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Real Life Writes the Plot

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"Fundamentally, a Red Dwarf script is a battle plan for making a TV show, and as Napoléon Bonaparte once remarked, 'No battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy'. In Red Dwarf's case the enemy is what's possible, given a tight budget, a short production period, and the physical laws of the natural universe."
Grant Naylor, Red Dwarf: The Least Worst Scripts

This covers a number of areas where real life circumstances alter the plot of an episode, e.g. the lack of suitable locations, timing when filming, the pregnancy of a lead actress (which happens a lot). Occurs often in Professional Wrestling.


Not to be confused with Very Loosely Based on a True Story, Roman à Clef, or Ripped from the Headlines, where real-life events merely provide inspiration for a plot.

Specific instances:

  • Aborted Arc: That story arc couldn't be resolved because the work got cancelled or changed management before anything could be done.
  • Absentee Actor: A common reason for a character to be noticeably absent in an episode could be that the actor playing the character wasn't available at the time the episode was in production.
  • Actor Existence Limbo: Animated works have characters reduced to voiceless cameos when their voice actors become unavailable for whatever reason.
  • Author Appeal: Content included in the work because it is what the creator likes.
  • Author Catchphrase
  • Author Existence Failure: The work is cancelled, put in Development Hell or forced to make do with replacements because the creator or one of the actors died.
  • Advertisement:
  • Author Phobia
  • Bottle Episode: The episode limits the number of characters, locations, etc. that can be used in order to save budget money.
  • Bus Crash: A character who was phased out of the show gets killed off before they have a chance to return, which could be because it's impossible or at least unlikely for the actor to come back to the show.
  • The Cast Showoff
  • Character Aged with the Actor: Instead of replacing the actor when they become "too old" to play their character, the show simply has the actor's character age as the actor does.
  • The Character Died with Him: A character is killed off after the actor who played them passes away.
  • Christmas Rushed: Production of the work was hurried so that the final product could be released in time for the holidays.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A character abruptly vanishes from the show and is never mentioned again. Can be a result of the creators deciding to drop the character for whatever reason and not bothering to provide an explanation for the character's sudden absence.
  • Advertisement:
  • Couple Bomb
  • Creator Breakdown
  • Creator Recovery
  • Demoted to Extra: A major character is reduced to only having a minor role. One possible reason could be that the studio is trying to save money by avoiding paying the character's actor as frequently as they used to.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Hiring an actor who has the same disability as the character they're playing can be done to make things more believable.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Using techniques to force a genuine reaction from the actor.
  • Executive Meddling: The creator is forced to make changes to what they intended to do with the work by the executives.
  • Fake Shemp: The actor is unavailable, but the studio utilizes archived footage, archived audio and/or body doubles to simulate the actor's presence.
  • Fatal Method Acting: An actor ends up dying during production of the work.
  • Final Season Casting
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Flashback sequences depict scenes that take place earlier in the show, but weren't established to have happened until after the character was recast, so the scene is shot with the character's new actor by necessity.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: The actress is pregnant with techniques used to avoid making it look like her character is also pregnant.
  • Issue Drift
  • Killed by Request: The actor asks for their character to be killed off so they don't have to play the role anymore.
  • Killed Off for Real: A character is permanently killed off in a setting where resurrections are possible.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: If a series lasts long enough, it will be unavoidable to recast, replace or remove a bunch of characters.
  • McLeaned: A character is killed off after the actor leaves the production.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: Contestants of a game show or reality show leave for reasons unrelated to the competition.
  • The Nth Doctor: A character is recast and an in-universe explanation is given for why they look and/or sound different.
  • The Other Darrin: A character ends up played by a different actor, often because the original quit, retired, was unavailable or died.
  • Out of Focus
  • Posthumous Collaboration: When the author dies before their work is completed, other people do their best to bring the project to fruition using whatever material the author managed to produce before they died.
  • Post-Script Season: A show ends up renewed for more episodes after it was supposed to end.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: An adaptation making changes to the original story out of necessity can be the result of real-life circumstances that the production team cannot control.
  • Present Day
  • Put on a Bus: A character is temporarily removed from the show by having them leave the setting in a way that they could eventually return if the writers willed it.
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: The character being phased out of the show leaves through rather spiteful means.
  • Reality Subtext
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: A person involved with the production gets fired because they committed a crime or did something that the powers-that-be did not approve of.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers: Production or distribution of a work is ceased or hindered by legal issues.
  • Screwed by the Network: The show gets cancelled because the network didn't give it enough promotion or airtime.
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: The work's decisions are because they had to work around limitations.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: The movie has been finished, but has its release delayed for some time, if it ever gets released at all.
  • Temporary Substitute
  • Throw It In!
  • Too Soon: A scene is altered or removed to avoid making it look like they're making light of a recent tragedy.
  • Troubled Production: The work has finally been released, but the development team faced some problems so harrowing that it's a miracle the work saw the light of day at all.
  • Two Decades Behind
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: Work tries to stay hip by referencing as many modern trends as possible.
  • Write Who You Know: The characters are based on real people that the creator knew.
  • Written-In Absence: When a character can't appear because of their actor being unavailable, an in-universe explanation for the character's absence is given.
  • Written-In Infirmity: The actor suffers an injury and the work is revised so that the character suffers the same injury in order to avoid production being delayed by waiting for the actor to recover.


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