Favourite Plot Holes

Someone in another thread mentioned how plot-holes deserve a thread of their own - and so they do. So, feel free to rant about your favourite (or most hated) plot-holes - whether in books, films or TV - right here. I was going to start the ball rolling but my brain has just died, so I’ll leave that to someone else…

All the best,

The TIme Paradox in the Terminator Movies Series.

The Timeline screw up in the Aliens Movies.

The screw up with the allegiances in TRANSFORMERS (The cop was not a Decepticon but an Autobot in the cartoon!) And Optimus Prime was a FLAT FACE TRUCK not one with an extended Hood!

The American Version of LEON (The Professional). The American Edit is so full of holes it is nerve wracking.

Anything that starred WIlliam Shattener.

They speak Russian? Where did they come from? How come the one guy understood them? Where did he come from? Where did they go? How come people can survive in an attic with no heat and no power and their breath never even frosts and not a one had hypothermia after days of exposure? Where did they use the bathroom since they couldn’t flush the toilet?

How can one cop have so much bad luck?

I’ll think of more later… :slight_smile:

I’m sure you don’t want to hear this - and, if you want the plot holes in detail, you can look for Dan Hemmens’ brilliant reviews on ferretbrain.com. But I can’t resist-

Deathly Hallows was a great disappointment to me, and one reason was the ridiculous plot holes. Here’s the one that threw me right out of the story: the Evil Overlord’s soul fragments can only be destroyed using basilisk venom. Harry, the hero, is a parselmouth and as a child of 12 used that skill to find the chamber of secrets and kill the serpent with the help of the phoenix, Fawkes (just recapping for anyone who actually hasn’t read the books). Being a parselmouth (a speaker of snake language) is highly suspicious - it is a hereditary skill, instinctual, and cannot be taught. That Harry can speak it leads many to believe he is the heir of Slytherin. (ancestral baddie)

On to “Deathly Hallows”. Having lost the sword of Gryffindor, which was impregnated with venom when Harry killed the basilisk ( don’t ask me how!), the kids need more poison in the aid of good. So:

Ron Weasley, Harry’s perfectly normal, non-parselmouth friend, opens the chamber again by “hissing at it”. Right! The equivalent would be for me, after having heard some Chinese language that would open a door at the age of 13, to return to the same door at the age of 18 and babble at it in hope that some combination of syllables I came out with would be the right ones. It would take a miracle. In short, it’s ridiculous.

Fantasy may be fantastic, bur it cannot be unbelievable! It must have its own logic. There were lots of other problems with that book, IMO (and no offense to any fans), but this scene was the absolute limit.

Personally I love plot holes - the whole rich bag of them: coincidence, logical impossibility, breaking the rules of the created world (any more categories?). Many, many great stories depend on them.

Where would we be without coincidence in works like Oliver Twist and Casablanca (smart of the writers to signal it: “Of all the gin-joints…”)? Or even not quite so great works, like many of the Bond novels and movies (clever of James pre-titles or just after them to accidentally encounter so many world-threatening megalomaniacs or their henchpersons - see for example Thunderball and Goldfinger), Bourne (amazing how Bourne in both Bourne 2 and Bourne 3 bumps into the one woman who is both willing and able to help him survive - the same woman) and many other thrillers of the last fifty years (though not Le Carre’s).

Logical impossibility: I’m pretty sure that most time travel stories from the Terminators to Heroes to Dr Who transgress the laws of logic. (But not The Time Machine or The Time Traveller’s Wife?) A particular movie mini-genre that’s a favourite of mine are the jumbo-jet actioners like Flightplan, Executive Decision and Snakes on a Plane. They all depict airliners with vast semi-secret yet accessible open voids, their plots wouldn’t work without them - so why are we all charged so much for excess baggage?

Breaking the rules of the created world: I agree that fantasy too really ought not to break its own self-created laws. But often those rules (even as written by Stephen King and JK Rowling) seem to be, as they frequently say in Pirates of the Caribbean (itself littered with plot holes), “more of a guide”, or made up as the writer goes along (which is almost the same thing - for goodness sake, if the bespectacled teen’s magic is so strong why doesn’t he wipe out the Pesky One at the start of the saga - or vice versa?) But we still continue to read or watch.

Now I think the audience has become so clued-up about narrative that in some works the plot holes themselves have almost become the real story, the reason for turning the page. How many people watch Heroes or Lost with the thought: “I wonder how the writer’s going to get out of this one”?

