Let’s talk about plot holes.
A plot hole is when there is a glaringly obvious hole in your story telling that should have ended your story or altered the outcome of the plot. It is not something you wish the main character had done differently. It is not events that you wish would have played out a different way. A plot hole is when the willing suspension of disbelief snaps because the author hasn’t paid enough attention to their own details.
Take Interstellar for example. It’s a good movie. It must be a good movie, because I watched it days ago and I’m still furious. A good story is one that gets a reaction out of the people experiencing it. I connected to the plot and cared deeply about the outcome. But good or not, there are some glaring and unavoidable plot holes.
Interstellar features a dying earth gasping its last breath. A blight that thrives on nitrogen has been killing off all the plant life on earth. People are starving. With every infected plant type, the blight gets stronger because the lack of plants = less oxygen in our already nitrogen rich air.
The movie spends a lot of time establishing earth and making you care about one family scrounging their way by on their farm. The family features an adorable, brilliant little girl, an obedient, happy son, a sentimental grandfather, and an unhappy dad. He doesn’t want to be a farmer, he was a great pilot once.
So stuff happens and pilot ends up getting hired by NASA to take a space ship through a wormhole into another galaxy in search of a new earth. There’s other people, but plot wise no one matters quite as much as the father and daughter. Dad chooses to leave his family behind on a dying planet for an untold number of years in hopes of saving them one day. This is a point of contention for me. I’m sad he left his family. I think he should have negotiated that they go into cryosleep (that’s a thing in this story) on the ship where they could be awoken either when they find a nice planet or when they return home unsuccessful. It’s a thing that makes me angry. It is not however a plot hole.
A plot hole is a society in the future having less capabilities but more technology then we do now when it comes to exploring new planets. A decade ago, NASA sent twelve scientists to explore potential planets and see if they were habitable. They indicated they sent probes prior to the people (which in terms of the time planet makes no sense because they shouldn’t have gotten results yet, but whatever). They chose people instead of their super advanced robots who could communicate because humans can improvise. Okay. Sure. I mean, sending the robots first and THEN people would make more sense,but there’s some bigger issues here.
Let’s look at some of the planets. Planet 1. A water planet where time is warped due to its proximity to a black hole. The scientist has been sending back good readings. Lots of them. But when they get there they discover she’s dead because it’s a water planet (giant waves, no apparent land) and the same signal just sent over and over again because of time and stuff. But by their own math, the lady was only down there for an hour and a half. So shouldn’t they have been wondering why they had a decades worth of messages from her? Also, why land there at all? The woman, who is a scientist for NASA would have only needed to make an orbit around the planet to note that there’s no apparent land and massive waves that will kill you dead. Those are the sorts of things you can see in space. Sort of like how we’ve never been on Jupiter but we know there’s a giant storm there?
Next planet. Frozen tundra with frozen clouds and ammonia for air. We can tell what planets are made of just by looking at them. It’s called spectrography. We’ve had the ability to do that since the 1800’s. No need to send a scientist there.
A character drives through a black hole instead of being crushed into a singularity. Plan B for humanity is a billion frozen fertilized eggs and they sent only one woman on the mission. I actually feel like I missed an explanation there, so if I did please enlighten me. A character causes a major paradox in the time space continuum that really shouldn’t be possible, but that one I’d be willing to suspend belief for if the other plot holes weren’t so maddening.
Like why not have three technically habitable planets with some other massive issue a probe couldn’t pick up? Like maybe other forms of monstrous life? There was so much more that could be done. And again, why go to the planet that cost the main character so much precious time away from his super cute daughter when you can SEE it isn’t habitable and even if there’s some reason they can’t see that (maybe black holes interfere with vision) maybe give your scientist already on the planet more than an day on the surface to investigate? Every hour that passes there = 7 years on earth. So…maybe go to that one last if none of the others work out because really, what were they hoping to discover? It was so important to retrieve the scientists data but they literally forgot she wouldn’t have had time to gather it (she was sent ten years ago, it takes two years to get there).
Another major plot hole is a big spoiler.
Okay so if the professor solving the math problem knew that there was no hope for the people on earth, shouldn’t they have sent more people with each mission? I mean, in the interest of potentially getting more people off earth and into space? Just seems like a thing that should have been considered. Use those ships to their max. Also, I get not telling everyone and spreading panic, but he broke up a family. Sorry, no. You don’t get to decide, “the human race is gonna die unless we send these eggs to a habitable planet. So this guy doesn’t get to die with his kids. He’s going to think he’s coming back, but not really.” No. Saving all the people on earth is a noble goal. Creating new people on another planet, not so much. Humans don’t deserve to continue on just by virtue of being human. The people alive matter more than the people who would have never existed if plan A had any chance of succeeding. Don’t lie and tell this guy he’s saving his kids when he’s really leaving them to die. And as a parent, don’t fricken leave your kids on a dying planet! Like, best case scenario, you find a habitable planet. Your kids are breathing in more and more dust and life sucks at home, but yay, you saved them. What’s to say NASA doesn’t have a list of who can fit on that space station? I mean, from what I can tell, literally every other country on the planet ceased to exist, so what happens if the one percent decides there’s more resources if the farmers stay home? They don’t know the planet is dying anyway. You have no assurances your family is going to be rescued once they leave your sight. Take care of your fricken kids.
Grr! Okay, last half of that paragraph not a plot hole, just a plot preference, but it really bothered me!
Anyway, plot holes are infuriating and you should try to avoid them in your work because they take readers out of the story.