Told ya this would be my next post. But before I start, I’ll remind you to check out the blog post at www.quakeme.wordpress.com, wherein the wonderful J.R. Turner blogs about Echelon’s two newest authors.
Now, back to business. What do cave crickets and plot holes have in common? To answer that, let me tell you a little about the newest non-mortgage paying residents of our boiler room.
Cave crickets are big. They are brown. They have hunched backs, six legs, and antennae that stretch from the tops of their heads to some nether point miles away (I’m not given to exaggerated descriptions, but these critters bring out the adjectivitis in me). They like the dark. They like the damp. And woe betide you if you walk in on them unexpectedly, because they have lousy vision and will jump at you to scare you away. These are not the cute little operatically inclined insects made famous by George Selden. These here be monsters.
So what do they have in common with plot holes?
Well, for one thing, they’re to be avoided at all costs (okay, they don’t bite, but still). Secondly, they’ll jump out at you when you least expect it. Think about it-there you are, writing a scene, humming along as you realize how great, how awesome, how suspenseful it is-and then it hits you.
Why didn’t your main character just call the police when he saw the dead body? Why did he/she head into the darkened bedroom which, perhaps not coincidentally, smells exactly like blood? Why did the heroine stay with the guy who everyone else thinks is a big jerk? Why did the hostage stay with his captor when there’s a phone/neighbor/window close by? And if you don’t ask yourself these questions, you can be sure your readers will.
So what to do?
What I like to do is this; I put my characters in a box. Lock ’em up, throw away the keys, board up the windows and nail shut the doors. In other words, I try to narrow the situation for my characters so that there are fewer opportunities for them to make dopey decisions.
Now in real life, people make bad/illogical decisions all the time. Life’s one big plot hole, right? But writers have to convince readers that a character’s decisions make sense. Maybe Jim didn’t call the police because he was already in trouble with the cops. Maybe Amber went into the dark blood-smelling room because she thought there was something she could do for the victim (Amber’s helpful like that). And maybe Kyle stays with his captor because he’s suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
Which brings me to my other favorite device for limiting a character’s options; the emotional chain.
In THE VISITOR, Elizabeth is initially trapped underwater by the Hybrids, but later she’s given opportunities to escape. My “cave cricket,” that little beastie jumping out at me in dead of night, was the question of why she didn’t take them. But as I wrote the book and got a better understanding of her character, I realized why. She doesn’t try to escape because her captors give her what she needs-a sense of security, even love. Locked in an emotional box, so to speak.
So what are your ways of getting rid of plot holes?
And, by the way, I’m never going into our boiler room again. And if that’s not a plot hole, I don’t know what is.