What is "fridge logic?"

| Monday, December 19, 2011
Today's Tune: Video Games

Fridge Logic is a term that was sorta-kinda coined by Alfred Hitchcock. He described it as a scene that "hits you after you've gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox."


In a nutshell, Fridge Logic is considered any logical inconsistency or plot hole that you missed while you were reading (because you were so wrapped up in the story, you just didn't notice it, or whatever) but that comes to you much later when you're really thinking about it. It's basically all that picking-apart of plot elements that people do long after they've read the book. It's a "wait a minute..." moment.

An example: you have a character who has to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a very tight timeframe. Say, three hours. So they hop in a car in L.A. and somehow manage to make it to San Francisco with time to spare. Now, anyone who lives in California will probably realize that this is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE, even when one is driving 100 MPH the entire way. But people who aren't familiar with the geography of the state and/or who just aren't paying close attention to the timeframe might not realize the logical inconsistency here until much later when they look up how far apart L.A. and San Francisco are and go "... wait."

Is there anything you can do about Fridge Logic? It depends. I think it's sometimes easier to minimize Fridge Logic in novels than in television, since television operates under pretty strict time constraints and has to worry about keeping audience attention with the flow of the script and all that. Television writers can't risk losing an audience's attention by listing out the painstaking logic of every little thing. And really, neither can novelists. That would make for a very boring book.

However, you do have more room to stretch and really solidify your world-building in novel form. I don't know that I've ever come across a novel that couldn't be picked to pieces on some level, but some are certainly better than others at consistent logic and closing plot holes as best they can.

In the end, it's up to the author to figure out the logic of their own fictional world and make sure it's not completely flimsy. It's up to us to decide what's truly important for the story we're trying to tell and maintaining the audience's suspense of disbelief, and what we can gloss over a little. It also usually helps to avoid breaking the rules we've set up for our own world.

But most of all, try not to sweat it too much. Someone somewhere is always going to be able to pick apart your plot and point out logical inconsistencies. No one's perfect. That said, it's no excuse to get lazy about building the strongest and most hole-free story you can.


{ Old Kitty } at: December 19, 2011 at 5:21 AM said...

I've just finished The Killing Series 2 (Danish original of course!) and for all it's many many many many plotholes - I quite honestly don't care because the pace and the action and above all the characters were soooooooooooooooo amazingly fleshed out that I truly truly truly felt for each one of them - even the baddie who was the sexiest most heartbreakingly devious character I've ever had the pleasure to root for hoping they'd turn out to not be the killer..!! Oh gosh - but after the concluding series there were a few "hang on.. how on earth did that happen... when..." but hey ho! It was the best thing on telly!! LOL! take care

{ Athena Franco } at: December 19, 2011 at 6:32 AM said...

I had major Fridge Logic pains over Harry Potter. We need to remember that just because we're writing for a younger audience, whether children or teens, doesn't mean we can ignore our plot holes.

{ Gilly } at: December 19, 2011 at 1:39 PM said...

I tend to feel like minimizing the fridge logic moments really strengthens a novel. Too many fridge logic moments make it hard for me to suspend my disbelief and love a book, even after I've thought about it for a while. If a plot point is going to become a fridge logic moment or would take an incredible about of explaining just to make sense - I tend to think it should be removed or revised!

{ Tasha Seegmiller } at: December 19, 2011 at 2:53 PM said...

I just experienced this with my own WIP - I have a character doing things they simply couldn't do without a decent amount of education and I didn't have them old enough to have had said education.

Great post.

{ We Heart YA } at: December 19, 2011 at 6:09 PM said...

Haha, never heard it before, but that's a great term. As crit partners, we do our best to help each other eliminate "fridge logic" because, as Gilly said, the fewer moments there are, the stronger the novel tends to be. As the saying goes, greatness is "in the details."

{ We Heart YA } at: December 19, 2011 at 6:10 PM said...

Oh, but to your point: you're not going to get EVERYTHING perfect, so don't sweat it. Readers/viewers ARE willing to suspend disbelief if you make the characters and their emotions strong/real enough.

{ prerna pickett } at: December 19, 2011 at 8:11 PM said...

I have some fridge logic when it comes to time constraints. My MCs live in NYC and I'm not always sure how long it is logically supposed to take them from point a to point b since I've never lived there. I have to do a lot of googling for that one.

{ vic caswell (aspiring-x) } at: December 19, 2011 at 8:16 PM said...

first of all, love the pic with this post.
second... yeah. the fridge (and shower for some reason) really has a way of pointing out my mistakes...
sweet snuffleluffagins!
maybe i should eat less... and let myself get really really stinky.

{ Urban Banshee } at: January 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM said...

Older post, but I had to comment :)

I think not all fridge logic is bad. Yes there is the important little facts that writers shouldn't ignore because "no one will notice" and nothing can frustrate me more in a story then the fridge logic that asks "what about Timmy?" or some other loose thread or implication. So the bad emperor is overthrown and the story fades to black. What then though? How does the Hero expect the world to run when you completely destroy the old way of life?

The good fridge logic though is the little nugget that stays with you after you read the story. It is what can make rereading a story worthwhile. For me it is usually aspects of the world that are lightly touched on, but don't come to the forefront until you go to the fridge. I see this very rarely, but they do exist. At least I think so. :) Good post

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