I often get that statement from someone, where they told me they hated a novel or a movie because of the plot holes. In fact, I hear a lot of complaints on this subject. A story is often insulted for having too many holes and the writer of said story is often called “a hack” or a “terrible writer”. I don’t believe that, because there are many factors in how a story gets written and simply having a story with some plot holes in it doesn’t make it awful. I’m not saying we should embrace plot-holes, but almost every story out there has some sort of plot hole in some way or another.
A plot hole is often defined as something that goes against the pre-established narrative, it’s something that acts as a consistency and is often considered a hindrance to a good story. An example of this is in the cult classic series, “Star Wars”. One of the most famous plot-holes is how Boba Fett, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy was defeated so easily. Keep in mind, these are spoilers for the sixth film, “Return Of The Jedi”. At the end of the film, Boba Fett is knocked into the Sarlaac Pit by a temporarily-blinded and physically-weakened Han Solo. Keep in mind that Boba Fett is considered the most dangerous and powerful bounty hunter in the galaxy. How could a man who was so weak be able to defeat someone so strong? This inconsistency is never explained, not even once.
That is what makes it a plot-hole, something that’s inconsistent with the inner-workings of a narrative. However, does that move the movie terrible? Not at all! A movie or story shouldn’t be defined by one or two plot holes. However, several plot holes can water down a good narrative. Too many plot-holes can make your audience confused and have them focus on the weaker parts of your story. It’s even worse if you have lots of rather large plot-holes, you leave your audience bewildered and questioning why the villain could now fly when he couldn’t before or why the heroes suddenly have spaceships. You need to set boundaries for your story and you have to do your best to cross those boundaries too often.
Plot holes are bound to happen, especially in larger stories. And some plot-holes are required in order for the narrative to have more cohesion. The Lord Of The Rings saga is a good example. Lord Of The Rings is an extremely tightly-written story but not without its share of holes. The most famous example is the eagles that save Frodo and Sam near the end of the third film / book and bring them to their destination. It’s something that brings up the question of “Why didn’t they just use those darn birds in the beginning?” Well, that’s something known as a necessary plot-hole. You see, some plot-holes are necessary in order for the narrative to not be utterly destroyed. If Sam and Frodo just flew those birds all the way there, then there would be no adventure. The whole plot of the trilogy would have fallen apart. The birds were a deus ex machina, a plot device that helps the heroes surpass all odds.
A lot of action movies also have necessary plot-holes, this is so the plot isn’t resolved straight away. The thing is, plot holes will always exist no matter how skilled the writer and how great the story is. Which brings me to the point of writing this, plot holes don’t define you as a writer. It’s necessary to avoid plot-holes, but some just can’t be avoided. And the larger your story is, the more plot-holes it may end up having. If your published work ends up with plot-holes, don’t lose your cool. Use plot-holes as a jumping point to learn from your mistakes and work on your narrative-cohesion. Think of plot-holes as pot-holes. You hit a couple of small pot-holes on a trip and you may get annoyed buy you won’t get hate the experience or the trip. You’ll forget about those little holes after a while and enjoy the trip. However, too many large holes in the road may ruin the trip for you. That’s why, you need to focus on making that plot as solid as possible.
Plot-holes will always exist as long as there are stories to be told, but having them doesn’t make you a bad writer. Learn from a plot-hole and focus on making a better story. That’s the best that you can do, because these things happen to all great writers. Remember, many large plot-holes can ruin a narrative but a few small ones isn’t the worst thing. It just means that there is room for improvement.