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Author Topic: The Problem and the Solution
RyanB
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I had an idea for a short story that started with the problem (that my protagonist has to solve). I toyed around with the idea, making the problem bigger and bigger, until I got it to where my protagonist is really screwed. I mean really screwed.

Now I have to figure out how she solves this problem and that's proving to be difficult. If this were James Bond the archvillian would do something incredibly stupid like walk away before 007 bites the dust. That seems suboptimal.

It seems the formula here is that the protagonist gets some abilities and some disabilities. The villain neutralizes their abilities, exploits their disabilities and then the protagonist uses some previously hidden (by the author) fact/ability/whatever in a surprising way to save the day.

So the problem and the solution go hand in hand. Do you all develop the problem first or the solution first or both at the same time? How do you handle the balancing act of having the problem be as difficult as possible yet solvable in a satisfactory manner?

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extrinsic
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Dramatic complication is want and problem wanting satisfaction, internal or external or both. A problem development can go hand in hand with a want; one can be internal and the other external, or both one or the other. James Bond hasn't had much in the way of internal complication, though efforts to personalize the franchise have developed a more personable Bond with internal wants and problems. Audiences have favored more personable protagonists with more dimension over self-idealized, self-efficacious, one-dimensional protagonists.

Plots develop in two structure types: the simple plot of straightforward conflict resolution and the complex plot of major turns (twists) caused by profound revelations and reversals. The former unfolds with oscillating progress advancements and setback delays. One step forward, two steps back. The latter unfolds with crises points as new developments cause changes of direction or changes of direction cause new developments.

The five major plot point turns are the inciting crisis, often a crisis caused by a discovery of a problem with attendant want; the realization crisis caused by realizing the full import of a complication; the climax crisis caused by making greatest effort and all but succeeding in complication satisfaction; the tragic crisis caused by overlooking a major oversight failure; and the denouement crisis caused by a full appreciation of all factors in opposition to and support of complication satisfaction.

Much of a plot's work is done by prepositioning satisfaction outcomes early on. If a bugeyed monster invasion is the dramatic complication, the inciting crisis is a discovery of their menace. The realization crisis could be how to avoid total anihhilation for the time being or how to check or hold the bugeyed monsters. The climax crisis could be a resolution that sensibly should overcome the monsters but due to a prepositioned overlooked complication fails: the tragic crisis that is further developed as an all is apparently lost scenario. The denouement crisis then could be a discovery of an overlooked complication satisfaction that wins the day.

Or in an everyday scenario, say a flat tire on the way to work. The flat tire is the inciting crisis. Finding and unpacking the jack, the spare tire, and loosening the flat tire wheel, all is in hand for fixing the flat, is the realization crisis. The climax crisis could be putting the inflated spare on the axle and, tragic crisis, discovering some lugnuts are misplaced. Finding the lugnuts would then be the denouement crisis. Prepositioning neglect of the lugnuts in the inciting crisis turn would set up the entire later action.

A powerful villain or nemesis requires a nearly equally powerful hero. The hero doesn't need to be powerful from the outset, only the hero needs to develop power proportionate to and as opposition arises. An everyday hero only needs to be everyday able and with an everyday dramatic complication, like a flat tire. The latter can be as appealing as the former, actually, potentially more appealing if crafted artfully from being identifiable and associable with for audiences. For example, if suffering through the flat tire is an accessible metaphor for a human condition, say overdependence on technology. Let's say our everyday hero doesn't know how to change the flat and uses a cell phone for getting instructions. Things move along okay, but two lugnuts are misplaced and lost from sight, mixed in among gravel from the outset. How does our hero satisfy the want and problem of missing lugnuts?

[ November 27, 2013, 10:57 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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Easy, the villain *does* make a mistake, but one that takes a hero to spot. You know: Haha! But *I'm* not left handed either!

It's OK to have your villain make a stupid mistake; just not an obvious one everyone's seen before. Ask yourself, what would Dr. Evil do? Then don't do it.

