Huh? Wait! What? Did that just happen? I mean that is how it would happen in Real Life, but
A Surprisingly Realistic Outcome happens when a work subverts narrative conventions by deriving an outcome from realistic principles, temporarily removing otherwise fictional logic. We can often anticipate results based on the story's narrative pattern; this trope subverts those expectations by momentarily employing more realism than its norm.
This trope isn't merely a Plot Twist. To minimize stress on editors, make sure your example is Surprising, Realistic, and an Outcome:
- Surprising: A moment needs to be objectively surprising to qualify, meaning a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome requires an Expected Unrealistic Outcome for its genre. We expect unexpected events in fiction, as stories would be boring if everything always happened according to plan. Unlike a regular Plot Twist, a surprisingly realistic moment deliberately guides audience expectations in one direction, only to suddenly avert the Artistic License or Rule of X necessary for that outcome. In doing so, it highlights how unrealistic it was for the viewer to expect that in the first place.
- Realistic: The outcome must be possible in Real Life. An example with even the slightest bit of Applied Phlebotinum isn't this trope. Real people can't actualize Functional Magic, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the like, so it's impossible to tell how things would really turn out when such elements exist. Powers possessing a Logical Weakness or a subversion of Required Secondary Powers should go under those respective tropes. Also, character reactions cannot qualify under this trope, as people's emotional and psychological responses to a situation vary wildly. We can't say any response is necessarily more realistic in fictional scenarios, and not even the character's author can know such things.
- Outcome: This convention-defying realistic consequence has to actually happen. Simply pointing out how something wouldn't work the way it does in fiction doesn't count. Also, to curb potential misuse, check if listing your example as a subversion of a specific trope would work better. If it does, there's no point in putting it here.
A Surprisingly Realistic Outcome differs from Deconstruction in several ways:
- Expectations: Once we've identified a work as a deconstruction, we should be able to anticipate how it handles certain tropes, differing from how this trope must be surprising. While a deconstruction will sometimes lead with a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, the consequences down the line won't surprise us anymore.
- Timing: Because a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome is a subversion and is often jarring, it's supposed to be a momentary trope. Deconstructions typically weave themselves into the fabric of a story, creating something lasting for at least a significant portion of the work.
- Realism: A Surprisingly Realistic Outcome subverts expectations by refusing to have things work how one would expect from fiction, meaning it excludes all Applied Phlebotinum. A deconstruction discusses or plays with assumptions underpinning a trope or theme. Deconstructions don't necessarily involve objective realism, as they can include examining a Logical Weakness or a subversion of Required Secondary Powers. While we can deconstruct the workings of Applied Phlebotinum, we can't make it realistic.
Video game examples overlap with Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay. Anti-Climax might run in parallel but doesn't require realism. Fridge Logic is when the realistic outcome exists only in the audience's mind. Extraordinary World, Ordinary Problems is about mundane problems still existing in fictional settings. An Unbuilt Trope deals with situations where the Expected Unrealistic Outcome didn't exist at the time and veers more towards Deconstruction.
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