Digging Even Deeper

Plot Holes That Have Bothered Me

By Jeff Salter

This week’s topic was originally proposed by me so long ago that I can’t recall if I had anything in particular on my mind at that moment. If so, I’ve long forgotten it. Ha!

But as it happens, this very week I’m reading one of Don Pendleton’s novels in which an ultra secret team of good guys is closing in on arch villains who’ve destroyed many lives and resources and have mounted a well-funded, super-organized scheme to control the entire world’s oil reserves. Let’s call this ultra secret team of good guys, Group A. Well, when Group A is demolishing the HQ of most of the arch villains, their criminal masterminds manage to escape by boat en route to the airport, from which they’ll flee to a foreign country. The Group A leader is informed by Group B leader that HIS team has the bad guys in their sights and the villains are about to board their getaway plane. Instead of letting Group B continue with the attack / capture of the international criminals, Group A leader insists his good guy partners back off and wait for him to arrive… since he’s the one who should get personal satisfaction for their apprehension (or some such nonsense). As I’m reading this, I’m thinking: “Really? You’re willing to let the bad guys ESCAPE – knowing you can’t possibly arrive in time – just because you want the credit?” In that same breath, I totally realize the author has constructed this bizarre – totally unrealistic – situation simply so the bad guys CAN escape… and return in the final third of the novel. But that’s not enough for me. If you need the bad guys to escape (to reappear later)… give me a plausible reason. Maybe Group B didn’t arrive in time either. Maybe Group B had the wrong plane in sight. Maybe the Group B leader was a traitor actually working for the evil guys. Give me SOMETHING… other than, “you guys step back, this is my collar.”

Here’s a plot hole that I’ve spotted too often to even remember a good example. It goes like this: some world-wide cataclysm is occurring and the top-top-top person in some particular field (let’s say it’s ABCDEFG) is suddenly tasked to be on the small, elite group of FIXERS. It’s their job to prevent the cataclysm or at least mollify its effects. Guess who is also on that team, as the foremost expert in the world in the field of TUVWXYZ? Yep, the ex-spouse or ex-fiance of Expert A. Now what are the chances of the only two experts in the world (who can deal with this cataclysm) being about the same age? Wouldn’t one of them be an elderly professor at some think tank? And what are the chances of these two experts even knowing each other (except by reputation)? Much less having been married / engaged to each other. And, of course, they have LOTS of emotional baggage to contend with. Just what you need when you wanted top-top-top experts to deal with the world-wide cataclysm.

When I Googled top ten plot holes, this one came up on every list I saw… and it’s one of the points I raised when I reviewed this very movie for my Possum Trot Posts. I’ll let one of the list compilers speak for himself:

Armageddon — Oil drillers vs. astronauts
There’s a lot wrong with this movie — many different scientists have pointed out how drilling a hole into an asteroid wouldn’t be an effective or efficient way to save the planet. But we’ll look past that. This glaring plot hole was hilariously pointed out by none other than Ben Affleck in the Armageddon DVD commentary.
“I asked Michael (Bay) why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers and he told me to shut up. So that was the end of that talk … like eight months is not enough time to learn how to drill a hole, but in a week we’re gonna learn how to be astronauts.” There’s really no better way to say it.

My final example is more of a Plot GIMMICK than a Plot HOLE — though the difference between those two is merely a matter of scale, I suppose. I’ve seen it in LOTS of films, especially from Hollywood’s golden age. In this example I recall the actor was Alan Hale and the story was like set around the 17th or 18th century … a swashbuckler, I think. Anyway, Hale and his compatriots have been imprisoned, beat-up, and are doomed to be executed. By some sleight of hand, they manage to over-power the guard(s) and are finally FREE! Do they quickly exit the cell and hustle down the corridors toward freedom? No, Hale stands there with his hands on his hips and LAUGHS heartily. Not just “ha ha ha”, but something like 30 seconds of hearty belly laughter. I’m sure you’re already ahead of me here… because you know the rest of the guards quickly swoop in and subdue Hale and his buddies again! Now they’re even worse off than before (because they conked that other guard or two). Wouldn’t it have been better to just shut up and quickly tip toe out of the prison? Gad.

What about YOU? Got any good examples of plot holes that perturb you?

[JLS # 539]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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12 Responses to Digging Even Deeper

  1. A couple of pIaces here where I really have to say, OH,GOOD!
    The first is that I am not the only one who has proposed topics and forgotten what in heck I had in mind when I offered the suggestion in the first place!
    The second is yeah, the ego business and ex-Significant Others. Truly annoying.
    Third, the incredible amount of times I have let out with, “Fly, you fools!”, or the like. I mean, come on! Go while the going is good, Guys!
    Fourth is, I never would have thought to Google plot holes! Good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jbrayweber says:

    I see plot holes all the time, especially in movies. Obviously, the big screen is all about entertainment, and entertainment trumps those inconveniences of plausibility. I wish I could remember the last movie I saw that had me thinking “really?”. But it happens enough that I can’t pull a single example. I also see it a lot in the books I edit, to which I usually offer a solution of two. Many times, in the books I’ve come across, there is a lack of believability in the way a character acts/reacts based on their personality or current situation. While not necessarily a plot hole, I find it a hole in the fabric of the character’s make-up, and that leads to loss of credibility in both the character and the progression of the story.

    Great topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      “inconveniences of plausibility” — great quote.
      And, yes… I find numerous instances of characters acting / thinking a certain way simply because the author needs that little development for her/his plot to work. No regard for whether it’s credible (or motivated) in that character.


  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I googled that list of plot holes in movies, and I’d only seen one.The hole pointed out in that movie was indeed valid, but at the time I watched it the inconsistency wasn’t obvious to me because the whole movie was full of unlikely events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      LOL — yes, there are films in which most of the developments are “holes” (unlikely events). In such films, the viewer is expected to leap from plot hole to plot hole, I suppose.


  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    You and my husband would get along fine. He likes finding plot holes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Regardless of what the definition of a plot hole is, I always think of them as things that are left unanswered for the reader, or in the case of a movie, the viewer. That part of the story fell into a hole and never got out. LOL

    After Arnie and I watch a movie for the first time, I always have questions that cannot be answered. The main problem, I believe, comes from the scenes that have been removed due to movie length restrictions. So, I guess I can forgive them for that. It comes with the territory.

    On the other hand, finding inconsistencies and unresolved issues in a novel are unforgiveable. We are not restricted to time. I’ve read a few book that have sorely disappointed me in the end. Issues were ignored, unresolved. What happened to the gun? Where did so-and-so go by the end of the story? It’s hard to remember everything, but that’s where good critiquers come in and a good editor at the end before publishing. They’re not just for correcting your spelling and grammar mistakes. At least, they shouldn’t be. And reading your work over during self-editing, again after corrections are made, and one more time before publishing should help to fill in the plot holes so the story flows smoothly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      great points, Sharon. With movie productions, they have continuity people… but they have no control over what gets cut in the editing room.
      And in books, a good editor will point out any plot holes (or other inconsistencies) and give the author an opportunity — maybe a “demand” — to fix them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • With the movies, sometimes the director does have control, but he still has to comply with the requests and demands of those producing the movie. There’s a lot to it, as I’ve learned watching the special features after the movies. Some great lessons for writers to learn from those clips.

        Liked by 2 people

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