You get extra points if the villain does something stupid that wouldn't seem stupid to him until the moment Where His Folly is Revealed [tm]. It turns out the Shire with its bucolic folk who are neither ambitious warriors nor dabblers in arcane arts is the *perfect* place to stash a hot ring. It's like always tel myself when I lose my keys. If they're not in any of the obvious places, they got put someplace ridiculous, like the top of the fridge.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The solution is usually where the "price" comes in.

You've got your protagonist into a real pickle, and the only way to get out is for someone (who matters to the reader and may or may not be the protagonist) to give up something crucial.

Having the antagonist make a mistake undercuts that, by the way. A price makes the victory seem worth having. A mistake risks making the victory seem like a cheat.

Unless, of course, the antagonist's mistake gives someone a way to pay the price that will bring victory.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I don't know that I've ever consciously thought of it that way. I have an idea and I develop that idea...I don't really think in terms of official "narrative structure" or whatnot. Plot admittedly is not my strongest suite and I do often have an idea and then spend time thinking of how to build a plot around it. But I can't remember really ever approaching a story in terms of "the problem" and the "solution."

My stories usually begin with a character concept, an idea or concept I want to explore or an image.

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mfreivald
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Hiding an ability of a hero is almost always a bad idea. If you are going to use a power on page 175, you better have introduced it on page 50. Some bigshot fiction writer called it "placing the gun on the mantel," but I can't remember who. I would add that the means to resolve the issue needs to be organic or natural to the situation.

I like what Kathleen said. Something's gotta give, but it might be something that causes the MC direct pain.

In my opinion you can have either the MC or the V make mistakes at a place or to throughout the book, but it has to be very judiciously applied and it better not be part of the MC's final struggle. You can also have "saved by the cavalry" scenes, but again--not for the MC's final struggle.

It's one of the hardest parts of writing a real good nail-biter, so stick with it, brainstorm again and again, and flesh out a resolution that you can be proud of.

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wetwilly
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Anton Chekhov is the gun on the mantel guy.
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Denevius
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quote:
A powerful villain or nemesis requires a nearly equally powerful hero. The hero doesn't need to be powerful from the outset, only the hero needs to develop power proportionate to and as opposition arises.
Though this is true, I think that it *almost* always feels contrived. Even stories that I enjoyed, there's usually left a bitter taste in my mouth when the hero manages to triumph against odds that they never should have.

It reminds me of being younger. Once upon a time I could watch "G.I. Joe" and just lose myself in the adventure. Then one day I'm looking at it and realize, "Wait a second. Why is it that Cobra always has these awesome plans, as well as overwhelming numbers, yet the Joe team always wins?"

That's when you know you've gotten too old for those types of cartoons. But really, genre authors pull this all the time. I loved and still love Tolkein, but there are some elements of his fiction that I'm not a fan of. Besides the obvious that everything dark skinned is evil, and everything fair skinned is beautiful and good (with one or two exceptions to the rule), Tolkein often allowed a few scant number of good characters to win out against hordes of orcs and goblins to a point of absurdity.

Some of Tolkein's battle scenes are the equivalent of watching Bruce Lee beat up thirty people by himself in one of those old Kung Fu movies. It's part of the martial arts genre, but it's also pretty silly.

I've been trying to avoid this in fiction. It's a seductive technique to employ, but more and more I figure that either the antagonist just shouldn't be so powerful, or maybe the good guy doesn't win the battle. This can be pulled off as long as the winning of the battle isn't the point of the novel, but something else that the protagonist has been after all along.

quote:

You've got your protagonist into a real pickle, and the only way to get out is for someone (who matters to the reader and may or may not be the protagonist) to give up something crucial.

Having the antagonist make a mistake undercuts that, by the way. A price makes the victory seem worth having. A mistake risks making the victory seem like a cheat

I agree with this to an extent. When you see the hand of the author reach in and make the antagonist do something out of character just so that the protagonist can win, then yes, that's just bad writing.

Though the counter-example I'm thinking of is a little different, I'm reminded of one of my favorite YA books from elementary school, Reginald Maddock's "The Dragon in the Garden". In it, the protagonist is at a new school with a huge bully, Fagso (all these years later I still remember the bully's name, but not the protagonist's name).

Anyway, Fagso is the terror of the school, and the protagonist's father teachers him some Judo to take on Fagso (also a different age, as it seems frowned upon now to teach kids to fight back in school). Now, the protagonist ends up getting in a fight with Fagso, and he uses the moves his father taught him, but that's not the reason why he eventually wins. Judo will only get you so far, and Fagso is described as a hulking menace.

The reason why the protagonist wins is because Fagso is a little adolescent chain smoker. Despite his strength and size, the little boy managed to put up a fight long enough with the moves his father taught him to eventually wear Fagso out. This isn't so much an example of the overpowering antagonist making a mistake (though smoking isn't the best idea), but if an overpowering antagonist has a way of thinking throughout the narrative that's inherently flawed, and that causes him to make a mistake at a crucial moment, allowing the protagonist to win, I think that's pretty brilliant writing.

Not easy to pull off, but if done well, quite impressive.

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MattLeo
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Villains (if you have 'em) should be formidable. But "formidable" is a long way from being "infallible". If you make your villains infallible then you *will* have to resort to a deus ex machina to enable your hero (if you have one) to win.

A hero defeating a villain by exploiting a mistake the villain has made is not tantamount to winning by luck, unless the villain has made a *stupid and obvious* mistake. As long as the hero has to work to discover and exploit the mistake, it's not a "gimme".

Hiding the ability of the hero to defeat the villain is *exactly* what you have to do. Which is not the same as pulling the ability out of thin air when the hero needs it. You have to hide what the hero needs in *plain sight*, e.g. "I need a hammer.... Wait a minute! There's that hammer from Chapter 2 in the glass case with the label In Case of Emergency, Break Glass With Hammer."

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mfreivald
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quote:
You have to hide what the hero needs in *plain sight*,
Well, okay. I'm down with that, but I wouldn't call it hiding so much as misdirection.
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Denevius
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quote:
Well, okay. I'm down with that, but I wouldn't call it hiding so much as misdirection.
It's one of the problems with genre fiction. Once you know who the protagonist is, you also know how the story is going to end: with them winning. And the more of these books you read, the faster you're able to figure out what that 'thing' is that's going to allow them the victory.
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rstegman
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One thing you can do is to have is where as the problem changes, so does the solution, and when the hero wins, he also loses.

Consider a sword and sorcery story. Bad guys show up and attack the village, killing many and doing damage. The hero goes out to get revenge. He finds there are more enemy than expected, He is now trying to save the village, then there are more, and he is now trying to save the kingdom, and he gets allied kingdoms involved and he is then trying to save them.
In the end, he destroys the enemy entirely. He has won.
The only problem is that his friends and family are all dead, His village no longer exists, his kingdom is now desolate and his allies are all dead. He won the goal of destroying the enemy, but he lost everything else in the process.
He forgot about the real reason he was fighting. He could have stopped at a defensive position and things would have been fine but he needed to eliminate the enemy and that is why everything is lost.


It would be like a guy who sees that having some more money would solve all the immediate problems he is looking at. He ends up becoming the wealthiest man alive but he trampled everything he loved to get the money. Again, he forgot the reason he was after the solution.


Another example might be that he needs to gold crown to do everything he needs to do. Because of decisions he made along the way, he ends up with the red crown instead, which is not as satisfying. Now there is absolutely no way to get the gold crown.
the character wins, but not what he wanted in the first place.

My two cents.

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mfreivald
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I find myself in violent agreement with some of these comments. Denevius, I think your observation is valid, but I also think reaction to just that is creating a subculture of sorts where it is predictable that the protagonist will lose badly, depending on the author. In the meantime, meaning behind the protagonist's journey is getting replaced by what seem like arbitrary decisions.

And rstegman, your ideas are very helpful and can make for good story, but they can also degenerate into predictability. In fact it's one approach to the MC-always-loses fad. There are great examples where it has been done to great effect, though. (Our beloved Frodo being too wounded to stay with his beloved Shire being one iconic example.)

