On day one of the tour for Zoé Miller’s new book, ‘The Husband’s Confession’, Zoe talks about the writing process: Plot holes…And how to get out of them!
What is a plot hole? For me, it’s when you think you’re motoring along quite nicely with your story but quite suddenly you stumble, grind to a halt, and find yourself falling into a deep, dark crevasse with no way out, because someone or something has pulled the guts of the story out from under you.
When I was two-thirds of the way through writing A Husband’s Confession, with the deadline looming on the near horizon, I fell into a plot hole and, believe me, it was quite a scary place!
Some writers wing it by the seat of their pants – they sit down to write a book without an ending in mind, throwing their characters onto the page and seeing where they take them, enjoying the process of letting the story come together in a very organic way. Other writers find this method quite terrifying. They plan meticulously, not only knowing the beginning, middle and end of a book, but all the individual chapters and plot points that will take them there.
I fall in somewhere in between. I know where the characters are at the start of the book and how their story is going to end. I might not know all the nitty-gritty details in between, but I usually have some fun finding out. I could tell you what they like for breakfast, the name of their favourite movie and much-loved childhood toy, but I only discover my characters’ true colours by the actual process of writing about them.
When I was about two-thirds of the way through writing A Husband’s Confession, I came to know one of the characters so well and empathised with them so much that I realised my planned ending for that character just wasn’t going to work. It didn’t fit with the person, never mind the story or the other people around them.
Aaargh! My first major plot hole.
Then, at around the same time and despite copious hours researching a technical detail on the internet, a last-minute, spur of the moment (and very serendipitous) phone call to an expert informed me that what I had actually planned to happen wouldn’t happen in reality.
Time to press the panic button…or was it?
After the shock of juddering to a halt, with the rest of my story effectively derailed, I allowed myself a day or two of wallowing in writer’s block. There was comfort eating. There was wine. Even some television. There was distance and space from the script. Then, conscious of the deadline on the near horizon, I took myself, my laptop and a large blank notepad away for a few days, to a hotel by the sea.
There were no interruptions at all, no internet either, just hours and hours of time in which to think, imagine, and reflect. From early in the morning until late at night, apart from sparse texts home to make sure everyone was still alive and the house hadn’t gone on fire, I became totally immersed in the story and living in the world of my characters.
My personal writing retreat worked. By the third day, I had the plot re-jiggled in my head, and a bare outline of the remaining chapters prepared.
Plot holes are writer’s friends, even if they don’t feel like that at first; they mean the story and characters have come alive in your head. They allow you to correct the story to ensure the resolution is consistent with your characters and their motivations. Always, in climbing out of them, albeit with grazed knees and scratched shins, you make the story even better.
Zoë Miller is the author of six contemporary women’s fiction novels published by Hachette Books Ireland, including the newly released A Husband’s Confession. Her books are a blend of drama, romance and intrigue. When Zoë’s not escaping into her writing she juggles her time between her family and her day job in training and development.
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