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Plot armour. (1 Viewer)

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Foxee

Patron
Patron
I'm not sure why you quoted my post for what you've replied to it, Az. In no way did I say there is only one way to deal with the plot armor idea. I'm clarifying because otherwise this is so easy to turn into some kind of debate and "I didn't say that". I was pointing out an example, that's all.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
But isn't that the worse sort of 'plot armour'? If you're going to choose a hero that dies or a hero
that lives, at least have the balls to stick with your decision. :)

Not at all. As someone who has more than likely never read anything from my Darksword series (no offense intended), let me
explain a bit of the motivation behind this plot element. The Gods that brought him back in that moment make appearances
throughout the series to guide the main characters, and to occasionally show them things they might not see on their own.

The death of Darius and his subsequent reanimation were done purposely. The Gods know that he has no problem sacrificing
himself for the greater good, but they need him alive. His journey is one that can't simply end in one story. The underlying
plot through most of the series is a never ending quest for knowledge any understanding. Darius can't understand anything
if he stays dead.

I had another character in the series that actually did die, and evolved into a higher life form after his death. Errian was a
sorceror (and recurring character that would pop up every few installments) that wasn't a bad person, but started to let his
desire of being the most powerful sorceror ever known to cloud his judgement and endanger others. He eventually found the
power he so desired, only to be destroyed by it because it overwhelmed him due to his own arrogance.

After his death, his soul and life force were absorbed by the Gods and taken to a higher plain, where he saw the error of his
ways and resolved to watch over the whole realm and make sure other sorcerors would never make the same mistakes he
once did. Errian was a cool character full of mystery and intrigue, but his death helped several other arcs I had going.

-JJB
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Yes, I watched that recently actually. It's a fun romp and I liked it for that.

My problem with the phrase 'plot armour' is the fact it insinuates any story that doesn't kill main characters off is flawed and therefore bad writing. It has become a sharp nail to crucify many a good story.

I watch reviews and hear it all the time: 'Yeah it was good but that plot armour', 'If only they hadn't used plot armour', 'I thought it was great, but the plot armour ruined it for me'. It's become a popular phrase since Game Of Thrones. It's what the cool kids say.

It's not a negative to write a story that allows the protagonist to survive, but the phrase suggests it is. The possibilities and methods for writing stories are deep and broad. On a table of tools, killing your protagonists is merely one option. It's not a 'plus' or a 'minus' it's an 'option'.

Oddly, I've never heard the phrase "plot armor" until a few days ago on this site, although the inference is immediately understandable, and I've always understood the concept. But I write a LOT of reviews, so I don't read other reviews often--don't want to be influenced by them when I write my own--and I didn't watch Game of Thrones.

And yeah, I don't think many readers are hoping the characters they've been following are going to die. We get plenty of that in real life. Realism in fiction? Yeah, with spaceships and dragons and undead, it would terrible to contradict all the realism with heroes who can survive. ;-) But as just about everyone in the thread has discussed, we have to be clever enough to worry the reader AND make survival make sense. I too often commented about a writer who writes his characters into a corner and then proceeds with a really stupid solution. It's more common in movies and TV than in books, but I've seen it in books too. The writer needs to THINK and do a good job. Writing is all about many things, but thinking tops the list.
 
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TheMightyAz

Senior Member
I'm not sure why you quoted my post for what you've replied to it, Az. In no way did I say there is only one way to deal with the plot armor idea. I'm clarifying because otherwise this is so easy to turn into some kind of debate and "I didn't say that". I was pointing out an example, that's all.

Yes, apologies. I just wanted to say I'd seen the film lately and took the opportunity to explain why I've got a problem with the phrase. I should have made that a separate post. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
Oddly, I've never heard the phrase "plot armor" until a few days ago on this site, although the inference is immediately understandable, and I've always understood the concept. But I write a LOT of reviews, so I don't read other reviews often--don't want to be influenced by them when I write my own--and I didn't watch Game of Thrones.

