One of my weaknesses as a fiction writer is that I want things to make sense. I want to understand how the events in the story could and would actually unfold. Okay, except for the unicorns or zombies or whatever — their existence I feel no need to explain. But given the presence of a unicorn in a story, I want the characters’ reactions to it to be realistic. And not just the characters. If the unicorn is in a fenced paddock and is later found running free, I insist on knowing exactly how it got out.
How high a fence is a unicorn capable of jumping over? These details matter to me.
Curiously, I’m also a fan of Doctor Who. My love for the series is not diminished in any way by the fact that the plots make no sense at all. Loose ends are left flapping in the breeze. Any sort of jerry-rigged five-word explanation can be used, and will be, to explain the latest howling absurdity.
I don’t know if the BBC has script conferences, but if there were a script conference for Doctor Who and anybody ever said, “But is it plausible?”, the miscreant would be dragged out behind the building and shot. Plausibility is not just irrelevant in Doctor Who, it would be anathema.
Where the series succeeds, and brilliantly, is in the emotions that each scene arouses. We’re not bothered that the Doctor is obviously dead and ten minutes later is alive again (with a five-word explanation). What the writers are aiming at are the twin emotional peaks of terror and grief followed by amazement and celebration. Those emotions are the pivot on which the series succeeds. Well, that and the special effects.
To be sure, the endless stream of bizarre plot complications couldn’t possibly be handled any other way. But that’s not the point I’m driving at here. The point is, viewers don’t care — and the writers know they don’t.
Most people have a simple, primitive view of the world they live in. They’re not equipped to understand chains of logical reasoning, or even to notice glaring logical flaws. They look at the world and see a good guy, a bad guy, danger, thrills, victory, and not much beyond that. Our Republican propaganda experts know this; our current alleged president could not possibly have been elected by a nation where voters understood and were swayed by logic, truth, or science.
But that’s a side issue. The point, for a fiction writer, is this: Every scene needs to have some sort of emotional core. Its pulse needs to beat. If you can manage that, your readers probably won’t care that the unicorn has jumped the fence. Most of them won’t even notice.