marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

philosophical observations about random events in stories

Was thinking about this in Andre Norton's stories -- though it can be seen in others.  Like Conan the Barbarian.

Throw things fast enough, and it can pass in the verve.  Conan once, having escaped with Olivia from an evil king, landed on an island where they face up with a man-ape that wants Olivia, pirates who land there, and a place where evil statues come to life every time moonlight shines on them.  (If Olivia's dream is accurate, they had tortured and murdered a god's half-human son, and the god had turned them to stone for it.  Fine, but why did they come back?)  Looking back it seems an awful coincidence.

You get a similar effect, if better set up, in Catseye, where we know in advance that there is a Forerunner ruin with a bad reputation before Troy and the animals end up there.  Still, there's no connection between it and what they are escaping.

In real life, our problems seldom have any real focus, but in fiction, it really helps to have a mastermind behind them so they resolve and unify the story rather let it be a random jumble.  The clutter needed for realism is best out of the plot.  Even a meta-reason -- the land is full of monsters because a sorcerer's tower exploded and freed all his prisoners -- the evil magic ring is alluring everyone evil with its powers -- helps pull it together.  Otherwise, the master hand doing the trick is too obvious; it's the author's.

For one thing, it seems like an awfully contrived situation for them all to go after the main character, yet going after the main character is their purpose in a story.  Focus issues again.  Then, an in-depth world-building that suggests without overwhelming the story that there are a lot of problems out there, and these are just the ones the main character happened on.  To be sure, rich world-building is difficult in itself.

The quest helps, too.  Or any form of travel.  Encountering the marvels one by one is more plausible than their all hitting at once -- often enough the quesiton of what they would eat arises when they are too concentrated -- and you can foreshadow them along the way.  On the other hand, if you really want them all at once, you still need something to pull it together.
Tags: adventure, foreshadowing, plotting, quest, travel, unity of theme, world-building: creatures, world-building: general, world-building: geography, world-building: magic (effects)

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