Why Writers Write Themselves Into A Hole

Daniel Manus, L.A based script consultant, shares his wisdom on why many writers run out of steam before the end of their scripts.


60% of all plot holes and story issues exist because the writer has failed to set up something earlier on that would help explain an event. A set up doesn’t always have to be a big extravagant moment – it can be a quick line or quick shot or off the cuff comment. As long as it’s paid off later.


Look at why you’re characters are there, doing what they’re doing, and why (and if) it’s important to them? What do they have to accomplish and why? What happens if they don’t accomplish it?


Do your characters have to be at a particular place? Does the location that makes sense to the story and action taking place? If it feels like your characters are just pinging back and forth between different locations, is there a way to condense them so your story won’t feel confusing or scenes won’t seem unnecessary? But also, do your locations give you enough opportunities for action or scares or comedy and afford you the visuals you need to make your scenes work without forcing them?


If big moments in your script (more than 1 or 2) only occur because of coincidences taking place, then your plot is not strong enough and will feel contrived. If “coincidence” is the only explanation for your action, you’re not outlining enough. Go back and think of other ways or reasons why that “thing” could occur or bring your characters to where “it” occurs.


It’s all about thinking about different ways to obtain the same result. If your character has to get into a house without being heard, think of 5 ways for him to do so. Always give yourself options and see which one makes the most sense for your set ups, your characters and your purpose. Ask other people if you need to.


Very often holes are created because you’re trying to do too much with your plot or action or you’re working too many characters into the plot because you think it will keep things interesting. Streamlining your story and only including plot points, subplots and characters that advance the important storylines and arcs of your protagonist will ensure that you don’t write yourself into unnecessary holes. Additional storylines may deserve their own scripts.


When all else fails, follow an old adage that always holds true – KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID. If you find that your characters are trapped in a situation or have to do something and they don’t know how to, just use common sense. Think about what YOU would do to get out of that situation – then make it visual. When you do, move on. Don’t hover around the same plot point.

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