Here’s the thing – I’m very, very bad at keeping track of my plot details. I can remember the overarching theme, I can remember what minor character #237 had for breakfast, but there are times when, after re-reading a manuscript, I’ll wonder what on earth I was thinking, and how could I get this far in a novel with a plot hole the size of a moon crater staring me in the face? Now, some people are not lazy when it comes to plot holes, but I am. Holes are like a death knell for me. I stare at the plot hole, aghast, realizing exactly how much extra work this means because I forgot a very important detail somewhere. So, after a few years of writing, I developed a method I like to call: darning.
DARNING: a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting using needle and thread alone.
See, it’s a lot of work to fix a plot hole. It sits there like an open maw, threatening to swallow all the hard work you put into the novel – but going through the entire book and fixing everything that happened as a result of the plot hole? That’s an enormous undertaking. (Or maybe it’s just me, but I find big plot holes more daunting than anything besides editing. Editing is a nightmare for another time.)
So, because I’m an impatient person and hate going back and re-doing what I’ve begun (don’t make me think about this year’s NaNo novel. Don’t do it), I thought – why not make plot holes work for me?
Which is when I discovered that plot holes can, in fact, be a Secret Weapon. How, you ask? Let me tell you.
While I was writing Dark is the Night, my ‘modern vampire western’ (I mix my own genres) I realized a huge and extremely obvious problem. (It’s always the obvious problems that slip right under my radar. Always.) The problem being, I had a main character who was a vampire – walking around in broad daylight. While all the other vampires were forced to come out under cover of darkness.
Obviously I couldn’t up and snitch the idea of a daylight ring from the Vampire Diaries – for one thing, witches are not part of my Salvation series, and for another, I had already named the vampire Angel BEFORE I knew there was an entire TV series dedicated to a vampire named Angel. (It was a long time ago.) So I had to think of something, and quick, because I’d already written probably 80k in said novel. (How did this huge, enormous fact slip past me, you ask? I do not know, I reply. I do. Not. Know.)
The novel was going to collapse if I didn’t think of something quickly, so I did the only thing I could think of – I had the main character, Skata, up and ask Angel why he could walk around in broad daylight without burning. Then I waited to see what Angel said.
To my surprise, he got fairly secretive about the whole thing, and I realized he knew what I did not – he was not at all surprised by the fact he could waltz around under the sun. He knew why he was invulnerable, even if I didn’t. Skata did not press the issue for a while, and when he did, Angel would tell him it was none of his business.
It wasn’t until the epilogue that two men rolled into town, looking for Angel, and the last stitch in my darning of the plot hole fell into place. I know stitches don’t fall. Leave me alone.
I realized I had not only the perfect solution to the former ‘plot hole,’ but that it would lend itself magnificently to the second novel.
I had successfully darned a plot hole shut rather than going back and re-knitting the whole thing.
Does this method work every time? Of course not. Sometimes a plot hole is too big and you need to actually get yourself a new plot.
But nine times out of ten (in my experience) what began as a terrifying plot hole can, in fact, become the biggest plot twist in your novel. You simply need to ask yourself had I written this plot hole intentionally, what purpose would it serve?
It make take a little while, and you might need to experiment some, but hey – if it works for me, it just might work for you!