1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Does Logic Matter?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by MilesTro, Nov 29, 2012.

    Do you believe a good story should always have logic to make sense to the reader? It seems logic doesn't really matter to good stories. This also applies to movies and video games.

    For example:

    Halo: Master Chief already knows how to use an alien weapon, which he never used before.

    Harry Potter: They have a time traveling device that can be used to defeat Voldermont. Instead it is used to make it to classes on time.

    War of the Worlds: The aliens planted their tripods in the Earth and waited until the humans grew.

    X-Men: If you have super powers and you are treated like crap by humans, why not just take over the world?

    Terminator: Skynet nukes the Earth, then somehow survives and builds super advance technology from ruins.

    Power Rangers: Monsters must be full of gasoline because they blow up when they die.

    Mercury Rising: Oh lets kill a retarted kid because he solved our secret code and won't tell anybody about it.

    Battlefield Earth: Ancient human war machines defeats the aliens, even if they didn't defeat the aliens before.

    Superman Returns: He lifts up an entire island of kryptonite, even if kryptonite is his weakness.

    Batman Begins: He said he is not an executor, but he blows up a building full of ninja.



    Would you care?
     
  2. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I care about plot logic, but in modern TV and film the producers don't seem to give two hoots about it. I don't know how well that transfers to literature though. We as writers have more freedom to be more thoughtful about such things. I personally care about logic and plausibility quite a lot, and even if I have to create fictional or fantastic things in my story universe, I try to make sure that there are rules for them and that they stay consistent with those rules. I won't just throw out rules for the sake of an action set piece.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There is a difference between the suspension of disbelief and a plot hole. And even then, some plot holes have been accepted, such as the big one in Citizen Kane. Just don't make plot holes too insulting to the audience and you should be alright.
     
  4. Sean
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    Sean New Member

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    In short: Logical inconsistencies are infuriating within plot. Characters with flawed logical reasoning are, if anything, realistic. Things that are unlikely are not therefore illogical and unlikely things happen in the vast majority of good and great stories.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Logic does matter and what happens does need to make sense to the reader. But it's internal logic that's most important -- you can start with a particular premise, even if faulty or disagreeable, and maintain a logical consistency to the progression of events or decisions. Usually people are willing to accept a particular premise, even if they might find it ridiculous or implausible, in order to get on with the story.

    I recently read a quote from H.H. Munro that reads "A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation." I think that is applicable here -- it can be easy to get bogged down in explanations of things that aren't ultimately important to the story, and readers are usually willing to accept it. That said, I'd be weary of making a premise or point in the story too far-fetched, due to the limits in suspension of disbelief.

    I also really like what Sean just said -- "things that are unlikely are not therefore illogical and unlikely things happen in the vast majority of good and great stories." I just read a thriller that I enjoyed very much, and had a discussion with my mother about it. A part of the plot involves a faked pregnancy and then later on a pregnancy resulting from the use of frozen sperm that the person had kept. Extremely unlikely to work? Yes. Theoretically possible, despite the infinitesimally low odds of success? Yes. But this plot point made for a great story. The fact that I thought, "that just would not work," was a little problematic, but I was willing to forgive it. But my mother was less forgiving, and the fact that we had a discussion about it shows the danger in this. I'm sure some people could not get past it and therefore probably hated the book. But plenty of other people thought it was simply fantastic and loved the story.

    So, some issues create more problems than others. But I think the most dangerous problem is a lack of logic in the choices the characters make, given their goals. (And, important to note, this does NOT mean that the characters necessarily make GOOD choices -- just that there is a certain logic to their actions, given their particular motivations and fears.) Overall, readers (and movie viewers) can forgive a lot. If everything had to be plausible, none of the James Bond movies could have been made.
     
  6. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Also, it depends a lot on the genre and intended audience. Some people are more forgiving, some will question everything. If the story is mostly for light entertainment, you'll get away with almost anything that's at least a bit plausible, especially if it makes the plot interesting, like chicagoliz says. If it is more complex and requires thinking on the reader's part, then of course they'll expect no less from the author.
     
  7. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Some very good comments by previous posters.

    I get very upset by lack of plausibility and logic. Characters need to make choices and take actions that would reasonably be motivated by their situations and knowledge.

    The characters' actions and other events need to have plausible results. Very few car crashes, no matter how violent, result in an immediate explosion. They can't consistently hit a target with a pistol at 200 yards because that's beyond the capability of our pistols. A revolver (vs pistol) doesn't fire more than 6 shots without the user pausing to reload. The Andromeda Strain can't have every individual virus or whatever it was suddenly "mutate" to the same new form, leaving none with the original properties. That isn't what mutation is. That's magic that is not consistent with the setting of the story.

