must let the reader know.


Causes of Plot Holes

  1. Scenes are not connected to one another or to the story (covered here)
  2. A character arc is not closed off
  3. Scene locations are inconsistent
  4. The timing from one scene to the next doesn’t work.

Plot Hole Problem 2: Character Arc Not Closed

This problem occurs when a character exits your story, but her story was not closed off for the reader. This is extremely important for major characters and less important for minor characters.

Most likely, you’ll close the character arc for your protagonist and antagonist. It’s the other characters in your cast who might cause problems for you. Pay attention to characters who follow a subplot or hold the point of view for a scene. It’s easy to forget a goal or two.

Fictionary Example

The illustration below shows you how Fictionary leads a writer through the process of evaluating plot and looking for plot holes related to character arc.

Let’s take a look at my novel Avalanche.

The Story Arc report can show you the first and last scene each character is in.

To consider if you’ve closed the character arcs, remind yourself of the character’s goals, review the last scene for each character, and make sure you’ve closed off any loose ends.

To do that you need to know what the character’s goals were.

I suggest starting with any characters who have the point of view for a scene. You can quickly scan the POV characters and their goals by choosing the Point of View (POV) and POV Goal in the drop-down menu of the Key Elements per Scene report. This way you can find the important goals you must close off (succeed or fail).

Once you’ve selected the elements, you’ll know the goals for each POV character.

To start checking your character arcs, choose a character and find the first scene she had the point of view for. I’ve chosen, Jessica Scott. She’s a supporting character who has an important role.

Her first point of view scene in Avalanche is scene 13. I found this quickly by looking at the POV report. The bottom row shows each POV character by initials in the order they appear in Avalanche.

Next, find the last scene your POV character is in. You can use the Story Arc report to do this.

Below, you can see Jessica’s last scene is scene 105.

If I need to read the scene, I can click on the black box shown above and the text of that scene will be displayed. I can then determine if I’ve closed off Jessica’s character arc properly.

​So now I know Jessica’s first POV scene, her goal, and her last scene. I can evaluate if I’ve closed off her goal by having her either succeed or fail.

I’ll repeat this for all POV characters and then move on to minor characters who don’t have POV for a scene but do have an important goal.

This takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it to create a better story for your readers.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

How To Avoid Plot Holes (Part I)

A plot hole will make your readers unhappy. So how do you avoid falling into a hole? How do you even know there is a hole? Don’t be like my dog (Farley) and bound through the snow, not knowing what’s beneath.

​Scenes and the order that events take place in your story make up the plot. The scenes occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel.

You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

Your job as a writer is to evaluate how you’ve written the plot (and subplots) and to edit and rewrite until you’ve created a compelling story for your readers.

If you make each scene great, have each scene flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader, and pay attention to the key elements of fiction for each scene, you’ll avoid plot holes.

Causes of Plot Holes:

  1. Scenes are not connected to one another or to the story
  2. A character arc is not closed off
  3. Scene locations are inconsistent
  4. The timing from one scene to the next doesn’t work.

​Today, I’ll focus on the first cause of plot holes.

Plot Hole Problem 1: Scenes Not Connected To One Another

When a scene causes a plot hole by not being connected to the story, this usually means the scene doesn’t have a purpose. If you don’t know the purpose of each scene in your novel neither will your reader.

Naming the scene will help you determine what the scene is about.

The purpose of the scene. must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, ask yourself why you included the scene in your novel.

​If you don’t know the answer or can’t come up with a purpose, consider deleting the scene. You can move any important tidbits to another scene if you need to.

Once you know the purpose of each scene, test how the flow of your novel is working. If your scenes don’t flow from one to another, then the plot doesn’t make sense to a reader. This is considered a plot hole, as the reader might fall into a hole and not read any further.

Keep track of how you enter and exit each scene.

For entering each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you enter each scene in your draft?
  • Have a hook that draws the reader into the scene?
  • Anchor the reader in terms of point of view, setting, and timing?

For exiting each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you end each scene?
  • Have a hook that makes the reader want to start the next scene?
  • Use a technique that connects the current scene to the following scene?

