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Plot armour. (1 Viewer)

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luckyscars

WF Veterans
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.

I don't completely buy that. There are surprisingly a lot of childrens stories that incorporate death. Oddly, they're some of the most successful. A lot of Disney movies, spring to mind. Watership Down, is another one. The difference seems to be children's books don't tend to have the protagonist(s) die, it's usually parents or some supporting character. But why can't a kids book have the protagonist die? I don't see any huge reason why that would be a problem, especially if it was -- like Game Of Thrones -- one with multiple protagonists on separate paths.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor


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.



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.

That's good for you to clarify that, then. You might have saved a bit of debate by just clarifying in the first place, rather than seeming to take an attitude.

I LOL when I find something funny. I apologize to you if you take it badly, but I don't write according to whatever I imagine your reaction is going to be. And yes, I'm done with it, too.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
I agree that it makes the most sense to kill characters off in ways that advance the plot.
This. GOT should be the manual on how NOT to kill characters. Up to and including Jon Snow, only three deaths had any meaning to the story- The king who was killed in the boar hunt, the senior Stark and the father of Tyrian Lanaster. None of the other deaths did anything to drive the plot or change the world in any significant way or ramp up tension or have the reader wondering who was gonna get it next. They were just deaths.

I have no idea what happened after Jon Snow was killed. That's when I stopped listening to the books, called Audible and made them take them all back.

Talk about lazy writing. It doesn't take any skill or effort to just off characters.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
It drives me crazy so I don't do plot armor. If it's a dangerous world, anyone needs to be able to be hurt or killed if the story requires it. It's also why I tend not to write absurd scenes where there's no way anyone can survive. Anything I do, it's realistic and there isn't anything magical to save them. They get hurt. People die. There is always a logical reason why they make it through. It's rarely ever dumb luck. It keeps things grounded in reality and thus, it doesn't break the reader's immersion.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
I don't think it counts as "plot armour" when a main character survives dangerous situations.

First off, if the character in question is the perspective character, killing them off probably isn't going to work well from a structure point of view. I'm sure it's possible, but there are very good reasons why this doesn't happen very often. Second, when we read "The Ballad of Darg Torfnar, Dragon Smiter," we know (or at least hope) that we're reading an exceptional story. Maybe 99% of dragon smiters don't make it past the interview process, but you know what? We're not reading "The Ballad of Jag Nacklir, Failed Dragon Smiting Apprentice," are we? It's OK that we're reading specifically the story of someone who triumphed against all odds or succeeded where others perished.

Another issue I have with people complaining about "plot armour" is that is sometimes misses the point. You don't have to prove to me as a reader that anyone could die at any moment. I can be perched on the edge of my seat just fine even when I know there are seventeen more books featuring a very much alive Darg Torfnar, and the author has already spent their advance on the next ten. You don't need to prove to me that the characters might die; you only need to make me want them to live.

Sometimes the effort to avoid plot armour runs against this advice. If I'm going to get invested in a character, I need to be reasonably certain they aren't going to be killed off too quickly. This is what made me lose interest in The Walking Dead. Every season new characters enter at one end of the stage, and then exit the other end without slowing down. By the later seasons, most characters' dialogue was something like: "Hi! Nice to meet you, my name is-ARGH!" It got to the point that none of the characters I had come to care about were still alive, and I knew that all of the newer ones were just going to be picked off in a matter of episodes. In a situation like that, who cares? Oh no, don't kill off Trevor! Oh, here's Kelly. Oh no! Don't kill off Kelly! Oh, here's Bill... etc.

So my advice would be: don't worry about people complaining about "plot armour." Think about what makes your story work. Are the characters compelling? Do they have growth? Is there a fun twist? Does it make sense within the story for everyone to have a lovely cup of tea at the end? If so, let people live.
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
I don't think it counts as "plot armour" when a main character survives dangerous situations.

First off, if the character in question is the perspective character, killing them off probably isn't going to work well from a structure point of view. I'm sure it's possible, but there are very good reasons why this doesn't happen very often. Second, when we read "The Ballad of Darg Torfnar, Dragon Smiter," we know (or at least hope) that we're reading an exceptional story. Maybe 99% of dragon smiters don't make it past the interview process, but you know what? We're not reading "The Ballad of Jag Nacklir, Failed Dragon Smiting Apprentice," are we? It's OK that we're reading specifically the story of someone who triumphed against all odds or succeeded where others perished.

