Don’t Fall Into a Plot Hole and Break Your Story

I have read many books, seen many television shows and movies, and actually written some stories that contain plot holes. It’s not easy to prevent them. Even some of the most successful authors and movie makers are guilty of falling into plot holes.

ManFallingInHole

Hopefully, though, you can keep them to a minimum. There are various types of plot holes. Some of those are…

  • When a character knows something they have no way of knowing.
  • Characters taking the hard way out of a problem when an easier solution is at hand.
  • An event or action that takes place for convenience sake, rather than staying true to the story.
  • A character doing something that is out of character without a good reason.
  • Something in a story that just does not make sense, period.

Below I have provided a few examples of movie/tv show plot holes. I am not meaning to be critical. I actually LOVE most, if not all, of these shows. But let’s face it, no one’s perfect, so once in a while, even the top notch writers will make a mistake.  It’s also possible there is a good explanation that I missed, so if you have insight, please feel free to share.

WARNING: Spoilers

SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: Andy Dufresne is in prison and has been carefully tunneling a hole in his wall over several years and covering it with a poster. He finally makes his escape and the warden comes into his cell and finds the hole behind the poster. How did Andy replace the poster after he went through the hole?

DEXTER: (This one pains me greatly, because Dexter is my favorite show ever, and he’s perfect. But I did notice something that didn’t quite ring true)

In the opening episode of Season 6, Dexter has been apparently stabbed and he is on the phone calling for help. An ambulance arrives and as the EMT’s are administering aide, Dexter jabs  M99 into their necks and knocks them out. These two men are bad guys and his intended targets. How did Dexter know these men in particular would be the ones to come?

21 AND OVER: This was a comedy, so the plot hole is okay, but I still thought I would point it out. The movie is about two college guys who take their college friend (Jeff Chang) out for his 21st birthday, even though he has a scary father who has warned them that his son has an important interview that can make or break his future, and scary father is picking his son up the next morning at 7 to take him to the interview. Of course, they go out anyway, and Chang gets so wasted, he passes out. His friends can’t remember where he lives so they spend the entire night trying to get him home before his father arrives the next morning and learns what they did. This goes on for the ENTIRE night, and of course, all kinds of awful, dangerous (and hilarious) things befall them. Although I found the movie very funny, and comedies are allowed to have contrived situations, I couldn’t help but think–all they had to do was fess up to the father. He wasn’t going to kill them. A few minutes of his wrath would have been preferable by far to what they dealt with. But then, if they’d done that, there wouldn’t have been a movie.

HUNGER GAMES: Okay, to me, there were quite a few holes in this movie, but my main problem was the end. I felt it was contrived, just so Katniss and Peeta could both survive, even though in 74 years, the Game was a fight to the death with only ONE winner. Halfway through the Game, the Capital announced there could be two winners if they were from the same District. Then at the end, they changed their minds and ordered that there could only be one winner after all. Katniss had the idea for the two of them to eat poison berries and commit suicide so that the Capital did not have a winner. (I think she was bluffing, but nevertheless) The Capital then decided there could be two winners after all. HOLE: This was contrived so both characters could survive. Now, it’s been explained to me that the Hunger Games MUST have a winner and the Capital did not want to be humiliated or to look weak or whatever by allowing Katniss and Peeta  to defy them and kill themselves. However, that doesn’t work for me. They allowed the two to defy them by giving in to Katniss’s threat, so that there could be two winners after all.

TITLE WITHHELD: I reviewed a manuscript for The Wild Rose Press where the hero was insanely worried about the heroine and was at her house to protect her. He received a call from his partner who wanted to see him, so he left her there, defenseless. Of course, the bad guy came and almost killed her. This was a convenience hole, in that the author wanted her alone so the showdown could take place. In order for this to work, the hero needed a DAMN good reason for leaving.

As your writing your story, keep asking ‘How’ ‘Why’ and ‘Why not’, so that you are sure there is a plausible explanation for everything that happens. (Plausible in the realm of your story world. It’s probably not possible that a young girl would travel to a tropical island and learn it’s inhabited by vampires (which is what takes place in my YA Vampire Novella, Liberty Awakened.) However, once you build your world, you must stay true to the world you’ve created.) Also, DO NOT create a situation or have a character act a certain way simply for the convenience of your plot. That is a sure fire way to frustrate a reader.

