Avoiding Plot Holes: 7 Essential Tips for Writers ✍️💡

Plot Holes

Our affection for the art of storytelling is as old as humanity itself. The intrigue of diverse characters, the suspense of plot twists, and the satisfaction of a tale well concluded – these elements have mesmerized us for millennia. Yet, we sometimes stumble upon narrative gaps or inconsistencies, disrupting the eloquent flow of storytelling.

These narrative shortcomings are known as “plot holes“. While minor plot holes can be overlooked, more glaring ones can threaten the credibility of the story. In this piece, we shall delve deep into seven distinct types of plot holes that occur in literature, analyze their impact, and share how they can be avoided.

Understanding Plot Holes

What is a plot holeA plot hole, in its simplest definition, is a discrepancy or inconsistency in a narrative that contradicts the established storyline’s flow of logic. These gaps often arise from unresolved storylines, character behavior contradictions, or timeline or setting inconsistencies.

Literary plot holes can range from the subtle, often missed on the first reading, to the glaringly obvious that throw the reader off the narrative path. When readers encounter these plot holes, their immersion in the story often breaks, leading to a disconnection from the narrative and characters.

For example, in H.G. Wells’ renowned novel “The Time Machine”, the protagonist invents a machine capable of time travel. Yet, it is never clarified why he doesn’t employ it to avert the tragic future he uncovers. This unanswered question is a classic example of a plot hole.

7 WORST Types of Plot Holes (Writing Advice)

7 WORST Types of Plot Holes (Writing Advice)

The Evolution of Plot Holes in Literature

The concept of plot holes has evolved significantly with the development of literature. Early storytelling traditions didn’t emphasize narrative consistency as much as modern literature does, and many ancient and medieval stories contain what we would now consider plot holes. However, with the development of the novel and other forms of narrative art in the modern era, expectations about narrative consistency have grown. As a result, plot holes have become more noticeable and more likely to be criticized.

Nevertheless, plot holes continue to exist in many popular works, sometimes due to oversight, but often as a deliberate choice by the author. This is because avoiding plot holes entirely can be difficult and may require sacrificing other aspects of the story that the author or audience values more, such as suspense, character development, or thematic resonance.

As a result, authors and readers often tolerate certain types of plot holes, particularly those that are difficult to notice, do not impact the overall plot, or serve a higher narrative purpose. The task for authors, then, is to navigate this balance skillfully, creating a compelling and coherent narrative without becoming overly constrained by the need for perfect logical consistency.

Types of Plot Holes in Literature

While there are numerous types of plot holes, we shall delve into seven primary categories:

Contradictory Plot

These plot holes arise when the current storyline contradicts a prior event or established rule in the narrative. They can be minor inconsistencies or significant deviations. A prime example of this type can be found in the novel “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller. Characters that were declared dead earlier in the book reappear without any explanation, leaving readers perplexed. Another instance is J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” where the titular character is forced into a deadly tournament because he was selected by the Goblet of Fire. However, it contradicts the earlier establishment that the Goblet is merely an impartial selector and not a binding contract enforcer.

Factual Inaccuracy

These plot holes occur when a narrative contradicts established facts, real-world knowledge, or commonly accepted conventions. Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is often critiqued for such inaccuracies, especially for its interpretation of religious art and history. Similarly, the submarine journey in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” covers a distance significantly less than twenty thousand leagues, creating a factual inaccuracy.

Convenient Solutions

These plot holes appear when an initially unsolvable problem in the narrative is suddenly resolved in a convenient or unexplained manner. An infamous example of this is the “Eagles solution” at the end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, where giant eagles rescue the protagonists from an insurmountable situation. Another instance is in “The Maze Runner” series by James Dashner. The characters spend considerable time and effort trying to escape the maze, but in the end, it’s revealed that they could have simply walked out.

Character Inconsistency

This type of plot hole arises when characters behave contrary to their established traits without sufficient justification. A character’s consistent behavior forms a substantial part of the narrative, and any deviation from this consistency should be justifiable and within the realm of their established character. An example of this can be seen in “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, where Bella’s immediate and intense attraction to Edward seems inconsistent with her otherwise reserved and cautious nature. A similar inconsistency can be observed in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” series, where the deductive genius occasionally overlooks elementary clues without explanation.

Overlooking Obvious Solutions

In this type of plot hole, characters in the narrative overlook simple and obvious solutions to their problems, often leading to unnecessary complications. This is noticeable in “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare, where the tragic ending could have been avoided through clear communication or the use of reliable messengers.

