1. JDavidB
    Offline

    JDavidB Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2016
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2

    Keeping characters alive without obvious "Plot Armor"

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by JDavidB, Feb 25, 2016.

    In the story I'm writing there's war between two sets of magical girls with six members each. In act one three of the good magical girls die in duels, and are replaced with three new magical girls. Act two is mostly a series of one vs. one, two vs two, one vs. two duels broken up with moments where the characters train, get to know each other etc. The third act sets up and concludes a climatic seven vs. seven battle. (Their leaders join in for the final battle.) The problem I'm already seeing is that I want every character besides the three that die at the beginning to make it to the final battle, but their spending the entire middle having duels to the death, where their trying their absolute hardest to kill each other in brutal ways. I want to them to have engaging suspenseful duels, but I have to do it so both combatants come out out alive, without making it obvious to the reader that each character has "plot armor."

    Here are the factors in the story that could in theory keep them alive.

    -Nature, Love, and Death have the ability to heal pretty much any wound. I have a scene planned where Earth remarks that Love once healed her when she was cut completely in half, so their healing abilities are pretty powerful.

    -Each character has a gem around their neck that allows them to teleport back to their home base. They do this whenever they are out numbered or severally injured. (And can't be healed where they are.)

    -Many of the villains are sadist's and will take their time with kills, which sometimes gives enough time for help to arrive.

    -Due to the way their magic interacts some combinations of characters are incapable of finishing each other off, thus causing any duels between them to end in a stalemate.

    I think I can get a lot of millage out of these factors but what are some ways to avoid "plot armor" cliches in general?
     
  2. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    A friend of mine thinks I am good at this. So maybe my two cents will help.

    First, I don't see much of an issue with plot armor exactly. I mean, you said they are tough, can teleport and have insanely good healing abilities. They don't sound like they need armor? Plot or otherwise.

    I mean as you are using the term, the concept of plot armor is when a character seems to live not because it makes sense but because the plot needs them later. But you listed tons of reasons in which it makes sense that they could live. So I don't see plot armor as much of a problem.

    I do see a problem though. You have tons of fights, I mean, just from what you said above. I count at least 10 battles but you make it sound more like 20.

    That is kind of a lot, especially if it is between the same cast, as the villains sound like they are the same the enitre time. So to keep using the same characters multiple times in the same story. Keeping that interesting sounds like a problem.

    This is where the plot armor may poke out. I mean, teleporting away makes the most sense, but you don't want to use it for every battle. Interruption is a good one too, but again, you can only use these battle ends so many times. And it sounds like you can't have any bad guys die. So plot armor to bad guys may be a concern too. As another good way to mix it up is for the good guys to win a few. But if the bad guys can't die, you run into the same issue. How do all these fights end without someone dying? I see the issue less about plot armor and more about how you can do so many battles and keep it fresh.

    Does that makse sense?

    I guess I don't know a lot about your story, but my question is the same. Do you need so many fights?

    Thinking about it, I kind of feel silly with the above argument. Because one of my stories has probably about 20 fights too! But I see a big difference and the big difference is scale. Many of the fights in my world are not large. A handful are not even against villains, more just random buttheads that the heroes encounter. And the ones against villains are not always big either. Only about 4 or 5 fights I would label as large. And I have a huge cast. So even counting all the small fights, the same person doesn't fight more than like 3 times.

    Which from what I gather from what you said is a huge difference in your world. You made it sound like most of the fights involve the same 12 characters (6 heroes and villains.) So it makes it sound like fighting for fighting's own sake. Which may be the real mistake. Fighting is cool, but it gets boring if over done.

    A great example of this is a movie. I forget the title, but one fight in particular lasted 8 minutes and I think the fight's concept was really cool, but I tried re-watching just the fight. The running time really kills it. You can even start to see repeated moves. Because you can only punch or kick a guy in some many unique ways in a limited setting. I began to realize that it was like the movie didn't have a big enough budget to do more story telling. So it just stretched the fights to finish the needed running time. Which killed the replay value.

    Does that make sense?
     
  3. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,426
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    The thing is with plot armour, as long as a combination of the character's skills and a bit of luck is what gets them out, people will have no problem believing it. it's the technique James Bond uses. Instead of being "unbelievable coincidence and skill" it's "a daring escape". Also, just genuinely making it real enough that you could believe works. There shouldn't be a need for damagingly high improbabilities.
     
  4. JDavidB
    Offline

    JDavidB Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2016
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    Yes you hit the nail on the head that's what I was trying to get at. I was struggling with how to say it. It's not so much that it doesn't make sense that they can survive, it's more of an issue of how I keep it going without the readers losing their sense of suspense.

