The collected musings of Ryan Elder

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Apr 16, 2015.

Tags:
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2015
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    54
    Location:
    Wales
    I haven't read any of the comments, just the OP, but I can see exactly what you mean if you have characters that tick the boxes of regular people doing regular things. Or even weird people doing weird things, neither will automatically build to tension and shock and coma-inducing climaxes the country over. I don't have many characters that are totally sane and steer the plot, I usually have them around to be real-world fluff that allow more extravagant people to take centre stage. However, there are many ways to achieve conflict and tension and the thrills that go with each...

    - Natural disaster.. Pretty self-explanatory. It's out of the hands of any decision-making process, or maybe someone did something that can be perceived as being the reason it happened (shouting loudly on a snow-capped mountain, only to be faced with a potential avalanche). Basically, 'God did it' and that's the only excuse you really need in that situation.

    - As writers, when we think of a problem we also try to couple it with a solution, which has a tendency to make the initial problem appear too easy to solve. So lets say my kid writes to Santa Claus and asks him for this and that, only he doesnt show me the list, and he wants to be with me when we post it. Maybe I'm smart enough to think "right, ill do another envelope and post that instead, and then be the best dad in the world because my kid thanks me for Santas gifts". But then I send the wrong one! It's christmas time, lots to do, just made a mistake. Easily explained. But now it's in the post box, so I go back and there is the postman driving away! Obviously this is a shit example because you'd make sure your kid wrote it on carbon copy sheets and be laughing all the way until your next bank statement came in. I digress, but I'm saying have little obstacles that make it harder and harder to resolve the conflict. Or throw a fucking volcanic eruption at them and watch them burn.

    - (okay, I sneaked a peak at what you replied with). So you have a cop who wants to engage a villain, but the MC doesnt want to involve the cops? Maybe he hates cops. Maybe he used to work in a doughnut shop and all these cops kept coming in, being assholes, telling bullshit stories, and generally making his life miserable. Maybe he used to be in jail or he believes cops to be corrupt. I could go on and on, but you've got to create an obstacle that cannot be scaled. Prejudices are usually born of something, whether it is significant or otherwise, if it matters to the character then it'll usually explain itself.

    My own viewpoint would be not to worry too much about how it will sell, but more in that you should put out a piece of work that reflects you and your experiences. Criticism is there to temper and to reign you in, it isn't there to decide your designs and plans for you. Write what you want, how you want, and listen to people when they give you advice. But if you weigh up their advice and don't think it stands up to the way you want to go about your story, throw their advice in the bin and get back to writing/editing.
     
  2. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,419
    Likes Received:
    1,644
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Predictable/unpredictable comes more from obscuring essential character traits than it does from plot.

    For instance, if your character is peace-loving, but must go into a rage to win the climactic battle, hint at the temper he holds in check. If you do it right, that peace-loving hippy will gouge the eyes out of any villain if the right stakes are presented.

    Read Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, specifically the chapter on Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Of course, you'll probably want to read the rest of it to put that chapter in context. :)
     
  3. Kit Carruthers

    Kit Carruthers New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Winnipeg, Canada
    Maybe the police are in on the conspiracy and friendly to the villain...

    Or simpler stuff like he's already an outlaw and can't trust the police. Or, like, he has drugs or illegal weapons or something. Or he's worried about the questions the police may ask him.
     
  4. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Well the villain is a serial killer type, and therefore cannot have power over the entire force, including internal affairs as well... and the hero is an honest cop who is not a criminal at all.

    If I change the characters though in order to make the hero not call, I feel it may come off as forced though.

    One scenario in particular I want to write is for the killer to lead the cop into a trap. However, how does the killer know that the cop will not bring back up with him, and why wouldn't he? I cannot think of an answer outside of the either the hero being a crook himself, or the villain having control over the force.

    But I would like to find a different reason altogether if possible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
  5. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    For my story, I was wondering if this scenario is possible.

    Basically a gang wants to recruit a new member, so they give him a 'blood in', which means that in order to get in and be relied upon, you have to spill the blood of another person, so to speak.

    So the new recruit, not quite knowing what he is getting into, is overwhelmed at thought of having to do this, and has a moral qualm.

    I wanted to write it so that he calls the police to come to and stop the hostage from being harmed. But is it possible for him to do this without the gang noticing he made a call, since they would naturally be watching him?

