1. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    Corey Doctorow on limiting situations

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by Iain Aschendale, Oct 11, 2017 at 1:53 AM.

    This is an interesting article by Cory Doctorow on the limiting situations that characters face, and whether or not those limits are realistic. It gets a little political at the end, but I think it makes a good point (especially for SF/F writers, who have more control than those grounded in "the real world") on taking a step back and checking whether the constraints you've placed your characters are realistic, or just there to force them into a plot resolution. Have a read:

    Cold Equations and Moral Hazard
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I thought the comments were interesting, too, and I think I agreed with some of them more than I do with the original article. (Not the ones focused around denying climate change, the rational ones!).

    I felt like Doctorow was, to some extent, criticizing the stories for not focusing on what he wanted them to focus on. And I think that's fair as a reader ("I didn't like it because I wanted a closer examination of the socio-economic forces that led to this crisis") but I don't think it's fair as a larger criticism of the story ("It wasn't good because it didn't closely examine the socio-economic forces that led to this crisis"). Sometimes an author wants to macro-examine socio-economic forces, sometimes an author wants to micro-examine an individual relationship. I don't think one approach is better than the other.
     
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  3. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    I wasn't totally on-board with it, but I do think the point of taking a step back is still valid (and I haven't read Farnham's Freehold in so long that I couldn't react intelligently to his comments on that part, but I have realized that, at least for me, Heinlein doesn't always hold up so well anymore)
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I've never been a huge Heinlein fan, so I guess that part wasn't as meaningful for me.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    But...that was totally the point of those constraints. Yes, they were absolutely there purely to force a plot, or arguably a character, situation. I feel like he's looking at a building and saying, "That roof is just there to keep the rain off." Well...yeah.

    Sure, it would have been nicer if the situation were more airtight, so the reader isn't distracted by "but what if they tried..." Its nicer if a roof is an elegant thing that looks like it belongs there. But he's acting like he's discovered some guilty secret, when all he's discovered is the whole point of the story.

    (Farnam's Freehold, I won't go out of my way to defend. Other Heinlein works, yes, but not that one.)
     
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  6. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like this is a problem I run into--namely, if you put realistic constraints on your characters (even in a SF/F setting), then you end up with a pretty boring story. Realistically, most people just do the same thing day in and day out and they don't usually change much. And there are good reasons for that, because it's what works for them. Maybe over a very long time period they'll change, but then you've just got a dragging plot instead of a static one.

    To extend your roof metaphor--I find it hard to make a roof that is both functional and nice to look at. That is to say, I can come up with characters who fit in with the established rules of their world, but they almost fit so well that they don't see any reason to do anything, or else can't do anything, and thus are boring. But to make them not-boring would require they be either too weak/stupid or too smart/powerful to credibly fit in with the world-rules/constraints.

    Anyway. Not really looking for advice I guess, just venting.
     
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