Purposeful Ambiguity vs Plot Holes
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Thread: Purposeful Ambiguity vs Plot Holes

  1. #1

    Default Purposeful Ambiguity vs Plot Holes

    Something I've been wondering recently is the difference between a story element left vague and mysterious and a plot hole. Like a backstory (for an event or character) not told in detail or at all. Another thing is as to when this "purposely ambiguity" is appropriate.


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  2. #2
    Your mind is a world AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Purposeful Ambiguity vs Plot Holes

    In the case of character backstories, I don't think it really matters all that much. Every character should have a backstory as it makes them seem more real, but if it never comes up in the course of the plot then so be it. It's not ambiguity so much as sticking to the actual storyline and not getting distracted.

    In general though, I'm not a fan of making things ambiguous. That said, there are some times where it works, like the ending of Journey Out of Mt. Coronet by @Kyuuketsuki; It ends with the main character having to choose between continuing on his journey and recovering his Prinplup or visiting his mother. It never says what he decides, but both choices and his reasoning behind making either one would represent the character growth that he made over the course of the story. The very fact that he was stuck and wasn't sure which way to go showed that he was much more considerate than he had been. In that case, the ambiguity actually added to the story rather than being a cop out.

    On the other hand, if there's something in a story that feels like it should be explained but never is, then that just gets frustrating.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Purposeful Ambiguity vs Plot Holes

    A plot hole is an inconsistency, not a literal "hole". For example, in the much-lauded The Dark Knight, the main characters (Harvey Dent, Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne, and James Gordon) make a big deal out of not trusting any policemen (other than Gordon himself), as many of them are liable to be on the mob's payroll. Subsequently, Dent and Dawes trust just any old police officer and they both wind up dead/horribly disfigured (and then) dead for it. This is inconsistent with what we learned earlier in the movie, therefore, it is a plot hole.

    In Prometheus, a major theme is the character Elizabeth Shaw's religious faith. She goes on the mission partly because she hopes that her faith will be proven by the discovery of mankind's creators. Though the movie does rule out God or a god or gods as the direct creators of mankind, it does not rule out the existence of divine supernatural beings in general, nor does it rule out their having had a hand in the creation of mankind. This is intentional ambiguity, and does not result in any inconsistencies in the storytelling (although the movie does have its other faults).


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