And yeah, I don't think many readers are hoping the characters they've been following are going to die. We get plenty of that in real life. Realism in fiction? Yeah, with spaceships and dragons and undead, it would terrible to contradict all the realism with heroes who can survive. ;-) But as just about everyone in the thread has discussed, we have to be clever enough to worry the reader AND make survival make sense. I too often comment about a writer who writes his characters into a corner and then proceeds with a really stupid solution. It's more common in movies and TV than in books, but I've seen it in books too. The writer needs to THINK and do a good job. Writing is all about many things, but thinking tops the list.

Maybe it's because of the amount of times I've heard it in the last few years. If I watch a TV series or a film, the first thing I do afterwards is go online and listen to YT reviews to see what they say. I'll watch dozens of them. Some I agree with and some I don't. That phrase now drives me nuts. :)
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
My problem with the phrase 'plot armour' is the fact it insinuates any story that doesn't kill main characters off is flawed and therefore bad writing. It has become a sharp nail to crucify many a good story.

I think there's some misunderstanding.

The negative that has been mentioned is a matter of correlation, not causation: Stories aren't bad because they can be described as including 'plot armor'. However, the fact they can be described as such, the fact it's even something that comes up in their review, indicates a likelihood (not a certainty, but a strong likelihood) one or more scenes that felt rigged in favor of the protagonist. Because if they weren't then that 'armor' would have been invisible, or at least not a distraction.

For example, Game Of Thrones is being used here as an example of a story that does not employ plot armor. I brought it up intentionally, because the fact is it actually does!. There are multiple scenes where it's incredibly apparent. Perhaps most starkly is the one in which a protagonist is literally brought back from the dead. The ULTIMATE plot armor!

And yet, nevertheless, the show/book can be described as not relying on plot armor because there is a sense that the destiny of the characters is not pretedermined, that all the characters are in genuine danger. That's a really important differentiator. At no point watching Harry Potter did I ever think Harry Potter was in real danger because that would be f*cking ludicrous -- his name is on the poster and everything about his character from the first scene has screamed 'I'm gonna make it'. I think that's poor, or at least juvenile, writing (sorry JK) and I think it's unnecessary. I think it would have been possible, and probably better, for the same guy not to make it through the entire story as the Hero Warrior and for there to be a real sense of uncertainty. They would have had to change that poster, though! :)

Point is: I think the difference is in the word 'relying'. All shows, as I mentioned, do incorporate some sort of special treatment for their protagonists that is why they are protagonists. The degree to which it is used and the level of awareness of it being used is what matters.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
We have all seen this both in movies, as well as books where time and again the main characters or primary protagonist seems
to be insulated from any kind of harm. While I get the fact that some characters are obviously important to make it to the end
for the plot's sake, why make them almost invulnerable?

Some superhero movies are good at showing how the hero can take a beating and almost die, yet make a comeback in the most
agonizing way possible. In my opinion, it makes the character more relatable to ourselves, and we can better empathize with
them and get behind them.

When I create/write for a character, they are no way invulnerable even if they are the hero or protagonist. Examples:

- The protagonist in my 'Urban Sentinel' series (a vigilante) has nearly died on a couple occasions, and this has given
him pause as to how fragile he really is. Both instances served to 'bring him back down to Earth' so to speak and help him
to look at problems he faces from a different direction.
- Darius (my protagonist from 'Darksword') came up against a foe in one installment that he could have killed and ended
the danger. Because he will not do something dishonourable, he chose to take extreme damage, and ended up sacrificing his
own life to save everyone else. (He was later brought back by the Gods for his selfless act)
- I always try to keep the human element as part of the story, so as not to have the reader at some point go, "Oh this. Yup,
the hero will somehow come out unscathed, and bye bye baddie!" I see this as bad writing and too easy an out. Much
character development can come from extreme perils, and a great deal of injury to the hero.

I am interested to know what everyone thinks of 'plot armour' and the tools the rest of you use to keep your characters
relatable, and how they grow in the process.

-JJB

To me, it's a trope (obligatory TVTropes link), a legit mechanism rather than something to be avoided. The plot has to somewhat be armoured in order to happen. I mean, if any normal person were in a fictional situation, they'd probably die/get tired/sink without trace pretty quick and that would be that. So we have to play fast and loose with reality, but creatively. No-one wants a Gary Stu or an overpowered MC. So make them ludicrously lucky, or have ludicrously devoted allies, or craft something innocuous (that you thought was just scenery) in chapter 2 that comes to save the day in the denouement, heading off allegations of Deus Ex Machina.