    Well it has to due with the fact that both sides have a reason to aggressively attack the other given the opportunity. The story takes place in our world, which of course has no magic. The gems that the characters use that give them their magic are form another universe with a different laws of physics. During a war the Women who now leads the good magical girls opened a portal to random universe and threw six unused gems into it, to keep them form falling into enemy hands. Since the gems sort of have a mind of their own they bonded with the six original magical girls. In this story the six evil magical girls have been sent to recapture the gems, which requires killing their bearers. Their leader isn't exactly patient so they have to be relentless.

    The good side has the motivation to stop them, because they are killing thousands of people. The longer they stay on earth the more people die.

    Also grudge matches form so sometimes they are indeed fighting for the sake of fighting.

    Although I did leave out that sometimes they fight lesser minions, and the fights have long breaks in between filled with flash backs and other forms of character development. So maybe it won't get to the point where it will get boring.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  5. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I love it when I hit the nail on the head. :D

    The issue I have with your explanation is that it sounds more like a TV series. Which isn't innately bad. Obviously TV series are nice.

    Let me explain. The way you talk about it. It sounds like the fights are sort of end of the episode fights. Overal they have a point in that they are entertaining and that they help build relationships, or grudges but beyond that the fights have no real plot purpose.

    Sound about right?

    I am not so sure that can work in a book though. In this sense, I see a book easier to compare with a movie. I find this comparison useful because a movie and tv series are both live action, but the difference between them is clear. You wouldn't like a movie that had 5 fight scenes in the first hour if they were repetitive like a TV series formula is. It would be boring after that many and it would ruin the pacing of the movie.

    This is because a movie is a very quick event and a TV series is a slow event. So the more frequent fights fit a slow event better giving it bursts of actions that will keep attension.

    A book in this sense is more like a movie. In the sense that a chapter is not an episode. You don't need a fight in every chapter or a fight in every couple chapters. In the same way it can in theory break the flow.

    Now, you did mention points. Like grudge matches that need to be set up and sure some fighting makes sense but my question would be this.

    How many fights do you have planed? I guessed 10 to 20 between these main characters.

    The issue I have with such a large number would be, why do they keep fighting? If the good ones all lost for example. Why would they fight again? Wouldn't they hide or run or wait to find something that gives them the impression they can now win?

    The second question is how many fights are repetitive? Like some set up a grudge match for later. That is fine, but surely not every fight is a grudge match, is it? Are there some fights that are just there to be fights? If so, since you have so many fights. You may want to cut some.

    One of the reasons I say that is thinking about what you just said. You break up the fights with other stuff.

    If you have 20+(counting minion fights) and you space them all out with other events. It sounds like you have a lot of material. Can you fit it all into the book while keeping the word count managable? It reminds me of my previous argument about the movie. The 8 minute fight. If you have a full plot and so many fights you aren't sure how to end them uniquely. You may want to drop a fight or two.

    Does that make sense? I kind of feel bad with my post here. I don't want to imply that fighting is bad of course. Nor do I want to imply that your ideas for fights are bad. I can only give advice on how I see it. And it sounds like your question is how to keep a reader interested with a lot of fights or how to end the fights creatively without being repetive. In either case my first thought is that you may have too many fights if these are problems for you.

    I am trying to think of my own work. To use it as a comparison. Since my draft is complete. I am guessing your draft isn't complete? Am I right? Even some of my fights may be over done. One reader felt one fight was there just to be a fight and on reflection I think he was right. So I should probably cut that fight. So we can all make this kind of mistake. Especially use action story writers.
     
  6. JDavidB
    Offline

    JDavidB Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2016
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    All I have on paper is part of the prologue. The prologue is about the duel between Nature and Death. It's about 4.5 pages right now and death has just been introduced. I predict the rest will take about four more pages. The rest of the story is in the outlining and brainstorming stage, so ya part of the problem is that I'm not sure how much fights I'm going to have, which is why I'm trying to figure ways to avoid redundancy now.

    The TV show observation is I guess accurate. This story fails into the "Magical Girl" sub-genre. Magical Girl works traditionally have always been comics or TV shows. They're are some light novels but I've never read one. So yes I'm writing a book inspired by something that's almost always in a short serial format. I guess I'll have to take that into consideration.
     
  7. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    :)

    Yeah, as someone that has spent a long time thinking about a story before writing and as someone that has also written a full length novel story(even if only a draft) let me give you some advice.

    It always looks different from brain to paper.

    I guess that may sound obvious but it still manages to suprise me, even thought it is a tip I give.

