Monday, December 20, 2010

Logical Plotting, Part Two: Plot Fallacies

Last week I compared plot structure to argument structure in order to break it down into workable components but many of the fallacies that are easy to make in arguments are also easy to make in plots.

Arguments and plots are different in that appeals to emotion are not only OK but encouraged. If the reader feels no empathy for the heroes and loathing for the villains (or a delicious confusing combination of the two for both the heroes and villains) you are in big trouble. However, you can also run into trouble when you rely only on emotion and forget to make anything actually happen.

Appealing to pity –The sob story

Hallmark movies fall into this category rather often. A little girl who sends a father's day card to heaven via balloon is touching but it isn't a story unless it leads to something else or has been led up to in a way that makes it significant to the particular little girl in a particular way. It needs to have a connection to other events in order to be a story.

Appealing to fear --The horror flick

Horror flicks can be entertaining but a book requires more investment from the reader than a movie does from a viewer. they deserve more than teenagers running away from monsters and serial killers. Where is this teenager running to? Where are they running from? Why does one monster scare them more than another? Where will all this running lead them? What is the significance?

You might have noticed that there are two words I use a lot when I talk about plot. Significance and leading. A story takes the reader through a series of events to a climax. That is why I get bored with TV dramas after a few episodes. They don't go anywhere. If you have the concept of events leading to a climax in mind you probably won't get caught up in many fallacies but here are a few more examples.

Circular Plot

When the events leading up to the climax are the same as the climax.

Hero wins a race (event) Hero wins another race (climax)

This can actually work given the right circumstances but it's still worth watching out for. If you do it do it on purpose.

Pirates are stranded on a raft with treasure (event) pirates are rescued and scheme and murder on their way to shore in order to keep their treasure (event) pirates are again stranded on a raft with their treasure (climax)

False Cause

This occurs when the climax and events preceding it are not actually connected.

Girl thinks her fiance has died in the war and gets involved with his best friend (event) The Japanese attack America (climax)

When this happens the reader can't be biting their fingernails wondering what the characters are going to do because it won't actually affect the ending.

Disjointed Plot (Ignoratio Elenchii)

When the writer changes what the story is about last minute without leaving hints for the reader along the way.

Alice wanders through the backwards world on the other side of the looking glass (event) And it was a dream after all (climax)

1 comment:

  1. I'm watching out for circular plots as I work on my current first draft. It's historical, but there are some parallels to the woman's life I don't want to become repetitive to readers.