Improbable Timing

This plot hole involves a series of events occurring in an improbable or impossible timeline. In “The Da Vinci Code,” for instance, the protagonist Robert Langdon manages to accomplish a series of complex tasks across various locations in a single night, creating an unrealistic timeline.

The Impact of Plot Holes on Literature

Plot holes, while seemingly small narrative missteps, can have far-reaching effects on the reception and overall success of a literary work. They are not merely inconsistencies in a storyline, but significant disruptions that can fracture the narrative’s captivating illusion. These inadvertent flaws can sometimes shake a reader’s faith in the narrative, making them question the author’s craftsmanship and the story’s integrity.

Engaging narratives invite readers to venture into an alternate reality, immersing themselves in the intricacies of plot and the compelling depth of characters. It’s akin to embarking on an exciting journey, with the author acting as a trusted guide. But when a plot hole emerges, it jolts the reader out of this immersive experience. It’s like a sudden bump in a smooth road, or a surprising misstep on a guided path. This abrupt disruption can jar the reader, casting an unfortunate shadow of doubt and skepticism over the story’s credibility.

Beyond breaking the spell of immersion, plot holes can significantly influence a reader’s satisfaction level with the narrative. When readers invest their time and emotional energy into a book, they expect a coherent and plausible story in return. Plot holes, particularly glaring ones, can lead to a sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction. This can affect not just the reader’s enjoyment of the story but also their likelihood of picking up another book by the same author.

Moreover, in the digital age where readers often share their opinions and reviews online, plot holes can have a substantial impact on a book’s public perception. Negative reviews pointing out plot inconsistencies can deter potential readers, affecting the book’s sales and overall popularity. They can also influence literary critics’ opinions, possibly swaying award decisions and other forms of recognition.

On the flip side, it’s important to note that not all plot holes lead to negative outcomes. In some cases, they can spark lively discussions and debates among readers. Plot holes often stimulate intense analytical scrutiny, with readers and literary enthusiasts alike dissecting the narrative, proposing theories, and offering interpretations to ‘plug’ these holes. This can lead to an active engagement with the text long after the initial reading, keeping the book alive in literary discussions. Some books even gain a unique kind of notoriety or fame because of their plot holes, attracting curious readers keen to decipher these narrative puzzles.

Furthermore, plot holes can serve as valuable learning tools for aspiring writers, offering lessons on the importance of narrative consistency, meticulous planning, and thorough revisions. By studying plot holes in published works, budding authors can glean insights into potential storytelling pitfalls and strategies to avoid them.

While plot holes can pose challenges and invite criticism, they undeniably leave a significant impact on literary discourse. They influence reader satisfaction, shape public perception, fuel literary debates, and provide valuable lessons in narrative craft. Plot holes, therefore, are not just narrative inconsistencies, but potent elements shaping the reception and legacy of literary works.

Addressing Plot Holes: A Guide for Aspiring Writers

Addressing plot holes is an essential skill for writers. Here are some strategies:

  1. Outline Your Story: Detailing your plot, major events, and character arcs can help spot potential inconsistencies.
  2. Ensure Character Consistency: Ensure that your characters’ actions align with their established personalities and motivations.
  3. Fact-Check: If your story relies on real-world facts, verify their accuracy.
  4. Feedback Is Your Friend: Beta readers, editors, and writing groups can provide valuable insights and help identify plot holes.
  5. Revise, Revise, Revise: Revision is a writer’s best friend. It’s during revisions that you can address and smooth out plot holes.

The Ghostwriting Angle: Plot Holes and Ghostwriters

Ghostwriters have long been the unsung heroes of the literary world. These master storytellers, working behind the scenes, are the unseen architects of numerous popular narratives. Ghostwriters are given a unique vantage point from which they can examine and analyze plot holes within the stories they create. This view extends from the conception of a story’s premise to the orchestration of character arcs, to the plotting of the narrative’s progression.

At the beginning of the ghostwriting process, an author’s initial ideas or outlines are typically presented. The ghostwriter’s responsibility at this juncture is to weave these raw elements into a coherent, captivating story. Their familiarity with the story’s core allows them to spot any potential plot holes early on. These plot inconsistencies can range from minor details to substantial discrepancies within the narrative structure.

Armed with a deep understanding of the narrative’s characters and their respective arcs, ghostwriters can often predict how characters would react in specific scenarios. This ability enables them to identify character-driven plot holes. For instance, a character might behave uncharacteristically in a certain situation, contradicting previously established traits. A ghostwriter, privy to the character’s development, can flag these inconsistencies and provide suggestions for rectification.

