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Theory of Narrative Causality

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"The truth about stories is that's all we are."
Tom King, novelist

Things happen because the plot says they should.

All fictional realities have this underlying principle to one degree or another. It is the reason Plot Technology and Plot Armor work. It's why The Good Guys Always Win in the end, even though many individuals may try and fail and die gruesomely before the plot relevant good guys comes along, but also why they never put an end to the evil plan early on, when it would be easier. It's why it seems like the world's out to get the protagonist, it's why the reasonable explanation is almost never true, it's why someone can be Genre Savvy or Wrong Genre Savvy, why a trope can be invoked, why a Million to One Chance crops up nine times out of ten and why it's never a good idea to Tempt Fate. Reality itself is mutable before the will of the plot. In stories where this is strong, Tropes may as well be laws of physics.

Another way to look at it is that amazing things don't happen to the Main Characters because they're the main characters — rather, they're the main characters because amazing things happen to them. If they weren't remarkable people with remarkable feats and tales to their name, there wouldn't be a story about them and you wouldn't be hearing it in the first place.

Or, an even shorter way to look at it, the reason something happens is that the story is better if that something happens (it wouldn't be much of a story without it).

Alternatively, think of the principle laid out in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, in which this phenomenon is not only an explicit physical law but has been codified, studied, tested, found to be an in-universe element ("narrativium") and may be the local equivalent of the strong nuclear force, although the term Narrative Causality is older than that.

Warning: This law may not apply if you've found a missing Shaggy Dog, or wind up shooting it.

See also: The Laws of Magic, The Plot Demanded This Index, The Chris Carter Effect, Watsonian versus Doylist, and Anthropic Principle.


Due to the omnipresence of this trope, please limit examples to in-universe references or Lampshade Hangings of the principle.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: A discussion of this idea bookended a two-part episode. Just because you're in a setting that's perfect for a murder mystery doesn't mean that one is going to happen, right?
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure: The concept of Fate is explored as a tangible force in the series, where destiny itself looms over mankind and move the path of everyone on Earth, to the point destiny is so intertwined that Stand users are drawn to each other, and the Joestars are fated to interfere with DIO and the forces of evil, a fact DIO himself is aware of. Emporio and Hayato cite that fate follows the Path of Justice, as no matter how much the villains' plans succeed, they'll eventually succumb to the forces of good.
  • Mazinger Z: In one story, the Butt-Monkey Boss reassures his friends Nuke and Mucha, as facing a dire situation, telling that they will not die because they are the Plucky Comic Relief characters, and joke characters never die.
  • Medaka Box:
    • Ajimu is fully aware that the narrative causality of shounen manga is in effect, and avoids directly fighting The Hero Medaka because of it. If they stepped down to Big Bad, her loss would be inevitable. So they arrange a falling out between Medaka and her Supporting Protagonist Zenkichi which leads to Zenkichi's Face–Heel Turn. Since he's the other main character, he's the only one who could conceivably defeat Medaka. Ajimu even believes Zenkichi will win because he's more heroic than Medaka because Medaka apparently murdered someone in the past. The fact that Medaka has become somewhat of a jerk also takes away from her heroic qualities.
    • Zenkichi ends up acquiring the Skill "Devil-style", which nullifies Narrative Causality. Things like Contrived Coincidence, Long-Lost Relative, Crash-Into Hello, etc. won't happen to him. Note that this also includes beneficial examples, like Plot Armor or coming up with a last-minute plan; this was specifically requested by Zenkichi since he wanted to challenge Medaka with no interference. Ajimu outright calls it a power that would make any traditional writer recoil in horror.
  • Princess Tutu: Played with. Fakir is (apparently) capable of Rewriting Reality, but it's never quite clear if he's making things happen by writing them down, just writing down what would have happened anyway, or a little bit of both.
  • Re:CREATORS: Played with. Stories revolve around two principal factors: the will of the author (which gives a character their basic look, personality, etc.) and the will of the reader (who has the power to accept or deny what the author adds to it). Both work as the out of universe version of Narrative Casualty:
    • Selesia can get a needed 11th-Hour Superpower because her author successfully pulled off writing one for her and letting it reach a wide audience.
    • The creators come up with a plan to stop the Military Uniform Princess from destroying reality, but opt to never tell anyone about it citing exactly this trope until the episode before the plan is carried out. Naturally, this fails, as merely mentioning it caused the plan to unravel.
    • On the Audience's side: Altair is able to shrug off the heroes' attacks during the Elmination Chamber Festival, since Popularity Power means love from the fans can overturn Narrative Casualty to keep her in play. Team Creators has to wrestle the story out from under her, since the story the fans are making about her isn't matching up with how the special (and therefore this plot) was written to end.
    • The only way to stop the Princess was for Sota to write her original author into the special, letting the pair reconcile and placating Altair permanently. How was he able to do it? by using Magane's inversing powers while jinxing the plan, putting the situation firmly in control of the writer by proxy. It turns out to be a bit of both sides contributing, since Altair altering the story turned her into the special's lead, meaning she needed a happy ending, while Setsuna being able to be revived in some form was because the plot (Team Creators in this case) was able to will it so.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: At one point, the chance of one particular mission in the show is stated by LordGenome to be precisely "0%, but I can see theoretical calculations don't mean anything to you people." He does say it after they have actually succeeded. (Besides, one of the many things sufficiently concentrated Spiral Power does is bend probability around the user.)

