1. sarahfromtheblock

    sarahfromtheblock New Member

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    Is the point of no return really that important?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by sarahfromtheblock, Mar 7, 2018.

    Basically, there's this thing called the sunk cost fallacy and it sounds to me that it's a better way to treat plot. The argument is: If at every point in your plot the character has the option to go back but just chooses NOT to, the story is better, and the character arc is stronger.

    If any of you wishes to read further on this, this is the article that makes a good case against PONR.
     
  2. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Honestly, I think the writer of that article is confusing the use of the PoNR with bad writing. At the PoNR a well written antagonist will choose to to pursue his/her main goal.
    Let's say that the antagonist has to cross a ratty bridge to go to the grocery store and buy bread. Once across the bridge, he/she discovered that the store is closed. Now, good writing will have character choose to make the journey into the city to find an open grocery store. This decision, be it good or bad, irrational or irrational, will give the reader insight into the character and his/her motivations. For example, "Why did he/her choose to go into the city instead of a store in another suburb?" Good writing will not ignore this question but will use it.
    Bad writing will have the same storm that flooded the parking lot take out the bridge. So, the character is forced to make that journey into the city for the sole purpose of advancing the plot.
    For me, and I believe this is what you are getting at: the good part of a story isn't what is happening in the story but how the characters chooses to react to what is happening.
    I agree with you %100 in that regard.
     
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  3. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    If the character can just turn around and walk away from a story, I'd say the writer probably picked a pretty weak plot.

    Or, looking at it from the other side, if the character is being chased by werewolves but can just choose to walk away and go home rather than stay there and fight them, they'd better have a damn good motivation to stay. There's a reason most horror stories lock the characters in a location so they have to fight.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
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  4. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    I think I get what they're saying... a story is more powerful if the character chooses to be part of it. But, like most generalizations, that's just not true for every story. (Haha, I made a generalization about generalizations.) Also, I disagree with them saying that you can't have both the point of no return (stakes) and the sunk cost fallacy (motivation). Why not? A character has no other choice but to proceed, so they decide to make the most of it. Managing to fit both in is a great way to increase tension.
     
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  5. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    But in good fiction, as in real life, the protagonist/protagonists won't actually realize the danger their in, or the ramifications of their actions, or inactions... how often do protagonists (fools) rush in where angels fear to tread? That's the fun of storytelling! Where's the tension and suspense if at every turn your characters are given black and white choices. Indeed, the better story is the character/characters who, if they knew just how precarious their situation was, would not walk but run like hell in the other direction. Certainly your protagonists must at some point arrive at that point of no return, conscious of the consequences, and with eyes wide open go where angels fear to tread.
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Call me Mr Cynical but are you the author of the article you are promoting with your very first post ?
     
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  7. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    1. noun; the act or process of locating.
    This is a tangentially related video, as it pertains to screenwriting more than general fiction/novel/short story writing, but I'll post it here. The idea of this video is how to visually portray a character making a decision at the point of no return, bu tit touches on some elements relevant to your initial question.

    The video is from Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting series. it deals most specifically with Snowpiercer and will entirely spoil the movie, if you haven't seen it.
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    IDK, it seems a little suspect to me.

    Sure the characters could go from bad to good or
    good to bad, but whats the point in discussing it.

    IRL you are faced with ambiguous choices with
    multiple rewards/consequences.
    Unless you are a Stepford Wife/Husband, or
    a homicidal maniac, then things are just not
    as black and white.

    In conclusion I think it is better to read/watch/listen to
    this progression rather than trying to quantify it, cause
    that could take more years than all of us have left combined
    to the tenth power.
     
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  9. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I think preferring ponr or engaged characters choosing what they do is just a matter of taste. Both things happen in real life, so people like reading about both things.
     
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  10. sarahfromtheblock

    sarahfromtheblock New Member

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    Being new here, I'm not really familiar with how to reply to each answer separately, though there were quite a few interesting points raised.
    The way I understood it, it's always the character that decides to take certain steps on a journey. But there's a difference between making one bad decision and ending up in trouble, and choosing the 'wrong' thing over and over again until a certain point in the character arc where the protagonist changes and starts making better decisions.
    Ex. Walter White makes drugs once and sees it was a mistake, withdrawing all the money he's made and never indulging in it again. But that would be quite a different show if his character flaw didn't keep turning up over and over again to drive the plot. That's what I picked up from the article when it said that they were kind of mutually exclusive, PONR and the fact that it's not just one bad decision and then 'whoops', but, instead, a series of bad decisions that make the entire plot.

    In my humble opinion, the plot can never be weak when the characters are strong. Even if there is no objective plot, as long as the character arc changes the story is solid. At least that's how I see it at this point in my writing endeavors x)

    Tony Zhou is probably my favorite video essayist, and, yes, the video you've linked has shaped a lot of my perspective concerning this subject. :D

    I agree that at some point PONR just organically shows up, but usually at the very end after the character has made so many choices that got them there.

    I've been pretty convinced by many editors that keep mentioning PONR as a plot essential, but this article has shaken things a little bit. There are a few things I might disagree with, but it's an interesting way to start looking at plot. After thinking about it for a while, it does sound kind of lazy, which is the main reason I asked the question. I have noticed quite a few stories have somewhat forced plots their poor, innocent characters have found themselves in, and, from then on, I've had this fear that my plot might feel the same.
     
  11. sarahfromtheblock

    sarahfromtheblock New Member

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    Okay, just realized how to reply - not that difficult. I'm tragic with technology.
    No, it's just some rando I followed on WP, but I liked the blog x)
     
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