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Headscratchers / Stranger Than Fiction

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  • Why would Harold ever think he might be in a comedy? What kind of horrible comedy includes the death of the main character? Well, okay, there are quite a few black comedies that do, but he acts as though if it's a comedy he'll be fine, even though he's had his own death foretold.
    • Professor Hilbert specifically said that in comedies characters fall in love, usually with a someone introduced after the beginning of the story, who starts out hating the main character
    • Jaabi: He believed it was a comedy because he's a tax-man falling in love with one of his clients. He was probably too caught up in the experience to remember that bit of information. (Or the script writers forgot. The movie writers that is.)
      • Right, because tragedies never feature romances. Oh, and how exactly does he forget the bit of information that caused him to seek help in the first place? Or, for that matter, when did the lit professor forget that tragedies can and do feature comedic scenes or moments?
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    • Case: He's clinging onto what little hope he has: an Unreliable Narrator.
    • be fair, he was in a comedy movie.
    • They're quite explicitly using the classic definition of comedy: In a tragedy the hero dies, in a comedy he falls in love (and doesn't die, obviously).
    • There is a trope for that, it's called Death as Comedy

  • Jaabi: How much of Harold's actions were being dictated by Karen? Her voice wasn't always present so I assumed he was in a way Sequence Breaking by trying to investigate this presence. She only seemed present during any normal, everyday actions he was taking. Think about this- who was he calling in Karen's written version? She couldn't have been writing about him calling her... right?
    • That actually could tie in to my question above - maybe the reason for the comedy/tragedy thing was because Karen mandated that he go to see Ana again, and thus he had to come up with a reason to do that even if it didn't make sense. This is turning into quite the Mind Screw, isn't it?
    • Karen very probably didn't write a story about a character hearing the author's narration. While it would certainly fit with her liking tragedies (guy knows he's going to die and is helpless to stop it) it's not very likely. Consider that her voice is completely absent when he talks to the literature professor, something that ought to be relevant to her story if it's about a guy hearing the voice of the author. That said, Harold's actions are probably not so much dictated as predicted by Karen with amazing precision. It's the kind of "control" a clairvoyant has. The amazing part is she's still accurate despite (or because of) Harold hearing her voice telepathically. I'd have to rewatch the movie to be able to tell if she wrote about him calling her (or the book's internal author) or just him calling someone more generally.
      • She wrote about him calling someone but it's never specified who. Presumably in her book he was calling someone else.
      • Might be seen as a case of Exact Words, actually. 'Cause she didn't write "He called someone". She wrote The phone rang. And since it obviously couldn't have been Harold's phone, the typewriting machine assumed it was Karen's phone that had to ring...
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    • My guess was that the times when Harold didn't hear the voice, she was writing about the bus driver or the boy on the bike.
    • I personally got the impression that, at the end, Karen went back and rewrote her story into a tale about a man who *can* hear his own narrator, thereby causing the events of the film. She mentions she's going to go back and rewrite it to make some of her plot changes "make more sense" and to, presumably, turn Harold's Watch into the new protagonist.
    • Case: It seems Karen is only writing the plot-advancing stuff. The other stuff that Harold is doing isn't in the book at all, at least not in the first draft. For this to really make sense, fate/luck has arranged it so that Karen will have writer's block whenever Harold is doing something non-plot-advancing, and/or vice-versa. When Harold starts seeking out Karen, his shenanigans start getting plot-important, so fate's only choice is to act as a voice in Karen's head to have her write about it even before he calls her. Fate could have alternatively forced Harold to forget about calling her and pushed along with the story as Karen intended, but that would have dissatisfied even higher powers than fate — the writers, producers and viewers. Aside: it is heavily implied that other people did die to Karen's stories; those stories went as Karen planned because she's a recluse and those people didn't have access to what they needed to contact her: tax records.
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    • Another answer is that some form of Creator Cameo being present in Karen's book. Harold was calling someone named Karen to tell her about something very urgent and important. The exact event is the only variable.
    • Actually, I think the real answer to this question is something that makes more sense to people who've tried to write fiction professionally. A lot of fiction writers will tell you that it can be hard to tell where their influence over the characters ends and where the character begins to take on a life of its own. When writing an inspired scene (as Karen seemed to, especially towards the end) most writers will let the scene take them on a happy little joyride and then go back to clean up the details once it's finished. So it actually makes a lot of sense that she would dictate some of his actions and not know the reason for others. It's something that's hard to describe to people who've never experienced it, but the movie captures it pretty darn well.
  • Hey, wait. Why the hell isn't the world besieged by amazing amounts of book characters? I mean, why can't any other characters be real? Could Darth Vader exist from the novelizations of Star Wars?
    • Because the idea of Harold alone being real is the film's central conceit. You could have tons of other book characters showing up, but then it would be a different film.
    • Darth Vader lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. At the time of this movie, he is presumed deceased.
    • Simple. Karen didn't write Star Wars or Harry Potter, so we don't see them in this movie. Her central character, her story, is about Harold.