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: The Unbodied, beings described as "myths whose believers have died out" manipulated the subconscious mind of a video-game designer Marguerite Li, compelling her to create a new game, only for the Unbodied to take the forms of villains of the game to attack the heroes of Astro City. By coercing Li to create this game, they ended up also creating their own worst enemy, the heroine of the game, American Chibi.
    American Chibi: But making it a game...that was their mistake. Because they're imposing a story, a shape, on themselves. Creating a mythology they all fit into. I'm a part of that mythology too. I'm the part that stops them.
  • The DCU:
    • Batman: The Joker believes that life is basically set up to be one big cruel joke. One of the reasons he's a villain is that he wants everyone else to believe this too. In Death of the Family, Bruce privately admits to Alfred that the reason he never tried to kill the Joker is because he also believes his life follows a narrative, with Gotham City itself as the Big Bad. Killing Joker would only force Gotham to send someone worse to challenge Batman. This also serves to show how Batman is worried he may not be all that sane. The fact that it is later revealed in a newer arc that there are three Jokers running around has made things even more complicated.
    • Final Crisis: Briefly discussed in the first issue. One Monitor says to another, "Behold: we monitors who were faceless once... We all have names now, and stories. There are heroes and villains... secrets and lovers." Translation: Nothing happened to us as long as they didn't write us into the stories. Now we're in them, and all hell is breaking loose.
    • JLA: Earth-2, Grant Morrison's Post-Crisis reimagining of the DC Universe's Mirror Universe (Earth-3), has the twist that even narrative causality is inverted, so that all good deeds are doomed to failure in the mirror universe (just as evil is doomed to ultimate failure in the regular DCU).
      • In many cases it comes down to character motivations. In the evil universe, humans toady up to any power that comes along whether it's good or evil and continue to be corrupt and self-serving. In the good universe, Owlman discovers his alternate counterpart's father was dead and found he couldn't keep fighting because there was no one left to hurt.
      • A sequel in the main JLA series, Kurt Busiek's "Syndicate Rules", has the mirror universe supervillains realizing that the narrative causality law has failed, giving them a chance to win in their alternates' world. Of course the heroes, once they quickly figure it out, go on the attack themselves in the mirror universe.
      • In another sequel, Owlman flat-out urges his teammates to leave the Justice League alone, as he realizes they'll never be able to defeat them due to outside forces.
    • The Sandman (1989):
      • Morpheus, being an Anthropomorphic Personification of dreams and storytelling, is obviously aware of it, although perhaps more in an academic sense than anything else.
      • His brother Destiny, on the other hand, invites people over to his place for no reason other than the story (that is, THE story) requires them to be in his realm at that particular point in time. The invitation might be expressed as "Destiny requires your presence." Literally.
    • The Queen of Fables has the power to bring characters, items, and scenery from fairy tales to life and trap people inside fairy tales. Her victims usually have no choice but to follow the rules of whatever story she uses, but the same applies to her. For example, she puts Superman inside a tale of a child who would either be granted a wish or be enslaved based on if he could complete a task for an enchantress, casting herself as the enchantress. Superman completed the task and she had to grant his wish.
  • Harry Kipling Deceased: The return of the gods has turned science into a mere suggestion; the mythic ideas are the ones that actually work.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Deadpool: Vol. 3 #27 introduces a secret infinity stone called the Continuity Stone, which allows Marvel's resident fourth wall breaker to directly talk to the writers and editors at Marvel Comics as well as completely rewrite all comic book continuity. It was so broken that it was rendered into Canon Discontinuity... but Deadpool is aware that it was retconned out of existence, meaning that it is still part of Deadpool's canon that he knows that he had a part of his canon written out of existence.
    • The Incredible Hulk: Early in his career, the Red Hulk punched Uatu, the Watcher, which made a vastly powerful villain take an interest in him. Much earlier than he was supposed to, which, according to another Watcher, changed the history to one where said villain would kill Red Hulk. Seeing this as Uatu's fault and violation of Watchers' oath to never interfere, another Watcher tried to fix it. When the villain came looking for Red Hulk, the Watcher hid him in a fake reality where he had similar adventures that the Incredible Hulk had during the Planet Hulk story and pulls him out later, so he that he can confront the villain when he was originally supposed to. Watcher uses this trope to justify why this isn't further interference — since the Red Hulk is a character derivate from the original Hulk, it means something like that was very likely to happen to him in the future anyway.
    • Loki: Agent of Asgard:
      • This is Loki's prime motivator, since, as long as those stories of all the evil and cruelty that Loki inflicted in the past exist, Loki will be drawn back to them and to pointless self-defeating schemes, which Loki currently hates, so he does work for the All-Mother in return for the erasure of those stories. In the first issue, Loki erases all the knowledge the Avengers have on Loki as part of this plan. However, the erasure of these stories causes "gaps" in the narrative to appear, something a time-traveler can take advantage of. This is exactly what the Big Bad does, noting a sword Loki wields, and then going back in time to make sure it's created.
      • One issue of the series reveals that Doctor Doom subscribes to this theory as well, in his own way. He sees himself as being not just a man, or an army of robots containing his essence, but the very story of Doom. Should it someday end, then Doom claims it would make his story "better" than Loki's.
    • Marvel 1602: Reed Richards attempts to formulate this theory. "Benjamin Grimm won't be changed back into a man, since he is much more interesting as a monster."
    • The Mighty Thor: JMS' run uses the "Human memory keeps gods alive" idea to revive Loki. After him, Gillen's Journey into Mystery ran with it, defining things so that we got this trope, not Gods Need Prayer Badly, when he let Loki rewrite Cul by forging his tale, then Loki: Agent of Asgard was all about him trying to rewrite his own story to escape his past as the God of Evil, while the Big Bad his evil future self tried to ensure that it came about. At the end of Agent of Asgard, he then faced down Those-Who-Sit-Above-In-Shadow, previously established during the Ragnarok arc as being behind the constant cycle of death and rebirth, feeding off it, before Thor ultimately saw behind the curtain and destroyed their control. Loki effectively talked them into submission, having become the God of Stories, and promptly decided to sit out Secret Wars (2015) since there were already plenty of Lokis on Battleworld, and took a shortcut to the post Secret Wars multiverse.
    • The Ultimates (2015): Molecule Man explains to Galactus that his name comes purely from the fact that he enjoyed the alliteration; to start with he was actually working with atoms, not molecules, and as his powers and his control over them have grown he's realized that he actually plays with the base information of reality, and is essentially able to manipulate this law to his liking.
      "Owen Reece, the Narrative Man. Heh."
    • Uncanny X-Men (2018) opens with the line "every X-Men story is the same", and has the characters riffing on how the latest mutant hating politician is so drearily familiar. Nate Grey, the Anti-Villain of the first arc and a Reality Warper with good intentions and a decidedly strange outlook, is entirely aware of it and cites it in the follow-up Bat Family Crossover, Age of X-Man, as why he created the titular reality — he was trying to free the X-Men from their constant self-destructive cycle.
  • Once & Future: Important or well-known stories from myth can magically play themselves out in the modern day, forcing people to go along with them, but people who recognize those stories can create a desired outcome by playing along. For instance, the villain of the first volume wanted to find the Holy Grail, which was found by Galahad, son of Lancelot. So, she found a "Lancelot," meaning a man with the same qualities as Lancelot, got herself pregnant by him, and raised their son to fit the mold of Galahad; when she takes him to her father's house (one version of the Grail myth has it in the castle of the Fisher King, Galahad's grandfather) the interior of his home magically transforms into the Fisher King's castle so he can find it. The heroes stop them by realizing one of them fits just enough of the criteria to be Percival, another knight some versions claim found the Grail instead of Galahad, and send him in to steal it first.
  • Smudge: The titular character asks why he's been kidnapped and the answer is "Because of the hero of this comic book. If I had kidnapped Robertinho or someone else, there would be no fun."

