Plot is Jargon

February 6, 2007

The word plot is jargon, used by writers. It is a poor thing for casual reviews to worry about. When you said, “The plot was okay,” what you meant to say was, “The story was okay.” (Nevermind that “it was okay” is a lousy critique.)

When you say, “The plot was good,” what I hear is, “The scenes sure did occur one after another.” That’s ringing praise. I hate those movies where all the scenes happen at once — that’s just confusing.

Beware any casual critic who says a movie has “plot holes.” It turns out nobody knows what a plot hole is. Too often, the phrase plot hole seems to just be a code for “it was convoluted.”

Don’t confuse plot and story. An audience that is unable to discriminate between the two is cold and dead. An audience that can’t appreciate a story because it’s focused on plot might as well be a committee of robots.



  1. isn’t a plot hole just a politer way of saying your stroy doesn’t make sense – eg the character who killed the butler in chapter 3, and who killed thebutlers wife in chapter 11, is having dinner with them both in chapter 23, drinking to their health

  2. In my experience, plot holes are areas where the audience can find room to unravel the course of events and choices the characters undertake, because the plotting affords them the room to do so. When the reader says, “Why doesn’t Doug just go to the police in Chapter 3? He should just go to the police.”

    My gag about “it was convoluted” comes from, of all places, a series of unrelated reviews of Mission: Impossible, which everyone tells me “has plot holes you could drive a truck through.” To which I say, “like what?” No one has an answer.

    The real point being, I guess, that plot holes are a high-faluting validator for whatever complaint you got. They are whatever holes the reader can punch in your tale.

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