Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Have you ever seen a runner trip in a pothole? They’re in the zone, focused on the path ahead, running to the rhythm of their music when all of a sudden they stumble in a pothole. It jars them out of their trance and throws them off their running groove–not to mention hurts like heck.

The same thing happens to readers when they stumble upon a plothole–though it’s less dramatic and doesn’t usually require stitches or Bandaids.

Don't throw the reader off their groove!!!

Don’t throw the reader off their groove!!!

What is a Plothole?

The short definition is anything that can be asked but not explained, or poorly explained (not to be mistaken for an unanswered question like in a cliffhanger).

  • unlikely/impossible events
  • mistakes
  • contradictions
  • forced situations or character reactions for the sake of plot

Examples The Hobbit: In this example I’m talking about the movie. If you didn’t read the book before watching the final installment of the films, you may have asked, what happened to the Arkenstone? In the book, it’s placed on Thorin’s grave. In the movie, supposedly it’s still hanging out in Luke Evan’s shirt. Not a bad place to be necessarily.

The Arkenstone: returned to Thorin Oakenshield, or wedged between Evan's pecks?

The Arkenstone: returned to Thorin Oakenshield or wedged between Evan’s pecks?

Harry Potter: Usually I pick on George R.R. Martin, but today I’m going to pick on J.K. a little. The time turner is a prime example of why time travel almost always leads to plotholes. Why didn’t he keep using it? He used it to save two people, which seems like an insipid abuse of time travel in the grand scheme of things. What about the other people who died later in the book. Why not go back and save them?

Aladdin: One of my favorite Disney movies of all time. I’ve watched it a hundred times and suddenly I notice a whole new plothole (pun intended). Aladdin uses a wish to become a prince and yet it is considered lying when he tells Jasmine he is a prince. Um, excuse me, he didn’t ask the Genie to make him look like a prince, he asked him to make him a prince. I think he got ripped off. Also he could have given Jasmine the lamp in the end so she could wish him back into a prince, but now I’m just being picky.

Deus Ex Machina

Ok, this is more of a plot device than a plothole, but I think you don’t get one without the other. A deus ex machina is basically where an unsolvable issue is suddenly solved by a new event, ability or super power, character, or God. Essentially, it’s when a writer has written themselves into a corner and doesn’t know how to resolve the conflict.

The result: the resolution is unsatisfactory and the reader is robbed. A prime example of this can be found in (I’m sad to say) The Return of the King. Tolkien wrote himself into a corner by making Sauron’s army undefeatable. Realistically the army of Gondor, even backed by the soldiers of Rohan, a wizard, and a few shire folk could not defeat them. I imagine Tolkien spent hours scratching his head before inventing a ghost army to defeat them. After all, ghost can’t be killed. So last minute, they use the ghost to help defeat the bad guys. It would have been a more satisfactory ending had the characters come up with a battle tactic to defeat the larger army.

Checkhov’s Gun

This is the notion that if you describe something, it better come into play at some point. For instance, if you describe a chair, it better be flipped, thrown, broken, or at least sat on. If it’s described, it better be part of the plot or else you’ve created false promises or suspense.

I’m not a firm believer in this. I do see where too much attention to a seemingly significant item would be jarring if it never came to use, but something like a chair or table is sometimes just necessary to give the reader a sense o place. This is why it’s always a good idea to describe your scenery as the character interacts with it.

A great example of Checkhov’s gun. In A Game of Thrones, Sam gets a blade that several seasons down the road kills white walkers. Also, the necklace given to Sansa in season three or four is used to kill Joffrey. Those are some great examples of Checkhov’s guns coming into play.

Continuity

Lack of continuity is a major cause of plotholes. This could be something small like a sudden change in appearance, or something even more jarring like a character referencing an event they have no idea occurred. It could also be a sudden change in motivation, even age.

Example: Merlin (the television series). Mordred appears in season one as a child, but by season five, he returns as a teenager or young adult. Realistically the oldest he could be is 13, but he is at least 16 if not older when he reappears. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters have only aged 3-5 years. Soap operas do this a lot, because let’s face it, babies get boring after awhile.