  • Towards the end, the characters seem to not take Howard's life seriously. His life's in Karen's hands, and writing "Harold miraculously survives the crash" shouldn't have been so difficult for her. Sure her ending might have been amazing, but I don't think it'd be worth killing an actual person for, and Karen didn't seem like the type to murder for the sake of her work. More importantly, since he read the ending himself, why didn't he just save the kid and himself? He knew that at the very least, there was going to be a kid who would fall onto the street, so couldn't he have kept a lookout for him and stop him before he put himself in danger? Hell, he could have just stood in the middle of the bus stop, thereby causing the bus driver to stop the bus before anyone got hurt. It's not like he couldn't fight fate; Karen didn't write contingency deaths in case Howard survived, and judging from the dialogue towards the end, Howard could have opted to avoid his death. Also, having control of a man's life via a typewriter could so easily be abused. "And then Howard and Ana lived forever, his good friend Karen Eiffel the author won the lottery and the world in which they lived in suddenly became a true utopia."
    • Maybe Harold was worried that if he didn't exactly follow the plot of the book, the kid would somehow die anyway, or he'd die anyway, or they'd both die. Granted, there's no real evidence to suggest that that would happen, but none of the characters have ever dealt with magic novel-writing before, so they just don't know.
    • This troper took it as them seeing the kind of impact his death would have on everyone around him and deciding that, if you have to die, this would be a great legacy to know you are leaving behind. You have a guy that has done nothing of consequence, and he sees that he might actually be able to make the world a better place with his sacrifice. Also, I got the impression that Karen didn't want to kill him because she feared the power she had; she only sat down to write the new ending because Harold told her to follow her outline. In the end, she couldn't bring herself to see it as anything but premeditated murder and reworked the ending.
    • You only die once, make it spectacular.
    • I thought they went over this in the movie? Karen isn't ambivalent about saving Harold as much as she is utterly shocked and appalled at the idea that she might be responsible for someone's death (and that this might have happened before, since her protagonists always die). The literature professor is the one that encourages both herself and Harold to go through with it... his reasoning is that it is such an amazing, life-changing, possibly society-impacting story that it's worth more than Harold's life. (Which honestly is mildly appalling to me, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it's the sort of book that could stop someone from slitting their wrists.) It's ultimately Harold that really pushes her to do it after reading the draft himself, because he wants to save the boy's life and he wants his life to have meaning. It seems to disturb her quite a bit that he's basically asking her to kill him, but it makes her actually consider it.

  • Why did Karen not simply just write the book with the original ending of him being hit by a bus, not saying that he was dead but heavily implying it, continue to type up the second ending where he survives, and just not send that second ending to the publishers? That way, Karen and the publishers get their masterpiece, and Harold gets to live with a piece of wristwatch forever embedded in his arm.
    • Probably writing "The End" or similarly "ending" the story would've closed the book on the matter, whether she wrote an epilogue or not.
    • After Harold's been hit by the bus, we cut back and forth between him lying in the street and Karen's finger hovering over the period key on her typewriter, with the implication that closing the sentence "Harold Crick was dead" would seal the deal.
      • This would solve everything if she just wrote the ending where he survives first. A better question would be "Why did she publish the version with the worse ending, instead of just writing it first, so Harold would live, and then type up and publish one where he dies?".

  • How could Karen's original novel possibly have been the world-changing literary event the professor implied? Harold was wearyingly mundane. The only reason we come to care about him in the movie is the way he changes after hearing the voice. And yes, True Art Is Incomprehensible, but no-one is going to read (let alone publish) a novel about an entirely uninteresting character.
    • I'd be surprised at how many "classics" of literature are about just that. And I don't know that it was going to be "world-changing," but rather just the best novel she'd ever write.
    • His starting to change was in the book, though. It just presumably had a different catalyst from in the film.
    • It's made perfectly clear that there are other characters in the book. Hell, maybe he was just the Chekhov's Gunman saving The Hero (the kid on the bike). It's not like we got a lot of detail.
    • She's a formula writer, this isn't her first book where someone dies at the end, she's an established author who's Signature Style is to kill off the main character. People buy it to see how he dies. It's like watching a Final Destination movie, you do it to see the new overly convoluted ways they come up with to take out the kids.
    • The movie can get away with saying Karen´s book was amazing since we didn´t actually read what she had intended to. What we watched could have just been the redone version´s movie adaptation focusing on just Harold Crick.
    • Hilbert is not just a literary expert, but possibly her biggest fan. Fans can embellish the quality of things they like, even if they're professionals.

