I’ve watched and read a lot of stories—perhaps not as much as others, but still a decent amount.
But almost anyone can identify a clichés or a trope Something you see over and over across novels and movies alike. The Damsel in Distress. The Hooker with the Heart of Gold. And, a recent one I learned, the Jerk with the Heart of Gold.
So what I’m about to say here has probably been identified already and explained in much greater detail and clarity than I’m going to right now.
I don’t care. This is something I’ve noticed and wanted to share. Free country and all.
Anywho, here is the first of what I call Story Laws or Rules. Basically, it’s something that happens in a story that allows me to make a rather accurate prediction on the outcome of the plot. In other words, if A happens, B will almost certainly happen. I’ve seen it happen so many times it feel like it’s an unofficial rule or law for storytelling.
I’ll just say upfront that I hate these. It makes a story predictable and one of the things that almost all the stories I loved had in common is that I never knew what was going to happen next until the very end.
In any case, here is the first.
Story Law #1: If a character commits a heinous act that cannot be undone nor forgiven, that character will di, even if he is in actuality a good person or has redeemed himself later on. He or she will die regardless.
Examples! Be warned, I’m pretty much giving away the endings to these stories, so read on at your own risk.
The movie The Professional by director Luc Besson
The main character was an assassin and even though he had a “code” of never killing women and children and was overall a good person, taking care of that little girl who changed him forever, he still ended up dead…because he was killer.
The movie Daybreakers with Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe
This one is about vampires and one of the movie that proved I can officially tell when I’m about to be very disappointed. One of the characters I really liked was Ethan Hawke’s character’s brother.
Though he was an antagonist at first, it was obvious he was only doing what he thought was best and often struggled with figuring that out. He also cared about his brother and, like I said before, I had a soft spot for types like him. Of course, the minute he turned an innocent human girl into a vampire against her will, who was later killed—not by him—I knew he was gonna die.
It didn’t matter that he turned good in the end and saved his brother’s life. Apparently, the screenwriters felt he had to die.
And that pissed me off.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK.Rowling
Oh god, did I hate this one. But I knew it was gonna happen. It wasn’t even the clue that Rowling was killing off all the characters from James’ generation when Sirius died. Though that may be the true reason Rowling killed off my most beloved Harry Potter character, Severus Snape because the Law doesn’t fit perfectly here.
Snape was never evil. Well, okay, he did nothing evil in current events in the books. Everything he did was for honorable reasons. And yet that doesn’t matter. He did something that couldn’t be undone and could not be forgiven. It wasn’t just because he used to be a Death Eater and god knows how many he killed back then and those he was forced to kill after he went undercover.
I knew Snape was going to die the minute he killed Dumbledore.
Sure, it was genius. And I loved it.
But did Snape HAVE to die? I mean it’s not bad that he did, but it’s predictable.
(I also didn’t really like the WAY he died. It was too convenient. I think it would have been much better if Snape actually had to explain himself to Harry in person. It would have made a much more powerful scene…but perhaps an extremely tricky one to write).
In fact, in all these and other examples, the deaths were predictable and that’s the biggest reason this law sucks.
Even freaking Boromir’s death from LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring was foreseeable the instant he tried to get the Ring for himself—even if the crime wasn’t even so bad. It was still unforgivable. All those who wanted the stupid Ring were punished. Even Frodo lost his finger for giving in to it when he finally reached Mount Doom.
…I feel like I got off track.
Where was I? Ah yes.
Right now, as I explained in an earlier post, I’m currently worried for a certain beloved angel character in the show Supernatural.
For the entire series, Castiel has been the goodest of goody-two-shoes. He always wanted to do the right thing, but I know that doesn’t mean crap in storyland.
As good and evil became more and more unclear as the show went on, Castiel started to bend the rules a little.
In the last episode, Castiel killed his friend and one of his brothers, the angel Baltazar. I’m praying to God that this act doesn’t count as something that crosses the line into heinous and unforgivable. After all, Baltazar was sort of a jerk and he did betray Castiel. But now that Castiel believes he’s God and there’s an entire season to go, he has plenty of time to do some real damage and earn his inevitable death.
I hope not. But if he does, you now know why.
I actually hate this “law” and love it whenever I see it broken. I am interested in true redemption and forgiveness, no matter what the person has done. In fact, the worse the person did, the greater the redemption and sacrifice, the more I want to see that character survive.
The only exception I’ve seen this law broken repeatedly are in horror movies. But of course, they have to let the killer live if they want to do a sequel. Sometimes, here I’d like to see the opposite happen…except in Saw. That was perfect. True, he still had to die in the end (to me Saw ended with the third movie. The rest are just fanfiction), so in a way the law was still in effect…but with a twist since he still won in the end.
So I guess, I just would like to see people break away from formulas or at the very least twist them and make them interesting.
Next Week: Story Law #2 – The Third Wheel Must Die.