    Also when the police are called, I don't want them to be able to identity who called them, so the character can remain a secret anonymous caller. Is this possible without the gang or the police coming off as stupid, or what do you think? I am not quite sure how police technology works, but if a call is made, if you can trace the call, you can identify the phone from what I know.

    What do you think?
     
  6. Lea`Brooks

    Lea`Brooks Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,962
    Likes Received:
    1,990
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    Yes, police can trace the call. When I was a kid, the police department was checking the 911 system so they told everyone to call 911 to ensure the system was working. We did, then later that night, I went to call a friend. Well, I accidentally hit redial and it called 911. It only rang once before I hung up. But five minutes later, the police were knocking on my door, asking if everything was okay. Really embarrassing. lol

    I don't think cell phones are as accurate. Meaning if you accidentally dial 911 on a cell, they probably won't just show up because they won't know exactly where you are. So if your guy were to dial 911 and just not say anything, it's not likely the police would show up.

    So, my best suggestion would be to have the hostage situation take place in someone's home. Your guy can pick up the house phone when no one is looking, dial 911, set it down somewhere without hanging up or actually speaking into the phone, and then the police would show up. That should fit all your worries, because he could do it quickly, quietly, and anonymously, and the police would just assume the victim managed to get to the phone.
     
  7. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Okay thanks. However, since this guy is recruited for a blood in, they will probably be watching him more closely, and they probably wouldn't even let him anywhere near a phone in the house they have arranged to do it in, so that could be a problem. Plus they already know the layout of the house and the blood in was already pre-planned ahead, so I assume they would have cut the landlines already?

    Plus if he used the landline, and the gang found out that later, during the discovery process, that a the call to 911 came from the landline particularly, they are going to be able to figure out that he placed the call likely. I need the character to be able to call 911 without the gang figuring out it was him when they go through all the evidence, as to how the police found out.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
  8. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    A lot of times I have notices is when I share plot ideas or synopses with other readers or writers, they will say that it comes off as too convoluted. Just to be sure I didn't misjudge the defitinition of the word, convoluted according to the dictionary means 'complicated', or 'intricately involved'

    However, I am wondering why exactly that is a bad thing. A lot of my favorite stories in the thriller genre, are convoluted, because naturally if a crime or disaster happens, a dozen consequences will result out of it, each with their own twists and turns, and that's what makes the plot.

    So I am wondering why the term convoluted has gotten a bad connotation it seems. What's so bad about convolution, since consequences create domino effects and all? Plus the reader is smart enough to be able to figure out complicated plots, so I am wondering why it's such a bad thing?
     
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,835
    Likes Received:
    11,664
    Well, your critiquers aren't saying it's "convoluted"; they're saying it's "too convoluted". There's a difference, there.

    I'm going to guess it means the twists and turns aren't clear to them, or they're finding it confusing. But if all you're sharing is a plot idea, it's pretty hard for anyone to know how well you're going to execute the plot.

    If you can make things clear to your readers, I think convoluted is good. If readers get confused, I think you're too convoluted.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  10. Man in the Box

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil
    It's not bad if you have everything make sense.

    You overestimate the reader. :p
     
  11. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Okay thanks. I keep being told by writers not to spoonfeed the reader, and therefore I try to not over explain things, but perhaps I do it too much and I need to explain to the reader more of what's going on. But if you are writing a mystery story where you actually want the reader to think 'WTF is going on?" for a good portion, of it, then how can you do that and still give the reader confidence that everything will make sense once it's all revealed later?

    Also as far as things being too convoluted how can this be avoided? Like for example, if a certain plot twist happens and dozens of other plot turns and consequences come out of that, I can only simplify things so much before the reader starts to question why certain consequences did not come out of a plot turn, when naturally they would. So I am wondering how to avoid too convoluted.
     
  12. Kit Carruthers

    Kit Carruthers New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Winnipeg, Canada
    What if the main character does call the police but the villain kills the police when they come?
     
  13. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    If that happens though, and there are officers' down, then the police will send lots more officers, and the hero will have a lot more help (which I don't want), wouldn't he?
     
  14. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    My story is a crime thriller, where the villain is caught by having his cellphone tapped. The police arrange for him to panic and have him call his accomplices out of emergency, and he and the accomplice discuss what to do about their crime, which has gone wrong.

    They cannot meet in person because they all do not have time, and have to talk about it right away.

    However, there is no emergency that sends them into a panic. It's all a police sting operation set up, so that the gang will call each other and incriminate themselves, while talking to each other over the phone.