So where would we be without plot holes? With stories that are rather less interesting, I suspect.

Hugh, I’m afraid I can’t agree with you. You’re right, I think, that plot holes are inevitable in any ambitious work*, but I don’t think they are what make the work interesting. I personally find a book interesting when (1) it’s a story about characters who are real to me, and whom I care about; (2)and/or it explores interesting ideas; (3) and/or the story itself is exciting or surprising - but in ways that make sense!

What plot holes do, as far as I’m concerned, is to pull me right out of the story. I get annoyed and frustrated and can no longer suspend my disbelief. (We’re talking major plot holes here - for example, in a fantasy, acts that directly contradict the rules for her world the writer has set up. Rowling does this several times in DH, and it does not make the book more interesting. On the contrary, it strikes me as cheating.) The books I have tended to read over and over again have life and relevance to me, which is why I tend to reread them, but, in most cases, they are also well-crafted.

Just my two cents!

Yes mary, you are in sync wiht my thoughts on DH. It is (in it’s own world of rules of magic) an unimaginative race to the finish.

She wasted all the stuff she had set up earlier. The ‘trio’ wandering around the countryside for the better part of the book was a cop-out, just lazy.

She should be kept in after school and beforced to rewrite it properly.

We played a game here back in June 2006 before the book came out - I ‘imagined’ myself into the book and thought a lot of ‘what if’s’ based on what had gone before. Hardly any of them fell into the final story and I think the overall arc of the big story from Harry beginning to finishing school was diminished by not completing the logic of the seven year story arc.

Just looked it up - I said:

What if the fake horcrux is more salient than it appears at first?
What if Harry could make a horcrux?
What if the B story is a love story (Ron and Hermione as well as Harry and Ginny)?
If you’ve got to kill a Weasley it has to be Percy. You would have some arc of character change so he would die with honour.
What if Snape’s story arc is another JKR double bluff and he turns out be something approximating St. Snape? Nope! He’s a died-in-the-wool psychopath - zap him or send the sleeze to Azkaban.
What if Umbridge returned in a position of power to complicate things?
What if Draco Malfoy gains some insight into what a prick he is? It would come at a price.
What if Petunia Dursley and her prat of a muggle husband discovered way back that Dudley is a wizard? That would explain why they are always appeasing him. It mirrors Voldemort’s control over others. JKR would do that. The clue has been planted in every book from the start. He is the perennial thorn in Harry’s side. Now that would be something - kill Voldemort, give the four kids what looks like a fantastic future, save the school, and then in a final paragraph get Dudley to do a Voldemort and kill his parents and intimate that a vendetta against Harry will follow. So we finish the series satisfied that Voldemort is cactus but there could still be another evil lurking in Harry’s future - or, given the love story, Harry’s son’s future!!!. The clue to this was when Harry got his wand. Good wizard - bad wizard connected by a phoenix feather (Voldemort). Good wizard - bad wizard connected by genes (Dudley).
Part of me also yearns for a Muggle death for Voldemort. I’m dreaming. More likely he gets it both barrels. If you are trying to think like JKR you’ve got to give the book buying public a really satisfying end for Voldemort. Would Harry use an Unforgivable Curse to kill Voldemort?
What if the Veil in the Department of Mysteries is the focus of the final battle between Harry and Voldemort? It would justify the reveal that happened when Sirius fell into it.

So I agree, DH is full of deathly plot holes.


Nevertheless, Hollywood seems to think it’s worth two bites!http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/critics/blog/2008/03/harry_potter_and_the_deathly_h.html :confused:

Well, Lord Lighting, that’s quite a list! :slight_smile: It differs from mine - my major problem with DH was that there was all kinds of physical action (some of which didn’t make sense, as, for example, Ron speaking Parseltongue!), but almost no emotional or moral action. And then there were all the unanswered questions-

Some people got annoyed, or didn’t even understand what I was talking about when I said that the main conflict in these stories was the one between Harry and Snape, and that was never resolved where we could see it happen. I didn’t want to see Severus zapped or sent to Azkaban! But I did, very much, want to have a confrontation between him and Harry, and I wanted them to be forced to work together. That would have been satisfying.

And Dudley and Petunia - yes! I agree with you there; I personally have felt for four years that Petunia was magical, and was suppressing that magic as hard as she possibly could. This was a woman living her life in fear. Something should have come of that.