    If a fantasy character uses magic, ok. Suspension of disbelief allows faster than light travel or artificial gravity in SF stories, no problem. But the physics of everyday life have to be right. No aerodynamics (swooping turns by the fighter craft) or sound transmission (hear the explosions) in the vacuum of space. Conservation of momentum is required when moving in a weightless environment.

    If a book or movie bends these rules too far, I give up on it.
     
  8. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I really like what you posted.

    I believe it does depend on the genre. If your book or movie is a flat out comedy, logic doesn't have to apply because its purpose is to make the audience laugh. For example, there is no logic in the movie, Rubber, because it is all about no reason.

    Cartoons don't need logic either. Children don't understand logic yet, which I guess is why most cartoons don't make sense, unless the cartoon is about education. If it is Spongebod SquarePants, there is no logic. Ben 10 Alien Force, some are logic, and some are illogical. I am sure humans can't have sex with aliens and produce a hybrid alien kid with super powers. Space Chimps, how the hell aliens can understand monkeys and speak english to them? Who cares, its a kid movie!

    Anime is like a hybrid of cartoons and realstic cartoons. It seems most of the typical shonen are illogical, but they have their own physic. For example, in One Piece, everythhing is illogical. The only thing that is logical in One Piece are the characters' motive. If the anime takes place in reality, then it would be completely logical. But if it is Yu-Gi-Oh, no logic. Why play a freaking card game when you can just punch the bad guy in the face? It's a kid show, who cares!

    I can think of a lot of illogical stuff in movies, cartoons, and comic books. But it seems to be hard to find illogical things in books; except Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Twilight.
     
  9. Webster
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    Webster Senior Member

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    There's so little logic in 'real life', in our behaviour as a species. It begs the question: Why do we expect it of art?
     
  10. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Liz, as usual, catches the important point: internal logic. If it makes sense on its own terms, enough to keep the story moving, it's cool.
     
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  11. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    If there is logic in a comedy movie, then how would it be funny?
     
  12. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I find very often that the comedy I find funny comes from absurdity in real life. I particularly like satirical TV and radio programmes, rather than directly written comedy like sit-coms. There are, though, exceptions to every rule, and as always it has to be remembered that comedy, like music, is very much a matter of taste.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The key - make your viewer/reader care so much about the goal of the characters' mission that they cease to care how the characters actually achieve said mission.
     
  14. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    So they wouldn't care how the character kills a villain? For example, in the anime, Samurai Girl Real Bout High School, Ryoko Mitsurugi cut a giant monster crab in half with a wooden sword? How sharp is a wooden sword? That crab's armor must be really weak. Illogical.

    Maybe I could make a story about a donkey who lost his family and travels around the world to find another family to care about.
     
  15. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand what inconsistency you see between the existence of logic and the comedic quality. Many comedies are funny precisely because of the logically-following events occurring after a particular event. Again, the premise might be ridiculous or unlikely, but what follows is usually logical, and sometimes the comedy stems from what the viewer (or reader of a book) sees as the logical consequences of those events.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not certain exactly what you're asking at this point. There is an important difference between logical and realistic. Something can be logical, but not realistic. In your example, yes, it seems unlikely that a giant moster crab would be cut in half with a wooden sword. But within a story, that could be explained. Wood could be made very sharp, especially if it's a certain type of wood, perhaps caused by trees that were extra hard, because they grew very slowly during a period of extreme cold that lasted a very long time. Maybe the crab was also weakened or sick, or it's shell had been previously injured -- there are lots of theoretical ways to explain why that happened. You could claim that that scenario is so unlikely as to be unrealistic, but you can't say it is necessarily illogical. And again, the degree of realism required varies from reader to reader. Some are more forgiving than others.

    As far as your story about a donkey, that sounds like an excellent premise for a children's story, and actually not that different from the plots of many stories. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make by suggesting it. The underlying premise is that the donkey is a sentient being, able to feel the loss of his family (it's unclear whether you mean a human family or a donkey family, but in either case, the essential elements are the same), able to travel the world (although it's not clear why he has to travel so far and cannot find a local family, but that could be explained), and able to communicate his thoughts and desires to others. If the donkey must frequently communicate with humans, you're probably losing a lot of the 'realism' piece, but this doesn't make the story illogical. And there's nothing that says stories must be so realistic that they could all pass for nonfiction. There would be many genres eliminated if this were the case.
     
  17. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I was trying to say you can make something look stupid, but add logic to it. I thought a donkey can be funny.

    So if your story has no explanation, it will fail, right?
     
