1. Patrick94
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    Patrick94 Active Member

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    How confusing is too confusing? But then what about Inception?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Patrick94, Jul 7, 2011.

    I'm piecing together a time travel plot, and it's gonna get pretty deep and confusing. How confusing is too confusing? But then what about Inception? I know Inception's a movie, but I think it could have been even better as a book, and easier to understand
     
  2. Needz
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    Needz New Member

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    If you clearly define the rules of time travel and stick to them I think you can make it as complicated as you would like it to be. You might have to be a fairly obvious in your description, but it will help keep readers from getting confused.

    You can think of your own rules for time travel, but the major contenders as far as my metaphysics professor was concerned is Back to the Future, The Terminator, Primer, and various texts I can't remember. Find one that works for you.

    My personal favorite portrayals of time travel are Primer and the novel "Rant" by Chuck Palahniuk.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, time travel only really works in comedy. The problem is the obvious: all the paradoxes that everybody already knows about. Unless you do the Austin Powers thing of winking into the camera and saying "Don't ask those questions; just go along with it!" you're in trouble.

    So Austin Powers and Back to the Future, being comedies, can get away with time travel. But I think that as a premise for a serious story, it's played out, and doesn't really work. You'd have to work VERY hard to make it believable in a serious story.

    The Terminator kind of gets away with it by making time travel extremely difficult. We can send you back in time, but it only works for naked living beings (can't send any weapons back with you!), and you can never come back. In fact, the more difficult time travel is, the better the story gets. If a character can just snap his fingers and travel through time, there's suddenly no drama and no real story.
     
  4. Needz
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    Needz New Member

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    The character could also travel through time by accident. It just happened for no concern-able reason and the character has to cope.

    ...still sounds like a comedy to me. You right.
     
  5. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Personally I didn't find inception overly complicated. The main mind screw was at the end.

    Like Minstrel said I think it can be more trouble than it's worth to put time travel in a serious work. Readers don't like having to pause for ten minutes after each chapter to figure out the ramifications of all the time traveling the characters did. This means that to simplifies things writers and directors will just ignore all that stuff and turn the series into an adventure taking place in multiple different time periods. But that creates plot holes that don't work unless the series isn't taking itself very seriously.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Time travel doesn't necessarily involve paradoxes.

    As for confusing - what do you mean by confusing? Just because the plot is complicated doesn't necessarily mean it will be confusing, unless it is handled poorly.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You can make it as complex as you want, but the reader has to be able to follow it. Avoid plot holes, contradictions, etc. For example, you've probably seen the LoTR and PoTC movies? LoTR is actually more complicated, but I thought it was easier to follow than PoTC - this was mainly the result of the scriptwriting, I think.

    Inception wasn't so much my cup of tea either: the intensity and visuals were great, but idk, it was something you constantly had to rack your brain on while watching. Maybe that's just me though.
     
  8. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Personally, I loved inception...because I had to rack my brain...that beauty of it, I suppose. We all can find something the we dig.

    As for time travel. Make rules. Others here said that. Without them, there is not tension. If you have time travel, you have to make of a set of physics that apply to how it works. Think of it in terms of flying. Quite the feat when you think about it. Apply that kind of 'physics' thought to time travel. Then you have an anchor to which the confusion can be constrained. You can have a complicated story but it has to stay within the confines of the travel physics.

    ...and I am shocked and perhaps even flummoxed that no one mentioned Bill&Ted ;)
     
  9. NSR
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    NSR New Member

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    The Time Traveller's Wife is an amazing book/film and uses the concept of time-travel really well and doesn't need comedy.

    I'd say make it as confusing as you like, I've talked to loads of people who couldn't understand The Time Traveller's Wife, but it's something you get used to and just have to learn to understand and (I don't know if you've read it or know how it portray's its time-travel) that's all to do with the dates which act as chapter titles. But not only does she tell us the dates, she tells us how old Henry and Clare are which gives the reader something to relate to.
     
  10. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you think Inception was confusing, you might want to watch something by David Lynch. Mulhollan Drive, for instance. Or Lost Highway. Or even Twin Peaks. :p

    Anyway, I love time travel stories and disagree that they are 'only for comedies'. Time travel isn't worse than any other science fiction mumbo jumbo. It's all about how you use it that's important. If you use something big like time travel in a story, you need to have a good reason for it and set strict rules as soon as possible, and it should never be without consequenses.

    As for paradoxes, I have an idea that could eliminate them. The common thought is that if you kill someone in the past, it will change the future in dramatic ways. I mean if you went back in time and killed a young Hitler, world war two would never happen, right? I think it would. But instead of destroying the entire future, it would be more like rings in the water. If you throw a rock in the water, it will cause a small, strong ring that expands and grow bigger and weaker until it's so big it disappears. The same applies for time travel. So using the Hitler-example, you could kill him, but you couldn't prevent world war two. If Hitler wasn't around, someone else would rise to power anyway. When you go back to the future (heehee) the rings would have disappeared, so we don't get much of a consequense at all. Hitler wasn't important, so someone else rose to power instead of him. The rest is the same.

