Filling Magical Plotholes

Elanalue Windthorn (Alue). An elf and one of the three protagonists.

I’m about 40 pages from completing my 2nd draft of a new trilogy… Unraveling the Veil. It’s been a bumpier ride than usual, my laptop jouncing on my knees as the story’s wheels plunge into plotholes on the long and winding road to publishing.

A few of them required me to rock the old tale back and forth while gunning the engine. A couple of times, I had to back up and try again, turning in a slightly different direction to get around a sinkhole. I’ve been known to add an extra gallon of coffee to the tank in order to jack up the imagination and fill in a whopping crater.

Magic is a big part of the problem.

Fantasy authors can easily find themselves mired by their magic. To be honest, I’ve struggled through a lot of “oh, shit” moments where I’ve put a character in a treacherous situation, and then realized (on the second draft) that they can easily escape. Yes, you guessed it, by using the powers I granted them.

A shapeshifter who can turn into a beetle can escape most confined spaces. Uh oh.

A shapeshifter who can transform into a bird can just fly away from a dangerous situation. Darn!

A pyrokinetic elf doesn’t have to worry much about being stuck in an ice storm. Duh.

A goblin who can rearrange earthen matter should be impossible to keep locked up in a stone cell. Gah! Rats!

The list goes on and on.

My characters aren’t all-powerful, but they have talents. And their abilities change over time, so I have to keep track of where they are in their magical evolutions.

The point is, writing, rewriting, and editing fantasy requires a unique analysis of every action scene. We, the creators and purveyors of magic, have to question our logic in order to keep the story plausible. Can my characters use their magical abilities to get out of this terrible situation?

If the answer is “yes,” it’s time to put on the brakes and check the old map. Then fix the road or plot a detour. The journey must go on.

WIP working cover

151 thoughts on “Filling Magical Plotholes

  1. michnavs says:

    I love how you shared to us how you develop your characters. It would really be fun and indeed “oh, shit” moment when you suddenly realized that you have been dragging your character into some kind of danger then reality hits you, he has powers after all…lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the book cover, Diane! I can imagine the backtracking and redirecting would take energy. Yes, your characters have talents but are not all powerful make the fantasy plausible. It’s exciting that you’re almost done with your second draft.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those moments always feel so embarrassing! It’s very good of you to admit to them, because it makes pretentious ol’ me feel better about my own plot holes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t write high fantasy, but I do write a lot of urban fantasy and magical realism, so I relate, Diana. When I trained as a screenwriter, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a writer from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he taught me how to keep a magical conceit simple, streamlined, and consistent in its rules and internal logic. Funny enough, a lot of horror television now opts for an anything-goes approach to its storytelling: There are no rules that govern the supernatural occurrences of American Horror Story or Penny Dreadful or Castle Rock, and (in my view) that completely undermines the suspense! (Many who love what I call “kitchen-sink horror” either disagree or don’t care, though.) I’ve considered writing my own post about this subject for years, but it’s always more interesting to demonstrate that particular creative pitfall by using one’s own work as an example. All of that is to say I certainly relate to the special challenge of keeping the plot machinations consistent with the magical rules of the world you’ve created, and I’ve no doubt Liars and Thieves will emerge from the editorial process a rock-solid narrative! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just finished watching Penny Dreadful and your so right about the anything-goes-this-makes-no-sense lack of rules, Sean. Lol. I really like Brandon Sanderson’s magic systems. They’re clean, specific, and they have very clear rules. I’ve tried to emulate his magical world building in most of my books. In this trilogy, my bossy muse dictated a wider variety of talents, and for some reason, I listened. I’m about two days away from finishing this rewrite, and then on to the next one. 🙂 Thanks for the visit and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read Sanderson, but my wife loves Mistborn and The Reckoners for the reasons you cite: that there’s a clear and consistent set of rules that govern the magic. (Random thought: “Mistborn and the Reckoners” sounds like the name of an eighties glam band.)