    Fan Works 
  • Austraeoh: At one point in Eljunbyro, Bellesmith and Pilate discuss the possibility that fate/destiny is actively protecting Rainbow Dash from death.
  • Child of the Storm seems to run on copious amounts of this... maybe. Harry, for instance, has a ta'veren like effect on those around him, drawing in allies of all sorts, implied to be an inherent quality. Then, chapter 48 reveals that it was a probability warping blessing put on him by his godmother, Wanda Maximoff, at the behest of Doctor Stephen Strange, who's pretty much behind everything, including the vast and intricate number of connections in the nascent superhero community. That's right, he's artificially creating a Theory of Narrative Causality. Of course, since Word of God has tacitly admitted that he's the closest thing to an Author Avatar in the fic, it all gets horribly and confusingly meta. It also subverts several of the expected tropes. Charging into battle in a righteous rage, wreathed in power, is not a good idea when you are severely outnumbered, a Glass Cannon and chiefly fighting someone much more experienced, much more skilled, and with a Healing Factor.
  • In DoofQuest besides Rule of Funny toons function on this and given the setting they have a variety of different reactions to it. Some are uncaring and just live their lives (Goofy and Ludivine), some love it and play into it for fun (like the Phantom Blot), while some hate it and even successfully change their narrative (Wile E. Coyote and Max), while others take advantage of their sick senses of humor to hurt and kill people like Negaduck and Judge Doom.
  • The Emiya Clan: Kyon can basically contrive this on the spot. His EX ranked Common Sense give him full knowledge of all possible outcomes for a certain situation. If he Lampshades a certain one, chances are almost exact that it will happen.
  • Left Beyond: Narrative Causality is a game mechanic in the setting: magic is accomplished by non-Remnant people by equating the current predicament with a known/shared story, and pulling elements from it. This is specifically indicated to be a Discworld reference.
  • The MLP Loops: In Loop 56.1, the Mane Six and Celestia sneak through Canterlot Castle to retrieve the Elements from the vault they're in while loudly singing a Heartsong of "With Catlike Tread" (with lyrics suitably modified). Celestia suspects this trope is why the guards, despite some of them even joining in the Heartsong, don't seem to notice anything happening — the song says they're unnoticed, so they are.
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Subverted. After losing the ability to pilot his Eva and spending the Javaal arc training his body and mind to try to get it back, Shinji returns in chapter 33 to find that, contrary to the Theory, he can pilot the Eva, barely, and can't even use the AT-Field. Feeling pretty annoyed he points out that, according to story conventions, he should have got stronger.
  • Songs of the Spheres: This is one of the story's major driving points. Amongst other things, The Dark Tower exists within that multiverse, and so ka is a real and tangible thing. The Tower is programmed to need a good story, and so things often happen solely to fulfill that obligation. More than one character carries a ka sensor at all times just to see when the narrative is going to force itself upon them, and many react at the presence of the 'camera'. And that's to say nothing of the Flowers, who weaponize this.
  • This Bites! takes a more dramatic approach with this. Jeremiah Cross is a Self-Insert character and, using his knowledge of the plot, tries to make changes to avoid catastrophes, to differing degrees. In fact, circumstances or fate often forces things to still happen, despite his best intent. His biggest fear is that he will not be able to stop the War of the Best and indeed, despite everything, Ace has still been captured though none of them are aware of this. It's mentioned more subtlety too and usually only by Cross in regards of things still happening.
  • Uninvited Guests has the characters attempting to discern what the plot wants them to do. Aizen even weaponizes it in order to give himself and his minions Plot Armor.
  • With Strings Attached: The Hunter seems to be aware of this, and that he's a secondary character. He talks several times about how his participation in the story of the four will not be very long.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the links between different dimensions of the The Multiverse cause each to have a Spider who goes through similar events In Spite of a Nail, all of them iconic moments in the Spider-Man franchise's history. Miguel believes some of them, which he calls "Canon Events", must happen or else the entire dimension will be destroyed.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Austin Powers: Austin's father irritatedly lectures a mook about to attack him that he's an obvious Red Shirt who doesn't even have a name tag, and should just lie down right now. He complies.
  • The Cabin in the Woods is basically an explanation for why Narrative Causality exists, at least in horror movies: all the tropes and cliches of horror movies are actually part of an elaborate ritual needed to keep some Eldritch Abominations happy, and there's a massive conspiracy manipulating people into fulfilling those ritual cliches.
  • Deadpool (2016) lampshades it, as is to be expected from a character who is not only Genre Savvy but is also a Fourth-Wall Observer. Why is the X-Men mansion always devoid of all the main X-Man characters, forcing Deadpool to team up with relatively minor heros? Because the Studio wouldn't pay for their actors.
  • Enchanted: The way Giselle seems to teleport from place to place during her musical numbers (not to mention the infectious singing or Spontaneous Choreography of said numbers); makes elaborate and beautiful dresses in no time at all, out of curtains and blankets; and somehow manages to climb up the side of a skyscraper and onto the roof to save Robert from Narissa, when there is no apparent way for her to have climbed up there. Really, anything that Giselle does that makes little sense outside of an animated feature.
  • Galaxy Quest: Subverted. One of the characters is a guest star who played a Red Shirt in the original program. He repeatedly insists that he's "expendable", and could get killed at any moment (his character never even had a last name). Ironically, he provides a role of Plucky Comic Relief (another character even suggests to him this might be the case), and in the epilogue, is added to the show's revival as a full-time character with an actual last name! Near the end of the film, when a disguised alien goes on a shooting spree, this character is the only one that doesn't get shot. Since the ship was built by aliens who believed the whole show was a historical record, it pretty much runs on this. Navigation and the Digital Conveyor work based on the motions the original actors went through and there's a hallway deathtrap simply because it was in a poorly written script.
  • Last Action Hero:
    • The Genre Savvy protagonist tries to exploit the rules of the action-movie universe he's trapped in to his advantage, playing chicken with the bad guy's car on his bicycle. Just in time, he realizes he's the Plucky Comic Relief, not the hero, and swerves out of the way.
    • One of the villains kills the manager of a convenience store and expects the police to arrive immediately. When they do not, he is puzzled.
  • Machete: In the climactic one-on-one fight between Machete and Torrez, the latter of course momentarily gets the upper hand for the sake of tension. Two worried supporting characters discuss whether they should intervene, before concluding that it's simply impossible for Machete to lose, because he's, well, Machete. Cue Heroic Second Wind and Machete impaling the villain.
  • The Matrix franchise:
    • The Matrix Reloaded constantly notes this trope. The Merovingian openly mocks the heroes for their not knowing why they came to see him beyond the Oracle telling them to meet with him, Morpheus concludes that their disastrous meeting with the Merovingian occurred exactly as it should have gone because they are still alive, and the Keymaker knows about all the failsafes guarding the door to the Architect because "I know, because I must know. It's the reason I'm here. Same reason we're all here."
    • The Matrix Revolutions subverts this trope when Trinity threatens to shoot the Merovingian instead of accepting another errand.
  • Nanny McPhee: Explicitly referenced in the introduction, where the opening narration states "If [the mother's] chair was not empty, we would not have a story."
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights: After losing an archery contest against a master archer, Robin double-checks the script, confirming he's "not supposed to lose."
  • Southland Tales: The psychic Krysta Now has written a prophecy of future events in the form of a screenplay, The Power, which, as it goes on, begins to conform to the plot of the film itself until some characters are essentially acting it out live. Hence, the plot of Southland Tales happens because the characters have read the script (to The Power) and acted accordingly. This rather important plot point was glossed over by the theatrical cut of the film, ironically.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
    • Toons are "supposed to make people laugh", as Roger puts it, and are often unable to do certain things unless there's a proper comedic setup:
    • When Roger and Eddie get handcuffed together without keys, Eddie ends up dragging Roger around, avoiding Judge Doom's goons all the while. When he finally gets his hands on a hacksaw, Roger casually slips his hand out of the cuffs, much to Eddie's annoyance:
      Eddie: You mean you could have taken that cuff off at any time?
      Roger: Not any time! Only when it was funny.
    • Judge Doom exploits this to find Roger's hiding place by tapping out "Shave and a Haircut", but leaving out the last two notes to drive Roger crazy and bust out of the wall to finish the song.
    • Eddie also exploits this minutes later, using the old "Duck Season, Rabbit Season" joke to get Roger to drink a shot of hard liquor, causing him to explode and give them a means of escape.

