Economics and Plot: Vol 2, Applications

If you have not read Vol 1 yet ,do so before reading this article.

As I stated in the last article, a plot can only be considered relevant at connoting a message to the audience if it follows economic reasoning.  This doesn’t make economics the sole determinate of how good a story is.  Remember, this method can only be applied to the pure plot.  Other literary devices can be just as effective if not more so.  We can still use a criticism of the piece through economics to determine a plot’s coherence.  Coherence is not in and of itself a artistically superior pillar of a story, but is necessary to open up certain doors to the writer.  In this article, I will elaborate on some of the applications that plot coherence offers to a work.


Plot Holes and the Suspension of Disbelief

A plot hole is a gap in the flow of logic in a plot or the blatant disregard of relevant information.  If the author doesn’t regard information about the world that they have already established then the actions of the characters will likely be economically incoherent, and limit the value of the story.  It is unrealistic to assume that an author can create a world that has absolutely zero plot holes, but as a rule of thumb the fewer plot holes the better.  Plot holes are often mistaken to be a part of the plot that isn’t explained.  However a plot hole has to directly violate economic law not just possibly violate it.  The author gives the audience relatively little information about the world behind the story, and there are many other economic factors that may affect the surface story.  An example of this misinterpretation that often annoyed me was in The Lord of the Rings.  Many plot hole whistle-blowers will claim that Gandalf could easily have called upon the Great Eagles of Mirkwood to drop the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom instead of making poor Frodo do it.  However, unlike most of Tolkien’s work he gave very little information as to the background of the Eagles.  Even though we see Gandalf acting friendly with them we really have no idea what their goals and motivations are in the world as a whole.  The suspension of disbelief is occasionally necessary to keep a plot coherent.


Crossroads as a Question

Often characters will find themselves in a situation where they have to make a decision.  If they had all of the knowledge that they needed  to make this decision they wouldn’t find themselves at the crossroads and the plot would continue.  When a character is stuck in this position the reader is presented with the same question.  By showing that a character lacks information it asks the reader whether they have the proper information to answer the question as well.  This may be transient knowledge about the plot of the story, or it may be something deeper that in fact the reader or author also does not know such as a moral question.  The reader might in fact have an answer that neither the characters in the story nor the author has which can lead to quite a bit of frustration.


Perspectives as a means of Revealing Information

The amount of information that a reader has about the fictional world is incredibly important to what the reader can draw from the plot.  The way that an author designs the telling of their story is integral to the amount of information that the reader has and the best example of this is the perspective of the story.  First person limits all of the reader’s knowledge down to one person, and the crossroads method can be applied more often.  A plot from one perspective can evoke more thoughts of personal choice and moral deliberation.  Third person gives the reader far more information, and gets them to understand the greater world.  A multi-perspective presentation of the plot can offer more social, political, or economic questions because they give the reader enough information to believe they could actually answer such questions in both the fictional world and in similar circumstances in the real one.  



No author is perfect and plot holes do often arise in a work, but this doesn’t mean that nothing can be understood from the incoherent story.  Sometimes incoherence, intentional or not, can shock us to the degree that we realize what makes this plot incoherent.  Often comedy will use this tool, and a particularly good example would be South Park.  The characters commonly act in incredibly contradictory, and not utility optimizing ways.  This brings out flaws in the characters that represent people in the real world, and make us laugh.  When we find unintentional incoherence it also might tell us something about the author’s views or understanding of how the real world operates, and whether our view of what that is is validated by this plot.
Vol 3. Will cover specific genres and elaborate how they use plot in their own ways.

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