Screenwriting Workshops Clarify 5 Plot Holes To Avoid
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By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.
The words “plot hole” have become an annoyingly popular term. YouTubers, cinephiles, and audiences hold a close microscope to every movie and analyze it for any mistakes. Of course, screenwriters and filmmakers are human and plot holes or similar errors are inevitable. However, it’s important to be aware of the different types of plot holes, to understand them very clearly, and to avoid them when writing.
Plot development is one of the key elements of a screenplay. That’s why it’s crucial for screenwriters to recognize and sidestep plot holes that compromise the quality of the script. Screenwriting workshops can help you to identify and fix plot holes as a way of improving your writing skills. The following five plot holes are not only common but also catastrophic so make sure you protect your screenplay from these terrible mistakes.
1. Logic plot holes
Logic plot holes happen when things don’t make sense. But that’s not to say, anything illogical counts as a plot hole. The script reader has to understand the world the screenwriter has built first. Every world has its own rules and laws. When those are broken, then a logic plot hole can be identified.
Screenwriters who fall into the logic plot hole usually don’t maintain consistency; they don’t follow the rules they set for their world. For example, in movies like Fast and Furious, the audience always suspends their disbelief because according to the rules of that world, cars can survive jumps off buildings, crashes through glass, and long chases without a single scratch. The audience knows this and accepts the rules.
Based on your decision of what is and isn’t logical, the audience will be watching and keeping track. Always make sure you’re following your own rules of logic so you don’t lose your audience.
2. Narrative plot holes
Like logic plot holes, narrative plot holes are a result of defects in consistency, this time however it’s inconsistent storylines. If the narrative plot hole is big enough, the gap in your story line will be jarring for the audience. This is one of the most common plot holes and many screenwriting workshops warn screenwriters to always avoid this type.
A blatant example of narrative plot holes is that of Keyser Soze’s face in The Usual Suspects. The myth of Soze is upheld by the fact that no one has ever seen his face because he either hides his identity perfectly or he kills whoever sees him. For someone that meticulous about their secret identity, it’s hard to imagine Verbal’s lax attitude at the police station. His photograph is taken, and he sits down face-to-face with the detective…who remains alive till the very end. This kind of inconsistencyunravels the audience’s trust in the story.
3. Character plot holes
Character plot holes involve inconsistency in a character’s choices. This type of plot hole affects the audience’s perception of a character and their trust in the screenwriter to maintain consistency of behavior throughout the script. If you’ve worked on character development in screenwriting workshops, you know that a character’s thoughts and actions need to align.
Generic examples include last minute skills that conveniently help characters get out of trouble. A lazy, cowardly guy suddenly busts some martial arts moves when he finds himself trapped with the bad guy. Although throughout the entire story and up until that moment, there’s no mention of said character’s athletic skills, they suddenly surface to the rescue. This unexplained and random behavior is too obvious to be ignored. This kind of writing that relies on such plot holes is lazy and unprofessional and it will annoy any script reader who reads your script. If you fall into this kind of plot hole, don’t be surprised if screenplay agents pass on your work.
4. MacGuffin plot holes
A plot device that can be misused at times is the MacGuffin. MacGuffins are any objects that your characters chase even though they don’t have any particular importance. Sometimes they are used as the glue that brings different elements of a screenplay together and create a narrative drive.
MacGuffin plot holes are those that involve the screenwriter’s choice of MacGuffin and how he or she utilizes it in the script. For example, something like the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz is a very silly but problematic plot hole. If clicking the slipper heels together takes Dorothy back home, how come the good witch didn’t point that out? She must have known after all. Then again, if the witch had actually told Dorothy…the journey to the Emerald City would have never happened and we wouldn’t have a story at all.
MacGuffin plot holes aren’t as disastrous as the other types. They are usually exposed by YouTubers or redditors who just love picking stories apart. Although you should make sure your MacGuffins make sense, don’t worry too much about their impact on the audience since they’re written for the characters and don’t really affect the audience as much.
5. Deus Ex Machina plot holes
This type of plot holes is arguably the worst one. Deus ex machina is also known as “magic.” If you’ve ever watched a movie and something completely out of the blue happened that solved a major impossible scenario, then you thought to yourself, “Wow, just like that. Must be magic!” you’ve witnessed a deux ex machina plot hole.
Screenplay agents, managers, and producers as well as audiences will very swiftly dismiss your “magic” solution as ridiculous and implausible. A glaring example of this plot hole is seen in the Lord of the Rings franchise. After a long, dangerous trip to reach Mount Doom, we watch Frodo and Sam being lifted by huge eagles that save them during critical points in the story. If such supportive eagles exist, why were they not used to transport the hobbits from the very beginning? There must be a valid reason that J.R.R. Tolkien explained in his books, of course. But as far as the movies go, there was no such reason presented to the audience. So when the eagles swoop down out of nowhere and save the day, it’s outrageous.
If you detect this plot hole in your own script, immediately rewrite that scene or moment and eliminate any “magic” from the page. Try to protect your screenplay from plot holes so your audience doesn’t think you’re a lazy, careless writer.