Edited to answer the 2nd part of your question. I guess my MC is lucky. She - spoiler alert, avert your eyes if you don't want the movie ruined - falls from a great height and is fortunate enough to land in tall, thick trees that arrest her fall. She did have a rudimentary parachute but as far as she can tell, it didn't open fully and she put it on in kind of a rush. But she takes a beating, and struggles pretty badly by the end so I am hoping she remains relatable. She has allies too - they sacrifice much for her because they are hopefully inspired by something in her; they'd probably say they loved her if pressed. But again, they betray her, some of them. So in short, I figure I'll give her just enough plot armour to get her over the next hurdle before taking it away again. Plot armour needs to come from the plot.
 
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EternalGreen

Senior Member
Characters shouldn't die because they are hit by a stray bullet.

You can kill anyone through any means, but it has to be the product of dramatic conflict.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
At no point watching Harry Potter did I ever think Harry Potter was in real danger because that would be f*cking ludicrous -- his name is on the poster and everything about his character from the first scene has screamed 'I'm gonna make it'. I think that's poor, or at least juvenile, writing (sorry JK) and I think it's unnecessary. I think it would have been possible, and probably better, for the same guy not to make it through the entire story as the Hero Warrior and for there to be a real sense of uncertainty.

Yeah, the Harry Potter series wasn't poor or juvenile writing. When the hero survives, it's never about uncertainty if they'll survive, it's how interesting the journey is leading to the ultimate goal. You might call Tolkien poor and juvenile for letting Frodo and Sam survive, but you'll get buried under millions of people calling bullshit on you. LOL James Bond ... the list goes on. This is what readers want. Kill all your heroes? Readers will move away.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Yeah, the Harry Potter series wasn't poor or juvenile writing. When the hero survives, it's never about uncertainty if they'll survive, it's how interesting the journey is leading to the ultimate goal. You might call Tolkien poor and juvenile for letting Frodo and Sam survive, but you'll get buried under millions of people calling bullshit on you. LOL James Bond ... the list goes on. This is what readers want. Kill all your heroes? Readers will move away.

(1) I don't think you have the ability to tell me my clearly stated opinion on what constitutes poor writing.

(2) Harry Potter is written for children therefore is, by definition, juvenile writing.

(3) I don't care if other people 'call bullshit on me' for liking or disliking writing. I don't like Twilight either, do you?

(4) Nobody said 'kill all your heroes'. The point is not to have a single 'hero' unless unavoidable.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
The thing with ‘reading’ Harry Potter...aloud to kids :(...was a disappointing sense that ‘this is all so derivative of what’s gone before, not as good actually...and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Tch, anyone could have written this, why didn’t I write this?’

But that was about 112 years ago...and the shame of in-laws telling me Hermian was prionounced Hermyoknee remains painful to this day. [test thumb posting, at work]
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
(1) I don't think you have the ability to tell me my clearly stated opinion on what constitutes poor writing.

(2) Harry Potter is written for children therefore is, by definition, juvenile writing.

(3) I don't care if other people 'call bullshit on me' for liking or disliking writing. I don't like Twilight either, do you?

(4) Nobody said 'kill all your heroes'. The point is not to have a single 'hero' unless unavoidable.

(1) I do have the ability to tell you that your opinion may be yours alone. LOL Yes, you're entitled to your opinion. When you express publicly that a series that popular and successful is "poor writing", you may encounter disagreement. If you can't take disagreement over a statement that out of tune with widespread perception, you're in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

(2) If you meant juvenile in terms of the audience rather than the quality, grouping it with "poor" certainly indicated you meant it as pejorative, rather than a genre differentiation.

(3) BTW, I know very little about Twilight. Not my thing, and so I'm not qualified to share an opinion about it. Anyway, over the top response to my hypothetical. I think you do care.

(4) The Harry Potter series had other major characters. Some were killed off, just not Harry, Hermione, or Ron. Did you actually read it?
 