When is a Plothole not a Plothole

Sometimes readers believe the unbelievable, especially in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. These genres create a lot of their own rules, abilities, creatures, etc. Just because something can’t happen or doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean it’s a plothole. When you event something (like magic), you are relying on your reader’s ignorance of a subject in order to make them believe it. A world with two moons and seven suns probably couldn’t exist or sustain life (could you imagine gravity?); however, your reader is more likely to accept that than if your character’s eye color suddenly changes in chapter two.

This is because of the suspension of belief. You can create super human beings, magical powers, fantastical creatures, as long as you make it as believable as possible and keep it consistent.

Example: Superman For decades, people have accepted that there is a superhuman man who comes from another planet, but they don’t believe that he can disguise his identity with glasses alone.

yeah, you're not fooling anyone, Superman

yeah, you’re not fooling anyone, Superman

How to Prevent Plotholes

It’s easier to prevent a plothole than to fill one.

  • outline your story
  • create character sketches
  • outline the rules and limitations of your magic systems
  • research before writing
  • keep track of the time of day, hour, month, season, and year of your story so you don’t accidently skip summer and fall and go straight into winter.

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How to Fill Plotholes

Break out the shovels!

Break out the shovels!

  1. Identify your plot holes. Read through your MS and look for unanswered questions and things that couldn’t happen
    1. Your character could not have survived that fall
    2. Your character’s hair changed color
    3. Your character is angry in this chapter but fine in the next
    4. Your character’s worst fear is being shot, but you have her bravely confront an armed robber.
    5. Your character can’t swim, but saves a child from drowning.
    6. Your character’s dog went missing. You never explained what happened to it.
  2. Create setup: make sure you lead up to the event so it can realistically unfold.
  3. Make changes: no one likes to make big changes, but think of the big picture. You may have to adjust the setting, events, even drastically change your character so that necessary events can occur.
  4. Ask an outsider. Beta readers are far more likley to identify and resolve a plothole.
  5. Think on your back: they say lying on your back helps you think
  6. Step away from your WIP. Distance can help you see clearer. The solution may even come to you when you’re not thinking about it.
  7. Keep it simple: When filling plotholes, don’t make it difficult or over complicated.

It’s like Yzma’s plan to get rid of Kusco in the Emperor’s New Groove. She’s going to turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then put that flea in a box, and then put that box inside of another box, and then mail that box to herself, and when it arrives smash it with a hammer. She changes her mind–not because the plan was convoluted–to save on postage. She goes for a simple route: poison.

Recently I filled a glaring plothole–in the beginning of my book  no less–by using the methods above (mostly lying on my back and talking to my sister). What’s the biggest plothole you’ve ever had to fill?

Yes! It’s A New Book by Tolkien! ‘The Story of Kullervo’

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Toni Betzner:

Good news for Tolkien fans!

Originally posted on A Tolkienist's Perspective:

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In what seems to be a yearly tradition, the Tolkien Estate is treating us to a new book by our favourite author.

If you’ve done some reading about the Professor (beyond Middle-earth, that is), you may have encountered many references about Tolkien’s love for the Finnish epic tale of the Kalevala.

Well, turns out when he was a young man – already teeming with ideas and exquisite writing skills – he decided to write his own version of the book.

Here’s what an excerpt of what Harper Collins had to say on their site:

Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.

Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major…

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The Immortal Christopher Lee

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This has been a truly sad year for fantasy fans with the death of Terry Pratchett, Leonard Nimoy, and now Sr. Christopher Lee.

I find it hard to believe that Sir Christopher Lee has died. The cult theories that he was immortal or a vampire seemed legit considering his health and abilities at such a generous age. Even Elijah Woods seemed to agree in a recent tweet stating:

“If anyone was going to be immortal, it was Christopher Lee.”

He seemed timeless. At 93, he could easily have been younger or older considering his acting career started shortly after the second World War (and the fact that he once met Tolkien himself).


christopherleeChristopher Lee was a household name. If you don’t know his name, you’re at least familiar with one of his roles considering he’s acted in over 200 films and played many beloved villains including Dracula, Count Dooku, Saruman, and Francisco Scaramanga (James Bond).

Not to say he didn’t want to be the good guy from time to time, having coveted the role of Gandalf (played by Sir Ian McKellen).


Considering his long, unconquerable acting career, his acclaim, honors, noteworthy deep voice, and superior eye-brow acting (according to adoring fans), perhaps the theories of immortality were true. Christopher Lee will live on in the memory of friends and family of the film industry, in the hearts of loyal fans, and the roles he played.

