I saw a t-shirt recently that said, "The difference between real life? Fiction has to make sense."
As writers, you know how frustrating it is getting a critique back from someone or getting rejection letter saying, "We were confused." One of my favorite rejection came from an agent who said, "I was confused about who the main characters were."
I shouted at that letter, as I shout at Heidi Klum when I watch "Project Runway." "WHAT IS CONFUSING? IT'S A STORY! (Or, when I'm shouting at Heidi. "IT'S A DRESS!")
Why is "reality" TV so popular? Real people are not pretty, they're not graceful, they're not dramatic, and, as I witnessed last night, they're not all that smart. Real people NEED writers because writers know that to get to point B, you have to start at point A and follow a logical path. Real people, working without writers, tend to bounce around and land on a point C that no one even knew was there.
Case in point: Survivor last night. (And if you haven't seen it, STOP READING NOW, go to CBS.com and watch it before reading the rest of this!)
I was really excited about the concept of Heroes vs. Villains. I mean, after 19 seasons of Survivor, honestly, I'm losing track of who played on which Pacific island and it's nice to see some of my favorites or least favorites at it again. Bonus, two of my all time favorite Survivors, Tom the Fireman and Stephanie, were there. (And got voted off VERY EARLY because, well the heroes are MORONS.)
Turns out, being a hero on Survivor doesn't mean you're smart, or logical, or talented, or...well, all it really means is that you're sitting on a team of people who want to be conniving and simply don't have the brains it takes to plan a trip to the grocery store. Which is why the heroes were STINKING UP THE JOINT endlessly until they finally figured out how to win a challenge or two. Then, full of their good fortune (Which they attributed to getting rid of the right people...don't get me started...) they found the holy grail of really good stuff...the hidden immunity idol!
Now, the point of the hidden immunity idol is that it is HIDDEN until the person who found it uses it. Survivor history is littered with morons, most of them either on this heroes team now or should have been, who used the hidden immunity idol the wrong way, or, in the case of James...not at all. (And he had two of them in his pocket!) So did the Mensa member who found the idol KEEP IT HIDDEN? Um...no.
The first thing Good old boy JT did (And for those of you who don't know, JT won the million in his season mostly because he was a sweet dirt clod kicker that everyone loved and no one was going to vote against. I liked him at the time. I sort of hoped he'd put the money toward some higher education...or maybe just some basic common sense schooling.) was show everyone in his tribe that he had it!
Okay, so now all the people on your tribe know you have it. Which means either they'll force you to use it or they'll plot against you so that you get voted out without using it. Yeah, way to go.
So what does the brilliant JT decide he's going to do with it?
Hold on to your chairs.
He's going to give it to RUSSELL! He thinks Russell is at the mercy of the idiot women on his tribe. (It should be noted that while women have always talked about a women's alliance, it doesn't happen often, and that's because most of the women are picked for their bodies and not their brains. Seriously, there are five women villains left...and one man. And the man is running the show for no other reason than he said he wanted to.)
Again, if you don't follow Survivor, let me explain. Russell is the man who found three of these idols without so much as a clue. He's a complete troll who someone performs Jedi mind control on everyone around him, (women are especially weak in his presence.) He's also mega paranoid and the best way to stay in the game is to tell him that someone else is plotting against him. (Right Coach?) So, even Russell, who seems to be smart, is really just a dumb dumb.
Oh, and he's a Villain, which means he's not even on Jt's TEAM!
But, the future winners of the Nobel peace prize gathered last night and listened as JT read a letter he'd written to Russell. (I know, I didn't realize JT could write a letter either!) At one of the challenges, they passed the idol to Russell who went back to his tribe, read the letter out loud, and then mocked JT and the heroes in general.
See, now if a writer were to put something like this in a manuscript, I promise you the critique would read like this:
There is no way on earth the hero would save the villain for no reason. The villain has not grown or changed, and the hero is basing this saving on a reason that is not only not true, it's not logical.
But this is what is happening to these people. Writers can't write this stuff, even if they want to. If we read it in a book, if we saw it in a movie, we'd shout at the screen, "THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!"
So go back to your work, my friends. And know that in spite of what you may see around you in the real world, when you're writing, it has to make sense.
The tribe has spoken!