Saturday, September 09, 2006

Out of Body Experience


The incongruous action.
An essayist over at Romancing the Blog mentioned she was seriously annoyed with Revenge of the Sith because Anakin's killing of some young Jedis destroyed her suspension of disbelief.
It was, she felt, out of character.
Not sure myself that it is.
But I wonder how this sort of disconnect should be categorized in the Lesser Book of Writing Errors.
A psychological alien arriving in Chapter 12?
A character version of the deux ex machina?
Just bad plotting or careless character development?
It probably doesn't matter just what this incompatibility in character development is named if it causes a general WTF.
Certainly, a first person narrator could usually get away with a sudden behavioral anomaly by announcing "I have no idea where that supremely stupid/brave/murderous impulse came from."
Third doesn't have quite the same leaway. An apparent character contradiction may niggle, frustrate and cause a book-meet-wall.
Characters are expected to grow, change or reveal themselves as a narrative progresses. If these changes are announced by dramatic action, there should be some previous hint/indicator that he/she is drifting in that direction.
I'm a bit concerned that my novel may be in violation of the reasonable development rule as seen by straight-line thinkers.
Damie dices a villain in the twelfth century.
Later, she does not kill an equally dangerous adversary in the twenty-first.
Naturally, I believe the psychology is teneable, but we shall see. Her capacity to kill may obscure the question.

Have you come across peculiar instances of irreconcilable action that bugged your sense of fitness?

25 comments:

Kirsten said...

I mentioned this one in a blog post, but [spoiler alert] in Cold Mountain, Inman survives numerous bloody Civil War battles, a horrific neck wound, months on foot as a deserter, starving & dodging the Home Guard and other nefarious characters, and then within hours of getting home & enjoying a one-night stand with his lover -- he's offed. Oh, and that one-night stand just happens to get her pregnant. I enjoyed the novel but with that resolution it was suddenly Frazier I was paying attention to, not the characters . . .

Bernita said...

The manipulated Malign Fate interjection.
Seems to be associated. What I would call the RSS feed - Really Stupid Scene.

MissWrite said...

A lot is said about ole Deux, but I think he's an overworked vice. People 'see' him when he isn't really there.

Kirsten, boy I know what you mean, and yet, it could happen. It just seemed a bit cruel to me, lol... but then again, life sucks, and is ironically cruel at times.

A true 'Deux' is when something happens that wasn't really even part of the story.

Using Cold Mountain here as a scapegoat for a second. Good ole Inman survives civil war battles, months on foot, yadda yadda yadda only to be killed by a raging bull in a rodea...wait, dude never road any rodeos through the whole movie, now a crazy bull and lazy clowns gets him killed?

Too often in movies, and even book (because as wonderful as they are, and as more indepth as they are, they can't truly encompase the spans of time they attempt to command) things happen that might appear sped up, or warped, or even downright stupid.

A little scene from my house (happens often during the course of watching a movie, no matter which one) -- Son: Why didn't that idiot just flush his id's down the toilet instead of ripping it all up and throwing it in there and leaving? Me: Cause then there wouldn't be a movie.


As for the Romance blog's poster, I can't say I agree that Anakin's behavior in killing the kids (where he was at that point in the movie)was any kind of out of character...so there again, a matter of opinion. She thought so, I don't. Not really a 'Deux' just a conflict of opinion.

As for your character, Bernita-you know her best. If her actions truly make sense to 'her' at the time in place of the story...then it is right. If she's just taking the easy way out, then you have a problem. LOL

Robyn said...

Don't get me freaking started on comb-challenged Anakin Skywalker. To change from angry young hero to villain takes finesse; to change from angry young hero to chopping up kids villain takes genius. And IMO Lucas just didn't do the job.

I read one historical book where the heroine was down on men because she'd been pinched, groped, threatened, etc., for two or three years. She hated having to defend herself when walking down the street, and she carried a small pistol. She was portrayed as a tough, no-nonsense woman. Later, an old lecher has forced himself on a 15-yr-old girl. The town leaders (including the hero) strap him to a post and give him 50 lashes. The hates-men-because-they're-sexual-predators-gun-toting female is appalled. This isn't feudal England, she rages. You have to call in the authorities!

A total WTH moment for me. As portrayed in the first 2/3 of the book, this girl would have gone Lorena Bobbitt on him. Even if such an action would have been barbaric to some minds, it would have been much more believable. Horrible plot point to provide angst for the lead couple.

Bernita said...

I wouldn't think so either, Tami, we had previous clues that he not not exactly mentally stable.
So I would be inclined to a deja vu - oh, of course reaction.
It is irritating in the case of the Cold Mountain novel to see the author's manipulation of the plot so clearly.
I don't have a problem with Damie's psychological framework, but I can see where some readers might have, which is a ticker to assess the scenes very carefully.

Bernita said...

That is a perfect illustration, Robyn!

Dennie McDonald said...

Anikin was a "Oh crap we have to figure out a way to kill off ALL the jedi" none of that was elluded to in 4, 5 or 6 - that Anikin had done the killing - just that they were all gone.

I am sure that I have read something like that but I am drawing a blank now -

Bernita said...

May be a standard pit-fall in series writing, Dennie, especially when producing prequels.

EA Monroe said...

