Hot answers tagged

74

I simply let my character survive a wound that he shouldn't have survived, and then left a note at the bottom about what would have really happened. As a reader, this would break my immersion and ruin the story, everything after that is BS, I know it, the author knows it, and did it anyway. Change the plot point. Change the injury to something crippling ...


59

No, they are not all of them. This is a common game, there are many books claiming there are 3 plots, 7 plots, 12 plots, 21 plots, 23 plots, whatever. You could say there is only one plot: Character Has A Problem. Overcoming the Monster. The monster is the problem. Rags to Riches. Poverty, disrespect, deprivation is the problem. The Quest. Finding the ...


47

The twin tropes you are referring to are Deus ex Machina and Diabolus es Machina. In both cases an event comes out of nowhere, not foreshadowed, to effect a drastic change. Both tropes are frowned upon. For example, Marion Dane Bauer in her book on writing, would say to her writing students "If you end your story by having your main character get hit by a ...


37

TLDR - Readers guessing your plot twist doesn't have to mean it's ruined, there are ways to make it satisfying linksassin's answer is good, but I'll offer an alternate idea : Anticipated plot twists can work if they're executed well Take the famous Star Wars example. The twist that Darth Vader is Luke's father isn't a twist for present day first-time ...


34

I'm fond of the following quote from Neil Gaiman: Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. You're the cook, they're the diner. If they don't like the taste of the omelet, you can't tell them ...


32

Sometimes writers make mistakes. Sometimes they didn't know something. Sometimes they chose to ignore a fact because it got in the way of their story. This is so common, TV tropes has a whole family of tropes related to the phenomenon. Of particular interest to you would be Artistic License - Medicine with all its subtropes, and Critical Research Failure. ...


32

The archetypes are a descriptive framework created by scholars in order to describe stories. Someone had a theory, says every story fits into one of those archetypes. Any story you give them, they will fit it into one of those archetypes, even if it squeaks a little. For my part, there are stories I struggle to fit into this framework. The Jungle Book, for ...


22

Many authors do include that kind of information outside of the story itself. Typically it goes in a foreword or afterword, which are essays the author finds useful to include with the story that can contain almost anything, including the acknowledgements section (usually separate). These are directed to the reader, often in a conversational tone. I imagine ...


18

In Game of Thrones there were two sets of stakes: the magical Night King, and the mundane power struggle for the Iron Throne. The characters reasonably decided they had to deal with the magical, more immediately existential threat before handling the mundane one. Honestly I agree with you, and I also think that visual stories in general are escalating the ...


18

The most important rule is to match the stakes with the promises you've made to the reader You most emphatically do not have to constantly raise the stakes to make a compelling story. As your instincts suggest, switching to more personal stakes can create the same amount of reader investment as higher stakes would have. For example, Star Wars opened ...


18

The "stupid action" of your character needs to line up with the traits that character usually shows. It cannot be a random action taken out of the blue - that would, as @Amadeus points out, break the immersion. What do I mean by "lines up with the character's usual traits"? Let me give you some examples. Jim Butcher, Dresden Files: a wizard's go-to ...


16

"I simply let my character survive a wound that he shouldn't have survived" Real people do this all the time, one of my favourites was a guy in Alaska who accidentally severed his own jugular vein with a chainsaw and then proceeded to walk 20 odd miles to the nearest town for help. He should have been unconscious almost instantly and died a few moments ...


16

In my opinion, you've already done a lot of the hard work. Creating the characters and well-constructed world-building leaves you open to follow endless avenues of plot. This is why fan-fiction is so popular because once you have the characters and the world, the plot can start writing itself. That said, as @JonStonecash has said, finishing the first draft ...


14

To your main question, no, a plot twist is only effective and enjoyable if it is not obvious to the reader, requiring careful observation to anticipate the reveal and otherwise being quite a surprising turn of events. There is some discussion here of instances where a spoiler has not ruined the enjoyment of the plot twist, but I think that's different. Those ...