  • Belgariad features two narratives. Both of these are ancient prophecies telling of a coming event on which the fate of the world turns, and while they're compatible up to that point, they diverge wildly there. As such, the setting runs on narrative causality, but nobody knows exactly which narrative is the true one.
  • The Cineverse Cycle: In this case, the universe is suffering from a breakdown such that you can't rely on the rules to work properly.
  • Daniel Faust: The Enemy is the bad guy in some sort of cosmic cautionary tale that's been repeating itself over and over for millions of years. His goal is to break free from the narrative, which always ends with his defeat, but most of his powers are locked away by the plot of the story itself, so he has to enact parts of it to unlock the seals, usually by substituting Unwitting Pawns into the role of other characters in the play, whose skills he needs, that would otherwise die horrible deaths.
  • Discworld is full of examples of how the theory manifests:
    • If three brothers set out on a quest individually, and it claims the lives of the first two brothers, it is impossible for the third brother to fail.
    • A one-in-a-million chance crops up nine times out of ten. (There's a point in one of the video games where to complete a task, you have to determine, and then implement, the right set of circumstances that will give you exactly a one-in-a-million chance of success. Based on the Guards! Guards! example below.)
    • In the Science of Discworld books, the wizards of Unseen University examine "Roundworld" (i.e. Earth) and are surprised to learn that it contains no Narrativium — this being scientifically impossible (by Discworld standards).
    • Guards! Guards!:
      • Doubly subverted when Nobby and Colon get all Genre Savvy and try to adjust the odds such that they achieve a Million to One Chance to hit a dragon's male "voonerables". It doesn't work, but this isn't because of the theory failing — it turns out the dragon was a she, so they had a 0% chance all along. They promptly survive the ensuing explosion, the odds of which were exactly a million to one.
      • Vimes is about to be arrested. The several armed men who come to do so immediately notice that he is a) unarmed and b) smiling. They conclude he's very bad news and refuse to take him, assuming he'd start to swing on the chandeliers and break things at any moment. Luckily for them, he agrees to come along quietly.
    • Lady Lilith de Tempscire, the Big Bad from Witches Abroad, tries to rule a whole city-state according to the laws of fairy tales — such as "all toymakers must whistle while they work and tell stories to children, on punishment of death." With herself as the good fairy godmother. Naturally her furiously cynical sister Esmerelda (Granny Weatherwax) is quick to notice the flaw in this thinking, and sets about saving people from their happy endings.
    • For exploiting Narrative Causality, no one tops the Silver Horde, Cohen the Barbarian's well-armed, battle-experienced (if geriatric) warriors, who simply live by "The Code". It culminates with The Last Hero's climax, where the Horde are ready to finish what they'd decided to do, and they won't let anybody stop them... when they realize that it's seven of them (including the minstrel), against one single, heroic-looking young man, ostensibly a simple city guard, armed only with a worn sword, and wasn't there a rumor about the lost heir to the throne being a simple city guard? And he's smiling. The Horde realize they don't have a chance and give up.
    • Thief of Time: Rule One: "Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man!". Especially if you're armed, and he's not.
    • Interesting Times: Lampshaded:
      Twoflower: When seven men go out to fight an army 100,000 times bigger there's only one way it can end.
      Rincewind: Right. I'm glad you see sense.
      Twoflower: They'll win. They've got to. Otherwise the world's just not working properly.
    • After hard practical experience, Discworld bookmakers now refuse to accept nine out of every ten bets on a racehorse called Million-to-One-Chance. They do, however, very carefully count the races in which this horse appears and encourage betting on the tenth race...
  • In Harrow the Ninth when the Sleeper is dominant in Harrow's bubble she renders necromancy impotent and herself invincible. Eventually they manage to call a spirit to contest her rules, but because he was summoned via an epic poem things now happen like the poem - her guns stop working and they have a lengthy one-on-one duel, inflicting superficial injuries and talking in meter, while everyone else stands aside because ganging up would break form and might give control back to the Sleeper. Near the end one witness does find a way to help in narratively appropriate fashion by throwing him a sword when he's disarmed.
  • Headhunter is set 20 Minutes into the Future, where hardly anyone reads novels. One of the few readers left is a schizophrenic woman who believes that she has set Kurtz free from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Throughout the novel, characters' lives are destroyed by their tendency to conform to novels they've never read — Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby, Madame Bovary, Fahrenheit 451 — with the suggestion that, if they'd read more, they'd be less Genre Blind and more likely to avoid the inevitable tragedy.
  • Howl's Moving Castle makes a point of narrative causality at the beginning (Sophie, as the eldest of three daughters, is expected to never succeed at anything great, while her youngest sister is sent off to accrue her "inevitable" fame and fortune), and then steadily works at subverting it. By the end of the book, it's clear that narrative causality has more to do with Self-Fulfilling Prophecy than metaphysical fact; Sophie makes it big in the end, but only after developing the nerve and initiative necessary to make it big.
  • The Invisible Library: High-chaos worlds that are controlled by the fae tend to fall into typical fantasy tropes because the Fae like to imagine that they are the heroes of their own stories.
  • The Jennifer Morgue: The Big Bad sets up a powerful spell of compulsion that means everything has to happen exactly the way it would in a James Bond movie, thereby making making his plan impossible to stop unless challenged by a lone, British, martini-drinking secret agent with a license to kill. Furthermore, his plan hinges on terminating the spell at a crucial point (when the Bond figure gets captured by the villain), turning the narrative-powered hero back into a regular guy just before the Evil Plan runs to completion. Fortunately, the spell works both ways, meaning Bond Villain Stupidity is in full effect. And, crucially, he forgets that the basic James Bond plot formula has a number of small but significant variationsfor example, the one in which the captured character is only the love interest, and Bond is about to crash the villain’s stronghold to rescue her. Or him, in this case: to fool the villain and force the narrative into this path, the British government made the Bond girl a male civil service agent and the Bond agent his girlfriend.
  • The Last Unicorn: Cited by the Genre Savvy Prince Lir, when begged by Lady Amalthea (the transformed unicorn) to abandon the quest so that they can be together. He replies that in stories, things must happen at their due and proper time; he can't abandon his quest half-done, and the happy ending needs to wait until the ending.
    "The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story."
  • The Lyre Of Orpheus suggests that this happens in Real Life, using the idea that there are only a certain number of plots in the universe. He compares them to wax, and that each human life is just a unique impression on the same wax. His characters — by putting on an opera about King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere — find their lives conforming to that tragic love triangle.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: A key element of the setting is that many Heroic Fantasy tropes are enforced by the universe's laws. Black-and-White Morality is an objective reality with individuals, species and nations that are clearly and unapologetically Evil and Good. Individuals are able to gain superhuman powers and a certain degree of plot armor by embodying certain archetypes or "Names" (Capital "N"); most Names are clearly associated with Good or Evil, although some are neutral and/or common. Named individuals are both more powerful than normal people (able to kill dozens or hundreds of Nameless Mooks or Red Shirts single-handedly) and more important to Fate (i.e. the plot). Fate tends to play out in predictable patterns. For example, when two Named nemeses/ rivals fight against each other, a "pattern of three" gets established: if one rival wins the first fight, there will be a draw in the second fight, and the other rival will win the third and final fight. Particularly Genre Savvy individuals can use these patterns to their advantage.
  • Redshirts: The plot hinges on this. The main characters, a group of redshirts on the Intrepid, go about finding a way to stop "the Narrative" that is ruining lives and killing them all off.
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: The world series is governed by this trope (named "the Tradition" in this instance). Many characters are aware of this and spend a great deal of time trying to manipulate/subvert/redirect this force for their own goals. It also is inherent in the magic system, as The Tradition is pure magic, so those who are affected by it are sources of magic that can be harnessed.
  • Terra Ignota: The fourth and final book, in which World War III is fought, finds itself shaped into a semi-retelling of The Iliad due to the influence of a Reality Warper. Since said reality warper was a child with a child's understanding of the Iliad, only major events are replicated (mostly the deaths of important figures) and not necessarily in the right order (the main character undergoes The Odyssey concurrently with the war), and which side is supposed to be Troy shifts throughout the book, meaning the final outcome can't necessarily be predicted. The main character, realizing what's happening, tries and fails several times to save certain characters before their scripted deaths, and ultimately embraces his role as Odysseus to perform the infiltration that truly ends the war.
  • The Wheel of Time: The three main characters are said to be ta'veren, which indeed roughly translates as "Main Character". This is (part of) the in-universe reason given for all the Contrived Coincidences that keep happening to them.
    • In-universe, the coincidences aren't just contrived for story purposes, the ta'veren are also followed around everywhere they go by bizarre random chance, which often has nothing to do with the story. Sometimes it's a Contrived Coincidence in a plot-furthering way, like a very unlikely reunion with an old acquaintance, but then again sometimes it's important to other characters in-universe but completely unimportant to the main plot, like an Innocent Bystander tripping over a tiny rock and breaking his neck, and sometimes it's not important to anyone at all, like a sandbag breaking and the sand just happening to fall into the shape of a Yin/Yang symbol.
    • In RPG terms. If one of the main characters needs to roll a six to make it past the next challenge, then everyone around them will continue to roll sixes constantly until the ta'veren leaves the area. In-universe philosophers theorize that things balance each other, so there would rather be only sixes and ones in equal proportion until the character leaves.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme has this as an explicit law of the setting, which natives must remind the Trapped in Another World/Ordinary High-School Student protagonist of on a regular basis. Of course, this is a setting where magic is triggered by spoken verse (with the implied extension that All Myths Are True), so it makes sense in context.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Marcus knows exactly the right time to hide and set up an ambush before some guards appear. When asked how he knew, he says it would have been the most inconvenient time to be discovered, so of course that's when it would happen.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • "This Year's Girl": Faith taunts Joyce while holding her prisoner in Buffy's room, saying "do you think Buffy's going to just leap through that window?" She continues to monologue, with Buffy a no-show, until Buffy eventually does leap through the window later than expected.
    • "Once More, with Feeling" forces the town to run on the rules of musicals. The characters are compelled to break into dance and/or sing about their private thoughts, misgivings, and secrets. Unlike in a normal musical, everyone around can hear their secrets. This forces characters to deal with problems they were repressing and moves the plot forward in leaps.
      "Life's a show, and we all play a part, and when the music starts — we open up our hearts." ~ Buffy
  • Community: In "Curriculum Unavailable", a therapist tries to convince the gang that they're all insane and that the entire series was All Just A Psychotic Delusion. One of the things he cites to support this theory is the fact that no matter what, the most important events at the school somehow always revolve around them, and never any of the other students.
  • Doctor Who: During the series five finale The Big Bang, the Doctor, upon facing annihilation and erasure from time itself, a surprisingly common situation for him, says to Amy:
    "I'll be a story in your head. That's okay, we're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one 'aye."
  • Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger: The established tropes of Super Sentai are a powerful force, and the Genre Savvy protagonists deliberately try to invoke them whenever it will give them an advantage (to the point where they become arbitrarily stronger if they can trick the Monster of the Week into saying Nothing Can Stop Us Now!). Played with in the second season when Malshina creates a Villain World where narrative causality is inverted, and the only way for the team to win is by deliberately jinxing themselves. The Akibaranger Gear which shows up in Kamen Rider Saber + Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger Super Hero Senki actually compels enemies to raise death flags, which instantly weakens them so much that they can be defeated by Cherry Tapping.
  • How I Met Your Mother: After Ted says he's pretty sure the universe has bigger things to worry about than his dating life, Marshall (in keeping with his Agent Mulder role) suggests that perhaps Ted's dating life is "the glue that holds the universe together." Since it really is the driving force of the show's storylines, that's actually true, for that universe.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Parodied in the "Science Fiction Sketch", where the Narrator begins by describing a perfectly ordinary couple, notes that nothing interesting generally happens to people like them, and leaves to go pay attention to someone more interest. This being Monty Python, they of course turn out to be very significant indeed.
    Narrator: It was day like many another, and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brainsample were a perfectly ordinary couple, leading perfectly ordinary lives; the sort of people to whom nothing extraordinary ever happened, and not the kind of people to be at the center of one of the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind. So let's forget about them, and follow instead...
  • Once Upon a Time: In the Enchanted Forest "Good always wins" is a law of nature as fundamental as gravity or electromagnetism. The only way Regina is able to win is by transporting everyone to a horrible world where evil can, and often does, triumph over good- our world. Lampshaded when Regina casts the great curse to take everyone to Earth, Prince Charming actually yells "Good can't just lose!" in a panic like it's a totally alien concept.
  • Scrubs: The narration for "My Old Lady" starts with the fact that in hospital, one in three patients who are admitted (with a couple of exceptions) will die there. Our three POV doctors each get a patient and so we "know" that one of them will die. In fact, all three die.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Qetsiyah tells Damon that Silas and Amara's doppelgangers — Stefan and Elena — have been finding each other and falling in love throughout the ages. Destiny will always push them together and, as she bitterly states, people like her and Damon are "just the conflict that makes their story interesting".

