Last week my husband had a terrible cold– sneezing, runny nose, just total misery. Bragging, I immediately started taking Cold-Eeeze and saying how there was no way I was going to get it. Things looked great for a few days, then…
Bam. This past weekend I woke up with a terrible sore throat, headache, and was forced to crawl into my bed.
As is my custom when sick, I turned on Netflix. Scrolling, I found DREAM HOUSE. It looked interesting and had stellar talent attached– Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz– and was directed by Jim Sheridan (MY LEFT FOOT, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER.) The movie seemed like a rare unicorn– a horror movie with a pedigree!
I nestled under the covers with my ice water and tea at the ready. The film started out well– a man leaves his high powered job to spend more time with his family in his “dream house,” only to discover that another family was murdered there and now his own family’s in danger!
Ever watch a movie or read a book,where something happens and you go, “Wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense.” The plot is moving along, believability has been established, but then this one action throws you out of the story and you’re like, “No.”
In DREAM HOUSE, the first red flag went up when it became clear that Daniel Craig’s character hadn’t been told there was a murder in the house he just bought. Now, not in all states, but in many, real estate agents are required to let prospective buyers know about violent crimes, so I was a bit apprehensive. Yeah, the movie could be set in one of the states that doesn’t require disclosure, but the first major “twist” in the story didn’t quite seem believable.
From that point on, it was pretty much down hill. It was just one unbelievable twist upon another unbelievable twist to the point where it all just became ridiculous. Now, there was the germ of something really cool in the story, but because logic hadn’t been attended to, for me, the whole narrative failed.
DREAM HOUSE is in a genre (psychological horror) where twists and turns are key. And each of these twists must be grounded in believability and logic (even if the logic turns out later to be faulty, and part of the twist.)
So, how can you keep logic running smoothly in your story?
1. If your story is set in the real world, the rules of the real world must be honored. If most people believe that real estate agents must tell people that there was a murder in the house before they buy it, you have to address this. Even if later (spoiler alert) it turns out that the buyer might be crazy.
2. Your characters must follow their own internal emotional logic. You get to set up who these people are, what makes them tick. The action they pursue in the story has to make sense in terms of the character you’ve created.
3. Everything has to add up. At the end of your book or film, all the pieces must fit together and make sense. The way you build to the climax and resolution needs to satisfy the audience’s need for catharsis in a way that feels real (both character and plotwise). You don’t have to tie up everything neatly with a bow, but the ending has to be logical. Is your character’s arc believable (based on how you set them up?) Does the plot leave the reader or viewer with food for thought that is grounded in reality?
4. If you’re writing about a world you’ve created from scratch, all the above still applies. Yes, you’ll have created all the rules of this imaginary world, and the characters in it, but the logic of the people and place must hold.
One of the toughest notes to get is, “That doesn’t make sense!” But making the physical and internal logic of your story track is key.
Take Action! If you have a character or plot point that doesn’t make sense, ask yourself why. Is there some real world rule that’s been violated? How can you fix this? Is your character following the emotional logic that he or she would naturally follow? If not, how can you shift what he or she does to follow the internal spirit of this person you’ve created? If the narrative threads in your climax are not adding up, find the culprit thread. Could you rework this element to find its logical flow? If not, can you come up with a new way to satisfy the payoff of this thread? If you’re writing in Sci Fi or Fantasy, are you maintaining integrity in the world and people you’ve created?
A beautiful story can be destroyed by one single element that breaks logic.
Find a way to make this element believable.
Sign up here for my weekly writing tips and inspiration!