    It is wierd how sometimes. Sometimes a scene I picture as epic in my head looks horrible on paper. Sometimes a scene I was super nervous about looks amazing on paper. Sometimes once I get to a scene, I realize I should have never thought about going in that direction and completely change my vision on the spot. Chapter 20 will look so different in your mind when you are on chapter 1,10 and 19. And how different it can look is amazing!

    Also yeah. Magical girl is a concept I was familiar with. And it can be a book! I plan to write one too. ;) Though, I only have some vague notes at this point because I am focusing on other work. But I would agree. Even though magical girl is normally a TV show. You shouldn't write it like a TV show for a novel. A novel and TV show have different strengths and you want to play to those strengths.

    Does that make sense?

    This is why when a story becomes a movie it generally needs changes. If it isn't changed to some degree it will lose meaning when it changes format.
     
  8. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,426
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    I've never understood the Magical Girl genre. Why is this particular character model worthy of it's genre, but not others? There's not a grumpy bartenders genre, is there? Considering it's a heavily stylized genre based on distinctly Japanese taste, I would think Magical Girls wouldn't be the characters to get their own genre. Could you explain this?
     
  9. JDavidB
    Offline

    JDavidB Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2016
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    2
    Cute badass girls in pretty dresses. That's basically the appeal. It's also usually girls you would never consider to be warriors. They are often very young and kind normally. There's a lot of overtones that go along with that. Puella Magi Madoka Magica uses this to it's advantage. They deliberately advertised it as a super cutesy show and then blindsided people with it's dark themes and violence. Basically there's two varieties. The kind that's just girly and cutesy and appeals to people who like girly cutsey things, and then ones that turn that on it's head.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  10. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Funny enough. I think Magical Girl isn't really a good way to explain the Genre. As far as I am concerned, Power Rangers is a Magical Girl.

    From what I can tell, Magical Girl has a very short list of things that just nothing else has. Which is why it has become distant enough to be a genre.

    Also, incase you know. Power Ranger is considered Sentai(I feel I spelled that wrong.) But there really seems to be no important difference between the two.

    - Physical transformation(usually a costume) to gain super natural powers.
    - Only a few people have power.
    - People that recieve power are usually young.
    - Because few people have power, generally the people that can transform must answer the call to action or let the world burn around them.
    - Because of the weaken normal form, they usually must hide their identity.

    I mean, pretty much all power rangers/magical girls have the above points. Can you think of a story that has those points but isn't a magical girl/power ranger?

    Though a friend that loves power rangers but hates magical girl(something I find funny) sai there is one major difference.

    Which is Sentai usually revolves around skill. A power ranger usually has to be awesome to receive power. While, a magical girl usually has the innate power within them. But that is one heck of a minor difference. If you want to be technical. I suppose magical girls usually have a full female cast of heroes but again. That is a minor point as far as I am concerned.
     
  11. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,426
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah, Power Rangers is basically a male Magical Girl story.
     
  12. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    ;)

    Though, thinking about it. If I had to think of the appeal of the Genre. I don't think it is the cute package. Not to say that is bad. I am not fond of gore. So the cute package doesn't really bother me.

    The real appeal I think is the fact you are special. I mean, think about the points I listed. A small hand full of people gain magical abilities and become the only people that can save the world.

    I think there is an innate appeal to that concept. To be important. To be loved. To be strong! And yet one can still be mysterious and pretend to live a normal life. There is a lot of appeal to that I think.

    In a sense it is a more grounded version of superheroes. Since the formula is more grounded. And convient! Think about it! Superheroes have to put there costume on. A magical girl's costume automatically comes to them!

    Oh and side note. Winx Club which is often considered a magical girl was made in Italy. :D So it isn't exclusively Japanese. I haven't seen all of the Winx Club but from what I gather it is Pixie Harry Potter. Not sure the dates in the event that it might have ripped Harry Potter off, but a lot of common themes are there, just with girly-girly stereotypes added on.
     
  13. Feo Takahari
    Offline

    Feo Takahari Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2016
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    270
    Location:
    Just above the treetops
    What consequences can you throw at the MCs other than death? With healing magic, physical injury is probably out, but psychological scars and phobias are still on the table. Getting cut in half is bound to leave some unpleasant memories. Allies, friends, and innocents may also be up for collateral damage, though you should try not to overdo that. At the most basic level, it may simply be a matter of tactical advantage or disadvantage, winning one fight in such a way that the other side fails to meet its goals. (I can see these characters going for the win over the kill once they realize their enemies will just teleport out anyway.) One way or another, your fights should leave a permanent impact and change how the characters proceed.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.

Share This Page