  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In "The Holy Terror", the entire society the story is set in is built around these principles, its Decadent Court modelled after a collection of Shakespearean clichés elevated to the point of ritual - for instance, queens must always give birth to two sons, a good but gentle older son and a corrupt and disfigured younger son, and the law of succession is such that when the king dies, the older son is instated as king and the younger son will betray and assassinate him and succeed him as the rightful heir. This at first seems like laws instated upon this world, until the Wham Line when the Doctor, who is attempting to escape with a seemingly helpful character, tells that character that he knows he'll betray him "because you're a stereotype". Told his role in the story is to be the person who seems helpful but betrays the heroes when pressed, the character attempts to defy this characterisation but is powerless against it, revealing that the particular universe is actually a story built as a prison for one of the characters and narrative causality is necessary to keep it on the rails.
  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: Mocked with a sketch of the Three Little Pigs. The first two pigs have built houses out of straw and sticks respectively owing to narrative convention; the supposedly weak house turning out to have some element that will do the Big Bad Wolf in. The third pig has built a house out of bricks... because that's what houses are made of.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: The radio version of sketch "Are We The Baddies?" has an SS officer, already concerned that the skulls embroidered all over his black uniform generally lack positive connotations, worriedly begin to realise that the course of the Second World War has begun to resemble the plot of every Underdogs Never Lose movie he's ever seen, that the Allies are in the position of 'underdogs', and he's never actually seen a story where the good guys start off strong, have a few setbacks, and then go on to win anyway:
    "I'm just increasingly worried about our place in the narrative structure of this war..."