I must caution you though, when you’re watching a television show or a movie with another person, and you notice these inconsistencies, it’s best to keep them to yourself, if you can. I sometimes find it impossible. Oddly, though, people get irritated when you point them out. Go figure.

What are some movie/tv/book plot holes you’ve noticed? Maybe some you’ve written?

 

 

21 thoughts on “Don’t Fall Into a Plot Hole and Break Your Story

  • Ok, I have a comment regarding 21 and Over. Although you say that all they had to do was fess up to the father blah blah blah… In my humble opinion, a teenager, excuse me, a ,male teenager (or adult) ,NEVER takes the easy way out. So this incident should not qualify as a plot hole period. Great post!

    • Very true, Kathy. Young male minds don’t work that way. And I could buy that for the first few hours, the first few mishaps, but after a while, even the most immature male mind would surely give in and take the easy way out. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

    • I didn’t see “21 and Over,” but this kind of reminds me of the first year or two of “24” — the teenage daughter’s reaction to just about everything. At times, I just wanted to smash the TV! Come on…tell the cops you were kidnapped. Tell the cops the father pushed the kid and hurt her. Argh.

  • I haven’t seen 21 and over so no comment. Same with Hunger Games. As for Shaw Shank, maybe he slid the poster to one side and didn’t actually remove it? I don’t remember the scene. 🙂 I can’t think of any movies with noticeable plot holes, though I know I know a few. Still, good post to think about.

    • Hi Calisa. That’s a good theory, but I don’t think it would have worked. If he’d moved it aside to crawl through the hole, he would have most likely have torn, wrinkled it, and it would have been difficult for him to hold it aside while crawling head first into the hole up on the wall. They didn’t show the scene with him crawling through the hole, but they showed where the warden found the escape route behind the poster. Gives us something to consider though. Thanks for stopping by!

  • I think readers have to recognize the difference between a plot hole and willing suspension of disbelief. I think your YA story falls into that category. The reader has to sit back and accept that the young girl goes to the island, etc. etc. I’ve been struggling with the same thing in my WIP. Out of all the hit men in the world, my heroine stumbles upon one who has a personal connection to someone in her past. Believable? Probably not. This is where the willing suspension of disbelief comes into play. You don’t have a story without it. Plot holes, however, can be fixed. You just have to come up with that really, REALLY good reason for a character to do something stupid!

    • Yes, Jannine. That’s true. We do have to be careful with coincidences, though. They happen all the time in real life, but we’re not allowed to have them in fiction. 🙂

  • I started to watch “Hunger Games,” but after a few minutes I turned it off, too upset at the concept of two kids fighting to the death! Great post, Ally!

    • I tried to read the book but couldn’t get through it. I went to the movies to see it with my friends. Yes, the concept is a bit disturbing. Also, I have a hard time believing the people in the Districts, the parents would that easily give over their kids to die. I’ve heard all the stuff about how they’d tried an uprising before and things were worse and blah, blah, blah. But any good parent I know would die to protect their children. So on the off chance this ever happened, I think most of the kids in the Games would be orphans. I also had a problem with the spectators who were ‘normal’ Americans, not just members of the capital, who were so bloodthirsty that they actually enjoyed watching kids kill one another. How would humans ever get to that point? Sorry. I could go on. 🙂

  • Good post. Now you’ve made me curious about the written version of the Shawshank Redemption. I’d like to read the story to find out if it has the same sturdy poster.

    • Ah, Ann. I didn’t think about that. I read it years ago but it would be interesting to read it again and see if King took care of that issue. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Great information. The ‘a character couldn’t possibly know that’ rule is the one I’m most conscious of. A sure sign of telling. Sometimes I feel like a gymnast trying to figure out how to get my characters somewhere in a believable way. Thanks for the reminders.

    • Ha, so true, Margo. Sometimes I write a scene where a character mentions something that they haven’t found out yet. Hopefully, my critique partners will be on the ball and catch those goofs. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Sorry I’m late chiming in. This is a wonderful post, Alicia. And thanks for the reminder:

    “As your writing your story, keep asking ‘How’ ‘Why’ and ‘Why not’, so that you are sure there is a plausible explanation for everything that happens”

    I try to remember that, but lately I’ve been struggling toward a deadline and totally forgot to ask How, Why, Why not. I’ll start asking through the revision.

    • I’m glad I could give you something to think about Jess. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • LOL, Emmly. Yes, me too. But like I said, nothing’s perfect. And Shawshank is still AMAZING. Sorry to bring you down. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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