The Perfect Plot

I wish I could lay plots like eggs, smooth and beautiful and unbroken. Obviously I can’t. But it’s something I think about, because I’m weird. So here’s a question that popped into my mind a few weeks ago and has been torturing me ever since: what makes the perfect plot? What does that even mean anyway?

Eggs 1

I think a perfect plot doesn’t have much to do with pace. Pace is a preference. A plot is this happens then this happens then that happens. How fast you go matters not a whit. A perfect plot can go fast or slow, but contains no glaring logical errors. While reading a perfectly plotted book you never get annoyed with the protagonist for ignoring an obvious solution to his problem. There are no holes.

Plot holes are distracting. They dislodge me from the narrative and I fall a little out of love with the protagonist. The magic spell of reading falters and I become aware of the illusion. As a reader, I don’t want that. I want to become more deeply immersed and invested in the novel I’m reading with every word. As a writer, I want to create that fully immersive experience for someone else.

So how to guard against plot holes? I think, unless you’re gifted with a very particular sort of brain (and if so, I hate you kudos!), you’ve got to get other eyes on your story. It’s easy to get too close to your work, to either be oblivious to its shortcomings or have a vague sense that something’s wrong without being able to name it. A good critique group or writing class will clue you in.

Otherwise, try to approach your story with a stranger’s eyes. Ask yourself questions, turn your plot around in your head like a rubix cube, probing for weaknesses. If you find a hole, address it! Think of a plausible reason your character can’t just make that left at Albuquerque. Holes don’t go away if you ignore them and hope no one will notice.

 

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