1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    How important is realism in story setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 18, 2016.

    Hello there. I am aspiring screenwriter, trying to develop his craft and writing better scripts. One thing readers have told me is that they feel my stories are not realistic enough in terms of crime and police procedure.

    But how important is realism in a screenplay, since many movies bend realism for drama?

    For example, in the movie The French Connection (1971), Popeye Doyle, after being shot at, commandeers a civilian's car, and and drives after the shooter.

    This is not realistic police procedure, since in real life, a cop is not illegally allowed to "commandeer" a car, and they have to make a phone call, and send other cops after the shooter instead, and wait to see what happens. The reason why they broke this law for the story, is that it's more exciting to see the hero in a high speed chase after the villain himself, as oppose to relying on others.

    In the movie The Negotiator (1998), a cop is framed for murder, and has his own police force after him. In order to prove his innocence, he finds out who the real killer is by threatening to kill him if he doesn't talk, then when he talk. Then when the hero gets the info he needs, he goes to the villain's house, breaks in, and attempts to remove the evidence to prove who the real killer is. This leads to a police stand off, and the hero manages to trick other villain cops into incriminating himself and he records it.

    After the dirty cops are recorded incriminating themselves, the honest police then handcuff them and arrest them. However, since the MC got the evidence through threats of death, and breaking and entering, the evidence cannot be used in court cause he broke the fourth and fifth amendment, and it would be 'fruit of the poisonous tree'.

    The movie ends with the police cuffing the real killers. But even though the real killers, murdered a cop, would the police really cuff them, knowing full well that the evidence, will not be admissible in court? Why bother? The movie ends, giving the audience the impression that the hero got the real killers, when realistically the cop killers would be back on the streets, and the police full well know it.

    In the movie The Departed (2006), the police follow Costello and his men, to a drug selling transaction. Once the police see them do the drug deal, they send in a SWAT team to swarm in and arrest everyone. This causes the villains to pull out their guns and open fire on the police, causing a big gunfight.

    This is also unrealistic, cause in real life, the police, do not arrest everyone after the drug deal. Instead they would wait till all the culprits went home, and they would send officers to arrest all the culprits, individually, while each one is alone.

    The reason why the police wait for this, is so they do not have to engage the culprits all in a firefight, while they all together, as a team of armed men. It's easier to fight one armed man at a time, rather than them all together as a whole. But the writers break this rule as a means to have a big exciting shoot out.

    In the movie Cell 211 (2009), prisoners have broken out of their cells and taken all the guards hostage. They will kill the guards as well as other prisoners if their demands are not met.

    After a long stand off, the police offer to pardon the leader of the hostage takers, if the leader kills his fellow men, and saves the hostages.

    This is also not realistic as the police are not allowed to offer pardons, to a hostage taker, in exchange for the hostage taker to kill his own men. That is not allowed cause it puts the hostages in possibly more danger, even if the pardon comes from the leader of the nation himself, it's still against real protocol.

    The reason why the writers wrote it this way is cause it makes for one hell of a suspense scenario to play with.

    So when it comes to readers saying my story lacks realism, what are the rules when it comes to bending it, for the sake of drama, like other moves do?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
  2. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    It depends on what you want. You only have to do as much as a good amount of people are willing to believe. And as the Transformers movies and others show, that's not that high a threshold. But the more intelligent you want to be, the more people will usually expect realism. Unless your being artistic/fantastical, but people normally want internal consistency. And reasonably believable human behaviour. Those are the most required things. You need a decent amount of those.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But the examples I gave are considered to be in a grounded and serious crime drama genre. Not very fantastical at all. The French Connection and The Departed also won the Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay. Cell 211 won the Spanish Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay.

    So since those movies were successes overall, where is the line drawn to what people will expect?
     
  4. Necronox
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    Necronox Active Member

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    I think there is a different between "realism" "explained" and "believable". By that I mean things can be completely unrealistic (marvel movies), but with a little bit of explanations sprinkles through as to why all this stuff is happening, it makes it at least more believable. Not all three are exclusive to each other. Or, in the opposite case, inclusive to each other. It depends what you want, if you want realism, then you are aiming for something else then if you are going for 'believable'.
     
  5. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Oh my god. Why do you keep doing like three threads on the same question with different wording? It's getting irritating. I already gave a significant number of posts to the previous thread on this. Let's just say, unlikely things happen in real life, I didn't say you have to be perfect, and what people consider realism differ, especially given their name.
     
  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. What about when it comes to stories that are suppose to be set in the modern world with no sci-fi or fantasy elements, like the Marvel movies?

    For example, I have been told by readers that my plot is too unrealistic when it comes to legal and police procedure. I sought out a lawyer who also gives a lot of advice to writers as to what is fact. He said that he understands the type of story I am trying to write. It's about the small guy, trying to beat the big system.

    But in real life, this cannot legally be done, as the law is specifically designed and written in a way, to prevent anyone from beating it. Do you think I should take the lawyers advice and write story with an unbeatable system, or can it still be believable?
     
  7. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Every system is fallable. And all kinds of interesting things can happen. So you just need an extraordinary opportunity and someone with the means to exploit it.
     
  8. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Interesting point. I would suggest that you decide in advance what you want the message to be. Do you want to show your reader a message of optimism, that anyone can rise up against oppression? Or do you want to paint a dystopian image of the individual being crushed by the system?

    If the former, then I think this would work better in a science fiction setting. There are lots of examples of sci fi scenarios where an individual overturns the state, and in the sci fi context this can be more believable.

    If you want a more realistic setting then your readers/viewers will naturally be less prepared to suspend their disbelief. They will expect to be able to relate to the events as though they were actually happening. In this case, I think you would have to have your MC fail but learn an important lesson along the way, or succeed but only trough social activism rather than individual actions. These are more believable in a real world setting than one person changing the world.
     
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  9. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    It's a trade between the reader and writer. They're willing to suspend their disbelief, but they expect something in return.

    This is where the; rule of cool, rule of funny, and rule of just about every other aspect come into play.
    The idea is, the reader will be willing to suspend their belief if what you write is cool enough.

    i.e.
    The grim reaper is generally a black cloaked figure with a scythe, anything else is counter to my expectations and can start kicking me out of your story.
    Everyone knows he wields a scythe and guides souls to the underworld. You don't care, that's why you wrote about a grim reaper who shreds on a guitar shaped like a scythe in a death metal band. I read what you wrote because that sounds freaking awesome.
     
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