I read an interesting article over the weekend about the storyline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. You can read it here, but the gist of it was that during the production of Winter Soldier the writers focused intently on making the logic in the plot so airtight that the infamous Honest Trailers YouTube page (a page that makes ‘trailers’ for movies with a narrator that shreds the plot to pieces) wouldn’t be able to lampoon the movie.
Well, they succeeded. So we’ll in fact that when Winter Soldier did show up on Honest Trailers, the narrator even admitted it was extremely difficult to find any plot holes or inconsistencies to make fun of.
This formula ended up working this time, but it started an avalanche inside the MCU studios. Starting with Winter Soldier, several movies that followed were constructed the same way: with logic so flawless and concrete that no one could ever poke fun.
Unfortunately for Marvel, this has resulted in some movies that appeal too much to the head, to the mind, and not enough to the heart.
It’s a fine line that authors, screenwriters, and the like have to walk. People come to your stories for a chance to be fooled in a delightful manner, to dream or to scream, laugh and love. But even though they want an escape, that doesn’t mean they necessarily want a complete departure from reality. Your story, while charming, has to be grounded.
Yet keep it too stubbornly rooted in reality and your readers/viewers will feel like your story is a chore. Something to be done, not enjoyed.
This balancing act is something I frequently struggle with when writing. I try my best to close any loopholes in the plot. Sometimes too hard, and I spend so much time searching for logic in that the story stalls. Suddenly I’m unable to make progress because I’m not letting the characters be themselves.
In Afghanistan, our mission was to win over the hearts and minds of the local populace. Show them the logic of your goals there, get them to buy into the mission, but furthermore get them to believe in it. Heart and mind.
So it seems to be the same objective now as a writer. It’s not enough to offer readers an escape if it’s utter nonsense, nor will it suffice to bore them with reality masquerading as a story. As I writer, I need to let my readers escape for a few hours but with the knowledge that they are safely still in this world they call home.