14

A really good example of this is The Martian, where the key event for Watney being stranded on Mars is a violent storm which damages equipment, injures Watney and threatens the lander. Andy Weir was perfectly aware that Mars does not in fact have winds which would match the novel's events - whilst winds on Mars can be extremely fast, the thin atmosphere ...


14

I think the problem here (and the reason the OP feels it "tastes artificial") is too much coincidence: First, we have deer in the forest, but for some unexplained reason the dragon cannot find a single one, so he steals a sheep, and is so unlucky or careless doing it that he is seen by a shepherd. The fact that the deer are there and he can't find any ...


13

I've read a few books that had an "afterword" section at the end, where the author would address the reader directly to talk about the work. I know Anthony Horowitz did this with the Alex Rider series; one book had him list his top 10 favourite deaths across the whole series, and I think another had him discuss his decision to have Scorpia end with So you ...


13

I would say anything that seems to come out of nowhere is unrealistic fiction, unless the fact that it comes out of nowhere is fairly concealed. For example, I can make my protagonist's father a college professor, and her mother an MBA business manager, and because of that she knows some stuff critical to the plot about both academia and business that the ...


13

Sometimes characters surprise you. And that's okay. You're absolutely right to worry about a deus ex machina situation where a solution comes out of the blue with no rhyme or reason. This is the sort of thing that annoys readers, and for good reason. But this is a character whose past is not well known. She didn't grow up in the same culture as the rest ...


11

My question is which variation would be more attractive to agents, publishers, and the reading public? That is, which variations would sell best? Which is the more attractive drink: chardonnay, or cherry flavored Coca-Cola? You described three wildly different books. Books two and three are only superficially similar; removing the sex doesn't turn an ...


11

First of all, there are only so many plots. It is unlikely that you will come up with a new heretofore unseen plot. It is not the newness of the plot but the telling of the tale that is important. Second, I think that your priorities are askew. Your first priority should be to finish your first draft. Then, and only then, should you worry about the issues ...


10

Balance is key There is a very delicate balance between a plot twist that feels contrived and unrealistic and one that the reader can see coming from a mile away. There is no exact correct answer to this, and a lot of it comes down to execution rather than one being strictly better than the other. Personally as a reader I hate nothing more than knowing what ...


10

I believe you start with both of them together. A young warrior overthrows an oppressive regime. A fae outcast learns new magic to build the world anew. A criminal drug addict seeks redemption by turning his life to saving others. ^^ If you can identify a character goal and what your characters will do to reach it, then start writing in the 'normal ...


9

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. (Mark Twain, allegedly) If your licence (or licences) from the truth really troubles your conscience, leave your explanation/justification for a note at the end of the novel. This way you won't break the flow for the reader, and you'll leave your explanation for a time (at the end of the novel) when the ...


9

Answer #1 is a comment/question: Can you ask them the sorts of books/stories they'd each recommend to help you calibrate your extremity? that might be the sort of info that can point you in the direction you should go, because it may tell you which reader is naturally in tune with your intent. Answer #2: I think your experience is common. Science ...


9

If you are talking about chapters which have some significant plot development but the focus of the chapter is on the characters' interaction, that's perfectly okay. However, if the the advancement is just that the characters are moving toward a particular location, I have always found this is not a good idea. My main critiquing group refers to this (not ...


9

You can't do just "dumb." You can write a mentally impaired character, like Lenny in "Of Mice and Men," that does dumb things that cause complications out of an inability to understand. Stephen King has a mentally impaired character (Tom Cullen) in "The Stand" and turns that mental impairment into a strategic asset (the bad guy cannot read his mind). ...


9

One option is to give your characters issues with each other that they have to figure out. In other words, give them interpersonal subplots. Don’t limit the conflict in your story to the main plot. If you want your prophet to struggle outside of the main action conflict maybe have him sometimes struggle to trust his god or see how he will come through ...


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