We’ll cover entry and exit hooks in the next lesson.

Fictionary Example

The illustration below shows you how Fictionary leads a writer through the process of evaluating plot and looking for plot holes.

Let’s take a look at my work in progress, Evolution. We’ll cover some of the plot elements in the basic mode of Fictionary and start with the scene opening.

Scene Name: I’ve named the scene Daisy Through Ice. This is enough for me to know what the scene is about. The word cloud helped me name the scene.

Story Arc: The story arc is set to yes because this scene is the inciting incident and will be plotted on the Story Arc under Visualize Your Manuscript in Fictionary.

Purpose of Scene: For each scene in your novel, Fictionary gives you two lists to choose a purpose from or you can add your own. This list shows you I’ve chosen the Inciting Incident.

If the Story Arc is set to “No” you’ll see a different list.

Opening Type: This scene opens with action. The first sentence is the character opening the refrigerator door. I’ll keep track of opening types throughout Evolution to ensure I’m not repetitive.

Below, you can read the closing of the scene.

Closing Type: You can see the last line of the scene is thought. “All I had to do was roll over and slide in.” Fictionary will show me a report for the closing type of every scene. I’ll know if I’m using enough variety for my scene endings.

​Let me know if you have other causes of plot holes and how you fix them.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Character Names – Don’t Confuse Your Readers

Confusing readers with character names that are too similar to each other might make a reader stop reading your book. Here’s why…

Photo from Pixabay

This morning over coffee I was reading a book. A mystery. The story line is strong. The characters are interesting.

As I was about a quarter of the way in and the unforgivable happened. I got confused and had to re-read a section. I got past that, so yes I forgave the author because a liked the story.

In the next scene, the same issue happened.

In one scene, a sheriff and his young deputy are questioning an older woman and her young nurse. The nurse’s name is Maggie. The deputy’s name is Molly. Two young women. Two names starting with M. Halfway through the scene one of them put their hand on the older woman’s shoulder. I thought, “Why would the deputy be so personal?” I had to go back and check which character had touched the woman.

In the next scene, the older sheriff and the deputy interview a older man. A man who was previously a sheriff. Two older men with the same career. Here we have Wilson and Wyatt. Again I had to check who was speaking.

This was frustrating. A little bit of editing would have fixed this problem.

Now I have to decide if I’ll invest more time in the book or give up. It’s shame, because it’s a good story.

If the author had used Fictionary, here’s what he/she would have seen. I used my WIP in Fictionary and added the character names for illustration. The screenshot below lists the characters in each scene.

You can see Maggie and Mollie one after another and in the next scene Wilson and Wyatt. Seeing your characters listed in connection to a scene will help you eliminate the confusion of having names within your story that are too similar to one another.

Hopefully this helps you edit your work in progress and make it a better experience for your readers. I’d love to hear how you deal with this issue.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript in MS Word .docx format. Fictionaryautomatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Characters and Plot – Make Your Characters Work For You.

Why do people read novels?

I think people read to find out what happens next. But what happens next is only interesting if it the “what happens next” involves characters or something important to a character.

Characters ARE your story. They act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of them?

You edit your story and rewrite until your characters are performing at their best.

Characters and Novel Structure

Once you’ve finished your first draft, you most likely know who your characters are, what they look like, where they work, and so on. But what about how they fit into your story structure? To understand this and make the most of it, you must evaluate your characters in the context of the structure of your novel.

By this point, you know if you’re writing from first-person point of view (POV) or third person. You’ve also decided if you’re writing from multiple points of view. In essence, you know who is telling your story.

When thinking about the POV character for each scene, ask yourself:

  • What is the POV external goal for the scene?
  • What is the POV internal goal for the scene?
  • How does the goal relate to the plot?
  • What happens if your POV fails to achieve the goal?
  • How does scene impact your POV character?
  • How does the scene impact your protagonist (if not the POV for the scene?)

Once you’ve answered the questions, check each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. You’re the creative one!

The more important an event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. “Tell” the less important events, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.