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the entire point of a tabletop RPG. You as a player are there to make a person who will wind up thick in the middle of the plot. Your PC, by virtue of being a PC, has been designated a major character. Players who subvert this trope and frustrate their GMs by refusing to get off their duffs when the Call comes simply find ever stronger motivations for their characters to take the plunge. You're there, and you're a PC; plot and remarkable events are inevitable. Dungeon Masters trying to prod the players into taking a certain track is such a common behavior it has a nickname. It's called "railroading."
  • A common mechanic in tabletop roleplaying games is the sporadic, limited ability to break the rules by automatically declaring success on a roll (or failure on a roll against them) or by granting a reroll in a desperate situation. Some enemies have a similar mechanic as well. These are sometimes called plot points.
    • Top Secret was the first tabletop RPG to incorporate such points, in the form of luck points; every character started with 1-10 of them.
    • Alternity has the last resort point, which allows a hero to increase their level of success by one grade, or to decrease an enemy roll's level of success against them by one grade; the free agent has the ability to spend two points to change success by two grades. This allows a hero to turn a failure into success, a good roll into an amazing one, or alternatively an enemy's amazing roll into a good one. This ability comes in particularly handy as amazing attack rolls can inflict mortal damage, severely injuring and (on rare occasion) outright killing players and enemies. Very important NPCs may have these as well, to prevent one lucky or unlucky roll from instantly (and anticlimactically) defeating them.
    • Dark Heresy and its related games have "fate points". They are refreshed every play session and can be used to gain rerolls or manipulate results in various ways. They can also be permanently burned to allow a doomed player to survive in some contrived fashion. Major enemies intended to be recurring foes get them too.
    • Dungeons & Dragons:
      • The game has this in 4th edition in the form of Action Points; ordinarily, action points are used to gain an extra standard action on your turn, allowing you (in most cases) to immediately make an extra attack roll. At paragon tier (level 11+), most characters gain additional benefits from the use of these as well; some paragon paths allow you to use them to grant yourself rerolls on attacks instead, or grant multiple move actions, or other things; others grant bonuses in addition to their usual effect, such as the extra action dealing extra damage or being more likely to hit. Others just grant extra benefits on top of what they normally grant, such as allowing the character an extra bit of movement, teleporting them, dealing damage to enemies around them, and so on. There are even some abilities which grant action points, or which allow action points to be spent more often, or to be spent on granting lesser actions (such as moves) without expending them. Characters are expected to spend their action points, and gain them throughout the adventure on a regular basis, but are generally restricted to using one per encounter, and are reset after every adventure to discourage hoarding. Boss and sub-boss type monsters generally have 1-2 action points themselves, which makes them considerably more dangerous (though it also becomes obvious when a foe you're facing is more powerful than usual, as if they spend an action point, it means they're bad news).
      • 5th edition has the optional Inspiration Point mechanic, which allows a player who'd been granted an Inspiration Point for good roleplaying or outside the box thinking to make a roll with Advantage, boosting the odds of success without guaranteeing it.
    • GURPS has the advantages Luck, which allows a player to re-roll once an hour (or more), and Super-Luck, which allows them to literally choose what the dice roll will be.
    • Pathfinder incorporates hero points as an optional rule, which are granted for various in-character tasks and can be spent to grant bonuses to rolls, reuse expended spells, avoid dying, get a hint, or attempt the extremely improbable.
  • Some roleplaying games grant players the sporadic ability to outright alter the narrative of the game directly, such as by saying that there is some new feature or object in a room that wasn't there before which allows them to escape some difficulty. In some cases they can even make things harder on themselves by adding things working against them, for a bonus later. Perhaps the most extreme version of this is The Extraordinary Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, which is a game which centers entirely around this mechanic. Every player begins with a pool of coins or chips, and each player tells some story of their adventures, based on a question asked to them by one of the other players. The other players, during the story, may interfere by asking questions which add some sort of twist to the story and pushing forward a number of coins in challenge; the person telling the story must then incorporate some means of overcoming the challenge into the story (and thus take the coins) or push forward as many coins of their own and give them to the challenger, informing them that they are mistaken. At the end of the game, the players then must "vote" with their coins for the best stories; thus accumulating more coins gives you more votes at the end.
  • Cards Against Humanity: Invoked by name with the "The Thin Veneer of Narrative Causality that Underlies Porn".
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has a stat named Luck that once per session allows to add a number of points equal to the Luck stat to a given roll.
  • Discworld Roleplaying Game has rules for invoking this, including magic that lets you twist narrative tropes and even draw power from them, as well as a caution against taking too much for granted...
    "A character who tries to cast himself as the Brave Peasant Lad Who Outwits The Troll may find that he's actually one of the Twenty Poor Peasants Eaten By The Troll Before The Knight Comes Along. He might even end up as the Devious Little Human Squashed By The Troll Hero. (Troll fairy-stories aren’t especially subtle.)"
  • Exalted:
    • The Fair Folk live their lives according entirely to what's dramatically appropriate. Their Shaping Combat works entirely by "rewriting" someone or something else's story. The Wyld even has paths known as "waypoints" which operate not by distance, but by where a person is in a particular story.
    • Creation works like this in some ways, too. Many Sidereal effects work by setting someone in a particular role in a story... a role that happens to fit with the Sidereal's plans.
  • Serenity has acquirable "plot" points that the game master can distribute to players as reward, usually for doing things in a more creative way than expected. They exist out of character, and the players can choose to spend them to force plot conveniences or twists beyond the normal scope of their characters skillsets. For example, if a character who doesn't know machines very well is required to do repairs on an engine or die, a player might spend a plot point, and suddenly their character finds a handy user manual stowed nearby.
  • Shadowrun includes a stat known as Edge which is summed up as "luck, or that certain something that makes a Runner more than just a mook." Once per point per session/adventure a Runner's player can opt to spend Edge and add a number of dice equal to their Edge stat to the dice pool. When Edge is spent, the Rule of Sixes applies, allowing for "exploding crits" and vastly more "hits" than usual. And since humans get extra Edge at creation, one can easily create a normal human without cyberware or magic that can compete with the most minmaxed Troll Sammie or Elven Adept. ("Okay, you spend a point of Edge, roll... reroll the sixes... reroll THOSE sixes... reroll... ah hah... okay, yeah. Congratulations, you just destroyed the battle tank drone possessed by an evil spirit with one shot from your light pistol.")
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Beast: The Primordial draws on elements of this, painting both Beasts and their opposing Heroes as champions/embodiments/victims (it's... complicated) of the greater monomyth. Beasts are descendants of the Mother of Monsters, the great thing in the darkness whose role is to define the boundaries of the world through fear; Heroes are people called by the rampage of Beasts to transgress those boundaries and show humanity the way forward. The problem is, the narrative has shifted, so that Heroes are less focused on teaching humanity ways forward and more about killing monsters for glory and riches, so those Beasts who try to find some meaning in being primordial nightmare-monsters often find themselves trying to teach humanity through fear.
    • Changeling: The Lost:
      • The art of Talecrafting. A savvy enough changeling with a proper knowledge of legend and lore can call upon the motifs and themes of stories to ensure victory in his efforts (e.g., setting it up so that if the first two attempts failed, then the third time has a much better chance to succeed). In fact, the description of the power directs you to this very wiki for inspiration.
      • The Wyrd, which is the life's blood of all things fae and of which Faerie and the True Fae are essentially manifestations, is the fundamental narrative force of the universe, incorporating time and fate, destiny and chance, predestination and free will. Talecrafting works because, due to the Wyrd, the New World of Darkness runs on tropes.

