Archive for September 15th, 2008

Sep 15 2008

The difference between a convoluted plot and a brilliant one…

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Many beginning authors think that they can create a brilliant plot by adding layers of deception, betrayal, double-agents and triple-agents, lies wrapped within feints, etc.  It can be done well, but more often it’s a recipe for a horribly convoluted plot. Rather than seeming brilliant, your plot will probably come off more like this assessment of Metal Gear Solid.

These convoluted characters usually try to show that their characters are brilliant because they make freakishly accurate predictions about what other characters will do. At its worst, that devolves into a game of “I know you know I know” that will leave your readers writhing in agony. A genuinely brilliant character should use plans that leave the audience wondering why they didn’t think of that. Typically those plans are simple and rely on predictions that seem obvious in hindsight. Let me demonstrate.

In Justice League, Batman tries to find the Joker by convincing his assistant, Harlequin, that the Joker has ignominously replaced her with another woman. (Transcript below).  One aspect that really impressed me about the scene is that Harlequin doesn’t immediately turn against the Joker.  Instead, Batman merely increases her doubt of him, so that she goes off to confront him… And Batman secretly follows her!  It’s more believable because it requires a less significant shift from Harlequin.

BATMAN: Where’s Joker?

HARLEQUIN: After all these years, you still think I’d give up Mr. J.

BATMAN: Why not?  He gave you up.

HARLEQUIN: That was a long time ago.   He’s changed.  We’ve been to couple’s counseling.

BATMAN: I’m talking about right now.  Haven’t you been watching?  [He points at a screen showing Joker with his new female sidekick.]  The way he touches her hair.  The way he rubs her shoulders.

HARLEQUIN: You mean Ace?  She’s just a kid.

BATMAN: Really?  Then why is she with him when you’re in the cold?

[Harlequin slaps Batman, but goes to confront the Joker.]

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