Updated: Jul 18
Tuesday’s Writing Definition defined a plot hole as an error that “contradicts previous (or upcoming) events within a story.”
Then it acknowledged how “the term is also used to describe incidents that just don’t make any sense, throwing off other experiences the characters have.” Here’s the thing about those other incidents – those supposed examples – though…
They’re not always plot holes, no matter how cool critics might feel calling them such.
For instance, according to some people, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark has a giant one in it. The whole premise of the classic movie is that main character Indy has to protect the Ark of the Covenant from Nazis. And so he does, keeping it out of Hitler’s hands.
Problem is, as people have pointed out, it turns out that nobody’s worthy of looking on the opened Ark. That comes to light after an isolated team of Nazis manages to open it – which proves to be their death sentence.
Ipso facto, the holy artifact is plenty powerful enough all on its own. It doesn’t need Indiana’s help and therefore makes all his efforts – and the larger movie – ultimately pointless.
That is an interesting criticism, of course. And perhaps it’s a shaky premise.
But it’s not a plot hole. (And it’s still a great movie regardless.)
To rephrase our definition above, a plot hole is an added or missing piece that renders the story illogical. It’s most often something along the lines of A leading to B, and B leading to C… only for C to lead to F or 14 or the color orange.
In other words, the story-line road isn’t properly paved. In fact, as-is, it might not be passable at all.
For instance, while I fervently disagree with most of the other examples Screencraft.org lists as plot holes – again, people have a bad habit of calling anything wrong with a story a plot hole – I do think this one works. Apparently:
In The Karate Kid, throughout the climatic tournament, the referee repeatedly stipulates that kicks to the head are not allowed. However, when Daniel and Johnny face off against each other in the final round, Daniel wins with what? A kick to the head.
And then the story seriously ends happily ever after.
We’ll go back to The Karate Kid in a moment. Otherwise, here’s a tip to help you deal with real plot holes and (most) fake ones too.
Just make sure the pieces of your plot fit together.
If you do an online search for “types of plot holes” or “examples of plot holes,” I’m sorry to say this, but you’re going to come up with a lot of inaccurate and unhelpful information. No. 1., the term is exceptionally overused. And No. 2, as we’ll discuss further in Friday’s Writing Rule, people like to criticize just to criticize.
So, while you’re editing your first draft, forget all of that. Just go through your story, making sure that each event listed logically connects with the other ones mentioned. And if you find details that don’t do that, fix them.
That’s the advice: Fix them.
Let’s say I was editing The Karate Kid. In that case, I’d have to have Daniel try out a different move against Johnny. Which, admittedly, would probably be difficult considering how his one leg is injured.
Recognizing that, perhaps I’d go back in the script to give him a different injury. Maybe an arm or a hip issue instead. (Not being a karate expert, I can’t be sure.)
If the story skipped from plot point C to plot point F… I'd have to go back and add in points D and E to make things progress properly after all.
And if I made a C-to-14 kind of anti-logical leap? Well, in that case, let's just say I’ve got my work cut out for me.
On the plus side, most plot points are, in fact, fixable. It’s just a matter of how much time it’s going to take.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on plot holes here.