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Plot armor is disgusting (and overly scene-driven fictions rant)

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12 days ago
A powerless little girl bites off the kidnapper's finger, making him yowling in pain. She kicks in the groin and successfully escapes from the kidnapper's catch. The noob survived a zombie attack while others didn't. Or the dummy or the main character with even their true internal struggle can beat the most genius kid, the most skilled gamer, or the most professional artist in the serious competition as if the judges have been bribed by their creator.

I used to think that they were so lucky but after I found out, those cases were called plot armor. I will also call it nepotism in writing because the main character has given the creator privileges and survivability, no matter the situation they have to deal with. I started to hate plot armor because it drove me to the mindset that anything is winnable if we have 100% luck. But the reality, nothing is perfect. Everybody has their own strength, weakness, and personal struggle.

But some writers care more about the cool scenes than the main character themselves. No matter the situation, even on the most extreme planet or fighting the most fearsome monster, they deliberately defy the reality that makes their character able to deal with it with mediocre effort. Often time happens in the most scene-driven fiction and middle-grade fiction, where the main character has no true desire or disbelief and just merely a slave for the plot, which they see it is cool but meaningless.

After I watched Abbie's video about plot-driven vs character-driven stories, I feel becoming more misled than I used to want to write plot-driven. I currently overly presume that the Hilda franchise is overly plot-driven fiction, especially in animated series, where she's nothing but merely a sticker for the visual beauty and her adventurous plot and fantasy environments. And I amazed at Hooves of Death where the child, the main character, will be a knight to save the world from the zombie apocalypse. But she has internal misbelieves, that she is selfish, ambitious, and impatient, which the knight shouldn't have, as far as I remember.
On the bright side, I learned why it's important to know why the scene happens and affects the character, instead of just happening anyways. If not, at least write the stakes as high as possible, making the conflict harder than the character imagines.

This is just my opinion because I am still passionate about writing plot-driven fiction. I have a plot-driven character but I don't want to make her as a plot armor. I could write the stake like her personal shield goes offline and lost her blaster. If the mission is too dangerous and risky for her, I'd prefer not to write it unless she is escorted by either military force or her own high-tech weapons.
+2 / -0
12 days ago
What I do with my characters is give them serious liabilities and have them work around those. For example, the main character could be super-smart and wealthy, but physically he's a weed and not very brave. Then pitch him into situations where being strong and brave would be assets. Or do the opposite: have a character who is strong, brave and pretty tough, but then put him into situations where some smarts would be important.

You can also do the opposite of plot armour: have the bad guys get unrealistically lucky to the detriment of the main character. That way when you do spring a little plot armour to ease the main character out of a scrape, it won't seem that bad.

The best is of course where your plot-driven narrative concludes itself in a cool scene. Generally I try plan this out before hand in a skeleton structure. Sometimes, however, cool scenes just happen, and I feel it's best to go with the flow, write them and then work out how to integrate them fully with the narrative later.
+1 / -0
12 days ago
Plot armor is basically the result of prioritizing drama over realism, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but well, different people have different tastes. You can definitely overdo it and make the protagonists look like they have magic luck.

If you want to avoid plot armor, just make your protagonists feel like they're actually reasonably prepared for the dangers they face. Training, equipment, etc. Fights or perils in which there is an actual serious chance of death/serious injury/failure shouldn't be too frequent.

Aka, the problem isn't that the character defies death, but that they do so every episode/chapter. Eventually it starts getting ridiculous that the dice of life roll in their favor so frequently.

But off course, having tons of episodes in which the MC solves the problems with relatively little difficulty isn't that exciting, unless maybe if your writing is really good. Hence why logic is usually forsaken in the name of drama, and by extension plot armor.
+1 / -0
12 days ago
Another option that is sometimes available is to make the Plot Armor an in-universe thing. At first the characters think they're just lucky. But then coincidences start piling up, and they slowly realize that something is helping them.
What is it? Why does it help them? How does it help them?
What will be the price?
+3 / -0
12 days ago
ThornEel's suggestion is very cool. I sometimes have things "fall into place" for certain characters so long as they maintain the ethos of their religion, for instance. Evil characters are prone to fits of dark 'inspiration' where they do things that they know will pay off later, even though they are not sure how, at the moment.
+0 / -0
12 days ago
You can also make the world itself operate on that kind of logic. Aka, a world in which the feelings/desires/intentions of humans bends the rules of the world. Or you can have a world which operates under "destiny", aka, some things have a kind of invisible predestination to them that isn't clear until after the fact. Or both.

Basically, there can be supernatural forces operating in your world to influence events besides clearly defined things like gods.

But if you go with that route you need to really weave it into the fabric of your world and story. If the "feelings affect the world" thing is only ever brought up when the heroes are making a miraculous escape, it starts feeling like a cheap deus ex machina.

You know those anime/cartoons in which the protagonists are always pushed into a corner and then flip the tables with the power of friendship? Those are an example of this approach done wrong. The power of friendship should either be very sporadically leaned on, or should be something everyone uses all the time.
+1 / -0