Fiction gives the illusion of reality without literally depicting reality. A simple example of this is seen in dialogue. Real dialogue is much more open ended than story dialogue. In a story, good dialogue makes it “sound” like real people are speaking, but the dialogue carries weight and information that is not often seen in actual dialogue between real people.
Unlike real life, fictional stories and movies are self contained entities and pretty much every major aspect of said story needs to be self-referential to the story itself. For example, most of you are probably familiar with the statement that, if you show a gun in the first act, then that gun should be used by the third act. Fortunately, this is not the case in the real world. A correlate of the “gun” rule in fiction is that the gun used in the third act should not be revealed only in the third act. It should be part of “setting the stage” for the third act.
The “gun” rule extends to other aspects of a story as well, particularly to characters. In the best storytelling, I believe, all the important characters in a book or movie should appear within the first half dozen or so scenes. I’d go so far as to consider it something of a cheat to introduce a new character halfway through or later that plays a major role in how the story ends. This happens in real life all the time, of course, but fiction and real life are not the same thing. If one must introduce a brand new character halfway through a book or movie, then I believe it becomes extremely important to tie that new character to someone who was introduced earlier. That helps, at least, although it doesn’t completely fix the problem.
All of these thoughts coalesced in my head this morning after watching the movie L o o p e r last night with Lana. If you haven’t seen it, you might not want to read further because I’m not sure if I can keep from giving away some spoilers.
There was some good stuff in L o o p e r, including some pretty good acting jobs, especially by this little kid actor who was awesome. It had some interesting ideas, but there were some huge plot holes that really took away from my enjoyment of the movie. It also had a violation of the “gun law,” which troubled me just as much as the plot holes.
A number of characters are introduced early in the movie, and the viewer begins to make some judgments about them. As the plot unfolds, the viewer, this viewer anyway, begins to seek within the existing characters for the connections that will play out in the movie’s finale. Then, halfway through the movie, two new characters are introduced, almost literally from left field. These characters have no relationship initially to ‘any’ character introduced before, but the whole ending of the movie revolves around them. The original characters come in contact with the new characters and the movie proceeds from there. To me, the “gun,” the new characters, was introduced far too late to play fairly with the viewer and it left me feeling dissatisfied.
By its very nature, fiction manipulates the reader or viewer, but because of that the writer has to bend over backward to play as fairly as possible. Only in such a way will the reader or viewer feel as if they were part of the fun instead of being yanked around by a chain.
If you saw the movie, did this aspect of it bother you at all? Do you find violations of the “gun law” troubling? I’d love to know.