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Friday, November 05, 2004

CRAFTY WRITER'S TOOL: MAKING PLOTHOLES FUN

I'm about 50 pages into Unseen. Struggling with some sections that don't seem as much fun when I try to write them as they did when I outlined them. Also struggling with the believability.

You'd think in a movie about creatures that don't really exist, the audience is more than willing to suspend their disbelief. And they usually are. But the tone I'm striving for in Unseen is realism: the creatures may be unreal, but the way the human characters interact with them should be real.

Motivation's a tricky thing. You don't want characters to do something that destroys their credibility. On the other hand, real people do stupid lame things all the time. If no one ever made dumb mistakes, there would be no drama, no need to watch drama, and I'd be back in the computer science biz. So you can have your character do dumb things. In any thriller, the urgency to the action gives you a certain excuse: sure, the character's doing something foolish, but it's the best idea she has, so she's going with it.

And, of course, the audience will forgive incredible behavior if they like the results.--

/* SPOILER * /

--On The OC last night, Ryan's girlfriend announced over the phone that she'd lost the baby-- and didn't want Ryan to come home. Neat trick: it was a lie. And she's doing it to give Ryan "permission" to leave her.

I think it was a tad out of character for Ryan to agree over the phone not to return to his girlfriend who had just lost a baby. I mean, when a woman loses a baby and tells you that you don't need to come and comfort her, who's fool enough to listen to that? Certainly not Ryan, who's a king fixer, always trying to make everyone else feel better and to do the right thing.

But, of course we know Ryan's not going to stay in Chino (wherever the hell that's supposed to be), he's a core character, and the show takes place in wealthy Orange County. So we'll forgive the plot twist for being a tad out of character, for it is a clever twist, and we'll go with it.

/* END SPOILER */

So my job is to make the implausible things either plausible, or so much fun that no one really minds they're implausible.

The audience will also tolerate implausible things if you address them. In Alien, the obvious safe thing to do with Kane once he's brought back with a Face-Hugger on his face is, put him in hibernation. Rather than avoid this plothole, Shusett and O'Bannon have Parker shouting "Why don't you freeze him???" But no one listens to him.

The filmmakers have addressed the plothole without really filling it. After all, why doesn't anyone listen to Parker? But then there'd be no movie. So we'll just take on faith that Parker's advice goes unheeded the way lots of good advice goes unheeded in the real world, e.g. "Don't get involved in a land war in Asia."

Right now, in Unseen I have one cop fail to help Rebecca and her friends -- refuse to listen to their improbable story. In real life she and her friends would probably keep asking around until they found an adult who was willing to help. But who wants to see that? And anyway we don't really want Rebecca to get adult help, because then she can't be the hero.

When you have a plothole that you really can't fill -- they have to get the alien on the ship, Rebecca can't get adult help -- then you have to address the plothole -- then once it's addressed, I believe the audience will tolerate the implausible so long as it is more fun than the plausible.

1 Comments:

"Right now, in Unseen I have one cop fail to help Rebecca and her friends -- refuse to listen to their improbable story. In real life she and her friends would probably keep asking around until they found an adult who was willing to help."

So instead, have the cop listen to their improbable story and demonstrate to them that it's impossible to believe or prove. If he convinces them that NO-ONE will believe them, then the plothole is filled. Of course, Rebecca needs to articulate that with a line filled with despair like "OMG, he's right -- nobody's going to believe us. So nobody will help us. We're on our own."

Once they are convinced that no-one will believe them, they are no longer motivated to ask for help.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:03 PM  

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