So I think the remedy to the problem (not the putting the gun on the mantle problem, but this new one about predictability) relies upon something deeper and more visceral requiring writing talent for things that are still mere shadows to me. (But I tenaciously peer into the darkness.)

Speaking of which, even placing the gun on the mantle is becoming problematic. It has become so formulaic in movies that I can spot it almost every time without trying, which is annoying. In my first and only complete novel, I tried very hard to enrich the many choices of potential "guns" to smokescreen it a little. Still not sure if I succeeded, but none of my readers have complained.

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Denevius
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quote:
Denevius, I think your observation is valid, but I also think reaction to just that is creating a subculture of sorts where it is predictable that the protagonist will lose badly, depending on the author. In the meantime, meaning behind the protagonist's journey is getting replaced by what seem like arbitrary decisions.
Do you have an author in mind?

From what I've been told, Robert Cormier is famous for this. I've only read his most popular book, "The Chocolate War", and yeah, on the one hand, it's definitely not a happy ending. But it's such a good book, and it's so much more true to reality than many other books with happier endings.

It's not uncommon that, in life, the good guy doesn't win. He may not lose badly, but usually he/she has to accept the terms of whatever reality has dished upon them and make the best of it.

Making the best of a situation seems like an honorable ending.

I just finished reading the first book of "Game of Thrones". George R. R. Martin didn't give the protagonist easy wins, and really, each of their "victories" are ambivalent. Maybe it's good, maybe it's not, but in this fictional universe where it seems like anyone can die, you're left unsure if a choice or decision being made by one of the good guys is really going to save anyone worth saving or not. In that book, so many of the characters were so flawed that it seemed populated by anti-heros and anti-villians. Some of the actions of the bad guys felt justified because of some of the problematic actions by the good guys.

My favorite book of the last five years, "Windup Girl", definitely left readers with an ambiguous "happy ending".

So yeah, perhaps these novels are just filling a niche for readers who don't want to know that, at the end of the story, the hero will somehow triumph. And to be honest, they definitely aren't for everyone.

quote:
Consider a sword and sorcery story. Bad guys show up and attack the village, killing many and doing damage. The hero goes out to get revenge. He finds there are more enemy than expected, He is now trying to save the village, then there are more, and he is now trying to save the kingdom, and he gets allied kingdoms involved and he is then trying to save them.
In the end, he destroys the enemy entirely. He has won.
The only problem is that his friends and family are all dead, His village no longer exists, his kingdom is now desolate and his allies are all dead. He won the goal of destroying the enemy, but he lost everything else in the process.
He forgot about the real reason he was fighting. He could have stopped at a defensive position and things would have been fine but he needed to eliminate the enemy and that is why everything is lost.

My problem with this scenario is that the book tends to end before we see how the hero actually copes with the grief. Like yeah, he's lost everyone, and that sucks. But his narrative journey is over, and most likely since he's the hero, he's the one readers cared about the most, the one we spent the most time with, the one we have the closest relationship with, and the one we were basically rooting for the whole time through. Plus, let's face it, the writer writing his story, and editing and re-editing it, is leaving clues throughout the narrative as to who is going to die and who is going to live.

Those books are also kind of predictable for the same reason horror movies are predictable. It becomes this game of waiting to see who the madman is going to kill next, and how, while knowing all along that the central character *is* going to live no matter what's thrown at him/her.

These books are still good to escape in, and the writing can be perfectly fine. I just find that more and more when I pick up a fantasy/scifi novesl, I can read the main character getting caught up in difficult situations, and I experience the tension, and I can be there with them as they fight this monster or run from this explosion; but always, at the back of my mind, I know that they will escape the monster, or outrun the explosion. They have to because the book is about them.

Harry Potter has to win. Frodo has to live, though would the book have been so much more unsatisfying if Frodo died and Sam destroyed the ring? The Dark Lord would have still fallen, but a character crushed under an impossible burden would have died while his companion completed the quest.

But then, who knows. I often think that the constant analysis of fiction has ruined reading for me.

