Fixing plot holes

For the first time in a while, I feel really, really good about my novel. I’m not saying it’s great or anything, because I know it needs a lot of work, but I think I’ve finally fixed all the plot holes in this story, or at least all the ones that have been giving me a lot of trouble writing this story.

Problem 1: The Fight
The first main problem I had with the plot of my story was that I kept trying to include a fight that happened in real life that I thought would be perfect for my story, as it would create even more tension and reiterate the fact that the main character is an outsider. There was supposed to be a fight, and then they were supposed to fight about it again later. It worked in my head the first time, but once I actually went to outline my story, I had issues with it. I tried to ignore it, hoping that I could focus on it later, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking about it, and it made me not want to keep writing because I was afraid of getting to that scene.

The solution was so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. It took a long talk with my boyfriend before I finally realized that I could solve that problem just by taking it out of the story. I can make Rebecca feel like an outsider and like her family doesn’t love her in other ways. I’m still keeping the initial fight, though, because I realized it can serve an even better purpose. I won’t explain what that purpose is, because it gives away part of the story, but I will say that the fight actually works better this way, and it doesn’t force me to spend hours trying to rearrange other parts of the outline that actually made sense.

Problem 2: The Father
Since this story was inspired by my real family, I always just assumed that Rebecca lived with both of her parents. There wasn’t really a problem with that except that I was constantly trying to find excuses for him to be somewhere else so that I wouldn’t have to write about him. The focus of this story has always been on Rebecca, her mother, and her mother’s family, and her father never really fit in. I even included a line about how her Grandma doesn’t really like her dad, but I never explained that, and he was just sort of there.

It wasn’t until this morning, when I was furiously typing away at part of a scene that will come at the end of the story (a first for me) that I realized the story worked so much better if he just wasn’t there. I always knew that her parents fought a lot and that they considered breaking up, and that that helped influence how Rebecca acts and accentuates the differences between her and her sister, but I never thought to make them divorced. Part of that was because I wanted them to have moved away from her home state before her youngest sister was born, and her youngest sister is only six, and I didn’t see how that could work if they were divorced, but now I realize I was just being stupid. They could fight, break up, have her mother move to another state, and then get back together for a week (hell, even just a night), get pregnant, and still be divorced. It’s funny that I wanted to change the characters up a bit so that they wouldn’t be exactly like my family, and yet I never thought to make the parents divorced.

Problem 3: The Unexplained Absences
This one also deals with the previously mentioned fight. I need the main antagonist to show up the morning before the wedding, but I needed to make sure that Rebecca’s mother wasn’t there when she was, because if she knew he was there she would just take her kids and leave, and the novel would end there, and I didn’t want that. I had the hardest time trying to think of where she would be. In the screenplay version she was fighting with her husband. In my outline, she took Ellie (the youngest sister) with them to get the dad new pants or something (I was never really clear on what, exactly, they were getting), and that’s why they weren’t there.

Obviously, they couldn’t be shopping for the dad if he’s no longer in the picture, and I was stuck again. Another talk with my boyfriend (he’s surprisingly helpful at planning YA books considering he doesn’t read them at all) helped me fix that problem. I now know where they’re going, and it actually coincides perfectly with Rebecca’s decision not to tell her mother about the antagonist showing up, even though her first instinct was to do so.

Problem 4: The tone
I’ve been having issues with this one for a while. I’ve always had issues with rambling, which is one of the reasons NaNo has been so easy for me the past two years. I get lost in my characters’ thoughts, and the next thing I know 3k has passed. That’s also part of why I love writing litfic so much – that’s much more acceptable in litfic than in fantasy or any other genre. That said, I realized that I was being a bit rambly even for lit fic, and I had to fix it.

Reading Sarah Dessen has actually helped me a lot with that. I finished Keeping the Moon the other day and am about a third of the way through Just Listen, and I’m realizing that I’m trying to include too much information too fast, or I’m keeping too much information to myself. I’ve gotten so used to the “show, don’t tell” rule that I forgot that sometimes it’s okay to tell. I’m allowed to show Rebecca’s feelings for her family. I can have her say that they’re country club snobs that she’s never gotten along with. Sure, it’s better to show that, and I do, but it’s nice to know that I have that option.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the first writing classes I took in college. The teacher really wanted us to focus on character-driven stories that were full of details. She went on and on about how details can reveal a lot about a character and can really help paint a scene. I was interested in the character part, but the rest I sort of rolled my eyes at. I hate scenery and description. I don’t mind a little description – it’s nice to know what people look like and what sort of area they live in – but I hate long paragraphs of description. That’s why I couldn’t stand The Lord of the Rings: I can’t read five pages of details describing a tree.

But she was adamant that we include details in our second story, so I did it. The character was a pretentious drunk with no friends, so I tried to make the words I used reflect that. She didn’t just hold a basket in the grocery store; she cradled it gently in the crook of her arm. Everyone in my class who had gotten used to my constant complaints about description were shocked to read my story. When my teacher saw it, she said there was too much description.

And that’s basically described my writing style: either I write a summary of a story, or I write in so much detail it’s boring. I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding the middle ground, but after reading some young adult books and actually paying attention to the way they’re written, I think I have a better understanding of how I’m supposed to write. I just need to stop over-thinking everything, stop trying to write how I think I’m supposed to write, and just write.

I’m actually looking forward to writing again. 🙂

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Posted on June 13, 2012, in Degeneration, Planning, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yay to fixing issues and looking forward to writing. I found that I learned so much when I started figuring out how to deal with issues in my own stories.

    My suggestion on the detail thing is to remember that your reader’s imagination is one of your tools as a writer. Words come with all sorts of meaning, imagery and baggage to them. If you tell me the character walks into a bar, there’s a whole mental image that comes up for me, just by saying it that simply. Tell me what I need to know about the bar that’s significant or different and leave it at that. I don’t need every detail to form the picture. My imagination will do a lot of the work for you.

    I sympathize with you on Lord of the Rings, as I have the same issue with it and have never made it all the way through the series either, even though fantasy is my favorite genre of all time. I think there’s a good midpoint though, where you get them to visualize without describing down to the last fold of cloth. Learning that is the hard part though.

    • That’s a very good point about the reader’s imagination, and you’re completely right. That’s always how I’ve judged the amount of description in other books, but for some reason I have a hard time applying that to my own work. Thanks for commenting! It’s great to know that I’m not alone in my thinking about description. I think I needed to hear that to remind me that it’s okay to write this way and not be so focused on detail. 🙂

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