Another issue I have with people complaining about "plot armour" is that is sometimes misses the point. You don't have to prove to me as a reader that anyone could die at any moment. I can be perched on the edge of my seat just fine even when I know there are seventeen more books featuring a very much alive Darg Torfnar, and the author has already spent their advance on the next ten. You don't need to prove to me that the characters might die; you only need to make me want them to live.

Sometimes the effort to avoid plot armour runs against this advice. If I'm going to get invested in a character, I need to be reasonably certain they aren't going to be killed off too quickly. This is what made me lose interest in The Walking Dead. Every season new characters enter at one end of the stage, and then exit the other end without slowing down. By the later seasons, most characters' dialogue was something like: "Hi! Nice to meet you, my name is-ARGH!" It got to the point that none of the characters I had come to care about were still alive, and I knew that all of the newer ones were just going to be picked off in a matter of episodes. In a situation like that, who cares? Oh no, don't kill off Trevor! Oh, here's Kelly. Oh no! Don't kill off Kelly! Oh, here's Bill... etc.

So my advice would be: don't worry about people complaining about "plot armour." Think about what makes your story work. Are the characters compelling? Do they have growth? Is there a fun twist? Does it make sense within the story for everyone to have a lovely cup of tea at the end? If so, let people live.

Best post so far. Spot on.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I don't think it counts as "plot armour" when a main character survives dangerous situations.

First off, if the character in question is the perspective character, killing them off probably isn't going to work well from a structure point of view. I'm sure it's possible, but there are very good reasons why this doesn't happen very often. Second, when we read "The Ballad of Darg Torfnar, Dragon Smiter," we know (or at least hope) that we're reading an exceptional story. Maybe 99% of dragon smiters don't make it past the interview process, but you know what? We're not reading "The Ballad of Jag Nacklir, Failed Dragon Smiting Apprentice," are we? It's OK that we're reading specifically the story of someone who triumphed against all odds or succeeded where others perished.

Another issue I have with people complaining about "plot armour" is that is sometimes misses the point. You don't have to prove to me as a reader that anyone could die at any moment. I can be perched on the edge of my seat just fine even when I know there are seventeen more books featuring a very much alive Darg Torfnar, and the author has already spent their advance on the next ten. You don't need to prove to me that the characters might die; you only need to make me want them to live.

Sometimes the effort to avoid plot armour runs against this advice. If I'm going to get invested in a character, I need to be reasonably certain they aren't going to be killed off too quickly. This is what made me lose interest in The Walking Dead. Every season new characters enter at one end of the stage, and then exit the other end without slowing down. By the later seasons, most characters' dialogue was something like: "Hi! Nice to meet you, my name is-ARGH!" It got to the point that none of the characters I had come to care about were still alive, and I knew that all of the newer ones were just going to be picked off in a matter of episodes. In a situation like that, who cares? Oh no, don't kill off Trevor! Oh, here's Kelly. Oh no! Don't kill off Kelly! Oh, here's Bill... etc.

So my advice would be: don't worry about people complaining about "plot armour." Think about what makes your story work. Are the characters compelling? Do they have growth? Is there a fun twist? Does it make sense within the story for everyone to have a lovely cup of tea at the end? If so, let people live.

What character traits does Darg have that make him survive?

If his character/choices protect him, that's good armor (good writing); if the plot itself protects him, that's plot armor (bad writing).
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I don't think it counts as "plot armour" when a main character survives dangerous situations.

First off, if the character in question is the perspective character, killing them off probably isn't going to work well from a structure point of view. I'm sure it's possible, but there are very good reasons why this doesn't happen very often. Second, when we read "The Ballad of Darg Torfnar, Dragon Smiter," we know (or at least hope) that we're reading an exceptional story. Maybe 99% of dragon smiters don't make it past the interview process, but you know what? We're not reading "The Ballad of Jag Nacklir, Failed Dragon Smiting Apprentice," are we? It's OK that we're reading specifically the story of someone who triumphed against all odds or succeeded where others perished.

Another issue I have with people complaining about "plot armour" is that is sometimes misses the point. You don't have to prove to me as a reader that anyone could die at any moment. I can be perched on the edge of my seat just fine even when I know there are seventeen more books featuring a very much alive Darg Torfnar, and the author has already spent their advance on the next ten. You don't need to prove to me that the characters might die; you only need to make me want them to live.

Sometimes the effort to avoid plot armour runs against this advice. If I'm going to get invested in a character, I need to be reasonably certain they aren't going to be killed off too quickly. This is what made me lose interest in The Walking Dead. Every season new characters enter at one end of the stage, and then exit the other end without slowing down. By the later seasons, most characters' dialogue was something like: "Hi! Nice to meet you, my name is-ARGH!" It got to the point that none of the characters I had come to care about were still alive, and I knew that all of the newer ones were just going to be picked off in a matter of episodes. In a situation like that, who cares? Oh no, don't kill off Trevor! Oh, here's Kelly. Oh no! Don't kill off Kelly! Oh, here's Bill... etc.

