1. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Structure and logic as enemies.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by HorusEye, Aug 28, 2009.

    Hi all,

    I've had a period of low productivity regarding my current project, and now I'm wondering if I'm just stepping on my own toes by trying to look for solutions to the holes in my story by using logic and structure as my guides.

    Most of my ideas are bordering the surreal, and I'm beginning to wonder if I should just keep them that way and let my story speak to the soul instead of the mind.

    Do you often do that? I mean, write stuff that makes sense to you but can't be explained in a rational manner.

    Perhaps its a good thing? Modern fiction is all very logical - movie scripts have to make 100% sense and yet the audience often finds that dull and predictable. Perhaps my preoccupation with structure is really just killing my story.
     
  2. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    If you are writing a work of fiction as in book or short story then relating it to movie scrips is not a good idea as they are completly different. Cinamatographic writing has to make sence, that how it has to be done, the viewer needs a close. However in novels, you'll find that all great works have an open endedness to them, a question or more then one is left to the view to interpret (subtle or blunt). So if you have holes, as in plot holes like jimmy lost his boot, how comes he still has it on in this later scene? then yes patch it. However if you have something surreal, which i believe you are writing, keep it like that, let the story speak for itself. The perspective of the viewer is more important then your own.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I'm writing is perhaps someplace inbetween cinematographic and novel writing, as it's for a graphic novel.

    No, I don't have plot holes like Jimmy's boot. The holes I'm thinking about are character motivations and actions in most cases. The characters tend to do irrational things based on feelings rather than logic. The setting is also rather surreal and in some ways metaphysical. One side of me want to explain things and make the story rational - the other side (where my ideas mostly come from) is mystical.

    On one side I think that stories become boring once they make sense.
    On the other side I fear that my story will turn into some David Lynch weirdness.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It really depends on what you're writing. If you are writing hard science fiction, expect to have nitpicky readers like me who will rip the logic apart down to the last wavicle looking for flaws. Likewise if you are writing a mystery whodunit - your logic had better be convincing and pretty bulletproof, because much of your readership is working it like a puzzle.

    On the oter hand, if your story intersects heavily with dreams and symbolism, readers may even expect some logical contradictions.

    Don't obsees over it too much in your first draft though, as long as the main storyline is reasonably logical. Use the revision passes to resolve plot holes. Before then, too much of the story is subject to change anyway.

    EDIT: The David Lynch weirdness is a good example of the latter kind of story. Every image has multiple possible interpretations, and the logic connecting them is deliberately fractured to keep the audience off balance.
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I've read a lot of modern fiction -- and seen a lot of movies -- with plot holes and errors you can drive a bulldozer through.

    I'm not saying this is a good thing, it is what it is.

    Sometimes the errors don't bother me, sometimes they do, and sometimes the attempt to make things logical is worse than the bad logic itself.

    Cognito is right, of course, that later draft revisions is the time to fix those things.
     
  6. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I’m all for logic. Even the illogical should be logical. Live long and prosper.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think a story must make logical sense. It must adhere to the rules you set up early on and made clear to the reader.
     
  8. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Well...consider some children's stories.

    One of the first stories many of us ever read was probably "The Cat in the Hat."

    Now, that author's books defy logic at nearly every turn. (He did adhere to the rules set up early, but the only rule is that there are no rules.)

    Alice in Wonderland is another example.

    Growing up, I was a big comic book fan. Comic book writers go too far these days--bend over backwards--to make illogical stories logical, often to disastrous results, because they're trying to explain how it is that a character like Superman is still in his 20s or 30s even though he fought World War II...as though they're all true stories and it's all canonical. My feeling is, it's a comic book, for gosh's sakes! Charles Shultz never needed a logical scientific explanation for how Charlie Brown stayed a little boy since 1950. Too much logic spoiled comic books, for me anyway. I'd prefer comic books to be like they were back in the 1960s (which I know only from back issues, I was a '70s comic fan) when Superman would get affected by Red Kryptonite and turn into a giant baby before facing Bizarro, who lived on a square planet where everyone says "Goodbye" when they enter the room.

    Charlie
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Cat in the Hat is logically consistent with the rules Dr Seuss created. Same with Alice in Wonderland.

    A story being strange doesn't make it logically inconsistent. If the rules set up in the world show us that cars can fly when they are carried by flying pink elephants, and later a car is flying without the flying pink elephants and it is not explained how it can fly without them, the world has become incosistent.
     
  10. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I think it greatly depends on the story. Making sense to the reader doesn't always mean what is happening in the fictional world is logical. At the same time, not all logical reasoning will make sense to all readers.

    I think stories that are more plot driven need to have more logical reasoning within the confines of the plot. However, while character driven pieces can have logic, it isn't always required, because let's face it, humans (and even some made up species of beings) aren't always logical.