*Cause then there wouldn't be a movie.* -- I hear you on that, Miss Write! The same stuff happens in the Soaps, too. Whenever I'm "polishing" the wips I try to put myself in the reader's mind and question why I wrote a certain scene, character, plot the way I did, especially if I could have written it differently.

I don't know if the "average" reading public is as discerning as writers are, because some of the books I've read makes me wonder why/how they were ever published.

I have a hard time turning off the "mental" editor when I'm reading -- my brain is too busy rewriting the sentences. It only takes one little cutsie author intrusion/manipulation to shake me out of the story.

Rick said...

Never saw the examples given above, but a diabolus ex machina in the movie "Green Card" annoyed the hell out of me. Gerard Depardieu's fake marriage to Andi McDowell is exposed by an immigration agent when he can't identify the facial cream she uses.

I have been married for nearly 25 years, and I have only the vaguest notion of what is in all those little bottles and jars in the bathroom. Nor do I care. Nor do I believe that even Frenchmen care. So my willing suspension of disbelief was abruptly un-suspended.

In this case, the movie was doubtless aimed at women, to whom beauty products are second nature, and who perhaps haven't internalized how little attention men pay to them.

Hint to you romance writers: We think the women in our lives would be gorgeous anyway, and so regard the creams and lotions as a mere harmless indulgence.

Bernita said...

You're a harsh mistress, EA!

Rick, exactly.
Guys may notice if they smell good, other than that...
A very good example of the sort of thing I was driving at.

Cathy Writes Romance said...

None that I can recall, Bernita. I'm sure there are some, however.

Thank you for your feedback on my latest chapter edit.

Bernita said...

Nice that you have begun blogging, Cathy.

Rick said...

Bernita - commenting belatedly on Damie's seemingly-inconsistant responses. I don't know the exact context, or how you handle it, but it seems plausible enough to me.

For Damie the 12th century is an alien world, where normal rules and expectations don't apply - not just in the abstract, but in a very direct way, since every facet of daily life is entirely different. Every day she does things she never dreamed of doing in normal life. It's like being dropped in the jungle, but more so.

Once she's back in the present, the rules apply again, including that respectable professional women don't generally kill people. They call the police, or something. (I'm assuming that she herself is not in direct personal danger; if she is, her demonstrated ability to kill in self-defense does become a complicating factor.)

The one other complicating factor that I can see is that Damie, as I recall, has worked on the fringes of law enforcement for some time. So the world of direct violence isn't as remote to her as to most women of her background.

December Quinn said...

Thank you, Rick! That has always bugged me! And when they catch him at it he admits everything, instead of saying something like, "She's always asking me to get more and I never remember what it's called! Ha ha!" or something.

The only example of character inconsistency I can think of was Hannibal which everyone but my husband and me seemed to think was inconsistent in the ending. We thought it made perfect sense.

Bernita said...

THank you, Rick!
That is exactly the way I rationalize it.
In fact, she does think that she could have killed him,but did not.
Perhaps the only really questionable psychology that a reader might choke on is the speed with which she recognizes and adjusts to the difference in survival modes.

Rick said...

Bernita - again, not knowing actual context, but it wouldn't take long to feel like she's back in the normal world - just seeing normal people, normally dressed, cars, modern buildings, etc.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm not a Star Wars fan *gasp* so I can't relate to this specific problem. but I have read novels that made me hurl them across the room because something totally, outside the realm of possibility happens.

Oh, Kirsten hate to be the bearer of bad news but that almost same situation happened here recently to a local kid coming back from Iraq...survived inumerable bombings and woundings over there and the third day he was home, got hit by a car...in a WalMart parking lot, no less...died, and his wife just found out she's pregnant....fact is always stranger than fiction!

Candice Gilmer said...

I cna only recall one book that I had that kind of reaction to -- ALl I remember is that it was a VC Andrews book, and that there was something about a twin that "switched lives' wiht her sister so she could have her sister's husband, or some such. Anyway, there was a trial in the end, and the twin was trying to get custody of her child, but since she was pretending to be the other sister, the judge wouldn't let her have it, or some such...

Anyway, that book LITERALLY went flying across the room. But other than that, I don't particularly remember anything that got me that upset in a story.

Bernita said...

My reasoning, too, Rick, an almost automatic adjustment.

I guess the lesson is, Bonnie, that fiction must be logical.

Candice...arrugh!

M.E Ellis said...

You could get away with that, as rules when the first killing occurs are laxer than they are in the 21st century.

;o)

M.E Ellis said...

I meant laws not rules.

*Thunks head on desk*

:o)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Michelle. I certainly hope so.

Ballpoint Wren said...

That was a good discussion, Bernita, thanks for pointing us to it. I hadn't visited RTB in a long time.

For me, my suspension of disbelief was ruined before Annakin killed the lil' Jedikins. I gave up on it in the first movie of the Annakin trilogy, when Liam Neeson tested Annakin's blood and determined him to be swarming with midichlorians, and suddenly the Force went from "an energy field created by all living things" binding the galaxy together, to something you're either born with or not.

That really ticked me off!

I was loving V for Vendetta until the great revelation (involving the torture of a main character) and I was immediately disgusted. I had been tricked!

Bernita said...

Yes, Bonnie, that blood testing for the Force bothered me at the time.