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JJBuchholz

Senior Member
Characters shouldn't die because they are hit by a stray bullet. You can kill anyone through any
means, but it has to be the product of dramatic conflict.

Characters also shouldn't die unless it really serves to advance their arc, or complete it entirely. Killing off a character when not
necessary is not only lazy writing, but a product of someone who doesn't see the bigger picture.

I used to have a problem like this when I was starting to write longer stories way back in high school. I was a panster back then,
and never put enough thought into arcs and development, instead preferring the cheap pop from killing a character or two, and
usually in a ridiculous way. My 12th grade English teacher pointed this out in my creative writing class one day, and really got me
thinking about the bigger picture.

I read some other work and went over a couple of my favourite novels at the time and gave scrutiny to how the pros handled a
character and their arc. Needless to say, any character death or peril I put them in nowadays is thought out in advance and to a
high level of detail, especially since I write in several series, and have to consider many arcs at the same time.

-JJB
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
(1) I do have the ability to tell you that your opinion may be yours alone. LOL Yes, you're entitled to your opinion. When you express publicly that a series that popular and successful is "poor writing", you may encounter disagreement. If you can't take disagreement over a statement that out of tune with widespread perception, you're in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

(2) If you meant juvenile in terms of the audience rather than the quality, grouping it with "poor" certainly indicated you meant it as pejorative, rather than a genre differentiation.

(3) BTW, I know very little about Twilight. Not my thing, and so I'm not qualified to share an opinion about it.

(4) The Harry Potter series had other major characters. Some were killed off, just not Harry, Hermione, or Ron. Did you actually read it?

Jeezus Strawman, I didn't say the book was poor writing! I said the fact that it was obvious Harry was going to survive from the first scene (the first scene foreshadows it very obviously) constitutes poor writing to me. I don't like to know if characters are definitely going to Survive Victoriously within the first chapter. That's my opinion. Others possibly agree, many won't. I don't care.

The rest of your post -- 'Did you actually read it?' is pure bait and won't be responded to. I'm not going to argue with someone on the internet about whether I read Harry Potter or not.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
The thing with ‘reading’ Harry Potter...aloud to kids :(...was a disappointing sense that ‘this is all so derivative of what’s gone before, not as good actually...and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Tch, anyone could have written this, why didn’t I write this?’

But that was about 112 years ago...and the shame of in-laws telling me Hermian was prionounced Hermyoknee remains painful to this day. [test thumb posting, at work]

Everything is derivative. 19 million books in print by 2010. Several more books published even since then. ;-) But the pieces she put together were unusual in combination, worked well, and ruined the opportunity for anyone else to write a wizard school. LOL I think your question was both rhetorical and tongue in cheek, but whenever I see something say "anyone could have done such and such", I always reply "Well, why didn't they?"
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Characters shouldn't die because they are hit by a stray bullet.

You can kill anyone through any means, but it has to be the product of dramatic conflict.

Characters also shouldn't die unless it really serves to advance their arc, or complete it entirely. Killing off a character when not
necessary is not only lazy writing, but a product of someone who doesn't see the bigger picture.
So...formulaic death? I feel like a panster at an outlining event.

I think it was Jerry Jenkins who said of writing the death of a character, "I didn't kill him, I found him dead."

I agree that it makes the most sense to kill characters off in ways that advance the plot. However, in the real world death can be nonsensical. It can not only stop life but stop all the surrounding stories dead. It can even be darkly comedic. Death doesn't care about your schedule or your plans and we all know it.

So I'd argue that death shouldn't always be clockwork perfect in our stories. Of course a character could be hit by a stray bullet sometimes because people are hit by stray bullets. Killing off a character before you've completed their arc might just be tragic...like death is tragic.

Don't work so hard to manage death in stories that the story can't be changed by it. Sometimes a little chaos is the answer.

(I can't help seeing a 'panster' also as someone who steals everyone's pants and runs away.)
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I think your question was both rhetorical and tongue in cheek, but whenever I see something say "anyone could have done such and such", I always reply "Well, why didn't they?"

Yeah, I agree.

Actually, I think a really good indication of a really great story is it often feels so natural, so true, so belonging to the world that it almost feels like it must have been written before, because however did we exist without it?

