A writer of murder mysteries may be thinking, ‘It’s to cover up the bloodstain by the back door.’ A science-fiction writer may wonder if the paint is an alien phosphorescent that will tell a passing UFO to pick him up. A mainstream writer will be imagining that this quiet, shy man just wants to be noticed by his uncaring neighbours.


You can see how asking the same question from different points of view can produce totally different answers and thus totally different plots. The reason your plot flows in any direction may be the result of asking, ‘What if …?’

A sure way to find the holes in your story is to hear it read or told aloud. Maybe that’s why so many writers would rather avoid this step and go straight to the computer. Once you’ve seen the hole – in your plot or your characterization or whatever – you feel obliged to patch it; if you never see the hole, you can let yourself believe that it isn’t there.

As we’ll see in more detail in the next chapter, every realistic, convincing character has flaws: otherwise they become literarily ‘too good to be true’. That isn’t what we are talking about here. The weak spots you are looking for at this stage are the unintentional mistakes that can destroy a book.



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