    I'm all for writing the first draft first, get it out on to paper. Then, after it is done, the ending has been written, go back and figure out if it has enough logical reasoning for the reader to follow. Address the holes during the first edit. Don't spend too much time during the creative process in trying to make things logically work out. During the first edit you're going to be removing scenes, rewriting, and adding scenes, so that is when you should be worrying over logical sequence of events, not during your creative process.

    Too much thinking kills creativity. It kills the passion and motivation we feel when we are in the midst of the creative process. I like to stick to just thinking about what comes next, not worrying about what I just wrote and how much sense it makes. I'll figure that stuff out after I get to the end.
     
  11. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    Logic in a literary work, I feel, can be applied on different planes. While I'm not sure how what you are writing is illogical, I will attempt to summarize my thoughts on this matter.

    Calculating Behavior: First, there is cold, deductive logic as a thought pattern. This pattern is seen in characters that view the world a bit like a spreadsheet. They think and act based on logical deduction, statistical analysis, and cold knowledge. In most cases, they are the ones that stand out, since humans don't usually think like this. Rather, they combine input from both emotions and intelligence in various degrees.
    In fact, even if a character is demonstrably intelligent, it doesn't mean she is likely to take the logical course of action. I've met many rash or hotheaded 'intellectuals' myself.
    Example: Even after Marisa's betrayal, even after she had murdered his companions, Marcus still thought he could reignite their love. He released Marisa from her bonds and spoke words of love to her, hoping her heart would melt and she would return to the Light once more. A senseless act of weak-willed emotion, it ended with his dagger buried deep within his naive heart and with Marisa free to kill and betray once more.

    Character Consistency: Next, there is the internal logic that governs the workings of the character. It is composed of things that have been demonstrated and what we already know about humanity. In this plane, there is nothing wrong with irrational motivations, behavioral patterns, and actions as long as they are consistent with themselves. They could change, but the change must be initiated by something; something revelation, some event, and so forth.
    Example: Marcus has demonstrated his significant, yet irrational hatred of the Order of White Knights, possibly due to some unmentioned traumatic event. Nevertheless, we suddenly and inexplicably find him attempting to join the order in order to become a 'hero'.

    Story World Consistency: There is also the overarching internal logic of the world. The world may be utterly alien to us, but it should by consistent with itself. What has been demonstrated should not be overruled without a second thought. This sort of thing usually concerns characters, since we often view the world through their eyes and glean new information about it from their insights. Unlike Sense 2, however, it doesn't concern them directly.
    Example: In a world where babies are given to women by the Birthing Mother, a goddess that resides in the deep earth, we suddenly find a pregnant woman. Her appearance does not startle or bemuse the characters and several references are made to her giving birth.

    Real World Consistency: Then there is the logic of the world based on certain presumptions we make and knowledge we possess. Reading science fiction, I'd expect more genuine scientific information (if speculative, such as spatial contortion/expansion, wormholes, singularities, gravitons, and so forth) and less inexplicable instances of Applied Phlebotinum and Green Rocks. If these are introduced, I'd expect them to be given sensible and strict properties, which are not later expanded in an unflattering Ass Pull. I would also expect the author to Do The Research.
    Example: Surrounded by a host of Dravian ships, Captain John Lance releases the safety valve on the Superbosonic Conductance Drive. The engine is shunted into the vacuum of space and explodes in a tremendous roar that is heard throughout the battlefield. The engine showers the fleet with deadly subspace radiation, destroying it instantly. Luckily, they are absorbed by the Draconian's Anti-matter Dualphasing Shields, leaving it undisturbed. Captain John Lance smiles toothily and utters a phrase too catchy to be commited to paper.

    In other words, if your characters are illogical as Sense 1, I don't see the problem. There might have been one if this was not the case.

    Since you don't seem to be aiming for consistency with the real world, Sense 4 is minimally relevant.

    Illogical as Sense 2 and 3 are problematic unless your work is deliberately quite surreal (in which the narrative is designed to make as little sense as possible) or aspires to "mean" something (For example, if Marcus in Sense 2 was grossly exaggerating human fickleness to focus our attention on this trait of mankind.). In most cases, I feel it should be avoided. For sensitive people (I'm talking about myself here), a small inconsistency is enough to break the flow of the story. If it's a good story, they won't mind and continue anyway -- but some might abandon it if the inconsistencies persist or a major one appears (or if the story gets dull.).

    Note that what you explain and what you don't only make a story illogical if, without the presence of this explanation, the reader would suppose there is none or that it is very implausible (i.e. the reader would suppose it is something of an Ass Pull on your part.). Unless there it is a glaring fault or a noteworthy inconsistency, you don't need to explain every passage.

    Also, note that the lack of logic in a character or world is more about what is said and then contradicted than what is omitted. In some stories, the governing logic is introduced gradually and, as long as it doesn't tread on its own toes, I'm quite satisfied with it.

    I might've rattled on about this more than I should have. It's just that I've recently been thinking about this sort of thing myself. Anyone want to correct, modify, or add to anything I said?
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you all, there is alot of food for thoughts here.

    Syne, your categorization of logics is very useful!
     

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