Taking on the task of editing and rewriting your first draft doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A bit of organization will help you complete your rewrite without it taking forever. We created Fictionary to help writers perform their own story edit in a knowledgable and efficient manner.

Below is a look at my work-in-progress, Evolution, within Fictionary. Fictionary helps me focus on my characters on a scene-by-scene basis. It keeps me from convincing myself a scene is okay.

When I review each scene with a focus on the POV character’s goal for example, I know what my character wants. If a character doesn’t want something, the scene will lack tension, and hence be boring. In the scene below, Jaz Cooper has the POV. Once I know the goal, I can decide if she will achieve her goal or not. Sometimes she will. Sometimes she won’t.

I can assess her external goal versus her internal goal. The reader may or may not know what the internal goal is, but if I do, I can be consistent with my character throughout the novel.

It takes work, but I’m serious about making my story a great story, so to me, it’s worth putting in the time and effort. I’ll evaluate each scene focussing on characters, then I’ll evaluate with a focus on plot and setting.


Characters Per Scene

Fictionary shows you how many characters are in each scene. This gives you a chance to determine if you have too many characters in a scene. Too many characters might confuse your reader.


Scenes Per Character

Fictionary will also show you how many scenes each character is in and the order they appear in the novel. You can see I have 33 characters in my novel.

Jaz Cooper is in 85 scenes (good news for me as she’s the protagonist). Eighty-five is the maximum number of scenes a character is in. The minimum number of scenes a character appears in is 1. Dr. Patron is an example of a character who appears once.

Jaz is the first character to appear in the novel. Also good news. The less important a character is, the later he/she can appear in the story.


Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

How Fictionary Works

A writer imports a manuscript. Fictionary automatically creates a character list, links characters to scenes, plots word count per scene, and draws a story arc.

The writer enters data regarding each scene, evaluates and edits the manuscript based the reports, and then exports the updated manuscript. The reports are dependent on the writer’s input and are created specifically for each manuscript. There are rewrite tips associated with each key element of fiction if you get stuck and need guidance.

Fictionary is designed for the serious author who wants to produce a high-quality manuscript.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

Top 3 Structural Editing Questions For Fiction Writers

After completing my first two novels, I knew to become a better writer, I needed to learn to edit my own story.

Write a Story Readers Love

What about you? Before sending your story to beta readers, writers’ critique groups, or to an editor, don’t you want your story to be the best you can make it?

I put all my energy in learning how to perform a structural edit. A structural edit, also known as a developmental edit or a story edit, will turn your draft into a story readers love. You’ll notice I like to use the term story edit. It sounds much more fun than the formal terms!

 

A Great Story Readers Love

Once you have a draft written, it’s time to focus on characters, plot, and setting.

Characters

During a story edit, you also take a hard look at your characters. How often do they appear? What are their goals? What gets in the way of their goals? Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader engaged in your story.

Plot

Performing a story edit on your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and your key scenes appear in the best place along your story arc.

Setting

Finally, the story edit should examine your settings. Do you make the most of your settings? How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often? Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes? Settings are key to keeping your reader engaged, so don’t ignore them.


Where To Start Your Story Edit

Here are three questions to ask yourself when you review a scene and look for ways to improve it.

1. What is the purpose of this scene?

Defining the purpose of the scene first allows you to address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose. A scene may have more than one purpose, but see if you can choose the most important one and then ask yourself does this help drive the story forward.

2. Who has the point of view?

Multiple points of view means the character who controls the POV for a scene changes from scene to scene. As a writer, you must be in control of this aspect. The generally accepted method is to have one POV character per scene. Switching mid-scene can be known as head-hopping and can jar the reader from the story.

3. Is the setting the best place for emotional impact?

When answering the question, think about who has the point of view for the scene and what makes them feel strong or vulnerable.

Do you have a character who is afraid of the dark? Imagine the character is about to have a confrontation with an employee. If the character feels confident being in his/her own office and you want the character to be in a position of strength, then use the office as a setting.

