Writing Into A Corner
There is no way out, someone has to hold the Idiot Ball


(permanent link) added: 2012-07-02 14:21:27 sponsor: KJMackley (last reply: 2012-07-04 09:12:51)

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A story has "written itself into a corner" means that it had established a situation that can only be resolved through the use of the Deus ex Machina, Idiot Ball, Informed Ability or forgotten powers. Stories are usually not written sequentially and trying to go from point A to point B results in some snags.

The basic writing dilemma in place is that you have to establish certain rules of consistency regarding both the characters and the situation they are in. If a car breaking down is vital to the plot there has to be some reason why the resident Mr. Fixit (who was stranded along with the others riding along) can't make repairs. If you have a Master Swordsman who is outclassed by another that doesn't automatically explain why they make rookie sword fighting mistakes.

Thus the term "writing yourself into a corner" means that you haven't given the story a logical way out.

Examples:
  • As a character the Riddler from Batman generally falls under this. He is supposed to be a genius who crafts riddles so clever only a greater genius like Batman can figure them out. Thus it usually results in a Bat Deduction, cause that means creating a puzzle the average reader can't decipher but one a genius could. Most writers are not geniuses, so creating a plausible story from that situation is virtually impossible.
  • In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, the highly educated characters go on to a "Physics Bowl" competition as part of a bout of egos over who was smarter (Sheldon vs everyone else). The final question was solving a Feyman Diagram, which had been used often already in the series on the characters white boards, but was deemed by the characters as being beyond them. They act as though they had never seen such a thing but the truth is solving it in your head is generally impossible, so it isn't so bad as other examples.
  • In Burn Notice, protagonist Michael Westen is famous for his ability to out think his opponents and Batman Gambit his way out of problems. In season five they finally discover a Big Bad who is so crafty and skilled at manipulation that he leaves Michael in the dust, but the inherent nature of that premise is that Michael is forced to hold the Idiot Ball at times.
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