Ever seen posts like these on the internet where complex plots or conflicts are solved using a bit of missed common sense? It’s kind of interesting to see how much plots often hinge on characters not knowing or not doing something incredibly obvious, especially in modern day situations like the one above.
So how do you avoid making your plot revolve around everything but your character using a bit of common sense? Simple: find a realism critic.
What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s just a term I came up with on the spot, really, but the principle is still sound. A realism critic is, quite frankly, the person who will go through your story and say “But why don’t they just…?”
I know, I know. They just have to, it’s part of the plot. When faced with realism criticism, most writers get the urge to just ‘shh’ the person and reassure them ‘it’s how it goes’ (or am I the only one who does that?)
But honestly, having a realism critic is a really great idea. My brother is my ultimate realism critic–actually, he does a lot more than that, but bouncing ideas off of him is one of the main things I do. I’ll be excitedly laying out this epic plot structure where this character does this and then this happens and it all ends with–
And then I see him give me the ‘look’. It’s like a mix between you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me and that-doesn’t-make-any-sense.
And then comes that dreaded question…
“But why would they do that?”
I sit back for a moment, words temporarily halted. I chew my lip, desperately trying to think of a sound explanation, because otherwise I know he’s going to tell me to scrap it, and worst of all, he’ll be right. So my brain goes into overload…
And I come up with…nothing. My shoulders slump in defeat as I admit, no, it wouldn’t make sense for them to break the window rather than walk in the open door. And no, making it ‘more epic that way’ does not make a good explanation.
So I sigh and sit back and chew my lip some more, trying to think of a way around the situation. “Well, what if they sneaked through the back door instead?”
And when he doesn’t automatically give me the ‘look’ again, I feel hopeful. But then he shakes his head. “No. It would still be better for them to go through the front door.”
I nod, unable to deny it. Back to the drawing board, I guess. Perhaps this idea will make it in the plot somewhere, or it may just require some major tweaking. But it’s not a quick fix.
See, we writers get too attached to our ideas and want them to work no matter what, even if this leads to major plot holes. That’s why I think we all need a ‘realism critic’ to blatantly tell us ‘no’, because we won’t say it to ourselves. We’ll try building with broken pieces, determined to avoid the fact that the structure will crumble at the lightest touch.
One thing to remember, though: your realism critic must be very logical/sensible and always ready to tell you ‘no’, no matter how much it might crush you. It’s much better to go back and rebuild your structure more carefully than complete it and watch someone touch it and make it crumble. Scrapping ideas isn’t fun, believe me, but it’s often necessary.
So, what do you think? Do you already have a ‘realism critic’? Or maybe someone who could potentially be one?