Should Books Acknowledge Their Own Plot Holes?

Last year while reading, I came across a couple books that acknowledged something that occurred in the book was illogical and left a gaping hole in the plot…then shrugged it off and moved along with the story with either a poor explanation or no explanation at all. I suppose the authors (and editors) felt the acknowledgment of the issues was a sufficient means of addressing them, better either than ignoring the plot holes or correcting them, but personally I was dissatisfied. I’ve written before about valuing logic in the books I read, and a nod to the fact that there was a lapse in logic, without actually fixing it, didn’t feel like enough for me.

In one of the books, the plot hole came when the protagonist decided to have a steamy sex scene with a guy she was not actually on good terms with (in fact, they were on terrible terms, and not in some sort of joking fake-enemies way). Pages after the scene, she herself reflects on the fact that it was really weird she decided to get intimate with a guy she hated so much, and then…nothing. The book moved on, and I was left wondering what on earth I’d just read. Was there a need for that sex scene? Is there a quota for romance novels, and it just had to occur??? Is some explanation going to be offered in the sequel? I have no idea, but I would have been happier if the protagonist had just remained righteously angry and not slept with the guy. In this case, just eliminating the scene would have kept the book running smoothly.

In another book, the plot hole was rather major; in fact, most of the plot hinges on the unlikely event and illogical explanation for it, which likely explains why the author didn’t fix it. In brief, much of the plot hinges on the character not knowing something that she should have easily been able to find out. In fact, she is researching the very subject…but never comes across the relevant information. Some characters note it is odd she didn’t find the (not really that rare) information and then carry on, plot hole noted and ignored. I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes because this simply does not make sense.

And the brief acknowledgment that it doesn’t make sense reads like the kind of half-hearted revisions I would sometimes make when professors pointed out gaps in my research papers in college. Maybe they would write feedback on a draft like, “What about the possibility the character didn’t do this out of charity but rather out of jealousy?” and then I’d “revise” my paper by writing two sentences starting with, “Some readers might think the character did this out of jealousy, but that’s not true because of [really brief reason]” instead of fully revising the paper to engage with the jealousy argument in-depth. My professors generally didn’t go for it, and I don’t go for it either as a reader.

Mostly I find it frustrating when authors acknowledge their own plot holes and then leave them because it indicates they know about the hole but think I, as the reader, won’t really care. Apparently the hole is egregious enough to note, to tell the reader, “Yes, I did in fact notice this problem! I didn’t completely overlook it!” But for some reason it’s not important enough to fix. They assume I, as the reader, will be too swept away by the rest of the story to truly care. There might be a gaping hole, but I can be trusted to buy the book and like it well enough anyway.

What are your thoughts? I think, in an ideal world, we’d all say that authors should fix the plot holes. But if they don’t, should they acknowledge them? Or gloss over them and hope no one notices?

Briana

23 thoughts on “Should Books Acknowledge Their Own Plot Holes?

  1. Arwen McGilvra says:

    It depends on the type of plot hole. I’m okay with not every part of a world being explained, esp in fantasy and sci-fi. But the romance thing is terrible. So often it’s stuff in where it doesn’t belong for no practical plot or character reason. 🙄 I hate that, and will 💯 call it out in my review.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I think some world building or magic aspects not fully being explained are fine, but I mean actual holes in the plot. Like something a character did (and is important to the plot) doesn’t make sense or shouldn’t have worked the way it did.

      I’m trying to think of an analogy without giving away the specific book I was thinking about in this post because I don’t want to bash it in particular. But imagine you were researching your ex’s family for some plot important reason, and it turns out his mother is a fairly well-known artist, to the point that she has some paintings in national galleries. And you spend the whole book researching his mother but somehow you NEVER get a hit from Google with her name on it that suggests she is an artist– even though this should at least come up from the art gallery web sites. (And it matters she’s a painter for other very important plot reasons that the entire book is based upon.)