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MattLeo
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There's different kinds of stories that offer different kinds of pleasures. You have to approach the story as what it is, not what as it might be. A genre story must adhere to the conventions of the genre; it can't be criticized for that. A mystery story is probably the most formulaic kind of story there is, but it doesn't mean there's no creativity involved. Quite the contrary.

Back in 2000 Kazuo Ishiguro published a novel called WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS, which used, then broke the formula of the detective novel. It's a very dissatisfying read for a mystery fan, because it starts out as a brilliant mystery novel, well above the craft standards one expects from a genre novel, but it ends in the trademark Ishiguro pathos of non-resolution (he also wrote REMAINS OF THE DAY). WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS is often regarded as his weakest work, but I sometimes wonder if that isn't in part because even many literary fiction readers don't like the idea of messing around with the mystery formula. Nearly everybody enjoys a good mystery.

As for Sam finishing Frodo's question, I think that would have been the right ending for a very different story. Many have noted (i.e. complained) that Gollum functions as a Deus Ex Machina, but in my opinion this entirely misses Tolkien's point.

Tolkien, a Roman Catholic, was a student and then professor at Oxford, one of the great centers of Protestant thought. He was surrounded by great Anglican and Anglo-Catholic thinkers. I think he would have been hyper-aware of Protestant criticisms of Catholic theology. One of the main issues that separates Catholics from, say, Anglicans is the question of justification by faith alone or by faith and works.

I believe the climax of LotR is Tolkien's statement about the role of works in justification through divine grace. Frodo does everything that can possibly be expected of him; acts as faithfully as it his humanly (hobbitly?) possible. It is this, particularly the occasions on which he shows mercy to Gollum, that makes it possible for God's plan for his redemption to work.

Boromir, too falls, and is redeemed through grace. The temptation is more than he could reasonably bear, and the orc attack is a deus ex machina through which he is empowered to fulfill Illuvatar's plan for him, which is to die bravely defending others, setting Aragorn's feet on the path to the throne of Gondor.

You can argue that according to one literary theory or another that Frodo should have destroyed the ring, or somebody else should have, but to do so is to construct an *alternate* story -- one with a different point than the one Tolkien intended. Tolkien had said on several occasions that he regarded LotR as a profoundly Catholic work, which I think is probably mystifying to most readers since there aren't any Catholic rituals depicted in the story. What makes LotR a work of Roman Catholic sensibility is this view of the relationship of virtuous human action to the operation of divine grace.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I have a lot more to say on these subjects but for now I want to just say I agree with what MattLeo is saying about each work being what it is and about Tolkien except for one thing-I don't think its as much to do with fulfilling Illuvatar's specific, predestined plan for you (apologies if that isn't what you meant) especially in the case of humans one of whose gift is the ability to defy anything even resembling that...I think its more a basic morality thing and a thing of standing up to evil. I feel that, for example, Eowyn was able to do what she did to the Witch-king in part because she was willing to stand up to him and even be killed.

Don't want to derail this into a Tolkien theory thread, just wanted to put my two cents in on that specific thing.

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Denevius
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quote:
A genre story must adhere to the conventions of the genre; it can't be criticized for that. A mystery story is probably the most formulaic kind of story there is, but it doesn't mean there's no creativity involved. Quite the contrary.
I would like to disagree with this without being disagreeable.

I think that if a writer sets out to write a sword & sorcery novel, then yes, a reader can't criticize the novel because it has swords, and sorcery. That's definitely unfair.

But again, I'll go back to Game of Thrones. I've never seen the t.v. show, and like I said, I just finished Book I, but I think George R.R. Martin successfully turned the sword & sorcery genre on its head because of how the book doesn't have a central evil, and a central good, as is typical in this genre.

There isn't a Dark Lord who is beyond redemption and who even the most casual reader clearly understands is the "bad guy". I'm on Book II which, to be honest, isn't as well written as Book I. But here, a part of me keeps looking for the hero to champion, and the villain to be defeated.

Now, there is a little bit of that, but the problem is that some of the more interesting characters are on the antagonist's side. And I kind of want these people to win, and I'm kind of concerned for their safety in the narrative, especially since I know that no one is exactly guaranteed to live in these books.

