How many dead ends is too many in a plot?


Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13

Thread: How many dead ends is too many in a plot?

  1. #1

    How many dead ends is too many in a plot?

    For my story, some say that they don't buy the main character resorting to the type of desperation and revenge that he resorts too and that he needs to be pushed more, as in more things do not work out for him in order to be pushed to that desperation. But when I do that it feels like a dead end. He tries to get the villains, he fails, so he tries something, harder, fails so he tries something harder, etc.. but how many dead ends is too many do you think? Is it better to just write one bigger fail, then several more smaller ones?

  2. #2
    No dead ends are acceptable. You need to move the story.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  3. #3
    'Dead ends' for a character are fine, if you mean failure rather than an actual dead end, where the plot just arbitrarily stops.

    There's different ways a character can fail - they could fail in terms of plot (not get the bad guys) but still grow as a character (learn that they don't have to solve all the world's problems or some such), succeed (get the bad guys) but fail to develop as a character (own family is in crisis because they spend all their time on cases), or fail in both (not sure people would enjoy reading that - but then it is the character arch of Jamie Lannister).

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by epimetheus View Post
    'Dead ends' for a character are fine, if you mean failure rather than an actual dead end, where the plot just arbitrarily stops.

    There's different ways a character can fail - they could fail in terms of plot (not get the bad guys) but still grow as a character (learn that they don't have to solve all the world's problems or some such), succeed (get the bad guys) but fail to develop as a character (own family is in crisis because they spend all their time on cases), or fail in both (not sure people would enjoy reading that - but then it is the character arch of Jamie Lannister).
    If they're growing as a character, though, then it's not a dead end.

    Here's the thing - ordinarily I'd disregard it as a semantic quibble but I know enough about this OP and his story (he's been talking about and occasionally posting excerpts from it on here for several years now) to know what he's asking is "Can I just have my character(s) do a bunch of pointless things that don't end well and still have a good story?" and the answer to that is...no...

    Even in stories that consist of 'character fucking up a lot before finally being successful' (your Planes, Trains & Automobiles type, say) there is a strong sense of a story. The failures feed into one continuing plot. There aren't random segues that don't contribute other than "here's failure...and here's more failure...and here's more failure...and here's success..." There's an element of growth, of a lesson being learned overall, of the character being pushed to their limit that ties the whole thing together and gives it purpose. At the very least, it lends itself to farcical humor. But this story is a bunch of rapists and some cops and I really can't, for the life of me, imagine random-for-the-sake-of-random hi-jinx being funny or fulfilling in that.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  5. #5
    Oh yeah, I don't intend for it to be funny for sure.

    Well for example, I have a situation where the main character is trying to find out who the rest of the gang of villains are. Only one suspect was arrested and then released later for not enough evidence. The main character figures that maybe the suspect had talked to his lawyer, and given him details of the crime he was arrested for. So he mugs the lawyer later, and takes his wallet, so he can get his key card to the law firm building. He mugged him while wearing a mask and gloves, to not leave evidence there.

    He then uses the keycard to get in, checks the privileged conversations the lawyer would have written down in his file, but isn't able to turn up anything. The main character then must try harder and becomes more desperate. But does this feel like a dead end plot point, in the sense that nothing turns up of it?

  6. #6
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Indonesia
    Posts
    309
    You realize that feels like dead-end point in the plot and nothing turning up after so many works a.k.a hero failed.

    Now imagine if this happens over and over again, back to back, without the hero even realizing he's been failing a lot. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader/viewer/listener/whatever, what kind of impression do you get from seeing repeat failure?

  7. #7
    Yeah I see what you mean, but at the same time, I am told the hero would have to have more fails before becoming almost psychotically desperate and resorting to such tactics. So how do you put the hero in such a state of mind, without giving him more fails, but not have it be repetitive?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    ... I am told the hero would have to have more fails ... So how do you ... not have it be repetitive?
    1) Make the kind the failure change each time

    2) Make the stakes and consequences continually rise

    This way each failure feels different, and more and more crucial.
    Last edited by Kyle R; September 20th, 2019 at 02:53 PM.

  9. #9
    The novel I am currently rewriting had a problem in which the protagonist constantly ended any kind of conflict with some form of injury/blackout/tranquilizing/fainting. There were at least three 'fade to black' scenes that were way too similar. That felt like a dead end, so I completely changed one and scrapped a second. The question, of course, was how to handle the scene in a way that was different but moved the story to the next.

    I think when we talk about changing the kind of failure, we're really talking about changing the forms of conflict entirely. A shoot out between two gangs may only be able to end one way, so consider how many shootouts are actually needed to be written as opposed to implied - it's probably just one. Showing some 'personal failure' through a non-violent relationship breakdown is a good way to expose character. So is punching your asshole boss. Maybe look at the cadence of the story itself? Is it perhaps a little too long? A little unbalanced?
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  10. #10
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Tucson Az
    Posts
    1,055
    Blog Entries
    2
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The novel I am currently rewriting had a problem in which the protagonist constantly ended any kind of conflict with some form of injury/blackout/tranquilizing/fainting. There were at least three 'fade to black' scenes that were way too similar. That felt like a dead end, so I completely changed one and scrapped a second. The question, of course, was how to handle the scene in a way that was different but moved the story to the next.

    I think when we talk about changing the kind of failure, we're really talking about changing the forms of conflict entirely. A shoot out between two gangs may only be able to end one way, so consider how many shootouts are actually needed to be written as opposed to implied - it's probably just one. Showing some 'personal failure' through a non-violent relationship breakdown is a good way to expose character. So is punching your asshole boss. Maybe look at the cadence of the story itself? Is it perhaps a little too long? A little unbalanced?
    This ^^^ right here is grade A advice. Go over the plot with a fine tooth comb. Use a plot curve and see how the story play's out. If it ends up looking like some of weird silly string piece of abstract art then you need to go back to the drawing board and take a long hard look at your plot and see what needs to go or be redone completely. I've done it myself and while yes it sucks at first your story will be all the better for it.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

    I don't have a big ego. You just can't comprehend my greatness!

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.