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  2. David M Cameron says:

    Being a writer, mainly for my enjoyment, I find plot holes in books a real problem. I hate them as they spoil the journey for the reader. I find it the same with television and movies, and I am prone to stop reading or watching, offer some choice language in the realm of, ‘No one would do that!’ After saying that, the complexity of some created worlds and situations, make the task difficult sometimes. I re-read my work and get others to do so to avoid continuity errors, but real holes in the plot should just not be there.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I don’t really write, but I sometimes dabble, and I always feel blocked by needing everything to make sense and for there to be no plot holes! And then I read published stuff and realize there are a bunch of authors out there who apparently don’t care, and there editors don’t, and many readers don’t?? It’s really wild to me, and I appreciate the writers who take the time to make sure everything fits together properly and is logical.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    I suppose for some writers, they may have covered the plot holes in their mind (or in an early draft) and then never wrote it in/cut it out during editing? Either way, I think that if they’ve addressed the plot hole, then they should fix it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Interesting. I wonder if what looks to me like some half-hearted attempt to deal with it is, in their minds, actually a good faith effort. I see them go, “Oh, hm, this doesn’t make sense. Ah, well, things happen!” and think it’s absurd, but maybe they think it was actually a really great revision that addressed the problem adequately??

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    Glossing over it or making a half-hearted attempt feels like the writer thinks the readers aren’t clever enough to see the holes, which is a little insulting. If they’re aware the plot hole exists, they should fix it.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s what always gets me. It’s like, “Oh, this makes no sense and I know it, but lol the readers are too stupid to care!” And then…so often they’re right? Reading reviews of these books, especially the second one, I don’t see anyone complaining about this. Literally the ENTIRE plot falls apart because of the plot hole!

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I’m trying to think of an analogy without giving away the specific book because I don’t want to bash it in particular. But imagine you were researching your ex’s family for some plot important reason, and it turns out his mother is a fairly well-known artist, to the point that she has some paintings in national galleries. And you spend the whole book researching his mother but somehow you NEVER get a hit from Google with her name on it that suggests she is an artist– even though this should at least come up from the art gallery web sites. (And it matters she’s a painter for other very important plot reasons that the whole book hinge upon.) -.-

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  5. Krysta says:

    Sometimes I suspect that certain authors are aware of the plot holes, but choose to ignore them and hope readers will, as well. If you read reviews, most don’t mention the plot holes at all and, often when I mention them, people will say they don’t care. If there’s a lot of action or romance or whatever it is readers prioritize in a book, they might be okay with an illogical plot because having the plot make sense isn’t as high on their list of values for reading for pleasure.

    I also think some people think asking for logic in a work of fiction is somehow unreasonable, like they’re reading because they want dragons or magic or whatever, not because they want to think through the rationality of a specific plot line. I disagree; I can’t really love a book if the story does not make sense on a fundamental level. But I also realize that my views do not seem to be shared by most readers. I’m sure some authors recognize that and choose to write an illogical plot so they can have what they want to happen, happen. They know most readers will overlook the flaws.

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  6. jiyoon @ insomniac reviews says:

    oooh, i love this discussion topic!! i actually read this book a while ago, CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD by matthew salesses. he addresses the topic of plot holes in books/”unbelievable” storylines by saying, “One of the most useful tricks I learned in my MFA was Margot Livesey’s response to a believability complaint: ‘Just make someone in the story question it.'” i honestly think this is really great advice; i think a lot of plot holes could be resolved and addressed if another character in the story would just…. bring it up and ask the same question that readers have, hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Charvi says:

    Interesting, I’ve never actually come across an author admitting to plot holes but I guess I wouldn’t like that. Either you fix it or leave it as it is because acknowledging it isn’t going to help anyone, it only makes the readers more frustrated…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Isobel says:

    If there is a plot hole that has been identified by the author/editor/etc , they should try to resolve. It’s interesting, I’ve never come across admission, and subsequent glossing over, of a plot hole like you describe. I always assumed a plot hole was a plot hole because no one involved in the book creation had noticed it… But obviously, that isn’t always true.

    I don’t mind the romance one that much, though, because there 100% is a sex quota in a romance book. Should the characters maybe have had a revelation that they were interacting poorly because they were denying their feelings for each other or something? Probably. But if you’re going to have something nonsensical in your romance book, it should be sex every single time. Also, people do have sex with people even when they know better and even when it doesn’t really make sense in real life, so maybe that’s what the author was going for…?

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