    However, I am told this is a plot hole, because criminals would not talk over the phone about their crimes because it makes them look stupid.

    But is their a way I can write it so that the reader believes it?

    Like for example in Breaking Bad, Walter White is constantly talking about criminal activity over the phone, with his criminal associates. Like there was one episode where they talked about a production shortage in his drug product, and he is talking about that over the phone. There is also another episode, where the police are going to arrest one of his associates, so Walt calls him to warn him to get out of town, knowing full well, that the man is under investigation.

    Later in the show Walter talks on the cellphone, and he doesn't know that his own conversation is being recorded.

    The movie The Departed did this as well, with criminals constantly talking over the phone about their activity, and in the end, it turns out it was recorded.

    Is it possible to write my story like this where the reader will not think of it as a plot hole and actually buy it?
     
  15. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,357
    Likes Received:
    834
    I challenge the creation of this thread. I apologize if this seems harsh. But you have been on this forum for nearly a year. And it seems like you are still at square one. I can recognize from the homepage that this was one of your threads based on the title.

    I think your biggest problem is not the plot but the way you look at the plot. It seems like you have discussion(our PM or other PMs or public threads) with the hope of finding some magic trick. Some perfect formula or sudden tool that will fix everything and make it perfect.

    No such tool exists. Your work is never going to be perfect. No ones work is perfect. The thing I think you need to realize is every source has technical faults. Because no source is perfect.

    You need to stop worrying about perfection or the elimation of problems and focus on the positive.

    Your approach always seems like. "How can I take away things people won't enjoy."

    I recommend the reverse. "How can I add things someone would love."

    If you change your story at the drop of the hat to every possible fault, you will never finish. I don't mean to say leave faults in on purpose either, but searching for faults I think is doing you no good.

    It is freezing you in place and not allowing you to grow. So if leaving a few faults in, allows you to take the next step or to add more awesome things in. Then go for it.
     
  16. Aster

    Aster Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    47
    Location:
    Melbourne
    The serial killer is a hacker.

    He hacks every phone your MC tries to use. Every time he tries to call the police, he calls the killer instead.

    Boom.
     
  17. Samurai Jack

    Samurai Jack Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    102
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    You tell me I cannot use my phone, period. You tell me I cannot make any calls to anything resembling police, or my friends, or my family, all or none of which might be in danger.

    Fine. But you're going about it the wrong way. You're trying to physically stop me from alerting any one of those three groups in the middle of a city. I'm going to find any ambulance, fire truck, taxi... anything with a radio capable of directly calling dispatch, and just yelling out the window. Here's my badge, here's my gun, here's a note. Call everyone.

    First, give the hero a real life consequence to breaking a rule. Calling out for help is a dead body. Even if he has no family, or no real friends, he won't be able to accept being responsible for an innocent death.

    Second, keep the guy moving. If he can't call out for fear of a dead body, then any kind of snail mail bread crumbs won't be able to keep up with the guy getting told to hop around a city like a bad mission in Grand Theft Auto.
     
  18. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Well in my case, the villains cannot have control over every police force in the country of course.

    What if I wrote it so that the MC acts on his own without back up, without an explanation...? Some stories do that. Since I am writing a screenplay, I tend to use movies to compare since I watch a lot of them. In Lethal Weapon for example, Murtaugh's daughter is kidnapped, and held for ransom, so Murtaugh goes and rescues her. But he only brings his partner, Riggs.

    He doesn't tell anyone else on the force, so he can have more back up. It's not explained why he wouldn't accept more help, the writers just did this cause they wanted the MC's to act on their own against the villains.

    In Point Break, Utah has a theory that the bank robbers are going to rob one last bank, and he has a theory as to which one it is. So he takes his partner with him to steak out the bank. But they don't tell their superiors or anything and therefore, are assigned no back up.

    Plus even when they catch the bank robbers in the act, they decide to chase after them themselves, in a full on car chase, without even calling for back up, even if after they caught them in the act, and they are escaping.

    So what if I wrote it like that, where the MC chooses not to call, for no explained reason?
     
  19. stormr

    stormr Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2013
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    plainwell, mi
    Your MC just feels the need to accomplish this on his own. To prove something to himself and to the person (if its a person or people kidnapped) that he can be counted on. Or depending on whether its a comedy or even a little comedy, you can always just have it when the police show up for final arrest, they ask "Why didn't you just call us?" He can answer "Guess I just didn't think about that!"
     
