You know what really grinds my gears? When otherwise competent characters do stupid things “Because The Plot Demands It.” Now, doing things “Because The Plot Demands It,” is often the wrong way to go on a number of levels, but let’s just focus with this one, because it came to the forefront of my mind earlier in the week when my little girl started watching My Little Pony again.
Ok, I like My Little Pony. It’s a lot of fun and we all have fun watching it. But that first season. Geeze…it’s nice and all, but it’s way overrated. Some of the writing is so weak in that season, you’d think they hired young kids to actually write the show. Let’s start with the beginning, and what I think is one of the more egregious examples of characters doing stupid things “Because The Plot Demands It.” Also spoilers. Hey, if Aerith in FF7 can still be counted as a spoiler, then this is too.
First episode of MLP. We’re introduced to Twilight, who is researching the legend of Nightmare Moon. Worried, she sends word to Princess Celestia, who responds “Stop reading those dusty old books and make some friends.”
Now, the reveal that friendship is the deciding factor in the thing is a big deal. But the fact Celestia hides anything from Twilight, especially considering what we learn about her in future episodes, is well, stupid.
It’s just lazy writing, in my opinion. Sure, this is a kid’s show, but how often have we seen this creep into our fiction, especially movies and novels? More recently, my wife read a fantasy book where the protag gets stabbed by some sort of plant and the thorn burrows itself in his flesh on its own power. What does our brave protag do? Why, go to a party or some sort of gathering. Why would something like that even be worrisome in a world that flaunts magic and wizards? The point was that the thorn had to make protag fall unconscious just before a really big reveal. And the writer thought the best way to do that was to defy all human logic and have a dude pretty much ignoring a rather serious injury “Because The Plot Demanded It.”
I guess I could rename this post “Don’t be a lazy ass writer,” which I might just do. in fact, I just did. Not only making characters stupid, there are a number of cop-outs may writers do. I struggle to make sure nothing like this happens in my works, but I’m not gonna say it doesn’t happen, because it probably has.
So, how can a writer fix this? Well, Princess Celestia can actually act like a competent ruler. Do that and the story remains in tact, save for the “big” reveal that Celestia knew it all along, but for some reason, didn’t tell her most prized student because, say it with me “The Plot Demanded It.” But that reveal is way too forced and again, stupid, so it doesn’t matter if we lose it.
For the fantasy book? I’m thinking an assassin could’ve shot the dude with a poison that made him fall unconscious and nearly die at exactly the right time. He’s already fighting against an evil king, so it’s plausible. But, come on, guys! Let’s work together and put some thought into our plot lines. Never, never, never sacrifice characterization for plot. If you have to force your characters to do something stupid or otherwise behave in a very specific way to achieve what you want in the plot, then it’s probably not a good plot idea in the first place, no matter how great it seemed in your mind. Find another way to do it or scrap it all together. It’s tough, especially if it’s an awesome plot point. But you should see the “plot device scrapyard” I have left over after writing three books in the Godspeed saga. Maybe they can be recycled. Maybe not. But don’t burden the reader with weak story telling. And I’ll see you guys later.