Authorguy's Blog

Plot holes

Posted on: February 11, 2012


You know I hate ’em.

Well, maybe you don’t. After all, I’ve never said so, in so many words, but it should be obvious that someone who develops his plots and his books by tracing story logic should dislike holes in it. Even when it’s someone else’s book. There are spoilers ahead, so consider yourself warned.

Right now my wife is watching the first episode of season three of Fringe. In the previous episode, the last of season two, Olivia’s team manages to escape from Earth-2 using a device of some sort, powered by the exploding unstable atoms of William Bell’s body. All of which is fine.  But–

Earlier in the episode, or perhaps the previous episode since it was a 2-parter, it is stated that Olivia herself opens the door. The team she goes with provides the power, and the device at the end should do the same. In the middle they change the story, so now the device opens the door. Why do this, you ask? Because in the middle of the episode the Olivia from Earth-1 is captured and replaced by the Olivia from Earth-2, who can’t open the door.

This is a problem with series in general. Unless the entire story’s been planned out ahead of time, which rarely happens (Babylon 5, anyone?), odds are good that an author will either make a mistake or worse, have to change the mythology of the world he created to allow some further story to take place. This is one reason I prefer to keep the mythology of my books loose, to allow for shifts like these, or better yet not go backward at all. Jack Chalker wouldn’t have had to change his story in the middle, on top of a second plot flaw, so that he could write the third book in the River of Dancing Gods series, if he simply hadn’t sent the heroes back to Earth in the first place.

I suppose that’s an argument for not contracting to write a book you haven’t already written. You can end up doing stupid things and cutting corners and retconning your mythology for the sake of a deadline. (And I’m sure you know what ‘retconning’ is because I’m sure you read my previous post.) Not that ‘professional’ writers are going to listen to me, I don’t walk in those shoes and I don’t want to.

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2 Responses to "Plot holes"

I’ve run across a few pot holes here and there either in a book or in a movie and they are always jarringly annoying. I certainly hope I’ve managed to avoid such in my own books. Unfortunately, writers can be a bit blind to their own work, I mean, after all, it all works in their head.

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That’s true, it’s a big problem to try to see the work as others will see it, that’s what critique groups, editors, and beta-readers are for. Many plot holes are quite unobtrusive to my mind yet others (book reviewers, for example) trip and fall over them regularly. When they point it out to me I still don’t see it.

Thanks!

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