If you want the character to feel vulnerable during the confrontation, try locating him/her outside, at night, in an isolated parking lot. And make it very dark. The streetlight is broken. There is no moon. Maybe it’s windy, so a cry for help won’t be heard.

Tackle each question and edit each scene accordingly.

Fictionary is the first online tool for editing your story, not just your words. Think characters, plot, and settings. Find out more at Fictionary.co.

Download our free eBook, Story Editing: 15 Key Elements of Fiction To Ensure Your Story Works and learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story.

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Try Fictionary for free. The first 10 days are on us. No credit card required.

What Writers Are Saying About Fictionary!

D.S. Kane, Amazon Bestselling Author

“I have used Fictionary to revise my current work in progress, entitled MindField, an espionage technothriller due out in early December 2017. My feeling is that Fictionary helped me to improve the manuscript significantly, and I will use it on all my subsequent novels. I am trained as both a novelist and screenwriter, but I focus exclusively on producing novels. And, that is where Fictionary is most useful. The toolbox within Fictionary helps a novelist see exactly where their work is weakest and strongest, and pushes me to work on fixing my problems.”

Helping Authors Create Stories That Work

You know I love to write, but I also love to edit. I’m thrilled to announce Fictionary’s Story Editing Course. Try it, and maybe you’ll love to edit too!

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At Fictionary, We believe to become a successful author, your novel needs to tell a great story.

Think about some of the best novels you’ve read. What do you remember?

Like me, you probably recall a compelling character like Jason Bourne, the intriguing plot told in Gone Girl, or the fantastic settings depicted in The Game of ThronesYou remember the story.

Combining Fictionary (a self-editing tool for fiction writers) with an online course seems like a great way to give authors the knowledge and process needed to complete their own story edit.

If you’ve finished that first draft and aren’t sure what to do next, we’ve got a solution.

Announcing the Fictionary Story Editing Course

This course will guide you through your manuscript with a scene-by-scene approach to editing. Fictionary focuses on the story, not the words.

To receive the first two lessons, all you have to do is sign up for a free trial of Fictionary. No credit card required. No obligations.

The full 14-lesson course is included with a Fictionary subscription.

Lesson Plan

  • Lesson 1: How To Use Fictionary To Make Your Story Work
  • Lesson 2: Characters And Novel Structure
  • Lesson 3: How To Improve Your Plot
  • Lesson 4: How To Improve Your Settings
  • Lesson 5: How To Use Word Count To Evaluate Your Scenes
  • Lesson 6: Connect Your Readers To Your Characters
  • Lesson 7: Make The Most Of Your POV Characters
  • Lesson 8: Story Arc And Engaging Your Readers
  • Lesson 9: Finding Plot Holes
  • Lesson 10: Draw Your Readers Into and Out of Each Scene
  • Lesson 11: Maximize Your Use of Tension And Conflict
  • Lesson 12: Check For An Empty Stage
  • Lesson 13: Keep Your Timeline Clear
  • Lesson 14: Bringing It All Together

Lesson 1: How To Use Fictionary To Make Your Story Work

Fictionary can identify and help you fix problems within your manuscript by focusing on the structure of your story, not on the words. In lesson one, we’ll tackle these critical structural areas:

  1. Pacing
  2. Character names and appearances
  3. Point of view characters and goals
  4. Story arc
  5. Plot holes (scenes without a clear purpose)
  6. Flow from scene to scene
  7. Absence of tension or conflict
  8. Empty stage syndrome
  9. Confusing timelines or missing objects

 
Where Can You Get More Information?

Check out Fictionary.co for a full description of what Fictionary is and how it can help you.

Download our free Story Editing eBook.

Learn how story editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

 

Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story

Take Your Story up Several Levels by Editor Jodie Renner – Fictionary

Today it is our pleasure to welcome editor & author Jodie Renner to share expert editing advice. Jodie is generously sharing her wisdom on how to improve your story before you share it with others. Jodie is an editor and award-winning author of three Editor’s Guides to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller Fire up Your Fiction Captivate Your Readers Jodie’s […]

Source: Take Your Story up Several Levels by Editor Jodie Renner – Fictionary