Donovan Deegan: And how, praytell, did you deduce all that?
Quilt: Because it is very dramatic.
If the potential for conflict is visible, then it will never be passed over.
Does everything look conflict-free? Not so fast. Something new and unpleasant must be introduced out of the blue. This is why happy couples tend not to last until the very end of the story, unless writers can find good conflict without breaking them up.
The Third Doctor once said:
In real life, to avoid headaches and hassles, one prefers to plan ahead (sometimes months in advance), organize, analyze, take your time, be conservative, play it safe, stick to what you know will work, keep it simple, think it out thoroughly, have a backup plan, have a backup to the backup plan, know your limits, practice, rehearse, and drill. This, of course, is all well and good for planning the perfect family vacation, but makes for a dull adventure story. In fiction, Rule of Drama means that things are going to be much more drawn out, messy, unpredictable, and complicated, even if you are a Crazy-Prepared Chessmaster. Also, in fiction, even the ones known for their intelligence tend to make stupid mistakes, act impulsively or anything else just to get them embroiled in an adventure. Because there is no drama in being too smart or prepared to either avoid or prevent most nasty situations or having already intricately planned for every contingency. Essentially, the journey is widely considered more important than the destination, so everything can't run too smoothly, not even for the sake of the characters' peace of mind.
Essentially, when the writers run out of drama, they must invent ways to force drama into undramatic situations. When handled poorly, this leads to unusual, irrational, or highly improbable scenarios which only exist for the sake of prolonging the conflict.
To determine if a trope is a product of the Rule of Drama, ask yourself: If this trope weren't used, would this much crap even be happening?
Often comes up in books and films on history, because if it is found that two people had a conflict, however minor it may have actually been, it will often be milked at least a little - and sometimes too much by the writer. The reason is not necessarily because the writer is trying to lie or change history, but because conflict is something the general audience can identify with.
Compare Acceptable Breaks from Reality (video games following what makes them fun instead of realistic).
Tropes That Quickly Come To Mind For Their Roots In This Rule, But Honestly, 90% Of All Tropes Might Fit Here:
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade
- Adoption Is Not an Option
- All Love Is Unrequited
- Anachronistic Orphanage: Orphanages exist in setting where they shouldn't because it's more dramatic.
- Anyone Can Die is the platonic love affair between the Rule and Realism
- Belligerent Sexual Tension
- Bigot vs. Bigot
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin'
- Chained Heat
- Chandler's Law
- Conflict Ball
- Diabolus ex Machina
- Disaster Dominoes - Mishaps will cause enough collateral damage to enhance the plot, no more and no less.
- Disposable Woman / Stuffed into the Fridge
- Down to the Last Play
- Drama Bomb
- Dramatic Unmask
- Dysfunction Junction
- Emerging from the Shadows
- False Innocence Trick
- Felony Misdemeanor
- Finagle's Law
- Good Is Boring
- Gun Struggle
- Hand Wave: How bad writers preserve the Rule of Drama in the face of potential conflict-quenching rationality when they don't want to resort to Poor Communication Kills.
- Hope Spot: Because if things start going too well, and it isn't the end of the story, it has to be temporary.
- Identity Concealment Disposal
- Idiot Ball
- Impeded Communication
- It's Personal
- Just Eat Gilligan: When there's a particularly simple solution that's always overlooked because of this rule.
- Law of Inverse Fertility
- Law of Inverse Paternity
- Locked in a Room
- Million-to-One Chance: If the unlikelihood of a random outcome is deemed too low to be of concern, the likelihood of its occurrence will instead be based on the dramatic potential of that outcome.
- Murder Is the Best Solution
- One Bullet Left
- Out-of-Character Moment
- Out of the Frying Pan
- Remembered Too Late
- Rising Conflict
- Roadside Surgery
- Sex Changes Everything
- Small Town, Big Hell
- Smart Ball
- Strong as They Need to Be
- Superman Stays Out of Gotham
- Tempting Fate: Stating the unlikelihood of mishap causes its likelihood to approach 100%.
- Things Are More Effective in Hollywood
- Too Happy to Live
- Unscientific Science
- Waking Up Elsewhere
- What an Idiot!: A foolish decision can raise the stakes.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Villains develop overly-complicated methods of dispatching the heroes that are unlikely to go All According to Plan, because it's more dramatic that way.
- Will They or Won't They?
- Wrong Name Outburst
- You Can't Thwart Stage One