Is there something that absolutely must
be done for plot reasons
, but the character that must do it has absolutely no obligation to do so? Sometimes a writer will write himself into a corner. The main character has to be in an abandoned field to meet the giant mutant insectoid elephants in the middle of the night, but there's absolutely no reason for her to be in that field at midnight.
Well, why can't she just know?
"I just knew" is an all-purpose plot contrivance
for all a writer's needs, and can usually be explained away by the compelling forces of magic
or psychic powers
. When asked why a character had to be at a certain place or do something at a certain time, the response will always be, "I just knew." Unless there's a previously well-established reason for this character to be compelled as such, or careful, delicate mind-control is revealed later, this is a sign of lazy plotting. Usually it is in those cases, too.
Occasionally used as a response to You Will Know What to Do
. Compare to Gut Feeling
Anime & Manga
- Princess Mononoke: "The head must be returned by human hands!" Did Ashitaka take Bizarre Supernatural Stuff That's Never Happened Before 101 at Exiled Prince University or what?
- Well, the entire story is about humans vs nature and the head was shot off by humans, so it's not a bad inference to make.
- In Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy comics, the character of Starhawk, refered to himself as "One who knows", using this as a rationale for suggesting courses of action that were often contrary to the team's current goals. Of course he'd turn out to be right. We find out later it's because he's stuck in a loop where his soul reincarnates into his own infant body, so he's lived through the events multiple times and simply remembers the correct path to take.
- Justified in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where Harry drinks a Luck Potion, which grants him this ability.
- Cassie from Animorphs can see people's motivations and in the final arc she lets Tom get the Escafil Device out of instinct and is seen as a traitor. But it causes the Yeerk Empire to break apart because of the morphing power it grants is being denied to the taxxons and Tom uses it as a incentive to betray Visser One. She's not called Cassandra for nothing.
- Used by Richard, in Sword of Truth. Repeatedly. The most egregious instance is in Naked Empire, where he all-of-a-sudden knows the recipe for the antidote to the poison that's killing him, with no indication of how he knows it.
- Stephen King uses this one a lot in The Dark Tower series. Plenty of times, the heroes have vital information just suddenly pop into their heads out of nowhere. It's usually "explained" away as the doing of "Ka", fate. "Why can't we just go around Lud?" "Ka." "How do you know how to operate these magic doors?" "Ka." "How did you know to keep a hold of the crazy, stupid magic turtle?" "Ka." Partially justified because the protagonist has gone through the adventure thousands of times already, over and over, but still. Lazy.
- Mordred Deschain even wonders about how he knows this stuff once. Of course, he's born during the cycle, so he might well have learned some things other times around.
- Parodied and Lampshaded in Game Night by Jonny Nexus. One of the gods' mortals fell into a river, stranding him behind an impenetrable doorway the party had already passed, and the rest of the party had no way of knowing he was alive, let alone where he was. The other gods have their mortals go back and find him, and the mortals (who don't know they're literally the gods' playthings) comment on how strange it was that they were so compelled to return to the gate.
- Garion got this quite a bit in the course of The Belgariad.
- Justified, he was being guided by the prophecy.
- Subverted with Locke in the fifth season as he seems to intuitively know where to go and what to do, as if the island is guiding him, but it is actually because he's not Locke.
- Played straight with the Man In Black who possesses certain intuitive knowledge just because.
- Used well and thoroughly creepily for the villains in a first season episode of The X-Files, "Eve". The clone girls' coordination was spine-chilling.
- Used in the majority of the X Files as Mulder always takes a wild stab in the dark at what the monster-of-the-week is based on little to no evidence, and is pretty much always correct.
- Used as a major plot point in the first season Christmas episode of Scrubs. Turk has been doubting his faith in God after working an on call shift on Christmas Eve (one of the worst nights to work such a shift), while Elliot has lost track of a scared pregnant woman. Turk, not having even met the woman, is sitting on the roof when suddenly he a realization hits him and he starts running to the park, where he finds the woman under a giant Christmas tree and helps to deliver the baby. When asked by Carla how he knew she was there, he answers: "I don't know, I just... knew." The implication is that God told him where to go, which is enough to restore his faith.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, witness April May "had a feeling" that she should look out her hotel window at a critical moment. She's lying - about looking out the window and, in fact, just about everything else - to frame the defendant and protect her employer, Redd White.
- Parodied in a Running Gag AH.com: The Series, where (from the end of Season 4 onwards) Once an Episode the character Landshark will make a ridiculous (and accurate) leap of "deduction". When asked how on earth he knew that, he shrugs and replies "Hey, I'm British!"
- Constant in Dominic Deegan. Between the main character being a seer (who's in the business of doing this), his main method of saving the day being finding out what's going on and making sure the information gets to the right people if it takes psychic implantation, and Fate Itself and various other mighty forces weighing in periodically, this happens all the damn time. Occasionally it is wrong, or at least invokes From a Certain Point of View. Though not Dominic. Only his interpretations are ever off.