There are two pieces of writing advice that I can guarantee every aspiring author received (on numerous occasions) while pursuing their writing ambitions. The first advice is “read a lot,” and the second is “write a lot.” Both are simple, straightforward tips that likely seem so obvious you might wonder why anyone would find it necessary to give such advice. But there is a reason this advice is repeated so frequently; they are both crucial activities in helping writers to perfect their craft. And here are my thoughts as to why this is so.
If you ask a hundred bookworms to identify the most essential ingredient for a must read book, there’s almost no chance you would get unanimous agreement. All readers have differing sentiments that affect what they want and enjoy most in a work of fiction. For many readers there will be one specific box that absolutely needs to be checked in order for a book to be essential reading. For some, pacing is the priority, for others it’s writing style, for some it’s originality, while for others it might be thought-provoking themes and ideas. I’m not going to attempt to provide a definitive answer because there isn’t one. But I will give you my thoughts on what I consider to be the most important constituent of a good story, the absence of which always detracts from my reading pleasure.
In recent years I have noticed an amusing trend in which some people will immediately cry out “plot hole!” when something they don’t like occurs in a book, television show or film. I often find that a cursory inspection of the complaint reveals that whatever plot element the person in question is objecting to, isn’t actually a plot hole, at all.
In order to help out these individuals, I will hereby take this opportunity to define and illustrate what a plot hole is; and conversely, what is not a plot hole.
Have you ever wondered why characters in the Superman comics never seem to notice that Clark Kent is obviously Superman? Chances are you don’t give it much thought, and you certainly don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of Superman. After all, you can accept the idea of an alien being who looks completely human, while possessing the ability to fly, super strength, super speed, super hearing and x-ray vision. So why would accepting that Clark only needs to put on a pair of glasses to fool everyone be any less easy to justify?
This is a slightly revised update of a post I originally submitted back in 2014.
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The term tropes has a number of definitions, but for the purposes of this post, it refers to those themes, conventions and plot devices that readers have come to expect in works of fiction. In this context, tropes are very much like clichés, and any literary genre you can think of has its well known tropes. Many works of fantasy utilise the trope of the young orphan who (according to prophecy) is destined to save the day, for example. And, in science fiction, how many times have we read tales of scientists whose creations turn on their creators, and wreak havoc upon the world?