1. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Manufactured Drama

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chaos Inc., Jul 8, 2014.

    I did a Google search on this term first before posting on it in the event it already had an accepted meaning. It's not on Urban Dictionary and there's a few Blogs about drama in Reality TV, so I may be able to coin a new legitimate term for a condition in story telling I find appalling.

    Manufactured Drama: Verb - To place a character in an unrealistic situation to create unnecessary drama.

    It became horrifically obvious to me when Batman(in the Dark Knight Rises) is flying around in The Bat(his jet) during the Bane lock down of Gotham. There's a tank rolling around in the streets with a butt load of weaponry, facing towards the front. What does Batman do? Flies right in front of it so the tank can shoot its rockets at him. Then a scene where he's maneuvering away from heat seeking missiles and trying not to crash into things.

    The whole time this sequence is playing out, I'm asking myself "why would Batman do this? He wouldn't do this, he's like a ninja." Then I remembered I was watching a movie, written by people and perverted by movie executives. Then slowly but surely, more and more examples of these situations appeared in shows I loved. Eventually, I was to the point that I couldn't watch anymore. Psych, Super Natural, and Once Upon a Time were all things I watched and thought they were pretty well made, then I started seeing all the Manufactured Drama.

    In every case of this mechanism, I would immediately be yanked out of the moment and think about how much better it would have been if they had created the situation naturally through the totality of circumstances. It's typically fairly easy so I'm not sure why they do it.

    As for the purpose of this post, I think I'm going to use this term when I see examples of it. It's not necessarily an insult, but it's certainly not a good way to generate drama in a story.
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, like situation where you wonder why the hell they do something or just talk like regular human beings do to figure out the problem and avoid a totally avoidable misunderstanding?
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think the first time I noticed this kind of thing was with an old TV movie called The Alpha Caper (1973, according to IMDB), with Henry Fonda and Leonard Nimoy. It's a heist movie. At one point during the heist, when everything has to work according to plan and the heroes absolutely HAVE to be in communication with each other, the radio stops working! No reason is given - it just stops, and nobody knows what to do about it. Surely all is lost as precious seconds go by, the tension increasing, the audience's pulses accelerating, and then, SUDDENLY, the radio starts working again. No reason is given, and nobody did anything to fix it. (At least, this is how I remember the film - I only saw it once, decades ago.)

    So the director thought he needed to ratchet up the tension, and the only thing he could think of is to have the radio cut out for a short time. Then, just when all seems lost, it starts working again by itself. I felt manipulated. Nothing in the story had really earned this, and the temporary radio problem was never explained. It was just a piece of manufactured drama.
     
  4. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Imagine how much more fulfilling it would have been that while the characters were chatting before the heist that one of them spilled coffee on the radio. Literally four seconds!
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is how I felt about Bane's entire arc. It seemed like he wanted to destroy Gotham just because the movie needed a scary villain. At least the Joker has an interesting personality and great acting.
    You might want to revise this definition. Arguably, most fiction is based on the idea of putting characters in situations that would not happen in real life. In fact, several of my favorite fictional premises practically invent unique types of drama by placing characters in unrealistic situations.
    • Does It's a Wonderful Life feel manufactured because it places George Bailey in an unrealistic situation (seeing what the world would be like if he had never been born) to give him an unnecessary change of heart?
    • Does Groundhog Day feel manufactured because it places Phil Connors in an unrealistic situation (time loop) to give him an unnecessary amount of time to rethink his life?
    • Does Inception feel manufactured because it places Dom Cobb in an unrealistic situation (shared embedded lucid dreams) to force him unnecessarily to reconcile his guilt over his wife?
    • Does Her feel manufactured because it places Theodore Twombly in an unrealistic situation (in love with an AI agent) to make him unnecessarily spill his heart out to a computer and learn that he really wants a human companion?
    I think I get what you mean, though: when characters create conflict, they should have a reasonable reason for doing so. I agree, but I am also quite forgiving of manufactured drama; I think The Wire is the only fictional story where I never felt like any of the drama was manufactured.
     
  6. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    Creating silly drama doesn't bother me as much as when they wrap up the drama in a silly way. Like in Minstrel example where the radio just starts working again. I remember watching an episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland where the heroes were all tied to stakes and beasts were coming out of the woods toward them. They couldn't get untied and you didn't know how they'd get out of it. The beasts were coming closer and closer. They even made it into a whole cliffhanger where they went to commercial break and came back. So after the commercial break, how did they get out? They untied themselves. Seriously? They couldn't in the beginning, but now that the beasts are right on top of them, they can? I hate that. That's so uncreative and contrived.
     
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  7. Carthonn
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    You are trying to find logic in a story about a billionaire dressing up as a bat and fighting crime? Face it, all fiction is manufactured.
     
  8. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Some of you people are missing the point. As if I'm claiming Fiction in all its fantastic forms is a bad thing. It's about the inconsistency with the reality that a story teller has created.

    In Batman's world, or more specifically, Noland's world of Batman, he created a certain type of character. Not too terribly different than other version of Batman, but we watched him get trained like a ninja(note the "like" as opposed to "as a ninja") in Batman Begins. This raises the expectation that he utilizes stealth and surprise against his foes. In the example I chose to elaborate my term, I spoke nothing of the world, the character, the setting, or fiction of the story. It dealt specifically with an instance that was unrealistic in its execution and contrary to the character themselves.

    A newer example would be in Once Upon a Time season 3 episode 7 (I think that's the ep.) Hook and Baelfire get into a fight over who can start a lighter. Hook goes "hey, we can't make fire!" Baelfire pulls out a butane lighter and says to him "Welcome to the 21st century (or something lame like that)." So Baelfire tries to light the candle and fails. Hook then says "Let me do it you idiot!" even though he's just seen this device for the first time 5 seconds ago. Then they argue resulting with Hooking trying the lighter. He fails, but then they squabble some more and physically fight over the lighter. The lighter ends up flying waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over in the trees and seems to be "lost" just as the "bad things show up".

    The point of the conflict between Hook and Baelfire was to incapacitate the lighter to force Emma to use magic. They used the fact that the two are boys trying to look useful in front of a woman they both have feelings for. So instead of something clever they opt to Manufacture Drama instead of using the totality of the circumstances the characters are in.
     

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