But at the same time, some of the protagonists have not very good characters on their side, and so I kind of want them to lose.

Again, I can't help but lament that the actual writing isn't as good in Book II, but this complicated narrative is quite refreshing, if not as satisfying since its natural to want a definite good guy and a definite bad guy. Forgive my language, but lots of the characters in this book are a**holes. And coming from this modern era, their total disregard for women is unconscionable. This is a culture where most men see women only for what's between their legs, and how many sons they can produce. This makes almost all of the male characters frustrating, though George R.R. Martin redeems the narrative by having strong female characters. My favorite is definitely Arrya and her water fighting style, which I kind of wish the novel would focus more on than Bran, who I feel like exists only to make a certain page count. If I have to read him whining anymore about the loss of his legs, I'm going to go nuts. I'm getting closer and closer to just skimming those chapters, though unfortunately, I visited a site on the internet which revealed the death of one of the major characters in the television series, which sucked.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Ok first let me say, I don't consider predictability an inherently bad thing. Especially when speaking of plot-there are really only so many plots at least if we are going to stick to accepted concepts of what a plot is, and I think saying something has a "cliched plot" is generally one of the least valid criticisms that can be made of a work.

That being said predictability can get old-however I am generally just as happy if not more so to get my unpredictability or new-ness in other areas besides plot. New concepts, new characters and character directions, new ways of handling old themes and ideas. This is particularly true of fantastical stories; a big part of what I enjoy within them is the world building and the concepts. How magic is handled, what sorts of supernatural beings exist and their natures and roles etc.


I agree also that things like the ease of recognizing the "gun on the mantle" and the assumption that the "hero" will "win" has led to a bit of a backlash...or maybe it would be better to just say a "surge in" ambiguous endings or outright "sad/bad" endings where the hero very much does not win. This is of course also related to a trend in heavy use and exploration of moral ambiguity on various levels.

I don't see this as a bad thing either. I like happy endings, unhappy endings and ambiguous endings. Heck I don't even mind no ending at all. I also like positively idealist optimistic stories and dark cynical ones. And everything in between. Because they are all part of life and they can all be true.

I think China Mieville's Bas-Lag novels are a good example of often multiple of these things at once. None of the three have quite what you'd call a traditional ending and some would say the last two in particular barely have an end at all. Moral ambiguity is also quite rampant.

But really I am generally not bothered by being able to figure out what's going to happen in a story plot wise and typically it does have to be quite obvious for me to figure it since I'm usually not trying. But then I am a "journey" person more so than a "destination" person anyway.

Now a word about genre and conventions and whatall. I'm not a huge fan of genre labels. In my own mind I mostly divide stuff up into "that which has fantastical or super-science elements" and "that which does not have those things." For me, genre is mostly about content.
Now I realize that there are certain styles and structures often associated with certain genres and especially sub genres, but I think it goes beyond not criticizing a story for following the conventions of its genre, but also not criticizing it for being what it is in itself. This I think is often linked to broader notions of "what a story should be." For example, the guidelines for Aoife's Kiss state that if your character doesn't experience significant change you haven't written a story. I find this to be incredibly arrogant, because not all stories are about character development. Some are about ideas or are plot oriented or whatever and that is true across genre.

Oh and last, before this post gets totally out of control, about horror. Horror to me as a broad thing kind of transcends the predictability, hero winning thing somewhat, because although in some horror stories, at least one "hero" ultimately survives and "triumphs" in some way...this isn't always the case. Sometimes everyone dies. Recently, especially, I see a lot of horror movies with deeply (sometimes frustratingly) ambiguous endings...but then, with horror at least in theory, the main point is to frighten, terrify and/or unsettle so plot considerations are often less...considerable.

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extrinsic
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To speak of writing is a process of generalization. Infinite possibilities from any given approach leaven little specific specification but for the totality of any given narrative compassing the choices selected in the writing and reworking processes. To say that a conflict resolution type story is the totality of a "problem and solution" type of story is a generalization. Though the generalization is a valid summary, another infinite variety of narrowed choices constitutes a given narrative.