I think that about Harry Potter a lot. It seems so belonging to the literary canon, its characters so embedded in popular culture, that a universe without it seems bizarre, like an alien planet.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Jeezus Strawman, I didn't say the book was poor writing! I said the fact that it was obvious Harry was going to survive from the first scene (the first scene foreshadows it very obviously) constitutes poor writing to me. I don't like to know if characters are definitely going to Survive Victoriously within the first chapter. That's my opinion. Others possibly agree, many won't. I don't care.

The rest of your post -- 'Did you actually read it?' is pure bait and won't be responded to. I'm not going to argue with someone on the internet about whether I read Harry Potter or not.

Well, you actually DID say that in your opinion, the book is poor writing.

I think that's poor, or at least juvenile, writing (sorry JK)

I'm not sure it's worth my time to be having a discussion with someone who won't even own up to what they wrote two comments before. LOL

Then we've got this:

Nobody said 'kill all your heroes'. The point is not to have a single 'hero' unless unavoidable.


There were many heroes in the Harry Potter series. Several very major characters were killed off. Since you seemed unaware of that, it was only natural to wonder if you actually were familiar with the material. Neither did you directly claim to have done so in the above comment. But if you did, and just can't remember it all that well, Dumbledore died, Cedric died. Lupin died, one of the twins died, his godfather died, a few more. So unless you expect a "single hero" to be cloned and kill off some clones, I have no idea what you expect.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Well, you actually DID say that in your opinion, the book is poor writing.

I'm not sure it's worth my time to be having a discussion with someone who won't even own up to what they wrote two comments before. LOL


Unrelated: Do you mind stopping with the capitalized LOL's? It comes across a little aggressively, as though you're laughing at views. I'm sure you don't mean that, but that's what feeds the perception that you are 'baiting'. We don't need to signify in all-caps that we find other people's opinions funny (even if we do).

Okay, let me clarify since it seems to be confusing. When I said "I think that's poor, or at least juvenile, writing (sorry JK)" I was referring to the plot armor issue, because that is what this thread is about. I was not referring to the entire book. There are lots of things i like about Harry Potter and Rowling's writing more broadly. However, I don't like the use of plot armor. I think that is poor writing. Not the rest of it.

Then we've got this:

There were many heroes in the Harry Potter series. Several very major characters were killed off. Since you seemed unaware of that, it was only natural to wonder if you actually were familiar with the material. Neither did you directly claim to have done so in the above comment. But if you did, and just can't remember it all that well, Dumbledore died, Cedric died. Lupin died, one of the twins died, his godfather died, a few more. So unless you expect a "single hero" to be cloned and kill off some clones, I have no idea what you expect. I think you were just ticked off that I disagreed with your first statement that it was poor writing (again, YOUR OWN WORDS), and went off the rails from there. Just as a piece of advice, when you go off the rails, you only wind up digging yourself in deeper and deeper, as happened here, where you wind up denying things you yourself wrote. LOL

There's a huge difference between an important/beloved character and a protagonist whom the story is built around. None of the protagonists in Harry Potter die. They do in Game Of Thrones, which requires a frequent reset.

Again, I don't want to argue about the various importance of roles in Harry Potter. If you don't agree, that's fine. There are plenty of other books we can use instead to substantiate the issue at hand, that plot armor can be used poorly.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
but whenever I see something say "anyone could have done such and such", I always reply "Well, why didn't they?"

The answer is: They did.

There are LOTS of young adult books out there. They have been for many decades. Pop lit books become famous due to media hype and anything and everything that doesn't have to do with the actual prose. (Becoming a billionaire selling toys comes to mind.)

But what's the actual discussion here? Oh, right. Everyone knows Harry isn't going to die. Of course. It's a children's book. Death doesn't have to intrude. Besides, they have to sell toys.

Let's compare that to another story that makes a ton of money selling toys: The Transformers.

There was a film (this was a long time ago, in the 80's) where the writers decided to off "Optimus Prime" (one of the robots) thinking they would supplant him with another character. The children didn't accept it: They broke down into fits of rage. So the writers resurrected "Optimus Prime" to make the kids happy.
 
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