        Penny Dreadful is probably the most visually arresting show I’ve ever seen — it’s the closest television has ever come to replicating the fairytale cinematic aesthetic of Coppola’s Dracula or Burton’s Sleepy Hollow — but it violates the storytelling principle of Double Mumbo Jumbo, which holds that you’re only allowed a single fantastical “buy-in,” and then every other instance of “magic” has to be a direct consequence of that buy-in.

        Superman gets all of his powers because his alien biochemistry is affected by the particular UV frequency of our solar system, and that set of powers/vulnerabilities is explicitly defined (flight, X-ray vision, freezing breath; exposure to Kryptonite nullifies those abilities, etc.). That’s the buy-in asked of the reader of a Superman comic. Once that’s established, you can’t suddenly have him battling vampires, because vampires are a separate and unrelated buy-in; they are two distinct instances of “magic,” and you only get one per story. That’s why Superman’s main villains are those three Kryptonian outlaws: because they are from the same alien world as Superman, and therefore beholden to the same set of “rules.”

        Penny Dreadful, on the other hand, allows Dracula and Frankenstein and Dorian Gray and Mr. Hyde (to say nothing of lycanthropy and psychokinesis) to coexist without justification, and it’s what my old Buffy mentor used to call “heaping bananas on bananas.” The “magic system” only has meaning — and the story only has suspense — if the author sets the rules for the audience and then plays by those rules. If the attitude is anything goes — as it is in Penny Dreadful and American Horror Story — then you lose the trust of the reader. But, as I said, the more of that kind of sloppy storytelling we’re exposed to, the more we accept it — which is why lousy TV shows now routinely win Emmys.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I liked the language in Penny Dreadful, the flawed characters, the visuals, the acting. The script was amazing. I actually bought a book of John Clare poetry after hearing the monster recite it on the show. But your right about magic. It was bananas heaped on bananas. Lol. I love that. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Solitaire says:

    You are such a tease… you just got me curious and oh my I can’t wait mode…
    all the best of wishes with the launch of this beauty!🍾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by Solitaire. I’m getting so close to finishing up this rewrite, I’m almost giddy. It’s a dark story, my friend, and I’ll start sharing bits and pieces shortly (like tomorrow Lol). Have a wonderful day ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarah says:

    Love the look of your working cover and of one of your protagonists!! 😍 Hehe! very funny how your characters can easily escape their plotholes. 😉 Ah – logic! Now I know why I have such troubles writing stories – I’m not a very logical person! 😂 Many congratulations on nearly having finished your 2nd draft!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah. There’s a lot going on with these books. I have three allies from three races who all have different abilities. Yeesh! It’s a madhouse. Lol. But getting there, little by little. Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a wonderful day, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Diana.. glad it is not just me..working in the fairy realm for the Tales from the Irish Garden had me reaching for the tequila on a number of occasions. My characters tend to evolve and I really need to make more notes.. hugsxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! It’s fun though, isn’t it? I’m trying to keep track of this over about 850 pages. Yeesh. I’m having a panic attack just writing that! Tequila sounds good! A couple more weeks and this pass will have addressed the worst of it. Thanks for the visit, Sally. Hugs. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing your work on your 2nd draft, Diana. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  9. C.E.Robinson says:

    Diana, thanks for sharing your second draft process. I found sink holes in mine and had to fill them in. Almost done. Just waiting for the editor’s work on the last 83 pages. Then, more work making sure nothing is missing. Yikes! It’s a long journey from beginning to end, but a great adventure. 🎶📚 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Vashti Q says:

    Hi, Diane! I’m on the 4th draft of my WIP a high/dark fantasy, so I can relate to what you’re saying. I had some issues with that on my 2nd draft. Hopefully, I was able to resolve the issues well. After I’m done with this draft I’ll be sending the manuscript to my editor. Happy editing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sure you can relate, Vashti. It’s a fantasy challenge for sure. I hope that by the end of this draft I’ll have the big ones filled. And then any remaining ones in the 3rd draft. Then I’ll be smiling! Thanks for stopping by and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes and just keeping the road map of it all is hard enough! I wish you happy travels to this new journey’s end. I love the working cover. I’d buy that in a heartbeat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My road map has come in handy, Sheri, because I keep having to back up! Lol. And thanks for the comment on the cover. That made me feel really good about doing my own for this series (no extra funds this year). Thanks for the visit, my friend. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Teri Polen says:

    That’s quite a list to keep up with, Diana. I imagine a big board with lots of note cards and varying colors of strings connecting different points on the board, lol. So excited for your new series!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking a peek at the post, Teri. I’m an excel girl. 🙂 Spreadsheets and spreadsheets. Part of my problem was that my first draft was repeatedly interrupted while I cared for my parents. I’m having to fix all that now. But the holes are slowly getting filled and paved. Happy Book Release!