  18. Webster
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    Webster Senior Member

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    The importance you place upon logic may well depend upon your influences. A reader of William.S.Burroughs, may, for instance, dismiss this entire thread out of hand.
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is actually a pretty amusing site. But we're kind of talking about different things. Most of the amusing inconsistencies were not necessarily related to writing or storytelling. Tom & Jerry being naked all the time, but then wearing beach clothes to the beach is a funny point. But if you were telling the story, I'm not sure the clothes would be a major point. The Smurfs being locked in a cage, yet the bars being spaced further than the width of their bodies was amusing, but I'm sure it was drawn that way for aesthetics -- it probably was visually unappealing to make the bars closer, for for artistic reasons they drew it that way.

    Cartoons are kind of a unique animal, in that they allow much more suspension of reality. They're a drawn, made-up world, even if they're trying to mimic the real one. So there is more license that can be taken. It all come down to a person's willingness to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy a story. I think the cartoons are especially funny because people may not even be cognizant that they are granting such a high level of suspension of disbelief, so when these sorts of issues are pointed out, people chuckle and think, "yes, of course!" But if you're going to start holding cartoons to what is realistic, you'll enjoy them a lot less. So it depends on the price you're willing to pay for that type of entertainment.
     
  20. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    So if it makes sense, it is funny. Like South Park, it explains a lot of stupid moments. Like why how does Kenny keeps coming back? Resurrection. Every time he dies, his mother gives birth to him again for joining a cult.
     
  21. Allison Currie
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    Allison Currie New Member

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    I feel a flow chart can answer this.

    Does logic matter?
    -> Do you like Doctor Who?
    --->Yes -------> Logic does not matter. (Dinosaurs! On a space ship!!)
    --->No --------> Logic does matter. Also your choice was bad and you should feel bad.
     
  22. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Easily: humor arises in the gap between what we expect will happen and what actually occurs.

    Assign the latter to logical outcome and then write away from it. George Carlin built a career out of exposing the difference between logical expectations and the human condition. The reason? The hidden assumption being bruited that humans are logical. We aren't.
     
  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The point is, when you're too absorbed into the story, you're often too focused to start analysing the logic behind it, as long as the current situation followed some inherent logic.

    This discussion is really rather pointless. Basically, through suspension of belief, readers/viewers are willing to take on a different set of thinking and expectations - if your story follows these expectations (the inherent logic of the story) then your story is deemed "logical". In a story about wizards and dragons, maybe an apprentice learns to fly - it is not realistic but within the story, it makes sense, hence it is logical. The story world must be bound with some form of logic so that the reader/viewer knows what to expect, and hence understand the story and enjoy it.

    And then you get to the points that you pointed out that seem rather illogical - there're better alternative methods to solve a current problem but the characters decide to do something else altogether that allows for more adventure. On these occasions, as long as the worse method that the characters choose is not completely downright dumb, most readers/viewers would either: 1) not notice or 2) forgive it for the sake of enjoying the story. For either option to happen, your entire story would need be to very absorbing so as to focus the reader/viewer enough. Most of us, writers included, often cannot foresee every possibility in every situation, and therefore every possible solution to the problem - which means, writers will sometimes miss things, and readers may not notice.

    The above would only apply if the better solution should have been obvious to the characters. If you the reader/viewer managed to think of a better solution, but actually within that point in the story, it is reasonable that the characters would not have thought of this solution, then it is in fact logical and there's nothing to forgive. You might be frustrated with the character for stupid decisions, but it is not the fault of the story/writer - it was the very intention.

    And then you have plot holes - when things happen that don't make sense even within the laws that bind the story world together.
     
  24. Zico Cozier
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    Zico Cozier Member

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    These plot holes you're presenting are mostly derived for your own personal opinion. There's a good counter argument for each one.With that said sometimes a plot hole is so ridiculously blatant that it makes me feel to pitch the book at a wall. For example "Twilight". The vampires were explained to be dead and reborn in such a way that their bodies were like marble statues. My mind would forever be trying to figure out how Edward's erections worked but i would look past that minor detail. However, when Edward impregnated Bella... that was my absolute limit. Sadly it was the final book and I was so deep in I had to finish it. So i pitched the book on the floor then went back to finish it the next day. The lesson here is, a reader will look past a plot hole if they are already drawn into your story. I think if a plot hole becomes obvious within the first few chapters of a book though, they will not continue
     
  25. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Likewise, Fifty Shades of Gray had completely unrealistic premises and required many leaps of logic and suspension of disbelief. But lots of people loved the story and were willing to overlook them. Overall, people are willing to overlook and forgive a lot to enjoy a story.

    And Zico:
    Thanks for the laugh.
     

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