Five Why's Deep: Working through plot holes.
By Charlie Beauvoir
I'm sitting at my desk reading over the developmental edit and I'm struggling. I have several plot holes that I honestly thought the readers might not notice. Readers are smart, they are discerning. I should have known better.
Later, I'm talking it over with my partner, a software architect, trying to work out the holes and they introduce me to a concept I had never heard of bef0re- the five whys.
They describe it as follows, When there is an outage at his work, there's a meeting to discuss what happened, how, and why. It's called an RCA or root cause analysis. This is pretty normal, but when they explained about the why question, things started to make sense.
Why was there an outage? Three events converged to make the outage occur. Why wasn't this known? It was, but we are stretched thin on resources. Why are we stretched thin on resources? We don't have enough people. Why don't we have enough people? Because there isn't a big enough budget in our department. Why isn't there enough resources in the department? The company doesn't value us.
The last statement is the meat of the situation. The company doesn't value the department and is letting these individuals struggle without resources. The last 'why' in this case hurt, it has emotion behind it. It's what is called the root cause, the final why. It's not always emotional, but it is usually compelling.
When I applied this to my own writing, it blew the whole story open. I realized I had missing connections, missing history, missing motivation. By avoiding going deeply into these holes I was narrowing what is now a compelling and even fun story to write.
Later, I was utilizing this why system and I couldn't get past the third 'why'. What did this teach me? The plot point wasn't useful or relevant. It didn't further the story. It needed to be cut.
What did I really learn from this interaction? Writing shouldn't happen in a bubble. By discussing what I was struggling with I found a new tool, a new way to see writing. I realize, I need a writing group. I need to find a community of people to help me improve my craft.
I know I can't be the only one, so, I thought someone might enjoy this new skill. Another author going it alone, struggling to socialize after a year of social distancing, feeling like an imposter, willing themselves to write and write well.