      Like

  13. Lol, great analogy! I have to watch out for those brick walls in my work 🙂
    Love the cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the visit, Jacquie. Brick walls? That sounds dangerous. Ha ha. I recommend sledge hammers and ladders. And I’m glad you liked the cover. Not quite there but fun to play with when I’m procrastinating! Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Jan Sikes says:

    Ah, the life of a writer! You described an all-too-familiar scenario, Diana. Congrats on almost crossing the finish line! The cover is appealing to the eye!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Many congratulations Diana, and cheers to your magical characters. I love your new book cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Annika Perry says:

    A brilliant analogy for your writing dilemma, Diana and one can imagine the physical jarring as you fall into one of the holes, realising the situation is not just quite right for your character. I am in awe how fantasy writers as yourself keep in mind everyone’s ability, how to use it, when. Congratulations on your near completion of this draft annd very exciting to see you’re working on a new triology! Enjoy the creative ride, may the road soon smoothen out for you! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the visit, Annika. I’m glad you enjoyed my car ride! Ha ha. It was fun crafting that little escapade. Part of my writing challenge with this book was the long care-giving breaks while writing the 1st draft. I repeatedly lost the details of the story. So, this draft has been about tying them all together. All creative work and fun. Have a lovely week, my friend. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Steve Tanham says:

    Lovely insight into ‘fantasy strategy’, Diana! 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Steve. It’s pretty obvious that magic needs to be consistent in order for a reader to suspend their disbelief. But it’s easy to overlook the obvious when in the thick of writing. I’m getting there though. Have a wonderful week, and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thêa says:

    Thank you for this! Will keep this in mind while I work on my own story. Hmm… by the way. I think I already know that…. (ooops). Still! Thank you. A really good reminder. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  19. jomz says:

    Wow, those are indeed good holes that you caught. It would have been silly if you toss that into the “character simply forgot” bin of reasoning.. hahaha…

    I often get stuck with “placing my characters in a jam even I can’t think of escaping.” I’d either have to back up and make it a bit easier, or completely avoid the situation entirely, or end up with a situation too unbelievable. haha…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done that too, Jomz, and usually have to backtrack and set up the means to escape earlier in the read. “The character forgot” just doesn’t cut it. Lol. I’m still catching plotholes, but getting closer to having the big ones filled… until the next draft! Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Anonymole says:

    Interesting topic. Two thoughts: I have foregone “magic” in my later years as I just can’t come to believe such stuff actually exists in the world. I’m older now, and this fact has given me a massive disbelief quotient. The second is, when it comes to magic, it’s never free, as in Harry Potter free. Spell, spell, spell… Boy, are you tired? Me? Hell no. Let’s keep fighting, spelling, conjuring.
    Magic must cost — something. Energy, life-force, money, limb count — something. If your magical folks get stuck in a dungeon, and can’t just turn into mist to escape, it might be because they are magically exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment. My magic is usually very simple, which some readers like and others (HP readers?) complain about. I went bigger with this book but still limited with a quasi-scientific premise that matter can be manipulated by interfering with it’s energetic binding/core and pattern. Talents vary. And there’s a big cost in pain and fatigue, as well as dampeners to suppress the ability. I hope that my books are more character-driven reads than fantastical, but the consistency of the magic is vital to plausibility, thus the attention to magical plotholes. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I love chatting about this stuff. 🙂 Have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. petespringerauthor says:

    I find the process to be one of the most creatively stimulating aspects of writing. I suppose if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. Sometimes those “oh shit” moments don’t leap up and bite you the first time either. I’m glad you are finding ways to get to the end goal. One of the beauties of writing is there is more than one highway to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit, Pete. And great point about there being more than one highway. 🙂 I’m sure that I’ll discover more bumps in the road on the next pass, but at least the most troublesome ones will be patched up and rolled smooth. 🙂 And I do love the creative process with all its challenges. Have a great week and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I loved your vehicular metaphor for your struggle with “plotholes.” Having never written fantasy, I was very interested in the challenges that magic presents to plot points. The magic that derails realistic fiction is smart phones.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. So excited to hear about the new WIP! Also so very sorry for you and your roadblocks! I know EXACTLY what those are like (as you well know). If you ever want another set of eyes to help try and find a way out of a sticky situation, let me know 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Well done and a lovely cover, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. CJ Staryk says:

    Yeah, it can be tough with magic. I guess it all depends on what limits you put on the characters. I’m worried I will probably end up doing the same thing, especially since my characters don’t necessarily have themed powers. At least, these characters you mentioned seem themed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My characters are either shapeshifters or have some sort of kinetic, energy-based powers. And they are limited. Plus there are ways to dampen them. Even so, it’s been a challenge! The first draft took me a year to write, so my terrible memory didn’t help. Thanks for visiting and have a great week. Happy Writing!

      Like

  26. Steven Baird says:

    Congratulations, Diana. This is the best analogy I’ve heard yet of navigating the editing process. You must be a Formula 1 racer by now. And that’s a great title/cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Anonymous says:

    Well, that’s about the best analogy I’ve heard yet of the editing process, Diana, though your road sounds more complex than what I’m used to. You must have the driving skills of a Formula 1 racer. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It was a fun metaphor. I actually feel like I’m rewriting more than editing since the plotholes were so deep! But getting smoothed out, finally. Then the editing starts. Phew. Glad you stopped by. Have a great week!

      Like

  28. Crazy as this sounds Diana I am kind of pleased to read of your ‘duh!’ moments. Your published works have so often left me speechless with the complexity of your characters and worlds and the seamless revelation of complex people and plots has had me sitting contemplating how you do it long after I’ve finished the last chapter. The image of you in a cartoon car typing as it avoids potholes and veers towards cliffs will now always accompany those musings 😀 I’m looking forward to adding another DWP trilogy to my kindle. Which reminds me, when am I going to be able to listen to an audio version of anything?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Phew – I’m glad I write of the ‘relatively’ simple world of what a man and woman write to each other online – a very focused kind of fantasy! An enlightening insight to your world, Diana – and I didn’t know you knew Gabriela – to me ‘the’ poet of romantic fantasy – and a good friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. jenanita01 says:

    I’m with Jill on this one, Diana. It all looks wonderful but so awe inspiring. Can’t wait to read more about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Maybe you need an antagonist who has the power to limit the “victim’s” magic?

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Wow what a magical cover and title of your book, Diana and you are an awesome writer. Would love to read your book. Happy writing dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Very true! You can write yourself into a corner when magic is involved:)

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Oh, I love the cover and title, Diana! I’d say step back and take a breath, but it sounds like you have taken a few of those to discover the plotholes. Good luck! Remember, we love this job! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have more drafts ahead, Mary, and at some point, I’ll take that step back and let things freshen. The ones I’m working on are real rewrites (not edits) and I want to plow through them while the whole scope of the story is fresh. And I’m so glad you liked the cover. Still work to do, but I like the direction it’s going. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Tessa Pulyer says:

    Can’t wait for your newest trilogy! Love that cover ❤️. Yes, magic does take special consideration in fantasy plots. If you don’t catch parts that the characters easily can magic themselves out of – the reader definitely will.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. Readers are really smart! Poorly-crafted magic leads to implausible characters and situations and will pop me right out of a story. I’m glad you like the “maybe” cover – it’s my procrastination fun. Lol. Thanks for the visit, Tessa, and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  36. balroop2013 says:

    Your fantasy goes beyond imagination Diana! Thanks for sharing your work in progress, so challenging to go back and fill potholes but I guess magic is flexible? I like the cover but the words need to stand out, not merge in the background. Happy fixing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment on the cover, Balroop. I agree, and was playing around with it even this morning. I don’t want to make the background darker, so I was trying to make the lettering a little brighter. Then I ran out of time and wanted to get the post up. 🙂 Happy Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

