Creating a story is like knitting or weaving—the difference? Writers use words to create the unforgettable patterns that make readers think of a story long after the last page. But you have to keep track of them.
Ever read a story where there was a cool element (maybe a character, or a weakness) introduced but never shows up again? That is a dropped thread. Dropping a thread here or there (like dropping a stitch) isn’t a deal breaker, but drop too many and your story (or garment) will lose its shape.
So how does a writer keep tabs on story threads? Devote one full pass to it: make sure your secondary characters have an arc throughout the story—they need to be there at the beginning and end, not disappear in the middle. Keep track of any special element that could get readers’ attention. Did a certain place or item show up as a special thing and then disappear? Are there hints of deeper details that haven’t been explored because that thread was dropped?
You can keep track of threads on index cards or in a writing program like Scrivener. Sometimes I will open a new document and write out all the threads associated with various characters in a synopsis-like format to check for consistency. Reading this short story retelling is a great way to discover if my antagonist has an arc (or drops out of the story too early).
My current work in process is benefiting from a story thread review. I’ve uncovered some plot holes and characters that drop out of the story without finishing their arc. My story will be stronger as a result of this revision.
Give it a try—story thread review will help lead you to a well structured story that lingers in your readers’ minds long after they reach the final period.