Many of the possible choices are obviated by other choices decided upon, many of the possible choices do not amount to in today's or the past's sensibilities as constituting narrative's parts, many available features do not fit, many available features, perhaps essential or at least prescribed by convention, are unwittingly underutilized or left out and altogether missing, many features appear on their surface to be superfluous, inaccessible, unappealing, many features are essential, accessible, and appealing to a broad or narrow audience. The net result in both literal meaning and figurative meaning adds up mathematically and geometrically to a more or less synergistic whole and yet a sequence of compromises. There, now I've overgeneralized and performed exactly what discussing writing amounts to: generalization.

Even a close and thorough analysis of method and intent and meaning for a given focal narrative amounts to in large part generalization. One perhaps in-depth illustrative method of interpretation may only glance the kernel of a narrative. One perhaps closer and in-depth scrutiny of a discrete and managable portion of a narrative may only capture an impression, as if the sixth copy of a carbon copy paper cluster copying an original top copy; replicative fading in the final copy. At least any given even simple sentence--subject, predicate, object main clause containing one main idea and no auxilliary idea clauses--may yield to close scrutiny, may not yield to close scrutiny. The sentence may encapsulate a central meaning of a whole; the sentence may depend on the context and texture of the whole narrative to express its meaning.

Or a single word may express the entire meaning, yet due to the word's numerous connotations rely on the whole to express its infinite depth of meaning. An example of the latter is the Spanish idiom salao used in the first page of Ernest Hemmingway's The Old Man and the Sea, prepositioned like a Chekhov's Gun feature, though not a firearm, as intensely incindiary: meaning cursed, akin to the English idiom "old salt" and all its meanings. Yet that too is a generalization summarizing the whole, the context and texture of which takes the entire novella to express its exquisite meanings. Many have attempted interpretations of the novella's meaning from a manifold variety of approaches. The novella remains open to further interpretation. The most insightful interpretation is the novella itself: res ipsa loquitur, it speaks for itself.

The variety of interpretations means conclusively that the novella's meaning is unstable, open to any individual's interpretation of whatever value that it holds for the individual at the moment. Any narrative potentially is as equally open to interpretation. Thus generalizations are what secondary discourses amount to.

The narrative itself is a secondary discourse, though fictional, of a primary discourse: the actual unfolding of the events in the moment as they actually happened. Hence the novella is a generalization of an actual, though fictional, sequence of events. This is valid for any narrative fiction and not too incredibly any prose narrative or oration.

Yet the "problem and solution" conflict resolution narrative form has conventions related to the demanding criteria of dramatic plot as a central organizing principle. A dramatic complication wanting satisfaction arises; efforts to satisfy the dramatic complication unfold; a denouement satisfies the dramatic complication. Simple plot. Straightforward. Generalization, yes, though a signficiant majority of all narratives follow that dramatic course. Ones that don't generally do not appeal as widely. Also, ones that don't may appeal more appreciably to their narrow audiences than ordinary conflict resolution narratives. Generalizations.

Does Santiago satisfy the dramatic complication set before him? That is, that he's failed to catch and land a saleable fish for a long time. No. Does he instead undergo a maturation drama, a coming of age realization? Yes, tragically. He is an old man and realizes he is no longer able to provide for himself. The novella twists from the tangible complication of Santiago providing for himself to his now dawning dependency upon his community for his well-being. The story is not a conflict resolution type. Rather it is a revelation-type narrative. Though the coming of age realization is that of late adulthood, the realization is common to young adulthood coming of age narratives, only at the opposite end of adulthood. Generalization, again, though. The novellla's depths themselves express its most valid interpretation.

I propose, though, that a stable interpretation exists for that novella. Hence that that is a writer's potential. Maybe writing a stable narrative is challenging for struggling writers. I'm assured that such a beast extists, though I cannot name one that is no longer open to interpretation. Huh!? Maybe that's a possible focus for a writing project. Would it instead of timelessly, universally appealing be unappealing to anyone? That is a Schrodinger's cat dilemma if I've ever heard one about writing.

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