    Video Games 
  • Alan Wake revolves around this trope. The Dark Presence abducts artists and tries to use their works to warp reality so that it can escape. The artist can escape by inserting themselves into the work, but they must obey the internal laws of their own creations, or the resulting plot hole will be filled by the Presence. The writer before Alan, Thomas Zane, tried to simply bring his wife back to life, but since this destroyed the story's internal logic she Came Back Wrong as a vessel for the Dark Presence. Alan simply writes himself in as the protagonist, but, since it's a horror-thriller, it has to appear that he could lose or die at any point, and has to give Equivalent Exchange to rescue Alice from the Dark Place instead of conjuring up an Esoteric Happy Ending.
  • Disgaea:
    • In general, the Fourth Wall is flimsy at best in the 'verse and major players are very aware of main character privileges, occasionally attempting to usurp the position. In the remake of Disgaea 2, this can even succeed and net you a Non-Standard Game Over.
    • Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice: Mao, after intense study on superhero stories, comes to the conclusion that if he's going to defeat his father the Overlord and take over, he must become the hero because heroes always win. Being a demon, he doesn't bother to change himself for the better, and just steals the title of "Hero" from some hapless passerby. Naturally, the plan works as well as you can guess. However, the title soon affects Mao's mind, subtly making him more heroic.
  • Because the All Myths Are True nature of the Nasuverse does not make a distinction between fiction and reality when literary figures are incarnated as Servants and thus affected by popular narrative convention, James Moriarty in Fate/Grand Order schemes to exploit workarounds of this theory to prevent the conventional downfall of a literary villain if he is to be the antagonist. He fails twice because narrative causality gets him in the end:
    • In his first scheme, knowing that his inevitable fate in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes and Moriarty are made to directly oppose each other once more is being brought down by the detective, he creates a doppelganger via the Demon God Bael and seals their memories. The doppelganger will serve as the Obviously Evil mastermind doing wicked things for the heroes to thwart while the original Moriarty will be an Amnesiac Hero who helps the bad guys thwart the mastermind. The original Moriarty then fatally wounds Holmes who was in the belief the case was resolved by getting the doppelganger. But because he reveals himself as the mastermind after backstabbing Holmes and his Evil Plan to destroy the world via asteroid, he has now left himself open to be designated as the final culprit by the protagonist who is the closest person available to fill in for the hero of this new Sherlock Holmes story, which is even acknowledged as Moriarty's conceptual narrative weakness and thus gets defeated anyway. (However, after becoming playable, Moriarty still insists he should be considered the narrative winner for getting one over Holmes. He is ignored by everyone else.)
    • In his second scheme, his younger version is fused with the Norns of Norse Mythology by a higher power, which gives him the power to manipulate fate. He makes himself an Invincible Villain because he has designated his fate to not fall in the battle he's fighting as he attempts to hunt down Holmes and reveal his true nature as a Servant before killing him. However, the crucial difference with the first plot is because this version is younger, he does not have the memories of the conflicts with Holmes over three decades. He invokes recreating "The Final Problem" by naming the waterfalls of his lair 'Reichenbach' so Holmes has to die there by going against him. But he completely overlooks that Moriarty also canonically dies there with zero further appearances in the Doyle canon and is screwed when Holmes goes for a Heroic Sacrifice of jumping off the falls before Moriarty can put the final touches on his plan since that means this recreation of "The Final Problem" is rapidly reaching its end and only needs Moriarty's defeat to be finished. Even the Norns with their grand powers over destiny cannot change the literary rules of a Sherlock Holmes story about Reichenbach and Moriarty vs Holmes ending with Moriarty's eventual death so he is quickly made work of by the protagonist in Holmes' stead again.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Balthier believes that he is the leading man of the story, and invokes this on several occasions. Once, he warns Vaan to take care of his ship in the case that something "untoward" should happen to him because he "might have to do something heroic." He also assures Ashe that, because of this trope, he can never die. He is eventually shown to right on both counts, despite his lack of leading man status.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: Lampshaded and subverted. The world of Amalur has its entire history set in stone, there is no such thing as determining your fate. In fact, the Fae's entire culture revolves around Narrative Causality: their fates are predetermined by their ballads and songs, and they simply go along for the ride with no protests. The villains in their stories are pretty much Designated as such, as are their heroes. It's actually a major plot point that the main character is an anomaly and fate has no power whatsoever over him/her, allowing him/her to actually change the fate of his world.note 
  • Neptunia: As the cast consists of personified game consoles and concepts and a cheerfully optional fourth wall, the game embraces and plays with this idea. It's at its most blatant at the start of Megadimension Neptunia VII: Neptune and Nepgear are dropped through a mysterious vortex and land in a post-apocalyptic hellscape with cracks through the very earth and sky, filled with monsters they've never seen before. Nepgear is frightened, and Neptune tells her not to worry... because she's the protagonist and this is the tutorial dungeon, so there's no way they'll lose.
  • Touhou:
    • Invoked In-Universe, since Youkai are creatures of myth and need to cause humans trouble to exist; to some degree, the fact that so many Incidents can be resolved by exterminating the culprit is that they're basically just mock battles held regularly so the youkai population doesn't disappear in a Puff of Logic. Reimu's intuition is also tied to her Semantic Superpower: she has the ability to 'float', which passively lets her float effortlessly through life — i.e. it basically forces Narrative Causality to work in her favor.
    • Reimu Hakurei's standard procedure when it comes to resolving incidents is to start flying in any random direction and blast down anyone and anything that gets in her way until the incident is resolved. In-universe this is explained as her having "good intuition", but it's plainly obvious that the real reason behind why she's always flying in the right random direction is because the plot requires her to do so in order to get anywhere and the "good intuition" stuff is just the developer's tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of narrative causality.

