Many years ago, a friend of mine and I used to watch movies together, and after the movie was over we’d go somewhere to eat. Then, for the next hour or so, our conversation would center on all the plot holes that had occurred in the movie. Since our tastes tended more toward “action” movies, there were usually plenty of plot holes to discuss.
In general, I can tolerate a fair number of plot holes—assuming the movie was reasonably entertaining, and I can forgive some pretty outrageous coincidences if it helps keep the movie moving along. I suspect most viewers feel the same way, although individual tolerances may vary. Besides, gaping plot holes are what keep sites like Cinema Sins so popular. What bothers me, though, is when writers force characters to do something illogical in order to drive the story in the direction they want it to go.
Take the final Hunger Games movie, for example. (If you haven’t seen it yet, be aware there are spoilers coming!) Even though the characters know that Peeta has been brainwashed to kill Katniss, the commander decides to send him out along with Katniss on a mission together. It makes so little sense, the writers didn’t even bother coming up with a semi-plausible reason. All the writers cared about was making sure the two of them were together on the screen for extended periods of time.
What really bothered me, however, was how the writers’ desire to get the “games” back into The Hunger Games led to a groan-worthy plot device. When the Capitol is faced with an advancing army of rebels, President Snow announces that instead of devoting government resources into reinforcing his army with weapons appropriate for the situation, he decides that he will concentrate their remaining energies into building ridiculously complicated traps randomly placed throughout the city.
Now you don’t have to be a military genius to know this is a comically bad idea. Pouring all your resources into immovable, sophisticated traps that would only be effective against small groups of rebels (which Katniss just happens to be a part of) spread out over an area the size of a city is blatant stupidity. But the writers wanted Katniss and friends to have to fight through more traps (like in the earlier movies) and hoped we’d be so fascinated with the traps we wouldn’t notice the ridiculousness of the situation.
Why am I writing about this today? Because I recently finished a scene that I was pretty happy with, at least at first, but which now is bothering me since I realize the bad guys probably wouldn’t have acted the way I had them act. So now I’m caught in a quandary. I really like the way the scene plays out now, but I’m either going to have to make some significant changes or hope that my readers don’t notice the bad guy’s stupidity. Neither option appeals to me, so I’ve decided to put off the decision until my crit group reads the chapter. It’ll be interesting to see if they spot the problem.
What do you do when you realize you’ve got a plot hole in your WIP?