Friday, 31 May 2013

The Mark of Good Governance

When talking about governance, and by that I mean the provision of public goods (aka stop signs, libraries, schools, bridges, etc...) by a figure of authority, generally a hallmark of good governance in a developed country is a lack of potholes and cracks in the roads.

If this there aren't potholes and cracks, it means that a) power distribution between different levels of government is effective b) the bureaucracy is efficient c) money is being allocated effectively, and d)the people's needs are being met. Harvey Milk, the legendary district supervisor of San Francisco, prioritized the filling in of potholes and the placement of stop signs in his term, because he understood that that was people wanted, and what people needed.

I have driven a car through the equivalent of a tank trench. It was an extremely unpleasant experience, which I would have preferred to avoid.

What does this have to do with writing? I think you can guess. Plot holes. Oh yes, I'm looking at you, plot holes. Those nasty little buggers that leave you perplexed, that smack you in the face, that are the easy way out.

Good writing is very similar to good governance, in that a writer needs to govern their plot. The characters need to develop, deal with their conflict (internal or external), and find some resolution or die. The setting needs to be appropriate to the story, be thought out well enough that there aren't any jarring discrepancies (what, I thought you said the house had two bedrooms and was painted blue?!?), and be rich enough to support the characters and the plot. The plot needs to follow some sort of logic: obviously many writers break the mold, but generally there should be a rise and fall of action. There should be tension, and relief, and an avoidance of deus ex machina solutions. The writing has to be clear, eloquent, vivid, and whatever other adjective you can think of, and have good flow and great timing.

Plot holes are when one of these things falls apart, or is left untended. Ignored too long, they get bigger as they are driven over, until the entire section of road needs to be replaced. A sign of good writing is the ability to identify plot holes and patch them, or repave the road, or construct the road in such a way that there are no plot holes to begin with.

A challenge, if I've ever seen one.


  1. :-PPPPPPPP I have started a new book, working title: Dragon Jail, and the plot has so many holes in it right now you would think there was nothing holding it together! LOL
    Okay, I just started seriously writing it today, but still!!! Plotholes!!! Augh!

    1. It's Swiss cheese! :D

      Darn those plot holes, and their feisty resistance to being fixed.