Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Let’s start with this statement: Sometimes, plot holes happen.
That’s our thesis right there. It’s meant as both a caution to those authors-in-the-making who are writing their first drafts. And it’s a consolation for those writers-turned-editors who are reading over their first drafts for the first time…
Only to find that something’s amiss.
This is not to say that plot holes will happen to you. It’s only to say that they can.
That way – if they do – you won’t be tempted to throw out your whole entire manuscript or give up on your creative writing dreams altogether. You’re not a failure, and you didn’t commit an unforgivable creative writing sin.
Instead, you can simply say, “Plot holes happen,” and then figure out how to address the one you made.
So now you get it. Plot holes happen.
Good to know, right?
It’s perhaps only left to be determined what a plot hole is.
Sometimes, when we’re writing a whole novel, we forget what we’ve already put down on paper. Since we’re not writing it in one straight shot, it only makes sense that this kind of thing can happen, where we include an event that doesn’t logically advance but actually messes up the plot. Either that or we leave something out.
By its strictest definition, a plot hole contradicts previous (or upcoming) events within a story. But the term is also used to describe incidents that just don’t make any sense, throwing off other experiences the characters have.
One quick word about that last sentence. The term may be “used to describe incidents that just don’t make any sense.” But that doesn’t mean this plot hole description is always accurate.
This is something we’ll use Thursday’s Writing Challenge to explore in greater depth. Considering how inaccurate people’s perception of plot holes can be, we kind of have to.
For that matter, let's spend a moment right now exploring how plot holes happen... if only to make you feel better about any such mistakes you may have made.
Plot holes happen because we’re human, either being too easy on ourselves or too harsh.
So often, we get exceptionally excited about what we’re working on. Our characters are so captivating, our plots so provocative, and our settings so scintillating (at least in our minds)… that we get lost in it all.
And so does the full capacity of our logical capabilities.
Other times, we’re stuck. Regardless of how much we prepped beforehand, we get tripped up by some detail we didn’t anticipate. So when a way around the issue comes up during the first-draft writing process, we take it.
That solution might work the way we meant it to. Then again, it could lead us to discover during the first-draft editing process (or beyond) that we loused something up.
There’s also the possibility that we overthought a detail to the point of messing ourselves up. Or that we didn’t think it through enough. Or that we were tired. Or we forgot. Or we got distracted.
With all those possibilities, I hope you can see precisely why plot holes happen. As we already stated, there’s a whole lot of room for error when you’re writing an entire novel-length manuscript.
It’s only a matter of what to do with it after you’ve figured out it’s there.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on plot holes here.