1. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Can I leave this part ambiguous?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rick n Morty, Oct 14, 2016.

    I'm gonna talk about this idea I came up recently, which I talked about here. It's a deconstruction of the "cartoon character in the real world" trope seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and other similar works.

    My current idea is that this animator creates a cartoon character during the 50's and tries to pitch it to a studio, which turns it down. So the animator makes a comic strip about the CC instead, which lasts until the 60's. After the strip ends, the CC comes to life to cheer up the depressed cartoonist. Eventually the cartoonist grows old and dies while the CC stays young and alive, and this is what helps kickstart the CC's emotional crisis.

    So, what I'm having a problem with is how the CC is brought to life. I want to leave it ambiguous for a few reasons.

    1: Real life doesn't always provide the answers.
    2: That's not what the story is about. It's about the CC's emotional crisis, not how he was brought to life.
    3: Every explanation I use will just raise more questions. (See "Voodoo Shark" on TV Tropes.)
    4: None of the characters in-universe know how he was brought to life, so why should the audience?

    But I just know people are gonna complain about me leaving it ambiguous how he was brought to life, so I'm gonna bring up examples from fiction where the plot point works better when it's not explained.

    • Star Wars: In the original trilogy, the force was just a vague magical thing that audiences accepted. In the prequel trilogy, it was infamously revealed to be the result of microbes in the Jedi's bloodstream, which ruined the franchise for many.
    • Calvin and Hobbes: Is Hobbes a real tiger, or just a figment of Calvin's imagination? The answer is neither. In Bill Watterson's own words, "the strip is more about the subjective nature of reality than dolls coming to life". Hobbes's reality was never focused on, and the strip was all the more better for it. There's also the Noodle Incident and Calvin's bedtime story Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, which Bill left both ambiguous because he thought it would be funnier in the reader's head.
    • Toy Story: What magical force brings the toys to life? Who cares? That's not what the franchise is about.
    • Frozen: A lot of people complain about how the origin of Elsa's powers were never brought up, but it doesn't bother me for the same reasons mentioned above. (No one in-universe knows, and that's not what the story is about.) They actually were originally going to reveal it in an opening prologue, but it ended up being boring and expositional, so they removed it. Maybe they can talk about it in the sequel.

    So, would it be the end of the world if I left how the CC came to life ambiguous for the reasons mentioned above?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    For the story you're contemplating, I don't see any reason to feel compelled to explain how the character comes to life. That's part of the underlying premise the reader accepts when they enter into the story.
     
  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem with your examples is that your using cartoons and fictional worlds. The force wasn't questioned in Star Wars because it was a completely different universe. It is a fantasy, and magic is often accepted as normal in fantasies. And the cartoons are.. well, cartoons. No one expects them to be realistic.

    If you're going to write a story about a cartoon coming to life in the real world, it needs an explanation. It doesn't have to be a thorough explanation or even a realistic one. But it needs to be there.

    Look at Ted (the movie). John wished his teddy bear would come to life, which coincided with a shooting star, and it did. That's all the explanation needed. We don't know how it worked, but it did. That's it.

    Look at Enchanted. Cartoon Giselle fell through a well into real life New York. We don't know why there was a portal to NY. We don't know how it got there. But it's there, it happened, and that's it.

    So you don't have to go into explicit detail. But you need to say something. It could be as simple as, depressed cartoonist doesn't want the strip to end so he wishes the cartoon could live on forever. Voila, cartoon comes alive. Simple as that. But if the cartoon just jumps off the page with zero reason why, I'd put the book down immediately.
     
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  4. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Then I guess a simple explanation like what you said would be fine.
     
  5. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    I agree with @Lea`Brooks that some reason, however cliche or simplistic, should be given

    Star Wars was a space opera fantasy, so force "magic" is easily accepted as part of that universe

    Toy Story, it's not that the toys come to life but that they were always alive & merely play inanimate/unconscious for the benefit of the children. This was very easily demonstrated as the premise throughout he stories, and I as a child accepted it & often believed it to be corresponding real world (that my toys were also suddenly dropping down & "playing dead" whenever I came back to the room until I left again--which explained why some weren't where I remembered leaving them)

    Frozen is the same as Star Wars--fantasy "once upon a time" story where there is literally two options generally: born with it or cursed, of which they did actually address in a very direct question by the troll. The beauty of magic is that it isn't "science" in that it doesn't necessitate any further explanation or complex understanding. Mutant powers need to be explained by iffy science, but "it's magic" is answer in & of itself.

    With cartoons suddenly coming to life, there needs to be something. Are cartoons real always (like Who Framed Roger Rabbit who were segregated from noncartoons or Space Jam where they live in an animated world somewhere in the center of the earth)? Is this some weird phenomena where the creation comes to life, unusual but not the only instance? Is this a singular event that has never before happened nor can ever be replicated again?

    No matter what, there should be some explanation however vague. You don't have to dwell on it for any length, just provide it in some little way
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Those things proposed aren't really "explanations." If the question is whether it can be left ambiguous (or, more accurately, vague), then saying that there was a shooting star, or that seemingly inanimate toys were always alive, or that someone fell through a well into another world isn't an explanation. It remains entirely vague - how and why does the shooting star matter; how and why were the toys always alive; how and why does falling through a well bring a cartoon into another world, &c. If that's all you're doing (which I think is perfectly fine), you haven't explained anything.
     
