Danger, Plot Holes Ahead!

If you are like me, then nothing spoils your day quite like bouncing into a whacking great plot hole as you contentedly follow your carefully mapped route towards the conclusion of your story.

At this point I feel I should point out that I am exploiting the fact that “plot holes” and “potholes” sound very similar here. Not that I am doubting your ability to figure this out for yourselves, but I do feel that, in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out my several previous convictions for tenuous comparisons and lame puns.

Anyway, I had this very experience recently and found myself metaphorically sitting dazed in the road wondering how I could have missed a hole that big looming ahead of me (at this point it would be helpful to visualise the author sitting on the ground with cartoon birds twittering around his head whilst a lone buckled bicycle wheel rolls erratically away into the distance). But, as is so often the case, this mishap led on to better things.

I can’t really tell you exactly what the problem was without giving away a crucial part of the story of Lyskerrys, but that in itself should give you an indication of just how big the hole was.

I was pretty annoyed at first, but in my defence, I am writing a fantasy novel, so a good number of the things I am writing about have no precedent in actual reality, so I should probably not be too surprised when things like this crop up, but as it happened, the solution to the plot hole created another story line that has become one of my favourite threads of whole the novel.

Not only does the new thread read really well (and I don’t tend to say things like that about my own writing lightly, but I believe you should write what you love, and if you don’t love it then a) it isn’t really good enough and b) why should anyone else love it?), but it has added a really interesting twist to the story that would never have happened without the plot hole.

So, next time you hit a plot hole, try to see it as a good thing. It actually is a good thing, because if you didn’t find it you can bet your life that someone else would, possibly after all the printing and publication and promotional stuff, but also because the solution may well lead your story on to even better things, and that’s something we all want, right?

If you feel like sharing your own experiences with unexpected plot holes in the comments, please feel free, I’d love to hear them.

Fantasy Authors – Overcome Writer’s Block Using Magic!

Ok, not just fantasy authors, this applies to all genres, and, ok,  not real magic … or is it?

Authors, Start Your Word Processors

I have read numerous times that you should write even if you are not feeling inspired because, well, to put it politely, you can always edit rubbish, but you can’t edit nothing (‘rubbish’ here serving as a more refined alternative to the original word, which, whilst eloquently making the point, was possibly not suitable for everyone’s ears!)

But What About the Magic?

“Start writing” you say? That’s not magic! I’m sure he said something about magic – that’s what made me want to read this article in the first place.

Well, it is ‘a kind of’ magic and it all happens when you let go and just write.

Go with the Flow State

Like all good magic, according to the rules, it shouldn’t work, but magic is a loose cannon and has no time for playing by the rules and so it works anyway.

I can’t count the number of times I have sat down at my keyboard, regardless of whether I have an idea in mind or not, and after a few minutes, something starts to happen: characters show aspects to their personalities that I didn’t know they had, they go ‘off script’ and start having unauthorised conversations, scenes start to develop on the page without seeking official clearance from the author, and environments assemble themselves seemingly out of nothing.

Recently, Tamsyn, one of the main characters in Lyskerrys, appeared in a scene dressed in an outfit that I didn’t even know she owned, and I thought I had made her up – if that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is!

All these things inevitably lead your writing off somewhere unexpected. I think that what happens is that we start serving as our own inspiration. We are all familiar overhearing a conversation, or turning a corner and seeing something new and ‘blam!’ – inspiration strikes. Connections are made and stories and plot lines develop all triggered by those events. Also, I think the act of writing distracts the part of our mind that gets in the way of stuff, allowing the ideas to flow.

Ease that Pressure – Get Out of the Zone

Another approach that works for me is dropping my characters into a new situation and letting them get on with things. I find it helps to put them somewhere that doesn’t fit in with the plan of the novel, this removes any pressure for it to fit in with what is ‘supposed’ to happen. Once they are outside of the novel you really can write anything you want, different style, perspective, anything. You will surprise yourself with what you come up with.

As an example, today I sent Liam (the main character in Lyskerrys) and Tamsyn off to the pub. Not only did I discover a new character serving the drinks there, but I also developed Liam and Tamsyn’s relationship. Oh, and I wrote over two thousand words in one writing session – there MUST be something usable in there.

If you can’t think of anything else, then write about them doing the dishes, at least that way if you don’t get any quality writing done you won’t have a huge pile of washing up waiting for you at the end of the day (I’m not sure that last bit actually works, but it’s got to be worth a try!).

Magic for Authors – a Summary

Next time you are stuck for inspiration, sit down at your keyboard, start to write and and let the magic happen.  It doesn’t have to be something you think you will use,  write about anything. Seriously, give it a try, I think you’ll be surprised – I don’t claim to have invented these ideas, but they almost always work for me.

Now, get out of here and start writing!

Oh and don’t forget to comment below and let me know how you get on.

Writing a Scene from a Different Perspective

Whilst I was busy procrastinating instead of doing something more productive a few weeks ago, I came across an interesting article in my Facebook feed about re-writing. I follow the Kindle Direct Publishing page (which allows me to convince myself that reading Facebook is helping my writing, although in this case it actually was) and they had shared an article originally available on the Arvon website that I believe was written by Melanie McGrath. The article was about how walking around a scene and re-writing it from a different perspective can give you a deeper understanding of what is going on. I was intrigued by this idea; it wasn’t something I had tried before … but then there was this meme with an otter holding a tiny electric guitar, and well, you know how that ends!

Fast-forward a week or two and I found myself struggling with a chapter in my new novel “Lyskerrys” in which the protagonist travels into the past to a location he already is familiar with from the present. The location, as it is in the past, is very different from he first encountered it, (wait, should that be when he would encounter it? Damn you time-travel! Anyway, you get the idea.)

This scene really deserves to be described in a lot of detail to show just how different it is, but no matter how I tried to do this it always read as just a long list. The way I was struggling with this scene made me think back to the article, and I thought I would try re-writing it from another perspective. What a revelation! It was the perfect solution, just considering another viewpoint immediately made me think of the young children in the chapter who were playing in the chamber in which the scene is set. Writing from their perspective and describing the room as seen through their eyes as they chased each other through the chamber enabled me to describe each point I wanted to as they encountered it without it ever feeling like a list. The scene closes as they race out of the room past the protagonist who is just entering, which was the perfect transition to back to his viewpoint.

I’m not sure if this is exactly what the author of the article had in mind, but it certainly helped me and I would recommend that you give it a try if you are struggling with a scene.

Read Melanie McGrath’s original article here.