So my advice would be: don't worry about people complaining about "plot armour." Think about what makes your story work. Are the characters compelling? Do they have growth? Is there a fun twist? Does it make sense within the story for everyone to have a lovely cup of tea at the end? If so, let people live.

I've made similar observations at times in my life, and this one was well put. :) Specifically, that we're meant to be reading about the exceptions ... the best.

We read a lot about "suspension of disbelief". What we're talking about here is Suspension of Belief. The reader, whether it's us or someone reading what we produce, knows that certain characters are going to survive. Our job is to craft a crisis so that we can get the reader to Suspend Belief ... their very correct belief that Darg will find a way out. When well written, and there are a plethora of examples, we fall for it every time.

What character traits does Darg have that make him survive?

If his character/choices protect him, that's good armor (good writing); if the plot itself protects him, that's plot armor (bad writing).

There are quite a few examples where I agree with this, especially when an author has their hero at death's door and saves them ONLY through unlikely coincidence, or my before mentioned cavalry riding over the hill.

However, there are also limitless opportunities for the character to have exhausted every trick in his book and still be saved. But, I don't think it can come out of thin air. The reader needs to be introduced to the mechanism(s) which might make it happen. You could see this at work in the 60's-70s Mission Impossible TV show just about every week.
 
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MistWolf

Senior Member
What about a character who survives fighting against Haitian rebels in the 1920s? Is that plot armor?

Or one that wins victory after victory deep in the jungles of Nicaragua against numerically superior forces in the 30s?

Is it plot armor if a character survives fierce battles in China of the 30s?

How about a character that fights in several major battles in the Pacific against the Japanese, including one where he loses 50% of his men? Is it only plot armor that kept him alive?

Or a character that leads the invasion force at Inchon Bay during the Korean War?

Or one that finds himself surrounded, cut off from supplies and out numbered at Chosin Reservoir. Not only does he survive the battle, not only does he survive freezing in harsh winter conditions, but he leads his men in an attack to break out and fight their way back to rejoin the rest of the US forces? Plot armor?

What about a character that does all these things and more? Was it plot armor that let him not only survive but become a living legend?

Seems miraculous for a fictional character to survive all that. But this story is told without any plot armor. It's the real life story of Gen. "Chesty" Puller, USMC. He survived every battle while leading his men from the front and was awarded the Navy Cross five times and the Distinguished Service Cross (from the Army) once- both are the second highest awards for valor. He's the most decorated US Marine.

Let your heroes be heroes and critics be damned. I only hope I can write a character half as courageous, half as tough as Chesty Puller.

"Goodnight Chesty. Wherever you are."
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Character determines plot in many cases. What skills, morality, flaws, strengths, does the character have? What backstory? How do they change at the end of the story and solve the story problem? That's what I think. Plot is is what happens to a character. It's the character that gets them out of trouble. That is whatever their personality is.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I don't think it counts as "plot armour" when a main character survives dangerous situations.

They have to survive them realistically though. I've seen lots of amateurs writing books where the hero survives absolutely everything, no matter how absurd. The bad guys are shooting at them? They dodge every bullet, even with no cover. They're in a tsunami? There's a convenient rowboat nearby and they're just rowing furiously over the crest of the tidal wave because the writer needs them to survive. Meanwhile, the readers are just rolling their eyes because the whole thing is absurd. I get so tired of really terrible writing because the story needs to happen. Maybe the writer needs to write a better story.

It's one reason I stopped reading most fantasy, because it's so common for authors to write themselves into corners and then invent a new magical spell to get them out of it that comes out of absolutely nowhere. Or they'll just reinvent their magic system on the fly so it can suddenly do things it could never do before, so they can get where they want to go. That is just bad writing.

You don't have to kill people to prove that characters are mortal, but it does no good to put anyone in a dangerous situation if the reader knows there will be no consequences. That's way to common out there.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
it's so common for authors to write themselves into corners and then invent a new magical spell to get them out of it that comes out of absolutely nowhere. Or they'll just reinvent their magic system on the fly so it can suddenly do things it could never do before, so they can get where they want to go. That is just bad writing.

... which is exactly what Jim Butcher does a few times early on the The Dresden Files ... and has himself said he thinks the first few books suffer from his inexperience at the time.
 
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