But I thought, especially after HBP (and DH!) that if anyone were going to be the new Dark Lord, that person would be Harry. “All was well”, indeed! If that’s not a statement of hubris crying out for punishment, I don’t know what is.

Getting away from my rant and back to the original question, can plot holes ever be satisfying? I’m not sure, but they can certainly spur imagination. Dudley’s a great example. Someone wrote a fic recently in which he had a magical son - how would he cope with that? Did he ever meet Harry again? would he want to? Those are the sort of unanswered questions that can be satisfying/interesting to a reader. But I wouldn’t call them plot holes, exactly. I do think Dudley and Petunia should have been better used.

This made me want to kill something:

“Yeah the dark-side, I can kind of see why people go there, but it’s not my thing - nope not my thing at all, really don’t want to turn to the… hang the… KILL ALL JEDI!!!”

SUCH a disappointment.

See, I think there are two different literary crimes being conflated in this thread. There’s bad writing, and there’s pot holes. To me, bad writing is what you see in the Star Wars prequels. Jumpy, sure, and stilted, and unnatural. But an actual plot hole is a different animal entirely. A plot hole is a logical inconsistency in the world of the story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_hole). For example:

Jimmy, a gangster, was just forced to kill a man in broad daylight. Knowing that the cops are mere blocks away, Jimmy regretfully throws his gun, his only heirloom from his departed father, down a storm drain. This is Jimmy’s piece, his constant companion ever since the soles of his shoes hit the street. He hates to let it go, but the alternative is certainly jailtime.

Several pages later, with no break in the action, Jimmy is described as pulling out his father’s gun and angrily threatening someone. In that time, Jimmy could not have possibly revisited the storm drain to retrieve the gun; moreover, since the gun is unique, he couldn’t have gotten another one, either.

See, having a character make a strange or incongruous statement CAN be indicative of a plot hole (“I trailed Amy home from the liquor store,” when it is clear that our character was, in fact, at the beach while Amy was at the liquor store – either the character is lying, or the author is). But one doesn’t necessarily beget the other.

Now, whilst writing this pedantic diatribe, I realize that I’ve forgotten the very plot whole I cracked open this website to post. Oh well. hope that was helpful,


So, based on what you’ve just said, I’d say there are three types of plot holes.* The situation with Jimmy the gangster and his gun is a continuity error, and, though I think mistakes like that can be bad writing in themselves, I do agree that they are forgivable. If the plot and characterizations are otherwise good, you can sometimes just shrug these off. Example: Ellis Peters and her excellent Felse mysteries. Her chronology is wacky because she just set them in real time, whatever that time happened to be when she was writing. So she had a small boy called Dominic Felse poking his nose into his policeman father’s business in post WWII England. Dom was supposed to be 13 in this one, and the year was 1950. Some time later, we get “Mourning Raga” and the other mysteries starring Dom and friends and set in the late 1960s. He’s now in college. You see the problem? Quite the slow learner, that boy! But the characterizations of the Felse family, and the mystery plots, are so generally good that I can laugh off the chronology problems. They just aren’t that important.

Then there’s the second type - unanswered questions. These can be either forgivable/stimulating or not, depending on whether you, the reader, consider the questions central to the story.

Then there are things that just plain don’t make sense. My favorite personal example is the attack of the government forces at the end of ET. They are wrapping this little suburban house in plastic! Why?!! Supposedly to prevent contamination - but ET’s been wandering around the neighborhood, and through the woods, for DAYS! He’s already sick! And it’s also far too late to isolate the human family he’s befriended - and, if the government is trying to keep the presence of the alien a secret, they are quite definitely going the wrong way about it. I do like ET, but this scene always bugs me, almost enough to throw me out of the movie. It’s a neat visual, yes, but it just doesn’t make any manner of sense.

I’ve never had a problem with the scene. It seems to me an attempt to show the “official” response being both very heavy-handed and a bit paranoid. There are, I think, two different groups making up the “attack”: the scientists, who would probably make the points you do here, and the military, who would wrap the house in plastic.

Seems very true, to me.


I thought the first Harry Potter was good; got about half-way through the second and was suffering from deja vu – it felt like the first rewritten but without the freshness. Procuess writing. My daughter tried to get me back to a later one, the fourth I think it might have been, but my eyes kept glazing over. Just full of plot holes as described by other posters. Or just stuff.