  7. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    Those quite frankly are explanations (but again, vague ones)

    Why are the toys suddenly alive? They aren't suddenly alive, they always are. It doesn't go into detail at any length--which is what you are asking for which is "how" they are alive. But that's like asking me where elves come from in fantasy novels--not all novels have to go Silmarillion to explain the origin of elves to accept the premise that elves live in a fantasy world. If you present that in this world there are elves, we are okay that there are elves. What doesn't sit well is blindly accepting why there is simply one elf in our everyday world--some reason should be given, even if it's vague. But it does need addressing, however casually

    Same with the falling through a magic well that connects worlds--it's an explanation, but it isn't going into a deep one of "how" there happens to be a magical well and "how" the magic well itself works.

    There should be some sort of addressing of "why" a cartoon character exists in the real world (however short or lazy or cliche or simplistic) even if there isn't an in depth analysis & explanation of "how" it came to exist

    The way the initial post presented it was that leaving it "ambiguous" was the same as not addressing it at all--but we were just pointing out that "magic" in fantasy worlds are reasons enough for magical issues. Witch/enchantress being born with powers or being cursed with them is itself an explanation, and doesn't have to be explained beyond.

    While magic is a vague & ambiguous reason, you can't totally skip the whole "it's magic" explanation

    It can be ambiguous or uncertain or unpolished or whathaveyou--but it can't just go straight into "a cartoon character exists in the real world" without some attempt at "they all co-exist with us real people in the real world" or "he happened by the magic of a shooting star" or just something

    Vague explanation is perfectly fine--but some explanation is necessary.

    So we're saying "yes, ambiguous works" but this particular setup presented doesn't follow the same premise as the initial examples listed and we addressed the inherent problems in thinking it can be handled the same way those were.
     
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  8. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Okay, I get it now. A simple explanation (like the cartoonist made a wish on a star or something) will do, and I don't need to go into any more detail than that.
     
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  9. Correl Elnream
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    Correl Elnream Member

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    Perhaps the animator could be drawing the CC for the very last time. His desperate wish that the CC could live forever and tears falling onto the drawing brings the CC to life. Then after the animator dies, the CC discovers the animator wished that the CC could live forever and only an animator's tears can reverse the CC's immortality. Just an idea :)
     
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  10. bonijean2
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    bonijean2 Contributing Member Supporter

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    Or perhaps there is a third party involved such as the animators wife who is very sad upon his passing and wishes his creative spirit won't die. Suddenly, the room fills with a delightful display of colorful dancing bubbles or something and the tiny figure of CC comes to life off the pages of the cartoon strip. It would be a comfort to her that CC comes to life and when he experiences anxiety later on for being a real character she can offer guidance and perhaps be a comfort to him.
     
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  11. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't honestly think you need any reason, vague or otherwise. Open your story with something like:

    On an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, Captain Magnus came to life. Slowly, tentatively - unused as he was to the third dimension - he pulled himself out of the comic book's frame and staggered across the desk, toward where Dan was once again slumped over a stack of crossed-out drafts, the whisky still seeping from his pores.

    Do that, and you've immediately set the tone of the story as one in which this kind of thing can happen. You're not breaking any suspension of disbelief because you never gave disbelief any time to suspend itself.

    Personally, I'd far prefer something like that to an explanation-that-isn't like a shooting star.
     
  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that would drive me insane. I would be waiting for an explanation as to why this happened for the entire book. And if I didn't get one, I'd be severely disappointed.
     
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  13. TheWriteWitch
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    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

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    I think it depends on where your story begins? At what point does the reader come in? If it is when the cartoonist is still alive, then I don't think you need an explanation. If it is when the cartoonist has already died, then the CC is already in emotional crisis and I would think that crisis has a lot to do with its origins?

    Also, the 'being a cartoon character' aspect is only really important when the CC interacts with other characters. If they are comfortable with the CC being alive, then there must have been some sort of explanation or moment when those characters decided it didn't matter. You could just show one moment when a true skeptic accepted the existence of a living, breathing cartoon character and leave it at that? You can also offer multiple theories that are subsequently dismissed, leaving the reader to either choose the most likely explanation or be content with not-knowing.

    You're right to think more about the effect it has on the reader because you already have the plot laid out. Do you want your readers to wonder (and will that distract them?) or do you want them to know?
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Basically, this.
     
  15. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You should probably never read my stories :D

    Opinions will always be diverse with this kind of thing. I'd react to the shooting star much the same way - in an otherwise grounded book, you're expecting me to believe a lump of space rock brought a cartoon character to life? I find that kind of hand-wave insulting. It's like the author's saying "I know my story doesn't really make sense but LOOK MAGIC METEOR!"

    Point is, I think the OP isn't going to cause himself any particular problems by not explaining the event. History's treated The Metamorphosis pretty kindly despite Gregor's transformation just happening, and doing all kinds of weird shit with no particular explanation won Garcia Marquez a Nobel prize.
     

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