    The same goes for the "killing your grandfather" paradox. If you killed your grandfather, you would cease to exist, right? Wrong. You would still be there, but you would have a different grandfather that's very similar to the original one, so your whole life would only have small changes.
     
  11. julian95
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    julian95 New Member

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    As long as the beginning does not bore and the rules are well-defined, then I think it will be all right. You do not have to repeat the same aspect to simplify the complex plot though, just make sure to make the language as clear as possible.

    As for Inception... Sure it is a good film but the philosophical statements presented in that film are so basic. Those who say that it is life-changing need to read more stuff...

    It is also not that confusing as many people think that it is. The explanation of the system is quite straightforward and the basics are obvious (dream layers for example).

    Try to get your hands on the film Paprika, and you will see what I am talking about. It is also a film about dreams and released earlier than Inception. Heck, I would even call Inception a carbon copy of this film!

    And that film is based on a book which obviously contains a lot of things in Inception.

    Here is the wiki link of the book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paprika_(novel)


    Hmmmm I am not that good of a writer myself but... while the idea of "The Time Traveller's Wife" is good, her writing is too fluffy-icky xP. Too much melodrama going on.
     
  12. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    You know it is too confusing when you can not understand what you are writing. Otherwise, any level of complexity is fine. There will be people capable of unraveling your story.
     
  13. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Paradoxes are fundamentally a problem in physics when dealing with time travel. Paradoxes as in what happens when the person from the future occupies the same space as the person from the past and then they run into the person from the present who is having a conversation that the person from the future remembers but the person from the past doesn't... Or in Futurama episodes when Fry kills his one dad, or Hermes uses time travel to get his body back only to have it automatically doomed because of an anti-paradox equation...

    <sigh>
    Nevermind. I watch too much Futurama.
     
  14. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Maybe this would get me the evil eye for saying so since I'm an English teacher, but I wasn't a huge fan of The Time Traveller's Wife. I liked the end, but the majority of the book was dull, dull, dull... (in my opinion)

    But then again, I've heard rave reviews, and certainly the initial concept was interesting. I just didn't like how it played out.
     
  15. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to be honest: time travel has been covered extensively over the last hundred years. So, my advice is think original and fresh; research the leading edge science (etc) and use your mind to formulate a theory/idea.
     
  16. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually the concept of time travel first appeared in the Mahabharata, an epic from ancient India. And I'm talking 700BCE. A bit longer than 'the last hundred years'. ;)

    But even so, no one (as we know) has ever actually travelled through time, so while we think we have figured it out through physics and all that, no one knows what will happen until we actually do travel through time. Now where did I park that DeLorean, I wonder... :p
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Paradoxes are a "problem." They are not, however, unavoidable, and time travel into the past does not necessarily generate a paradox.
     
  18. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    lol yeah, but i wasn't talking about how old the concept is. The fact remains, over the last hundred years the art of literature has burgeoned.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why not? If I go back in time one minute, I see myself right here at my desk typing this post. If I kill myself, I can't go back in time to kill myself after writing this post. Paradox. That's one of zillions of examples of the same kind of thing. How do you go back in time and NOT cause a paradox?
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well, there are different theories about that in the actual physics literature. One that I read an article about a few years back in Scientific American dealt with multiple universes and time lines. Some physicists were using some ideas from quantum mechanics and theorizing multiple parallel universes branching off whenever some "possibility" becomes a firm reality, with each universe reflecting another possibility. Most of the time, particularly with uncertain states at the quantum level, the idea is that the universes just merge right back. They were using this to try to explain something about the double-slit experiment.

    In any event, there is literature on time travel written by serious physicists (not fiction, but I mean actual non-fiction discussion) and one idea I've seen put forth is that traveling back in time would cause a similar split in time lines. You wouldn't see yourself if you went back in time five minutes because the universe would necessarily split into two time lines, and in the one you were in your five-minute old self would not exist. The time line is essentially created the minute you go back. Since nothing you do there can possibly affect the time line you came from, there can never be a paradox.

    At any rate, there's no telling whether such things are real or not. They're theoretical. But they do avoid any paradoxes when applied to time travel. Time travel CAN have paradoxes, if you implement it in a way that results in them, but time travel does not necessarily result in paradoxes. If you wrote a fictional story about time travel and incorporated the multiple time line idea properly, you'd never have a paradox.
     
  21. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    I didn't find Inception confusing at all. It uses dream physics!
     

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