Now, I’ve talked about plot holes before, so what’s left to say? Another clarification for something I had forgotten, one that is often also confused by critics and fans of fiction: the difference between character motivation and plot holes. What’s the difference? Well, character motivation can never be a plot hole. Let’s use an example.

Take the movie Next, which inspired this post (note: I do not advise watching this without the rifftrax). There is no reason given for why the villains are after Nic Cage (assuming they don’t want their money back for Wickerman). However, this is just a mystery, an unknown, not an actual plot hole. The actual plot hole comes from the lack of explanation of how the bad guys know about Cage’s ability to see the future in the first place. They are setting a bomb off in Los Angeles—how did they know a 2nd rate Las Vegas magician was legit?

So what are the cures? Remember that plot holes arise from what actually happens (i.e. A gun on a deserted island). If you have good friends/editors, try for overexplaining what happens (because it’s easier to cut than add)—make sure everyone can follow from point A to B.

With motivations, you have to be sure your audience can follow the emotional journey. But if someone tells you “this motivation is a plot hole”, now you know that it technically isn’t, it’s an irregularity. Try adding more clues to the the character’s potential change. Or show a life-changing event dramatic enough to warrant the change.

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  1. Rand on 24 February 2009, 21:13 said:

    Quote: If you have good friends/editors, try for over explaining what happens (because it’s easier to cut than add), make sure everyone can follow from point A to B.

    What do you mean? Over-explaning? You mean it should go something like this-

    Mary-Jane: Hey! Why did the Yogos tackle Mrs. Fields to the ground?
    Rand: Well, you see, they were probably really passionate and felt usurped as the greatest candy on my desk.
    Mary-Jane: You didn’t write that.
    Rand: I know but that’s what I meant.
    Mary-Jane: Ok.
    Rand: Ok.

  2. Nate Winchester on 24 February 2009, 21:24 said:

    Over-explain in the writing.

    Pretty much what Paolini does except you should edit and trim before publishing.

  3. Amelie on 25 February 2009, 13:56 said:

    “assuming they don’t want their money back for Wickerman”

    rofl. Worst!Movie!Ever.

  4. margot on 5 April 2014, 13:13 said:


    Which version of Wickerman? The 1970’s or the shudder remake? I dunno, for the 70’s version think the slugfest made it better than Zandalee. THAT was a movie our bad movie night crew wound up splitting up over— and more than half of the watchers left rather than see the whole thing. I, having a ride with one of the hard core watchers, stayed behind and was forced to see the whole thing.

    ON the other hand, I suppose it’s a character building exercise, and now I know how not to make a movie about a menage a trois gone bad.

    As for the actual post: How do you distinguish books for which the emotional journey is entirely absent from those with plot holes?