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Old February 15th, 2013, 07:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Poorly Contrived Plot Device Thread

If I ever decide to make a profit off the astringent fruits of my imagination and start up Dngrsone.com, there are certain things I would sell:

* Bumper stickers featuring phrases that would make people think; example: "He's dead. Get over it already."

* The Epic Fail Picture-- it is a mirror with "Epic Fail" on the frame. I may sell just the frame, so the buyer can put it around their own epic fail picture.

* A whole line of PCPD products.

PCPD means, very simply, Poorly Contrived Plot Device. What better way to celebrate the medicrity of modern literature by peddling PCPDs to people who are capable of independant thought?

What kind of PCPDs would I offer? How about some bottles, of various interesting shapes and sizes, each carrying a liquid of interesting color and viscosity. I could label them simply, "PCPD", or maybe exercise my innate ability for Aggressive Alliteration: "99.9 Percent Pure Plot Progressing Potion."

I would make some fancy-looking spheres, maybe internally lit, with an obvious (or not so obvious) button. Or get some uranium glass marbles to put into pendants (do not use uranium glass internally-- that would be not healthful). They glow wonderfully under UV light.

And a line of small staffs, sceptres, and slender sticks in several styles (but neither screwdrivers of a sonic sort nor sacred sabre handles oft seen in sagas of stellar warfare-- that would be copyright infringement. But what the customer does once I have sold something...).

Apologies-- apparently that annoying alliteration engine was irresponsibly allowed to remain engaged. Allow me a moment to make it stop...

So, what exactly is a Poorly Contrived Plot Device?

Well, according to the great and powerful (and moderately but acceptably inaccurate) online encyclopaedia easily accessible to the majority of the internet, "A plot device is an object or character in a story whose only purpose is to advance the plot of the story, or alternatively to overcome some difficulty in the plot." Furthermore, "A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief."

Of course, the quality of a plot device is highly objective-- one person's PCPD is another's subtlety (see what I did there?).

And again, what better way to celebrate one's literary acumen, aspirations or annoyance than to have a PCPD (or three) of one's very own?

SO. This thread is your chance to point out the weakest (or best, I'm not picky) plot devices you have seen in any medium.

*** In the off-chance that I ever do have an online store, I reserve the right to sell anything I think will sell, and any ideas that I may get from reading this thread will still belong to me-- no one can sue me for peddling a product that may seem similar (or identical) to anything posted here.

If you think you can sell your idea, then do so.

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Old February 16th, 2013, 05:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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IMO the kittens in adorable poses with badly misspelled captions has a long way to go before it's played out. IJS
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Old February 17th, 2013, 06:42 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Plot Devices and memes are entirely different things, though I can see where a meme might be used as a plot device. Then there are tropes...
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Old February 20th, 2013, 10:02 AM   #4 (permalink)
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So many PCPD in the last book of Guillermo del Toro's vampire novels... I would buy a couple, but you need to differentiate between memes and PCPD's.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 10:25 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Well, vampirism as a plot device has been overdone.

There are only a couple vampire books that I will read-- Bram Stoker's Dracula defined the sub-genre. C.S. Friedman's The Madness Season redefined it (for me) to the point where I just can't read anything else in the genre.

While I enjoyed the first couple of Anne Rice novels concerning vampires, and Lestat was definitely an interesting character to begin with, the rest of it was just pap-- Louis was an annoying, whining bitch, for starters, and I can easily see how the vampire evolved from that to the sparkly emo things that become the Twilight series.

And that's where the meme comes in-- Interview with a Vampire is made into a movie, starring Tom Cruise, of all people (though he actually did act in that part, surprising me). This started the whole mess that have today.