Writer on a Warpath: Dylan Saccoccio Rampages against Reviewer

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There’s only one way to respond to a negative review: DON’T

Authors who challenge a review do nothing in the way of damage control. Quite the opposite, actually.

This is a major writing faux pas. At best the author comes off defensive or childish. At worst, the author comes off psychotic, especially when they threaten to post revenge reviews or even file a lawsuit.


On the offenders registry are authors Stephan J. Harper, Carroll Bryant, Emily Giffin, Chris McGrath, and now Dylan Saccoccio.

Today, I’d like to focus on Dylan Saccoccio (author of The Tales of Onora) for going on a rampage against a recent reviewer.


dylanDylan is an author I’m rather familiar with, having purchased his book based on the number of reviews, comparisons to Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, his impressive Amazon Best Sellers Rank, and the fact that I’m a sucker for an attractive cover.

You’ll note I did not determine my purchase based on the number of positive/negative reviews.

Similar criteria attracted the recent reader who left a less than positive review.

How Dylan responds is absolutely cringeworthy. See for yourself. If you’d like to see a train wreck, follow the link here.

His arguments aren’t even valid. He accuses negative reviews of being damaging to his novel’s success and a reflection of the reviewer instead of the author or book.

What I find funny: It’s his response to the negative review–NOT the negative review itself–that risk damaging his book’s success and his reputation as an author. So essentially he’s causing the very thing he is afraid will occur.

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With over 100 reviews (60% being positive), a large twitter following, a loyal fan base, and a high Amazon ranking, it’s petty and ridiculous that he would even hone in on this one review.

He is so afraid of others threatening his writing career, he isn’t even aware he is committing career suicide. That’s like worrying about getting West Nile from a mosquito bite while smoking a cigarette.

Let’s look at the damage, shall we?

The review did no damage whatsoever; however, his response could cost him fans (new and old), damage his reputation, hurt sales, and lose followers.

Case in point. I used to follow him on twitter, but I simply can’t follow any author who behaves this way. Will he notice the sting of one bee? Maybe not. But if enough bees sting . . . you start to feel the venom.

So what did he accomplish in the way of damage control? Nothing but assuage a bruised ego.


So why did he respond to this review? The simple reason would be a lack of logic. He wanted the reviewer to remove his review because he worried it would damage sales. So in truth, he wasn’t trying to be a defensive man-child. He was responding to misconceptions of the dreaded negative review.

Misconceptions

Negative Reviews Discredit Your Book or Writing

Negative reviews add legitimacy to a book’s reputation. Case in point, I almost didn’t purchase The Tales of Onora because it had too much praise. Without a negative review, I’m led to believe that his friends and family (or paid people) were a majority of his reviewers.

Negative Reviews are Slander

Slander and opinion are very different things. Can anyone tell me what a review is? Yes, for those of you who said opinion, you would be correct. We live in ‘Merica where everyone has a right to an opinion–whether informed, well-constructed, or biased. Does the latter describe this recent review. Hardly. He simply didn’t like it, and to be honest, neither did I. And for a lot of the same reasons as this guy, I might add. I guess I’m glad I didn’t review it. I’d hate to be the target of damaged pride.

Reviews are Personal

Youve_Got_Mail_20917_MediumHere’s where he really lost it, accusing the reviewer of having no sympathy or humanity. As if the reader’s goal was to bring down his career. Most of the time, reviewers don’t know you. Your success or failure isn’t their concern–and it shouldn’t be. This isn’t heartless, it’s just a fact. They are interested in finding a good book that they will enjoy. You are not their focus when they leave a review. Reviews are for READERS, not authors. They are telling other readers why they liked/did not like a book and whether they think it is a worthy read. Their opinions can be hurtful, but it isn’t an attack.


For the record, the ONLY good way to respond to a negative review is to NOT RESPOND.

You could try NOT READING THEM, though I think an author interested in growth should read and consider all their reviews.

Instead of going on a rant, consider these alternatives to take the sting off.

  • take a shot for every negative review (non drinkers can substitute shots for chocolate)
  • frame them on the wall of shame
  • burn them
  • put a hex on the bad reviewer
  • determine if their negative response is in fact positive criticism and use that to improve your writing in the future
  • whine to a friend
  • re-read positive reviews
  • sing Let it Go
  • go online and distract yourself with cat memes

Well there you have it. I’m a firm believer in learning from other’s mistakes, so let this be a lesson to the rest of you. When you get a review–good or bad–be gracious, be humble, be prepared, and most importantly be quiet. Whatever your response is, keep it out of the spotlight. In the end, your success or failure relies more on you than your reviews and readers.