  37. J.D. Riso says:

    I truly admire your imagination. I can imagine that it’s tricky trying to keep everything straight about stories, characters, especially in a trilogy. Beautiful cover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, JD. I usually have fairly well-contained magic systems and went a little overboard this time with lots of kinetic variety. 🙂 Now I’m having to apply a little elbow grease. But it’s fun regardless. Happy Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

  38. And I thought you just sat down and wrote! Never having written a book, I can’t imagine all these layers of complications to keep track of, and over 3 books! You must like complicated puzzles. Send in the road crews! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  39. I loved your description, Diana. Fantasy authors, like yourself, leave me in awe. I could never do what you do. I’d fall into a plot hole and never find my way out. The cover looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. This really is very interesting, Diana. Historical novels don’t have this issue because they are based on actual facts. Its a tough one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually have a very limited magic system, Robbie. It cuts down on these glitches. But this time (I blame it on the muse) I went much broader. It’s interesting how each genre has it’s challenges. Historical fiction is daunting to me with its research. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I totally feel your pain.

    I’ve managed to avoid magical plotholes, mainly because I’ve limited my vampires’ abilities. They can’t fly, turn into bats, or turn into mist. So, when they’re in a tight spot, they have to pretty much fight their way through it.

    My main plothole dilemma is surprisingly a practical problem: keeping track of everyone’s cars. I’ve had several instances where I’ve been like, “Wait. How did he get to the hospital? Did he drive or did Jeff drive? Whose car are they even in? Where is his car?” And I’ll have to do a ton of backtracking to figure it all out.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Woah–a new trilogy! I’ve had that experience–putting the character in an impossible situation that became easy. Yeah… So are you writing all three books before publishing? I’m thinking of doing that with the last two on my in-process trilogy. I think you did that on one of yours and it inspired me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do that with all of my series, Jacqui. There are so many times when something happens in book 2 or 3 that force me to go back to the previous book and make significant changes. Even as a plotter with spreadsheets, unexpected glitches pop up (all the time). Lol. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Happy Writing!

      Like

  43. Diana, this is a delightful process description. You had me smiling throughout. Character powers that evolve over time? That would add an entire new sheet to my story/character matrix.
    The working cover is pretty. I like the colors and think they are eye-catching.
    But wait, wait a minute… You said trilogy. Your *trilogy* is nearly finished? We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy!

    Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  44. this is so amazing, congrats

    Liked by 1 person

  45. bookriot_anjedah says:

    This cover looks fantastic

    Liked by 1 person

  46. You sound like an all-terrain writer! 😀 As a reader, let me just say, “Thanks” for ensuring those holes get filled in!

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Almost there. The cover looks fantastic.
    🌸💕♥️

    Liked by 1 person

  48. philipparees says:

    The equivalent of plot-holes in Memoir ( my current wrestle with ‘truth’) is material holes, and memory holes where I can’t summon up magical limitations to block the exits! When a reader says ‘how did this develop- we need to understand?’ I look at the navigation which takes me round the horn, across Mongolia, and voila! Here is understanding 25K words later! Or I jez say ‘Nah fergeddit! It gets cut! I envy your creative soilutions! My work is like old hair, gets thinner and falls out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admire anyone who attempts a memoir, Philippa. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Not only is my memory “falling out” but I have a feeling it was never that thick to begin with. Lol. Making stuff up is a lot easier. Good luck with your writing. Your story sounds fascinating. 🙂 Keep writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • philipparees says:

        Where we meet Diana is in the realm of magical realism and synchronicities but because my life has been consistently ‘fantastical’ all I get is not ‘Wow’ but ‘This cannot be true! Garn widyou! and various creative ways of ‘I don’t believe’. Elves, in contrast are totally believable as opposed to my twinned serpents thrown out of a flowerbed one by one by a dog! Or a cat tearing out an eye from a portrait! Fix that for me? I’ll love you forever!

        Liked by 1 person

  49. Congrats on being so far along in your second draft. The working cover is gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

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