Plotline Potholes May Swallow Your Readers

Potholes in your plot line are like sinkholes in a highway. Both stop the flow.
Potholes in your plot line are like sinkholes in a highway. Both stop the flow.

By Kathrin Herr, The Writing Mechanic

As authors, we have a tendency to forget that the worlds we create and the tales we tell originated in our own brains. Living our story in our own heads leads to skipping over some things that are obvious to us, but actually, leave giant potholes in our plot—the kind of potholes that turn into black holes. We tend to forget that our readers didn’t live out our story or don’t know the world or place we are creating or describing. These black holes suck our readers right out of the story by chapter two.

When plotline potholes pop up, revision is necessary. Plotline fixes occur in the developmental editing stage—but if you’re teetering on the edge of a pothole while finishing your first draft, ask yourself these questions:

How do I get from this scene to the next?

Where might my reader get lost?

How does this scene contribute to my character development?

Use this workflow to plan your plot and avoid potholes:

  1. Locate Your First Scene: How does your first scene set the stage for your plot? Think through your initial storyline. Does your first scene provide enough information to hook your audience without giving too much away? Does your first scene serve your storyline well?
  2. Theme or Ending: What goal or destination point do you need to reach by the end of your book? How are you going to get there? For fiction, where do you need to get to by the end of your story? For memoir, what theme or message do you need to have fully developed by the end of your story?
  3. Characters: What plot points or scenes do you need to include to be sure you are developing your characters fully? Where are your “footholds” when it comes to your character development? How will your audience come to know your characters through what they do, where they go, who they interact with, and what happens to them?
  4. How you get there: You have your theme and your character development outline constructed…now fill in the blanks. Write out your plot scene-by-scene and see if you notice any areas that need some road tar.
  5. Evaluate: When you complete a draft of your book, take a step back and evaluate where you ended up. How did you do? Did you get where you wanted to go? Did you lose any tires in potholes?

It can be difficult to go “off-the-cuff” and still generate a solid, thorough plotline. Just like every road needs some construction to repair potholes that develop, every plot needs a “road crew” to ensure you aren’t losing your precious readers in plotline potholes.

Check out my plotline construction worksheet below as a quick reference when you’re developing your plotline for your next book.

Download it and save for future reference.
Download it and save for future reference.
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1 thought on “Plotline Potholes May Swallow Your Readers”

  1. Thank you for this. When I completed the manuscript of “Marie and Mr. Bee,” I sent it to an online writer/editor friend who mentioned plotholes. She didn’t say where they were, which was fair enough as she works as an editor and I wasn’t paying her.. However, when I sent it back to her–laid out with illustrations–she gave me a five-star review and there was no mention of plotholes. The difference? I’d made a few minor changes in wording, but I believe it was the pictures that provided most of the asphalt.

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