Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Much Are Your Readers Willing To Forgive?

Many years ago, a friend of mine and I used to watch movies together, and after the movie was over we’d go somewhere to eat. Then, for the next hour or so, our conversation would center on all the plot holes that had occurred in the movie. Since our tastes tended more toward “action” movies, there were usually plenty of plot holes to discuss. 

In general, I can tolerate a fair number of plot holes—assuming the movie was reasonably entertaining, and I can forgive some pretty outrageous coincidences if it helps keep the movie moving along. I suspect most viewers feel the same way, although individual tolerances may vary. Besides, gaping plot holes are what keep sites like Cinema Sins so popular. What bothers me, though, is when writers force characters to do something illogical in order to drive the story in the direction they want it to go.

Take the final Hunger Games movie, for example. (If you haven’t seen it yet, be aware there are spoilers coming!) Even though the characters know that Peeta has been brainwashed to kill Katniss, the commander decides to send him out along with Katniss on a mission together. It makes so little sense, the writers didn’t even bother coming up with a semi-plausible reason. All the writers cared about was making sure the two of them were together on the screen for extended periods of time. 

What really bothered me, however, was how the writers’ desire to get the “games” back into The Hunger Games led to a groan-worthy plot device. When the Capitol is faced with an advancing army of rebels, President Snow announces that instead of devoting government resources into reinforcing his army with weapons appropriate for the situation, he decides that he will concentrate their remaining energies into building ridiculously complicated traps randomly placed throughout the city.

Now you don’t have to be a military genius to know this is a comically bad idea. Pouring all your resources into immovable, sophisticated traps that would only be effective against small groups of rebels (which Katniss just happens to be a part of) spread out over an area the size of a city is blatant stupidity. But the writers wanted Katniss and friends to have to fight through more traps (like in the earlier movies) and hoped we’d be so fascinated with the traps we wouldn’t notice the ridiculousness of the situation.

Why am I writing about this today? Because I recently finished a scene that I was pretty happy with, at least at first, but which now is bothering me since I realize the bad guys probably wouldn’t have acted the way I had them act. So now I’m caught in a quandary. I really like the way the scene plays out now, but I’m either going to have to make some significant changes or hope that my readers don’t notice the bad guy’s stupidity. Neither option appeals to me, so I’ve decided to put off the decision until my crit group reads the chapter. It’ll be interesting to see if they spot the problem.

What do you do when you realize you’ve got a plot hole in your WIP?

ChemistKen


13 comments:

  1. I was working on a scene yesterday that would've led to plot holes. I had a character's mother arrive to trigger a reaction from another character. But then I got stuck on the fact that if the mother was there, then she probably would be able to provide information that I just didn't want to give yet. I tried it from three different angles before giving up and taking the mother out.

    With regards to the Hunger Games, my husband couldn't make it past the first movie. He pointed out that the Hunger Games wouldn't become a thing because the first time a child was killed, the people would've rebelled and someone would've taken out the president. We didn't get around to seeing the other movies after that. He started calling them STDs (silly-teenaged-dramas). :)

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    1. We watched all the Hunger Games movies, but that's because we were desperate to watch something. My wife loves popcorn and needs her fix.

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    3. Consider leaving it as is. I liked the Hunger Games. As for the critique group, everybody likes different authors. What I think of as the holy grail as writing, another person might think of as annoying. But your audience usually isn't a group of other writers. For me, I just need a good story, and I need to find a way to plug into it. Sometimes it takes a few tries. But I need to be entertained and enthralled way more than I need things to make perfect sense.

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  2. Well, in the book Peeta goes with them. I forget why, but I remember thinking "Why? He's still hostile toward Katniss." The books are just like the movies so blame the author (Suzanne Collins) for what you didn't like in the movie. It wasn't the scriptwriter(s) fault. There were a lot of things I didn't like in the book. Three deaths to be exact and the reasons why they happened. I still haven't forgiven her for them...so I guess that answers how much this reader is willing to forgive. ;)

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    1. I've heard that Suzanne was under a lot of pressure by her publisher to produce the third book ASAP. I guess that's what happens when you don't take your time.

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  3. Re-write!
    I don't know the plot of hunger games, but if there's a plot problem, the readers will find it. And if it's playing a what if game in your brain, then your brain is telling you to re-write.
    But it is fun to sit over a meal and pick apart a movie, isn't it. Gosh, I can't decide if I want readers to do that to my books or not - then again, if they've bought and read the story. More power to them. :)

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    1. It's usually more fun to do this with a movie because you view the whole thing in a short amount of time, which makes it easier to spot the problems later.

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  4. There are plot holes and then there is just stupid, lazy writing. The ones in the movie fall in the latter category.
    I'd say rewrite but let your writing group weigh in on it first.

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  5. This happens all the time for me. It's part of editing. Sometimes, they're huge and then I cry. Otherwise, I just rework things.

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  6. Backtrack a bit and see if there is another path that would lead to the results you want. I think you're right, readers are sharp and notice those things.

    You didn't spoil the film for me as I never want to watch it. Did not like the first one at all.

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  7. Erg, a difficult dilemma. You either need to find an adequate justification for the scene, alter the preceding events to the scene is justified ... or consider how much you really love that scene and whether or not you're willing to risk "suspension of disbelief."

    If the plot hole is small and something only you will think about, you can probably get away with it. But if it's a gaping hole ... you may need to kill a darling.

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  8. When I catch them, I do what I can to fill them in. It's best to assume your reader will notice and if they won't forgive you then you lost them for good. It's too high a price when so many authors are trying to build their readership. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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