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FFC #91 - How to remove convenience

Posted May 6th, 2022 at 09:18 PM by TGRF
TGRF's Fan Fiction Chronicles - Entry #91

One thing which was present in both Dilmir and Curse was convenience. Especially around the climax, in both stories there's one small detail which I had no easy resolution for, and so just resolved, using the first idea which popped into my head. The result was a resolution which came out of nowhere, an undeniable feeling of convenience sabotaging an otherwise believable ending.

I definitely don't want this to be the case with the third and final story in the Dilmir trilogy. So, following some 'suggestions' posed by TAF, I heavily scrutinized my outline, doing my best to purge all hint of convenience or contrivance from it.

The writing for the story is underway by now, but I wanted to highlight the methods I found for dealing with convenience. Both because I believe what I've found will be highly useful to anyone else facing similar problems, and because when TAF invariably finds something I've missed, I can point to this article and say I at least tried my best.

Seriously though, if there's still convenience in this story after what I went through to eliminate it, I'll... be really upset.

Convenience and Contrivance
To fix something, you generally have to know what it is and/or what caused it first.

Contrived situations come about from the author forcing things to happen which normally wouldn't. When something is contrived, it generally doesn't feel believable.

Convenience comes about from otherwise believable circumstances happening with either not enough set up, or not enough struggle.

The classic example of both is a Deus Ex Machina, which is the term for the author conjuring up a miraculous resolution from nowhere.

A more realistic example might be the heroes stumbling across the one weapon which can defeat the bad guy, or worse yet, being handed it directly by some previously unmentioned third party.

Basically anything where the readers can say 'oh, well that's convenient,' IS by definition convenient.

Handling convenience
Now I'm not going to lie. There was a LOT of convenience in Dilmir 3 when I first put the outline together. And it wasn't just the 'army collapses after Cyprien is dead' kind of convenience. It effected major plot points and central villains. Some of it was incredibly hard to fix, so hard that on more than one occasion I thought the story was doomed. But in the end, I did finally remove every scrap of convenience I could find, and the methods I used to do so are below:
  • If the heroes need to collect an artifact, knowledge, ally, or what-have-you, but the presence (or even existence) of such a thing is too convenient, make it a complication first. While researching, I came across this line more than once: you can have any number of complications drop out of the blue, but only one resolution per book. And it's true. If the thing the heroes need arrives as a complication first, the reader won't bat an eye. As long as the heroes then turn that complication into something they can use (and it's important that they do it, and on their own), then things feel natural.
  • If an event needs to happen, especially if it's resolving a conflict or saving a hero, but it's too convenient, have the heroes cause it. In Dilmir 1, TAF pointed out that Alfimir being unable to get back at Dilmir in the end felt vague and convenient. He said I could have fixed that by having it be the result of the main characters using their wits to maneuver Alfimir into that position, instead of it just happening. This holds true. If there's an event which has to happen, try to make the heroes be the ones orchestrating it. It will feel far more natural than the scene happening due to dumb luck, or even worse, the stupidity of the bad guy.
  • If the above won't work, for example if the heroes can't cause a particular situation but it still needs to happen, change the expectations. This goes back to making a convenience a complication instead. If a certain scene needs to happen, but is too convenient, you can make it more dangerous or harder to complete, and then have the heroes go into the situation expecting an easier experience. Then, when things go wrong and they are forced to do things the hard way, what was convenient has become a complication. In addition to feeling more natural, this also increases tension in an area which might otherwise be a cakewalk.
  • Finally, if all else fails, rewrite the scene. There was one scene in Dilmir 3 which I just could NOT get to work. None of the above methods worked on it, and it was so convenient... it was horrible. I thought for sure this was the end of the story, but then I took a step back, and asked myself what really needed to happen. I considered what actually needed to happen in the scene, and realized that the way I had that happening was what was convenient, not the thing itself. I was able to reframe what I needed, and the convenience was gone. So if nothing else works, take a step back, identify what actually needs to happen, and see if there's a less convenient way you can make that scene work.
If none of these suggestions work, then may the writing gods help you. You'll need it.


Dilmir Update: Writing for the final installment in the Dilmir trilogy is underway, progressing a bit slower than before, in an attempt to avoid 'rushed writing'. You can expect to see the story sometime mid to late May. You can follow the progress, as always, in my sig.
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TheAverageFan's Avatar
I considered what actually needed to happen in the scene, and realized that the way I had that happening was what was convenient, not the thing itself.
I feel like this is a pretty good way of approaching convenience. Almost always the thing making the plot point convenient is the circumstances allowing it to happen. I as a reader can't say "well that was easy", if it wasn't easy.

Also brilliant idea introducing things that will be conveniences later as complications initially. Being able to turn such things into assets will almost always make the audience think that the heroes are being smart rather than lucky. An army that comes out of nowhere at the end is convenient. That army initially being hostile brigands that the heroes talked their way into helping is clever. Or the element the villain thinks makes them invincible ultimately being what causes their destruction. And so on and so forth.

Posted May 7th, 2022 at 04:27 AM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
TGRF's Avatar
Quick Update: I've needed to go through the entire outline and flesh it out more, because I kept running into patches while writing where I wouldn't know how to proceed.

While doing this, I've begun to realize just how monstrously long the outline will truly be when I'm done, which means that my progress calculations are entirely off. This story is looking to be quite substantial.

Therefore, I'm putting the release date more around the middle of June.

Posted May 20th, 2022 at 07:54 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
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