Jul 16 2009
Plot holes are a point in a story where something happens for no believable reason. Indeed, sometimes the plot hinges on a plot hole. For example, why would a criminal put snakes on a plane rather than kill the witness in a more conventional way?
1. Plot holes are an opportunity. Most plot-holes can be explained– often humorously!– with a few lines. Aren’t there easier ways to kill someone than putting snakes on a plane? “You think I didn’t exhaust every other option? He saw me!” This hand-waving helps readers suspend their disbelief. It isn’t logically air-tight, but it doesn’t have to be.
2. Readers are generally receptive to your explanations, even if they’re flimsy. Not offering an explanation is almost always worse because it makes it look like you don’t see the problem. That ruins your authorial credibility. It also makes it hard for readers to suspend their disbelief.
3. An explanation that doesn’t resolve the main issue (hand-waving) is often effective, particularly when it’s hard to address the main issue satisfactorily. “The friction of superspeed should melt your body. But you move faster than light anyway. How does that work?” “Pretty well, thanks.” Unless you’re doing hard sci-fi, no one cares how it works! As long as we can understand what a hero can do with his powers, it doesn’t matter how his powers work.
4. If you feel that an explanation is necessary, please avoid jargon. Why don’t the Hulk’s pants rip apart whenever he gets really big? The latest Hulk movie hilariously addressed this by showing him buying maternity pants in Guatemala. (”¿Tienes más stretchy?”) In contrast, if it had concocted a complicated explanation based on Pym particles, it would have lost the audience.
5. Worst-case scenario: say that the regular rules of logic don’t apply, for whatever reason. A wizard did it, or the Joker is entirely irrational. (Of course he wouldn’t kill Batman at the first opportunity). This is usually unsatisfying and can lead to an Idiot Plot. Be careful that it doesn’t feel like you’re making it up as you go along.