Questions About Self-Publishing? Ask them During the Live Facebook Chat – All About Self-Publishing

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Originally posted on Kylie Betzner:

On the 28th, which is this Thursday, I’ll be participating in a live Facebook chat concerning self-publishing. From 9 pm to 10 pm, me and fellow author Rachelle M. N. Shaw will be discussing our own experiences in self-publishing, sharing not only what’s worked for us but also what’s not worked. Participants will be able to post specific questions, and Rachelle and I will do our best to answer them. Rachelle will also be asking me a few specific questions she thinks everyone will benefit from.

The event is open to anyone and everyone who’d like to join. Please visit this link to join. If you’re having trouble please feel free to contact me for assistance or an invite.

Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there. If not, please feel free to share this event with your friends via Facebook, WordPress, and/or Twitter! The more the merrier. Authors helping authors is what being…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1 Seven days a week just aren’t enough days to get everything done. I think we need a day between Saturday and Sunday so we can all have an extra day. It could be called Sundurday or Satday. Oh, the things I could accomplish with an extra day, but since I don’t, I’ll have to make due with the seven I’ve got.

For those of you who read my last blog post, you know what my to-do list looks like. To-do list help me create daily structure. Daily structure is great, but I can’t live day to day. I need to visualize my entire week. Being a single mother, with a mother battling an illness, living with a busy sister, working 5-6 days a week, and writing on top of that, I can’t just plan my weeks day by day.

Make a Weekly Schedule

Making a schedule won’t give you more hours in the day, but it will help you make the most of the time you already have.

Making schedules might be painful, but consider the alternatives. Going on a whim. Relying on memory. Schedules not only give you peace of mind, they help you balance life and increase productivity.

My sister and I share a joint Google calendar so we can coordinate our lives, but you can use a good old-fashioned wall calendar or weekly planner.

Plan What you Need and Want to get Done

Start with your obligations. Record the days you work, appointments, etc. After that, record the things you want to do. Other than work, doctor appointments, and my son’s visitations with grandparents, I also need to schedule when I will write, edit, go to the gym, and visit my mom. It might sound cold and calculated to schedule family time, but I’ve found that by scheduling time with friends and relatives I actually see them more and have more quality time. This gives them the full attention they deserve.

Make a List of Priorities

Writing is a priority, and if you don’t treat it like one, you won’t find time to write or justify the time you dedicate to it. My priorities are as follows

Main Priorities

  • writing
  • family
  • work
  • editing
  • grocery shopping
  • chores

Secondary Priorities

  • gym
  • Netflix
  • friends

Tips to Remember

  • Be realistic with your time frame
  • Make a new schedule once a week–before your week starts
  • Make the schedule of the week you want to have
  • Adhere to the schedule, but be flexible. If it rains on a day you were supposed to plant your garden, you might want to rearrange.(check the weather if weather is a factor)

I hope that helps you add a little structure to your busy life. Do you keep a calendar? What are some ways you balance writing with family and life?

Do dishes, go to the gym, pick up child from school, write the next best-selling fantasy novel: You know, just your typical to-do list.

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The life of a working adult is busy, and writers are no exception. If anything, we’re busier than the average adult.

My to-do list today literally looks like this:

  • buy drano
  • get gas
  • blog
  • wash dishes
  • fill out forms for summer camp
  • clean car
  • put clothes away
  • finish outlining book one
  • edit chapter 9-10 of sister’s fantasy parody
  • pick up child from school
  • go to gym

Yup, just your typical to-do list . . . if you’re a writer, anyway.

A non-writer’s list stops at put clothes away, freeing them to watch Netflix or pursue some other pleasure in their–what’s that word again? . . . oh yeah, free time.

A list certainly helps categorize, order, even prioritize chores that need done, but a calendar is so much better. Join me Tuesday for my next Tuesday Tip which will be all about making a writing/life calendar. Guaranteed to help you turn your to-do’s into already done.

What does your to-do list look like? How many writing vs non-writing items are on your list? How many can you check off in a day?