In Le Carre, I’ve had trouble with Smiley’s age, the ages of those surrounding him and bits of the chronology appearing not to fit together too well. Me or the novels? Finally I gave up (mentally) chasing down the connections and just took each book as an entity on its own.

As Mary says, plot holes pull you out of the story. They are a pain. Often they are blindingly obvious to the reader.

Hugh, I don’t mind a coincidence or two – I have seen a few in real life – coincidence does happen which is why we have a word for it. BUT when they are the key to a story and they keep happening to reset the storyline, save the life of the protagonist, etc., then they get to be too much.

One coincidence, yes; two suspect; three – I’m closing the book.

Something else that pulls me out of a story is chronoclasms in dialog. For instance, when I was a lad in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s, we were pretty British (even in officlal, as distinct from ordinary spoken, accent). An example is “railway station”. Now we (or rather, many OTHER Australians) say “train station” – they’ve learnt that from American movies and TV. The other day, I heard a character in an Australian TV drama set in the 1950s refer to a “train station”. No, we didn’t say that. :angry:

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard, Business Writer & Publisher

“Type & Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes” – the secrets of how type can help you to sell or influence, now at the new low price of $29.95. See the book at worsleypress.com or Amazon.

Ok this isn’t so much a plot hole as it is a “presentation hole” in the look of the movies.

Star Wars, watching them in order.

(Rank 3) Episode 1. Awesome Digital Movie and Digital Effects.
(Rank 2) Episode 2. Even better than Episode 1 especially in the large combat scenes. Breathtaking.
(Rank 1) Episode 3. The Best of all
(Rank 6) Episode 4. Even though the worst still nice for its time but “Feathered Hair”?
(Rank 5) Episode 5. Much better than 4
(Rank 4) Episode 6. A little nicer than 5 especially in large scenes and the “fast flight” through the woods.

So if you watched the Star Wars movies from lowest quality to highest quality it would be in this order.

Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3


Yeah, but, yeah, but …

For story line and imagination in effects, Wocky, I think Episode 4 is still the best. The improved graphics in the later ones is just technology.

I’ll never forget (well, actually, I presume I’ll forget everything when I kark it, but I digress) the thrill of sitting up near the front of the cinema and hearing the rumble of the cruiser or destroyer or whatever it was coming from behind and above me … then it appearing at the top of the screen.

Bugger technology – that was imagination!

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard, Business Writer & Publisher

“Type & Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes” – the secrets of how type can help you to sell or influence, now at the new low price of $29.95. See the book at worsleypress.com or Amazon.

I mentioned a fun little vampire book “Dead Until Dark” in another thread (I went into the library).

It had a plot hole in it – and the resolution to it was obvious and didn’t happen. There is reference to enmity between two of the characters, which has to do with their names and positions in their small, southern town. I am sure the author meant the resolution to it to be in an incident described in a discussion of the American (un)Civil War, but as far as I could see (and I went back and reread a bit to be sure) it didn’t appear. I wonder whether the publisher’s editor removed the reference as a diversion at the time (which it would have appeared to be), not realizing the reference which would appear 70 or 80 pages further on.

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard, Business Writer & Publisher

“How to Start and Produce a Magazine or Newsletter” – THE source book for the budding publisher; now at the new low price of $29.95. See the book at worsleypress.com or Amazon.

Use of a coincidence …

Rudyard Kipling has one in “Kim” where Kim, newly released from school is on the train with the Lama, and meets (and helps save) the experienced agent, C25 (is it?), who is being pursued by the nasties. I call that a reasonable coincidence. Fair on the reader. It could happen.

It looks as though there is a second coincidence when they arrive at the station and the police officer, Strickland Sahib, also a spy, is there. But that doesn’t have to be a coincidence – the agent tells Kim that Strickland is a top operative, the best, so he would know about the effort to steal the letter and one would expect him to pick up through his police contacts that something of interest was happening at the station, so he would lurk around, ready to do his stuff as needed.

By the way – I wonder about the activities of our nations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My view: nobody who had read “Kim” would have got involved in Afghanistan; anyone who read it now would order a speedy withdrawal.

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard, Business Writer & Publisher

“Type & Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes” – the secrets of how type can help you to sell or influence, now at the new low price of $29.95. See the book at worsleypress.com or Amazon.

There is no evidence that the current leadership of the US has ever read anything more challenging than its own press releases.

Worse, certain members of the administration would take the above statement as a compliment. :open_mouth:


You only posted that, because you know nobody gonna argue with y` :wink:
Take care