Plot holes occur when
- Characters having knowledge of something never presented to them. Character A is assassinated without any witnesses and their body is covered up. Less than an hour later, without having gone looking for Character A or hearing from the assassins, Character B knows Character A was assassinated.
- Characters not having knowledge of something they were either told or should know. Character A is a general who doesn’t know the troop strength of their own army OR Character A is told a murderer’s calling card is a white feather, but for most of the climax can’t figure out who’s leaving white feathers at the crime scene.
- Characters avoiding obvious solutions to their problems. Character A is told he was smuggled out of the palace via a back door when he was a child. Instead of looking for/using this back door, Character A leads his army in a risky frontal assault on the palace.
- The occurrence of an event that the rest of the work has deemed impossible. The rules of magic say you can’t bring people back to life. Character A brings someone back to life.
- Events not following the logical course of the story. Character A uses a shotgun after the author stated earlier that Character A was unarmed OR despite the fact the entire humans couldn’t kill the aliens in 2014, a group of 1000 human rebels destroy the entire alien culture with revamped technology from 2014 OR out of character (OOC) actions.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, the fixes should be simple enough:
- You need to keep track of which characters know what and when. I used Microsoft Excel for this. In the leftmost column, I have the character’s names. In the top row is a time/date of the story. In the columns to the right of the character’s name, I write what they have learned at each point in the story (and sometimes the source and their reaction). I do a lot of it in my mind, but for the more complex plots, I use Excel.
- Simple logic. A general should know a rough estimate of how many people are in their army. A character you described as unarmed cannot be wielding a shotgun moments later, unless they appeared to be unarmed to deceive someone or picked up the shotgun on the battlefield. And obey your damn magic rules.
- Problem solving. Sometimes when you’re writing, you can’t see the forest for the trees. A solution that may be obvious to some people isn’t obvious to you because you need to concentrate on character development, the plot, the setting, the Big Ending, and a million other things. The easiest thing to do is recruit a sharp-eyed beta reader. Some other solutions: making a document for your Big Problem and adding information about situation surrounding the Big Problem as you write them; and re-reading your entire document, just scanning for errors (NOT editing), preferably after not looking at it for +5 days.
Some of the fixes will be simple enough, such as switching references to “shooting” and “blasting” zombies to “stabbing” and “beheading” zombies. Some of them will be harder, like when you’ve written a climax in which a normally calm character goes insane and tries to kill the protagonist for no reason whatsoever. An entire climax or arc hinging on a plot hole can’t be easily fixed and I recommend looking in the plot and planning tags for basically starting from scratch.
"Stop pretending you don’t recognise my face! You’re the one that gave me every scar it has!"