I would have cast Rutger Hauer or someone similar to he, but a bit younger, for Lestat. Regardless, the book was little better than pulp fiction, certainly not deserving of an big awards, other than becoming an unlikely best-seller.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 03:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Well, vampirism as a plot device has been overdone.
They could get lots more life out of that genre if they'd have everyone running around with no shirts on, not just the guys.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 04:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
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They could get lots more life out of that genre if they'd have everyone running around with no shirts on, not just the guys.
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Old February 21st, 2013, 03:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Never been much into vampires, but I liked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Contrived plot devices, I can think of more from movies, since they're so much shorter and condensed. One device you see out of necessity (so maybe not poorly contrived) in mostly every newer thriller or horror movie is some reason why people can't use their cell phones. You have to have that one scene where the character looks at their phone and says "I can't even get a signal out here", or drops their phone, or the battery dies, etc. Probably was easier to write that kind of material when everybody wasn't constantly connected lol.
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Old February 21st, 2013, 09:38 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Contrived plot devices, I can think of more from movies, since they're so much shorter and condensed. One device you see out of necessity (so maybe not poorly contrived) in mostly every newer thriller or horror movie is some reason why people can't use their cell phones. You have to have that one scene where the character looks at their phone and says "I can't even get a signal out here", or drops their phone, or the battery dies, etc. Probably was easier to write that kind of material when everybody wasn't constantly connected lol.
Though I find myself in plenty of areas out here in the West where I can't get a cell signal (mountains are good for that), I agree with you that it is a nasty crutch on the part of the writers. Hell, why not just get the phone wet? That usually takes 'em out in a more believable manner... or break them? Lord knows, half of these characters get in a bone-crushing incident of one kind or another that would absolutely kill the average American couch potato.

My biggest problem with Hollywood is that they have absolutely no respect for the laws of physics (or rational thought, but I digress)-- I can understand taking a shortcut here or there or simplifying things for the sake of dialog or moving the story along, but completely ignoring basic Newtonian physics is just infuriating to me.
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 06:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Okay, here's an example--

I walked into the end of The Raven, which is that Edgar Allen Poe as detective thing with John Cusack (I love you, John, but FTLoG, stop making crappy movies!).

So, there is a scene where the (I'm guessing here) local constabulary was shot and wanted to get up and run after the (as yet unidentified) bad guy and the doctor is holding him down because he still has to remove a bullet.

Apparently, there was a bullet lodged in the guy's unmarked chest. Apparently the bullet was steel-jacketed or something (in 1849?), because a magnet was very prominently used to help locate said projectile to aid in its removal.

Several scenes later, the magnet apparently helped provide a clue regarding the murderer. I say apparently, because it didn't seem to help the Sheriff or whatever he was, and I really wasn't paying much attention.
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Old February 26th, 2013, 11:57 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Though I find myself in plenty of areas out here in the West where I can't get a cell signal (mountains are good for that), I agree with you that it is a nasty crutch on the part of the writers. Hell, why not just get the phone wet? That usually takes 'em out in a more believable manner... or break them? Lord knows, half of these characters get in a bone-crushing incident of one kind or another that would absolutely kill the average American couch potato.

My biggest problem with Hollywood is that they have absolutely no respect for the laws of physics (or rational thought, but I digress)-- I can understand taking a shortcut here or there or simplifying things for the sake of dialog or moving the story along, but completely ignoring basic Newtonian physics is just infuriating to me.
The having no concept of the laws of nature part has ruined so many movies for me that I rarely watch anything made after 1970. It's dull, boring and predictable. If the villain has high explosives, it's a guarantee that you'll see a slo-mo, roiling fireball of propane instead of anything even close to a HE blast. No sale.

As for cellphones, it seems to be more of a commentary about how Hollywood writers live in a cloistered world that's separated from the real world. Ignorant references to the "Chicago DMV" (no such thing; the Illinois Secretary of State's office does those things) from people who have obviously never set foot anywhere that's not an oceanfront can really kill the dialog. So can this insane notion that all cops and firefighters have for telecommunication is their personal cellphones is out of control! In the last week I've seen at least a half-dozen fight scenes where the "hero" ignores his walkie-talkie (complete with panic button, "man down" alarm and microphone/panic button right next to his face) as he tries to dial a phone number.

I think it must be a job requirement for a Hollywood writer to be completely divorced from all reality.
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 09:26 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Okay, so I watched the last of the Nolan Batman movies last night... Dark Knight Rises?

I'm sorry all you Bat-fans out there, but that movie was total crap.

I mean, c'mon! 'We built an awesome nuclear reactor but it might be turned into a bomb, so we shut it down and left it entirely intact underneath the city.'

Bane sounded like Sean Connery quoting Yoda through a soup can. Seriously, I could not listen to him without laughing.

... and thousands of people had full access to every part of the city for a good four or five months, and not a single person discovered the 'bat' flying machine hidden under a little camouflage netting on a rooftop?

Man, I could on and on about this movie, but I won't-- I've got better things to do right now...
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Old April 4th, 2013, 10:58 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I'm sorry all you Bat-fans out there, but that movie was total crap
Be fair!

It wasn't that good.
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