Plot hole

In fiction, a plot hole, plothole or plot error is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic established by the story's plot.[1]

Plot holes are usually created unintentionally, often a result of editing or the writers simply forgetting that a new event would contradict previous events and not checking. However, the term is also frequently applied incorrectly - for example, a character is intentionally written to take irrational action would not be a plot hole, nor would "loose ends" or unexplained aspects.

Types

Factual errors

Fact errors are inaccuracy in the information. For example, a story is set in the 1700s and a character is driving a motorised vehicle. Unless the plot has an alternative timeline, this is inconsistent as cars are not invented until 1886.[2] Researching about the time of the story, the profession of the character, and the topics that a writer's characters are knowledgeable about can help resolve and prevent factual errors.[3]

Impossible events

Any occurrence that defies the laws of science is an impossible event.[4] For example, a character holds their breath for 20 minutes to beat a monster. Or a person defies the law of gravity and flies in order to overcome an obstacle. Even though magic, technology and special talent can help account for these events, there should still be a reason for these scenarios to occur. If there are a set of rules or details that an audience doesn't know, the story should include more backstory and world-building to show why those events are possible. [3]

Unbelievable character choices

Unbelievable character choices occur when a character suddenly makes a choice that goes against everything a writer has written them to be. Though the character can change, the change should be gradual.[3] Every real person, as a flawed human being, lacks flawless logic. Thus, illogical character choices in a story are acceptable if they are properly motivated by that character.[5]

Illogical plot developments

Events that disturb the flow of logic can generate big plot holes. If a writer built a world where magic doesn't exist, a character cannot suddenly be capable of magic. An all-powerful evil character that plans world destruction won't decide to have a change of heart and be good to people for no apparent reason. There should be a narrative a writer is weaving to track with the details they have provided.[4]

Contradictions

Contradictions stem from introducing a rule and breaking it later in a story. For example, if a writer establishes at the beginning of a story that a person cannot come back from being dead, but a deceased character appears again for story purposes, that creates a contradiction in a story and therefore generates a plot hole. Contradicting rules weaken the narrative, depriving audiences of the grounded sense of information that they need to immerse themselves fully.[4]

Unresolved storylines

Unresolved storylines arise when there is a plot aside from the main plot that is left unfinished.[3] Too many loose ends can make a story feel incomplete. Leaving loose ends can also lower the stakes of your story since there are no real consequences to anything that happens outside the main plot. For example, a character who is introduced with a storyline that has an effect on the plot or affects the protagonist but is forgotten about later would be an unresolved storyline. [4]

Continuity errors

Continuity errors are consistency issues in the plot, objects, settings, and characteristics of people. For example, a name of a character suddenly changes. Or a character was riding a bus on the way to something but when they arrived, they are seen driving a car. [3]

Examples

  • Agatha Christie's seminal mystery play The Mousetrap is known for its large number of plot holes.[6][7] One of them is that the detective, despite knowing the identity of the murderer, lets him proceed to kill further people, rather than arresting him on the spot. This is considered a plot hole because there is no reason for the audience to believe that the detective would want more murders to take place.
  • At the end of the Star Wars episode Revenge of the Sith, it is considered imperative to hide Luke Skywalker from Darth Vader. But Obi-Wan Kenobi does so in plain sight on Vader's home planet, even using Luke's real name. He himself only slightly alters his name and makes no secret of his Jedi heritage.[8][9]
  • At the end of the Lord of the Rings story The Return of the King, after destroying the One Ring, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are rescued from Mordor and taken to safety by the giant eagles. While this is not actually a plot hole, many mistakenly think that the eagles could have flown the Ring there without being corrupted by the Ring or seen by Sauron's all-seeing eye, thereby obviating the need for Frodo to go in the first place.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ "plot hole | Definition of plot hole in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  2. ^ "1885–1886. The first automobile". Daimler.
  3. ^ a b c d e Shattuck, Catia. "6 Types of Plot Holes and How to Catch Them". Book Cave.
  4. ^ a b c d MasterClass staff (7 December 2021). "How to Fix Plot Holes in Your Story". MasterClass staff. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  5. ^ "The Importance of Logic in Storytelling". Storylosopher.
  6. ^ Brown, Dennis. "A Talented Cast Can't Overcome Flaws in Agatha Christie's Mousetrap". Riverfront Times.
  7. ^ "Review of The Mousetrap". www.theatreguidelondon.co.uk.
  8. ^ Miller, Matt (Jan 19, 2018). "A Comprehensive List of 'Star Wars' Plot Holes". Esquire.
  9. ^ "14 Star Wars Plot Holes Bigger Than The Death Star". Ranker.
  10. ^ "Why The Fellowship Couldn't Use The Eagles in Lord of the Rings". Screen Rant. 23 September 2019.

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