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  • Marisa Wolf

Say nothing so the plot can happen!



What are your peeves in fiction? One that frustrates me an absurd amount is when the plot is driven by a huge misunderstanding that could be cleared up if any combination of the main characters just opened their mouths and talked to each other.



I have been known to yell at books over this (usually while still feverishly reading them, natch). I’ve complained about lack of communication as a plot device for years, but…


Truth is, at least part of my issue is that it’s often a little too real. Not the stories in which there’s an idiot ball one of the characters catches that keeps them from saying something. Like, they think you murdered someone, just say...you didn't? Ahem. It's fine. When there are real barriers – hurt feelings, bad technology, immense stubbornness…whew.



I mean, maybe if we had a limited third person narrator or an omniscient voice in our heads we’d catch the moment where saying something could not only help, but also change the course of an entire relationship/quest/country. There have certainly been some days - especially lately - I could use that narrator to help clarify what in the world is going on.


In the meantime, I’ll keep on working through it in fiction. It's one of my favorite things about writing - inflicting things I'm dealing with on my characters (if in a wildly more dramatic way). For instance, during lockdown last year I wrote a short story about an engineer trapped on her own ship by hostile forces. Where could that have come from?



One of my in progress stories is full of characters who don’t trust each other. One has no idea there’s an issue, and the others are stepping very, very carefully around her. Everyone is working in the best way they know how, but it all goes sideways until…well. Things have to get pretty dramatic to get untrusting folks to break a wall of silence. The whole plot couldn’t be resolved if they talked to each other, but there’d likely be a bit less heartache.

Then again, heartache in fiction is a heck of a lot more fun than real life.


So these next few stories may have some communication issues...here's hoping none of them catch the idiot ball, though!




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