Hearts and Minds

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.


10 thoughts on “Hearts and Minds

  1. I haven’t seen that many Marvel movies, but of the ones I have seen, “it was too logical” has rarely been an issue I’ve noticed. 🙂

    But, I totally see your larger point about the balancing act. I think it varies depending on what kind of story it is, too. Mystery readers will want everything airtight and carefully-reasoned, whereas I think adventure readers are more likely to just want to have a fun ride, and won’t be too bothered by a few leaps of logic and improbable coincidences. In sci-fi, it depends whether it’s “hard sci-fi” like Andy Weir’s books, where things have to be scientifically plausible, or if it’s “space opera”, where authors can just wave our hands and say “There are spaceships with FTL drives. Cool, huh?”

    As a general rule, I say it’s better to err on the side of the heart than the mind. I’ll overlook plot holes in a fun story more readily than I will accept a story that is plausible but dull.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, and I’ve written before how forgiving I tend to be with suspending disbelief for the sake of a story with soul. If I really like your characters, I won’t bother to care that X, Y, or Z could have been done to solve their problem easily.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of my theory regarding sci fi: good lit says something important, and being highly accurate with one’s science doesn’t necessarily add to the quality of the literature.

    And I think you’ve just broadened the subject to everything, not just science. Moreover, I think you’re totally correct that heart is important. Perhaps we’re fixing to move from a literary era of rationalism to a new romanticism.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d be thrilled if we did make that move. Rationalism, or what could be called hyper-realism, has worn out its welcome with me. That was part of the reason I stopped reading the “A Game of Thrones” books. I need more escapism in a fantasy book than the occasional dragon or sorceress.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A timely post for me. I’ve been walking the logic versus just-believe-her line in my current WIP. I have the plot logic worked out in enough detail that when I start the second draft, I should be able to delete some of the logistics. (I hope!)

    (Apparently, my subscription to your new site didn’t stick. I had to subscribe again.)

    Liked by 1 person

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