Furthermore, ghostwriters are particularly adept at spotting plot progression issues. They are usually intricately involved in charting the narrative’s course, making them attuned to any discrepancies in the storyline’s trajectory. This can involve situations where the story takes an illogical turn, or when the plot development doesn’t match the initial pacing set. The ghostwriter can then step in to tweak and smooth out these narrative rough spots, ensuring a cohesive and consistent plot progression.

Despite these critical contributions, ghostwriters remain largely invisible, leading to a unique conundrum. Their recommendations can be overlooked or their warnings unheeded due to their behind-the-scenes role. This can result in glaring plot holes that remain unaddressed in the final manuscript. Consequently, a ghostwriter’s frustration might stem from seeing a narrative they helped shape marred by plot inconsistencies they had initially identified and sought to rectify.

However, when their insights are valued and incorporated, ghostwriters can play a crucial role in refining narratives and mitigating plot holes. By leveraging their intimate knowledge of the story and characters, they can contribute significantly to creating a polished, compelling narrative devoid of glaring plot inconsistencies.

In the grand scheme of things, ghostwriters’ contributions extend beyond the creation of engaging stories. Their invisible labor in identifying and rectifying plot holes underscores their role in maintaining the narrative integrity of the stories we love and enjoy. So while they might remain unseen, their impact on literature is undoubtedly profound.

Conclusion

While plot holes are often seen as a sign of weak storytelling, they also reflect the complex nature of narrative art. Creating a compelling, engaging, and coherent story is a challenging task, and the occasional plot hole is a reminder of the imperfections that make human creations unique and interesting.

As readers, our willingness to overlook or even embrace plot holes is a testament to our desire to lose ourselves in a good story, even if it means suspending our disbelief from time to time. Thus, while plot holes can be frustrating, they also add to the rich tapestry of narrative art, giving us plenty to discuss and debate long after the book is closed.

Richard Lowe

17 thoughts on “Avoiding Plot Holes: 7 Essential Tips for Writers ✍️💡

  1. May Reply

    I think that it’s more emphasized now because most readers nowadays are realists. I like the idea of people reading simply to be entertained by the stories.

  2. khoingn | The Broad Life Reply

    This is truly interesting and it helps my knowledge of writing a lot.

  3. Catherine Reply

    Great information for helping writers! I will make sure to not have plot holes in my next writing.

  4. MELANIE E Reply

    I did enjoy reading your tips about avoiding plot holes. It was also interesting to read about the examples you had found in well-known books.

  5. Ramil Hinolan Reply

    I appreciate your inclusion of tips for aspiring writers on addressing plot holes. Outlining the story, ensuring character consistency, fact-checking, seeking feedback, and revising are all essential steps in crafting a coherent narrative.

  6. Christian Foremost Reply

    I’m somehow who is very sensitive when it comes to plotholes especially when it comes to stories. As a fan of the work, I’d like it to make sense as much as possible. Reading this helps give me more perspective on how plotholes happen and what to do to avoid them from a writer’s perspective.

  7. Ambuj Reply

    Amazing blog post on details of plot holes and how to avoid them! More often than not, I feel author or screenwriter has to fit in too many things in a small time space that he does miss out on the logical parts of all threads of his/her story.

  8. Ebony Reply

    Great tips to help us writers avoid plot holes. I also appreciate your tips to help us learn how to avoid them in our writings.

  9. Monidipa Reply

    Your tips on avoiding plot holes are a lifesaver for writers like me! The concise advice and practical examples make it easy to grasp. It’s become my go-to reference for crafting more cohesive and engaging stories. Thanks a bunch for sharing your wisdom!

  10. Luna S Reply

    Great info about plot holes. I know sometimes plot holes can be frustrating when dealing with a favorite fandom trying to figure out things if something doesn’t make sense.

  11. Ntensibe Edgar Reply

    Hihi….you caught me at factual inaccuracies. I make those a lot of the time, well knowing they can get me in trouble. It’s good you’ve showed me how to steer clear of them.

  12. angie Reply

    thank you for sharing this gives ensight into an authors world and offers something to think about

  13. Beth Reply

    I found this one to be particularly interesting. When I think of plot holes, I just think of loose ends. I never considered these other types.

  14. Stephanie Reply

    I learn so much reading articles on this site – I’ve never even heard of ‘plot holes.’ My appreciation for good writers grows everytime I come to this site. Also, I think my own writing style has improved.

  15. Karen Reply

    I am not a writer but I am an avid reader. It is fascinating to know all these writing techniques, thank you so much Richard.

  16. Esme Slabbert Reply

    Although I am not a writer in the true sense of the word, I still found a lot of worth in your post. I will tweet this.

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