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One of my biggest weakness is logic/plot holes. And it's not only about inconsistency in my stories, but my character often have contradictory thoughts and do stuff that come up as unbelievable.

I'm not sure if is because I'm a pantser: I don't outline, I just write as I go, like I'm watching a movie and just writing down the transcript.

What are some tips to improve the logic of a story and reduce the plot holes (before showing it to beta-readers and an editor)?

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An author, whose name I forget, explained his procedure in the following way:

  1. Write your story down. Leave this version as it is, that is, do not attempt to close plot holes or correct continuity. Instead:
  2. Put that first version away, and
  3. Write the whole story again from scratch.
  4. Repeat until you are happy with your result.

What this does is that plot holes happen because you are still exploring your story. After you have written the first draft, you now know the story. If you try to correct the first draft, you will be caught in incompatibilities that cannot be overcome. But if you write the story a second time, your mind will create a consistent version of your story (if you don't force it to keep the inconsistencies), because that is how the human mind works: we misremember facts or misinterpret them to achieve consistency, and this method makes use of that.

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    Neat, the mind really does work like that so it should work. Not suited for everyone, but then nothing is... Jun 27 '15 at 14:51
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    It certainly is a lot of work, and unfortunately that will keep many from trying. The author who described this said he had rewritten one of his novels seven times. But I also think it depends on how you approach this. I wrote the first rough draft in 21 days. I did not waste any time on making every sentence shine, the purpose was just to find the story, no matter how bad the style. Rewriting it then took half a year, but since that was the first version where I put any effort in writting well – and since I knew my story and didn't have to struggle with that – it was a pleasant experience.
    – user5645
    Jun 27 '15 at 15:05
  • Isaac Asimov worked that way, though he omitted step 4. Robert Heinlein also omitted steps 2 and 3. Jun 27 '15 at 20:01
  • @what Recounting personal experience makes a solution easier to relate to. Maybe you should edit it in? Jun 27 '15 at 22:09
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Think about your story. All the time. I once found an enormous plot hole in the bath. (Er, I was in the bath and the plot hole was in my story, but you know what I mean.) By the time I was drying my toes I had converted the plot hole into a plot point, namely the logical discrepancy by which the main character deduced that another character was lying.

If your story is with you while you commute to work, walk the dog, and do the washing up, then you will get to know its flaws and virtues.

Think through the whole story from the point of view of characters other than the viewpoint ones. Mentally re-write it as a first person narrative as told by the villain for instance. If you can bear to put your pants aside (it's my day for double entendres), make that mental re-write physical, at least in note form. Although this process might as a bonus provide insights into the villain's motivations, the main point is to check the plot, so make the re-telling strictly chronological. Most plot holes are to do with timing or with people knowing things they could not have known. You will find these holes when you tell yourself how those tumultuous five days seemed from the villain's point of view.

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    Same for me and programming. I would consider a project architecture for a week. Then I would solve it in 2 minutes while washing my feet. Taking a step back is a difficult as is important.
    – Vorac
    Jul 21 '20 at 6:38
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I wonder whether what you're calling a plot hole might really be a character hole.

Go deeper into the character. Does your character think contradictory thoughts because you don't understand the character very well? If so, that's a character hole. Solve that by going deeper into the character. Find out more of the character's thoughts, especially the character's reactions to the people, places, and events of the story. You can find those thoughts by writing them. You don't have to keep them all in the manuscript.

Use contradictions to cause trouble. Contradictory thoughts can be awesome for fiction. They create dilemmas for the character. They create conflicts with other characters, who see the character as capricious, or hypocritical, or unfair. One way to handle contradictory thoughts is to feature them. Make the contradictions cause trouble for the character. At very least, have other characters comment on the contradictions.

Resolve the "contradictions." Another possibility is to demonstrate that the "contradictions" are not contradictions at all--find some way that the seemingly opposing thoughts are compatible. Again, the trick is not to eliminate the contradiction, but to feature it, this time by resolving it.

Force the character to do something contradictory. Another way to create a character hole is to plan the character's reactions around the plot. If you're pantsing, perhaps you're not doing that... but check. If you need the character to do something for plot purposes, instead of making the character do something out of character, change the situation to eliminate the other things that the character would rather do.

Motivate "unbelievable" actions. Another way to create a character hole is to leave a surprising action or reaction unmotivated. If the character does something that surprises you, you can cycle back to an earlier point in the manuscript and plant a little seed in the reader's mind.

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Keep reading back your story and smooth out the holes you find. Redact your own writing until you believe it is perfect. Then redact again. Make notes on stuff that comes back later if you need to ensure consistency.

Extremely hard work? Yes. Comes with the package I'm afraid.

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You can also try to use the snowflake method. It's a simple and iterative process that will help you gradually build your story, and have a clear vision of what your story is going to be about.

There are 10 steps, and you sometimes have to update what you produced in the previous steps. But this is the interesting side of this technique, you have a vision of your work from a 'macroscopic' level (one sentence) to a 'microscopic' level (your draft). Plot holes will appear more clearly and you will find it easier to solve them.

I know some people find this technique boring because your have some work to do before starting to write. But never forget this is only a tool and you can adapt it so suit your needs.

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In regards to your character dilemma, I struggled with the same thing, and here's what I did about it:

https://elliotcountenance.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/reevaluating-the-headstrong-character/

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