1. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much can you get away with?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by erebh, Jun 1, 2013.

    Or what's the most outrageous rubbish you were expected to believe?

    I'm watching 'The Americans' on TV. In case you haven't seen it, an FBI agent moves in next door to a married couple of KGB spies in Washington DC. In the pilot we see a top CIA man blabbing all the company secrets to a girl in the bar just to impress and eventually bed her and of course she happens to be the KGB spy.

    We then see the KGB couple bringing apple pie into the FBI man as his family who are still unpacking, conversation goes something like this

    "Welcome to the neighbourhood, what do you work at?"
    "I'm with the FBI, I catch spies, I've just been put in charge of catching Russians, we know what they're up to and where they are, lets have a beer and I'll tell you all about it."

    The married KGB couple look at each other, telepathically say, "Oh shit"

    I was watching thinking, If I put that in a book I'd be slaughtered by the reader. And forget putting it on writingforums.org
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds like an Archer story line. I think one can get away with it when it's parody/humor/satire. If it's supposed to be serious, well, many people like to watch incredible, escapist stuff anyhow. Weird stuff happens irl too. Recently an undercover cop in Finland revealed his job description and current mission (a drug bust) to a girl he had just met and wanted to impress.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ha, Erebh!
    I happened to LOVE the show The Americans. Yes, it does seem awfully convenient and coincidental that an FBI agent who is working on finding Russian spies in America moves in across the street. But it helps the story along, and even I have to give some willing suspension of disbelief.

    I didn't think that show was any more egregious in those sorts of things than most spy-type movies. And hey, the Robert Hanssen story had some pretty incredible elements, and it was all true.
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can buy them all living next door, it was just the FBI and CIA guys giving up there whole stories, one for a woman, the other for an apple pie. Imagine if they were ever caught by the other side... "OK, stop talking, this is no fun, step away from the apple strudel! Pull up your trousers! We want to torture you for the information, shut up shut up!"
     
  5. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I grew up in a house full of women who were diehard soap opera fans... nuff said!
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    What? You mean you didn't believe that a whole season of Dallas was just Bobby Ewing's dream?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How much can you get away with?

    How good a salesman are you?
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    nonsensicality abounds in all fictional mediums... why should one expect all writers to be any less stupid than so many viewers/readers?
     
  9. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Makes me wonder if the product is good or bad :)
     
  10. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I forgot which one, Guiding Light or As THe World Turns, one of them, was constantly bringing back dead people. "I thought you were dead!"
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think an individual's bullshit sensor has variable settings. I'm having a lovely Farscape marathon today. The fun setting and Jim Henson-ness of everything is more than adequate to balance out some rather poor dialogue and improbable motives from the cast. If this were a book, the BS would be a 10. But since it's fun, Saturday afternoon TV, I'm able to take it in at about a 4. :D
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Make your audience want something so bad that they no longer care how they get it, just that they get it, and then you can get away with almost anything :D I watched Changeling a couple of days ago - there was a very typical Hollywood scene where the good guys barge into a psychiatric clinic and forces the staff to release a bunch of mental patients. The guys enforcing this were a lawyer and a pastor, with some sort of paper supposedly from the judge or a warrant or something - it wasn't explained. Frankly, that was utterly unbelievable - it would simply never happen. But you know, by that point in the movie, so many terrible things have happened that you just want SOMETHING GOOD to happen, so when that scene came up, I just didn't care that it was bad and cliche, I knew it was so even as I watched it, but I just didn't care - I enjoyed it thoroughly :D

    And the thing is, with TV, a lot of people watch TV when they wanna switch off - they know it's stupid but they just don't care. Reading requires a lot more thinking than watching TV does, which makes them more critical also. Also, TV doesn't really allow their viewers to think - not half as much as books. TV is so fast that not everyone is able to dissect it that fast. Reading, however, you go at your own pace, you rarely miss details unless the scene is particularly fast-paced (or boring). TV - you can miss a bunch of details and never notice.

    But then, even in a book, if your genre's right, you can still get away with some pretty stupid things - you just have to hide it a bit better than TV lol.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Many movie scripts are idiotic. Recently we saw Prometheus. The premise is that there's a trillion-dollar, once-in-a-history-of-civilization space mission to a distant planet, intended to discover the true origins of the human race and answer all our deepest questions, and maybe discover the secret of immortality. This is big, huge, amazing stuff. But they staffed the mission with a bunch of lunkheads who don't know who they're working for, don't know where they are, and have no apparent idea what they're supposed to do once they're there! People wake up from hypersleep when they reach their destination, and only then introduce themselves to each other and determine what their jobs are.

    WTF? NASA's astronauts trained for years just for each moon mission, so that every possible scenario was known, understood, trained for, and planned for. No mistakes, no lack of preparation, were permitted. The Prometheus crew seemed to be assembled from the first dozen names they found on Craigslist.

    Arrgh.

    I guess you can get away with anything, if you have the reputation. If you're a newcomer, I bet the rules are a lot tighter.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    An example. The Bond movie, You Only Live Twice, pins the bullshit meter, and yet it was extremely successful, and is still great fun to watch.

    Why in hell would they build a spacecraft, well beyond the technology of the world's leading super power nations, to capture manned space capsules intact when simply blowing them out of the sky would serve just as well at far less cost? Because otherwise, there would be no good reason for the climactic battle with the Ninja assault on the oversized base hidden inside a volcano.

    But everyone was having too much fun watching to quibble over details.

    There's nothing wrong with absurdity. You have to be a real storyteller to spin a fine tall tale. And never insult your audience in the process.






    By the way, the screenplay was written by Roald Dahl.
     
  15. sanco
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    sanco Contributing Member

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    I love Archer!

    And sometimes even when it's not meant to be intentionally campy, that stuff works and gains cult followings. Anyone seen "The Room"? It's like an example of everything a filmmaker should NOT do.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's a new one for me, cog... what does 'pins' mean in this context?
     
  17. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Raises the dial to the max.....
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    On traditional electric meters, there's a metal post (a pin) at each end of the needle's range, to stop the needle from striking the case and becoming bent. So signal which sends a meter to the maximum end of its scale is said to pin the meter.
     
  19. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I really can't stand plots that are along the same lines as Prometheus was. It's one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of horror (well aside from the fact it gives me nightmares lol). I don't like when something is so implausible it's absurd. I mean who really goes into a rickety abandoned house and decides the first thing they should do is have sex or take a shower? And as usual the entire one person having a shred of common sense could have averted the deaths of several or all characters. I felt Jurassic Park did a good job of making the poor decisions and lack of common sense among so many characters much more palatable by having one character that was protesting and essentially echoing the thoughts of most of the audience throughout the movie.

    Then again some of the shows I love are guilty of constantly resorting to the deus ex machina trope. Again as stated above if you can market it well enough people will buy it. If you find a way to portray it so it makes sense then people are much more likely to go for it. Also it doesn't hurt that real life is oftentimes stranger than fiction! :p
     
  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If one is not on a nit-picky mood, ridiculous stuff escapes the attention. I didn't realize this about Prometheus, because so many other things about the movie were stupid, so I guess I just ignored the silly premise altogether.

    As for the former... that's one thing I'll always buy: people starting to have sex at an inopportune moment. Happens way too often irl.

    Yeah, more often than not I go wtf with Farscape, but I'm willing to forgive the silliness, almost solely because of one single joke they did:
    Erin/Ayerien/asfgrrfdf Sunn about to remove her top and falls through the floor. That was friggin' hilarious.

    Humor can balance out a lot of implausible plot twists and character decisions.
     
  21. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just watched 'A Haunted House' with Marlon Wayans - I would urge everyone to watch it. It's kind of a piss take at Paranormal Activity. In Para Ac, they are convinced there's a ghost in the house, what do they do? Try film it. In A Haunted House, the wife convinces the husband there is a ghost, just at that moment he finds proof, shits a brick and can't get out quick enough - absolutely hilarious!
     
  22. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    Not to mention the FBI does not deal with spies...that is more NSA,DOD,CIA (when they can get away with it.) sounds like the FBI guy is a dumbass, and so is the shows writer.
     
  23. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    True and true. :p

    I have a tendency to pick at movie plots a lot. Then again if I'm enjoying the movie I don't pay so much attention to things.
     
  24. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    The FBI could, though, if they're dealing with spies who are undercover, within the U.S.
     
  25. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I had this same thought when I started watching The Following. Three episodes in, the FBI agents were making mistakes a five-year-old wouldn't make. The formula for so many of these shows (and crime books) is to repeat the same equation: good guys thwart bad guys then bad guys thwart good guys then good guys thwart bad guys again and so on.

    So I think the answer is that writers can get away with a lot, especially if they're writing at the behest of a studio or publishing house.
     

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