This Old Manuscript

This is a sinkhole in a parking lot at Georgia...

Well, there’s your problem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve had these moments. You’re writing, cruising along toward the word limit, and then BAM, plot hole. It stops you dead. You might have seen it coming, or it might have crept up on you out of nowhere, but either way, there it is, gaping in the middle of your story like an abscessed tooth. And now you have to deal with it before you can move on.

Some people will try to make the original work, no matter how hard it is. Some will put the project aside, thinking it’s too broken to fix. But I reach for the Plot Spackle.

What is this fine product? Simple: it’s whatever works. Think of it like the mortar used by shifty backyard contractors everywhere: mixed together out of plaster dust and sand and rat droppings and maybe some cigarette butts because it was easier than finding a can to drop them in. Mix it up out of whatever you’ve got lying around, trowel it on, and see if it holds. It might be ugly, it might be strange, but all it has to do is get things moving again.

But here’s the funny thing about Plot Spackle: sometimes, the fixes it gives you are better than the original idea. The point that you Frankenstein into the story mid-way through can completely change the manuscript. Maybe for the better. Yeah, it might mean some retcon* work later, but that’s what first drafts are for. Who cares if it’s a hybrid monstrosity with the stitches showing? As long as it lurches in the right direction and squashes the right villagers, I’m okay with it. I’ll put a pretty dress on it later.

Example? Glad to. Recently, I had two characters who disliked each other trying to work together. It was important; someone they both cared about would die if they didn’t suck it up and get it done. But those scenes weren’t working. It was too much pushing those men to get them to stop arguing and work. God, they were being such princesses. So I took an afternoon and laid out the plot on my dissecting slab, looking for the problem. Eventually I realized that they were the problem. Those characters, as they were, would not get it done in time to save their friend. At least, not by themselves.

Time to get out the Plot Spackle. In this case, it took the form of another character who, until then, had been doing something off screen. I was planning on using him to address some minor plot points later. But no more. He got the big-league call, so it was time for him to suit up and get in the game. I patched a couple of scenes to give him an entrance, stitched him into the plot, and off they went. And it worked. It better than worked; it gave me some great plot points. Points that would never had arisen with the original two men. It made the story richer.

Now, I can’t imagine that story without the third man. He’s too important. But he only got in because of a problem.

Don’t knock Plot Spackle. Sometimes a creative solution to a problem is even better than never having a problem in the first place. So slap that shit on, fix the hole, and get back to work before it slows you down. Come back with the sand paper and paint later. Right now, it’s another Monday, and we’ve got writing to do.

*Retroactive continuity. My comic geek roots are showing.