  20. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Oh okay. Well I never thought of him as the type to need to prove something. He is just given an assignment and does it, cause it's his job. But there is nothing previous in the story to suggest the need to prove something I don't think. Is that bad?
     
  21. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    I have a story, and I am not quite sure how to end it but have a few options. It's a crime thriller, and one option is for instead of the police coming to bust the villains, they want revenge on them for how they keep on getting away with their crimes.

    Since it's a screenplay, I tend to use movies as an example, and one movie that ends like that is Lethal Weapon 2. In that movie, the cops cannot arrest the villains because the villains have diplomatic immunity. After the villains get away with their crimes too many times, the two main cops decide to go kill them all.

    The two cops level the South African consulate to the ground, and kill a couple of dozen South African diplomats, since they were not legally able to touch them.

    Then at the end of the movie, everything is fine. In Lethal Weapon 3, they are still cops, who got away with mass murder, and nothing happened to them.

    Lethal Weapon 3 also has a similar ending. They decide to go kill the villains themselves, since the law is not doing anything about it and the way they get to the villains would not hold up in court at all, since they use death threats, and torture against criminals to get answers as to who is behind at all. So with doing that, they would never even be able to argue that they any probable cause to go shoot all of the villains later, since the information that lead to them was obtained through illegal means.

    However, in the third one, when they confronted the villains, they pointed their guns at them and told them to freeze, which is kind of a plot hole, because if they arrested them, they wouldn't be able to legally bring the case to court, so you might as well shoot without warning.

    Yet at the end of that movie, everything is fine, and the characters are still cops, and are happy and free.

    I was wondering, how do you write a story where the reader will enjoy an ending like that and be able to suspend disbelief? How do you get them to believe that?

    I was trying to research some real life examples of where something like this happened in real life, and the only one I was able to come across was Wyatt Earp, but that was over a century ago, and things have changed now.

    One idea, for my story off the top of my head, is that the cops who want to bring the villains down but cannot legally, could kidnap the leader of the organization's wife and kids, and threaten to kill them, unless the leader kills all of his subordinates, and then himself. He also has to make the police and the media, find the bodies in by a quick deadline, so they can all be confirmed, dead, or his family dies.

    The downside to the plan is is that they would have to believe that the villain would actually be willing to do that to save his family, rather than risk calling the honest cops for help. But that's just one idea, of how to get them, I could use others.

    So is their anything to be mindful of, when trying to make an ending like that, believable?

    Thanks for the input. I really appreciate it :).
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  22. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    693
    Likes Received:
    736
    Location:
    Seattle
    There's little proven evidence of this happening in real life, although there are many instances where people who commit particular egregious crimes are gunned down while being apprehended by the police. A lot of these are conspiracy theories in a way, so may or may not be correct, but it's likely that some are true. This is definitely a theme that emerges from time to time in detective novels: "if the only way I can prevent the killer from killing again is to break the law, then should I?" For many characters, fictional and perhaps real life as well, the answer to that question is yes.

    I don't think readers would need to suspend disbelief to accept this kind of ending. It is a common enough theme in the genre that readers will probably have seen it before. For the cops to come out unscathed, they'd need to set it up so that it looked like an accident, as if the criminals were killed by a rival gang, or such that no one ever discovers the corpses. You could also write the ending such that they end up getting caught. It's your choice though, of course.
     
  23. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Oh another thing I forgot to mention in my story is, is that I was thinking of having it so that the cops try to kill the villains but fail, so they are already on the run from the honest police. So they want to kill the villains but need to keep the honest police from stopping them in the process. So since the honest police are already after them, they will be the prime suspects, if they make it look like an accident.

    In Lethal Weapon 2 and 3 though, they didn't make it look like an accident, at least not competently. Their blood, DNA and prints would still be at the murder scenes, and they still got away with it.
     
  24. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    693
    Likes Received:
    736
    Location:
    Seattle
    Fingerprints, etc. wouldn't necessarily put the blame on the police for orchestrating the attack, particularly if they were careful about leaving evidence. I haven't seen the movie though, so can't say for sure whether their cover-up was plausible. A police department though will always have an interest in helping the cover-up, because it looks very bad for them if some of their own are revealed to have gone bad.
     
  25. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    82
    Well that's the thing, both movies ended by skipping over the cover ups. They kill them all, but then everything is fine, and they don't explain it. So what I was wondering is, how do you take artistic licence like that without explanation for the reader in the end?
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice