1. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Is this cliche?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rick n Morty, Jul 11, 2016.

    Alright, so I'm currently working on my dinosaur story idea (the basic synopsis/premise I talked about here), and there's a part during the climax that I'm worried might be cliche and overdone.

    So, Cletus has captured both Alex and Magnolia's brother and put them both in cages. He tells Magnolia that she can choose only one to save, and the other will be killed. Magnolia then decides to sacrifice herself to save them both.

    I know the sadistic choice is a very common trope in fiction, but I'm worried that the "chooser sacrificing themselves" might have been done a lot, despite not being able to think of any specific examples at the top of my head.

    What do you guys think? Is this too cliche, and if so, how do I make it LESS cliche?
     
  2. apollonaris
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    apollonaris New Member

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    To start, I love your story premise. It's very light-natured and fanciful, and I think its a nice change from the overwhelming presence of gritty and dark stories. The self-sacrificing trope is dramatic and satisfying if executed well enough, but it always leaves me wondering: what'll stop the villain from killing his prisoners once the chooser sacrifices themselves? You have to be careful when planning it out, because there's an abundance of holes that can be punched into the story if you don't take every angle into consideration. So, long story short, it's a good trope and you should TOTALLY use it - just plan it very carefully.
     
  3. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    I was thinking that Magnolia chooses to sacrifice herself, but only if Cletus frees her brother and Alex first, and Cletus sticks to that promise...at first.
     
  4. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    The thing is having the character sacrificing herself feels a little predictable. Not that you can't do it or even do it well, but maybe you can do better. Whenever I'm at a crossroads in a story, I think of the obvious option. In your case, Magnolia can chose who lives or sacrifice herself. But then I try to think about what else could happen if I took those likely options off the table. Think about what else your character could do in this situation. There's always two obvious options. Try one less obvious.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    One way to address the predictability (and I agree it's predictable) is to write Magnolia such that sacrificing herself would be totally out of character for her. In other words, the climax provides a point of transformation for her, and she does something that the reader wouldn't expect based on her past character (but would find believably in terms of her transformation at the climax).
     
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  6. apollonaris
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    apollonaris New Member

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    That would make Magnolia's sacrifice so much more tragic, since it's done in vain, which I think would work well.

    Or this! This would be an excellent use of the trope.
     
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to Dwight V. Swain, the essence of any climax is self-sacrifice on the part of the hero. So, yeah, the idea of self-sacrifice has been done a lot—like every time a well-planned story was told. It's the details and emotions of the sacrifice that matter, that make it stand out. And frankly, I've never read a story wherein dinosaurs get locked in cages and then decide whether or not they're going to be self-sacrificing. So I think you're safe.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not clear on why the villain gives her the choice of sacrificing herself.
     
  9. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    What if Magnolia's insistence on self-sacrifice is only an act, and really, she has another plan that involves none of them having to die?

    Like if she sees a way to kill the sadist in his own trap, but in order to pull it off, she needs to pretend as though she's going the martyr route. Somehow, doing that is part of the plan, in order to put her in the position to do what she really is able to.

    I agree that the sacrifice thing is kind of cheesy in a lot of instances - I would love to see Magnolia strategize a better plan using her brain instead.
     
  10. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    He didn't give her the choice. She came up with it on her own, and he went along with it.
     
  11. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Write/conceive/outline ten endings to your story. This will help you get the cliche stuff out of the way and force you to dig deeper into the elements in the story to provide a more original and satisfying resolution to the central conflict. I've done this before and it is a very useful technique.
     
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  12. LawrenceEvans
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    LawrenceEvans New Member

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    Some ideas I initially thought about are... Both caged individuals could die somehow, that wouldn't be cliche at all. Or any two characters. Or one dies and she almost dies or fades out of the story Plot twist! The 10 different endings is a great way to find something that clicks and flesh things out a bit.
     
  13. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    Why would Cletus let Magnolia sacrifice herself? It seems to me, if he's offering her the choice of who to sacrifice, he is enjoying watching Magnolia suffer. If that's the case, why would he end that enjoyment prematurely? If I'm reading Cletus right, I'd have him refuse Magnolia's offer, then threaten to sacrifice both of the others unless she chooses one. Its up to Magnolia then, to figure out a way to save them all (unless another option presents itself).
     
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  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. Exactly. This is a control game. I don't understand why the villain would let his victim take control away from him. If he wanted to kill her, he could have just killed her in the first place.
     
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  15. Red Herring
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    Red Herring Member

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    I agree with this as well. The only way Cletus allowing the protag. to sacrifice herself would make sense is that he wanted all of them to suffer; and in that way it wouldn't really matter who died, just that he would make them all suffer from it. Or the choice of her sacrifice is just a ruse.

    As for the dilemma of choosing who lives or dies; it is pretty old cliche and the hero sacrificing their own life for the lives of other is as old as the bible. But sometimes you might need cliches if you feel the story calls for them, especially if you have enough original content to counteract any misgivings about using cliches. And sometimes, cliched tropes done right can be fun. The good thing about doing a light hearted story is that you can cause levity to poke fun at them.

    I don't this is a bad cliche in combination. If you feel this is necessary for an emotional through-line then you should use it. But if it feels cliched to you then it probably is. In that case, why not try something else.
     
  16. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    For those wondering, here's something I came up with.

    Cletus admits that Mag's choice was predictable, and reveals that it was exactly the choice he expected her to make. Also, reality ensues when it's hinted that he may kill Alex and Mag's brother anyways, when he's done with her.

    I also came up with the idea that, as Mag is walking over to the trapdoor with the T. rex below, she winks at Alex, revealing this was part of her plan. What do you think of the latter idea?
     

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