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Plot Hole

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Yakko: [as Puck] And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding, but a dream!
Dot: [translating into Layman's Terms] There is a hole in the plot you could drive a truck through.

Plot Holes are those gaps in a story where things happen without a logical reason. When a Plot Hole involves something essential to a story's outcome, it can hurt the believability, for those who are bothered by such things. Hitting a Plot Hole at high speed can damage your Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Plot holes can come in many forms:

  • Characters suddenly having knowledge that was never passed to them or, vice versa, characters not knowing something they knew last week, or something that anyone in their position must know.
  • An event does not logically follow from what has gone before.
  • An event occurring that other events in the work simply do not allow.

Plot holes occur for several reasons:

Plot holes are thus contradictions or glitches in the fictional universe of a story). Even intentionally unrealistic, fantastical stories can suffer when plot holes arise, as audiences are willing to suspend disbelief regarding magic and other supernatural powers as long as the story makes sense within its own rules and is consistent.

It is also important to point out that plot holes aren't plot contrivances, as the two terms are sometimes conflated. The difference between a plot hole and a plot contrivance is one of the impossible verses the improbable. A plot hole is something that happens in the narrative that's impossible due to the internal logic of the story's universe, or at least, the story have never established or even hinted at it as being possible. A plot contrivance is when something happens in the narrative that's certainly possible within the story's universe, but the chances of it happening are extremely, sometimes even infinitesimally slim, and only happens because the author needed it to happen. For such cases, the trope you would be looking for is Contrived Coincidence.

Also of note, is the fact that it is important to distinguish between plot holes and continuity errors. A continuity error is merely a minor oversight or mistake that doesn't change anything about the course of the story. In order to truly qualify as a plot hole, the gap in the story most also have at least some sort of tangible effect on the plot.

Plot holes are sometimes plugged up or ignored with a casual Hand Wave, or occasionally dealt with by a Lampshade Hanging, and some writers think Plot Holes that only become apparent well after the story is over aren't worth sweating.

Remember that Tropes Are Tools. Some stories contain plot holes as part of their basic nature. This includes many ludicrously comical works, and everything involving a Timey-Wimey Ball. Even when it isn't being deliberately played for laughs, the storytelling and explanations necessary to close a plot hole might serve as a distraction from the main plot; especially for more minor or obscure plot holes, it often makes more sense for a writer or director to invoke the MST3K Mantra and focus on their main story rather than getting bogged down in explaining minutiae.

Can overlap with Retcon and Continuity Snarl. A Cliffhanger Copout can create a Plot Hole if a Hand Wave is handled poorly. An attempt to resolve or remove a Plot Hole that introduces another Plot Hole is a Voodoo Shark. Contrast What Happened to the Mouse? for potential plots that get dropped, then picked up. See also Writers Cannot Do Math.

Also see Fridge Logic for cases where a Plot Hole isn't immediately obvious and only becomes visible in hindsight.

No examples, please. This only defines the term.

Alternative Title(s): Plot Holes