The audience doesn't know, but they know. That's because reality is shaped weird.
When I'm working on a fictional story, especially in speculative fiction, for a game or a tv show or a movie, there is often pressure to make the story simpler, more streamlined, more concise, more symmetrical. When I say, "Okay, but that doesn't make any sense," or "that's not how that works," or "I don't think he would do that," or "that sort of violates the laws of physics, doesn't it?" I get the response, "Alex, it's a gaaaaaaaame!"
Or, "... moooovie!" Or "teevee show!"
Writers generally care more about the reality the characters are living in than, say, directors, who want everything to look cool, or level designers, who want the player to be able to do cool stuff.
But here's why those arguments are sometimes worth having: reality is shaped weird. Most real things are not that simple, streamlined, concise or symmetrical.
So when we come upon a story that is too simple, too symmetrical, we are not sucked in as much as we are by a story that has a few weirdnesses. The latter feels more like reality.
That's how the audience doesn't know, but they know. If you have too many characters doing things because it simplifies the story, or that violate the internal rules of the universe that you have set up, or (in a naturalistic setting) that violate the rules of physics and biology, the audience may not know exactly what you've done wrong. But they will sense that the shape of your story is the shape of a made-up story, not a real one.
If you have the occasional character taking the story on a detour because dammit that's who they are, the audience feels more like they're in reality.
And that increases engagement, with that character, and with the story in general.
Labels: Crafty Screenwriting, writing games