  • So, did Karen kill people with all her other novels?
    • Really no way to know. Karen could conceivably look up people with the same names as her characters, but we (the audience) would never find out.

  • Would having a piece of watch stuck in Harold's wrist for the rest of his life cause an infection?
    • You're kidding, right? People live with bullets lodged in their bodies for the rest of their lives and turn out (for the most part) just fine.
      • Yes, but bullets are hot when they enter. Things as hot as flying bullets tend to kill off germs. A piece of wristwatch would still have germs on it, so an infection is still likely.
      • Discounting things like the watch's battery, the germs most likely to be on a piece of watch are likely to be the exact same germs that are already on the person's skin, and therefore something the body should be able to handle.
      • This troper doesn't know that much about biology or doctoring, but wouldn't the doctors in the hospital give him a shot against any harmful germs from the watch when he was in the hospital.
  • Wouldn't Karen's book wind up popularized/criticized as an unlicensed semi-biography and not a work of fiction, after Harold makes headline news for saving a boy and being hit by a bus shortly before a popular novel describing those exact events comes out?
    • My guess is that it would depend on a) how much attention Harold actually got (i.e., did he allow the news stories, or did he refuse it, and b) how long did it take Karen Eiffel to do the re-write?
    • Also, by this point, Harold has met and spoke with Karen. She can easily get his permission—and in fact, kind of did, considering he told her to finish writing it even when it ended with his death. Instead of an unlicensed semi-biography, it's Loosely Based On A True Story.
    • This also assumes that his saving the boy got national attention as opposed to just local news. He could be little more than a quick blurb on the evening news unless they tried to upsell a particular lean like parents not monitoring their children, traffic safety, or placing the blame on the bus driver.
    • Really, someone saving a small child won't get nearly the kind of press that the kid getting killed would have been. If it bleeds, it leads, and news about people helping each other just plain doesn't go as far as news about horrible things happening.

  • Harold trying to phone Karen. Harold getting into trouble doing so. Harold giving each button a forceful push. How come all these were narrated by Karen? What's the actual plot (of Death and Taxes) by then? She couldn't have been narrating that Harold's trying to contact her, could she?
    • Perhaps it didn't matter, in the book, who he was calling. The central scene seems to be the fact he is calling someone in a moment of character or plot development, and maybe Karen was concentrating in that, to later figure out who it was he was calling, once the scene was done with the impact she needed. Maybe the scene was supposed to have the resonance of a meeting with fate, and that's why Karen seemed so freaked when her phone rang, she was so engrossed with her writing.
    • I believe the above is correct. Sometimes authors write out a scene that they know is important but they don't quite finish it because they're not sure how. Karen knew that book-Harold had to call someone, so she wrote the scene. Turns out he was calling her.

  • What exactly is the role of the black woman in search of a job?
    • She was driving the bus at the end, I believe.
    • The above is correct.

  • Pretty minor, but what about that construction team that accidentally started demolishing the wrong building? The audience knows it was likely something Karen wrote to get the plot moving again, but realistically, this grave mistake not only cost a ton of property damage, but could have gotten someone seriously hurt. And the guy just shrugs it off with an 'Oops!'. I think we're looking at a lawsuit here.

  • If Karen knew everything she wrote came true, why didn't she exploit that to get everything she wanted? She could have written anything.
    • Because the revelation that all of this power was hers was traumatizing, and she had to consider the possibility that all of those protagonists of previous novels were also real people that she effectively murdered. Realizations like that don't usually put people in exploitative moods.

  • If Karen really had killed all the other characters in her books, wouldn't the media have caught on at some point? After writing eight critically acclaimed novels that ended in the deaths of real people, surely someone related to one of the said characters would have contacted the police?
    • Who says she did? She thinks she might have, but it's equally likely that Harold's situation is just a one-off occurrence.
    • If the death is due to the accident or, even more so, natural causes, the chance that a relative in a state of grief would act on such a finding rather than brush it off as a coincidence even if he/she gets to know about it is pretty dim (and it's unlikely that one person could ever learn that there was more than one such occurrence, if the characters are just plain people whose deaths were not reported in the media).

  • The idea that Karen's novel would be a hit if it kept up her trend of killing the main character at right at the end seems... unlikely. That's the same thing she's done for every other book she's written at that point. Surely it would have just been seen as a cliche. "Yeah, her book ends with a sad death again. Uh-huh. No I didn't care about the main character because I knew he'd die." Like if you read her books you expect it. Having the death be averted feels like it would have been a fresher, more unique take on her tales.
    • Presumably there's more in the book than the guy dying, and the method of the deaths and what they mean are always going to be different. And her audience knows that going in, so they're not going to be turned off by it — they're probably reading the book because they know he's going to die, because, again, this is the style she's famous for.


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