  • All Night Laundry: Amie eventually gains the ability to subconsciously warp reality so that events play out like a Doctor Who episode.
  • 8-Bit Theater: Thief tries using this trope to blackmail a dragon on the basis that the team has already found ancient, powerful monsters guarding magical orbs and killed them all. Since the dragon and her own orb are the fourth members of this set, pattern recognition dictates that, should they fight, she'll die as well.
  • Erfworld:
    • Wanda Firebaugh is a firm believer in what is called "Fatalism" in-universe. Functionally, Fatalism teaches that if you have a Fate, and that this Fate will come to pass no matter what you do. You can make your life easier by seeking out your Fate and sticking to its dictates, or pointlessly torment yourself by trying to work against your Fate, which does absolutely nothing besides make more trouble and pain for you and everyone you care about. Her backstory indicates that not only is this the case, but that Fate will brainwash everyone else into making your Fate come true.
    • The Predictomancer Marie Lavraie suddenly goes from only seeing the vague outlines to second-to-second predictions when she's in combat allowing her side to effortlessly defeat their foes. When questioned about this, she explains that it's only possible in the rare battles Fate decides are actually important.
  • Footloose is built around this trope, with the Plot being an active force in the universe that can be predicted by the Fae.
  • Fuzzy Knights has the Story as a tangible force — it's originally introduced in the context of the tabletop RPGs that the fuzzies play (and frequently run Off the Rails) but it becomes important in the Tournament War storyline with Mossfoot and HamaEstra fighting to influence and control it. When plot-convenient coincidences start happening a lot, it's best to pay attention.
  • El Goonish Shive: Magic is noted to have "a flair for the dramatic". This perhaps reaches its peak in the "Family Tree" arc, where both an ally and an antagonist know that Nanase will regain access to her magic at the most dramatically appropriate moment, and explicitly base their strategies on that fact.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: Explicitly referred to in this comic, by a character who loudly announces that he feels like a doctor is soon going to come in with dramatic news, repeats himself, and is annoyed when this fails to produce any results.
  • L's Empire: Invoked. Void's father planned to draw Dark Star out of hiding by having Palmaster shatter one of the Master Stars, knowing that L's Empire would find all of the Master Stars' shards simply because they're the main characters. Void is often scolded for not respecting this and constantly Tempting Fate.
  • Mixed Myth: The villains use a filmic version of this. The elves worship a power called "Cynamatik" and use it to fuel their magic. As the name suggests, the elves have a limited ability to control this force, because it will always cause the most dramatically appropriate circumstances — so the elves are only on top for as long as it's dramatically appropriate, and, the instant the story calls for their defeat, it's impossible that they won't lose the battle.
  • The Order of the Stick runs on this trope to a considerable extent, and the characters know it. More often than not, try to exploit it.
    • Elan in particular is extremely well versed in tropes due to being a bard, and is the fastest and most clever in exploiting them. When he doesn't get distracted.
    • Elan's father Tarquin has also demonstrated the same level of awareness as Elan, if not higher; he rationalizes that if a hero always rises to oppose the The Empire, that means there's always going to be an Evil Empire to oppose, so why not be the one running it? He uses his trope-awareness to secretly control most of a continent and keep it firmly under his boot with an aim to keep expanding his influence. He even gloats about how his eventual and inevitable defeat will be meaningless because he gets to live the good life for years if not decades until that happens and then his story will live on forever, inspiring generations of new villains.
    • Deconstructed when it's revealed that Tarquin can't fathom any plot that doesn't revolve around HIM. He refuses to believe that he is just a side villain in comparison to the Big Bad and Greater-Scope Villain. When he is (at least temporarily) defeated, it's because he and his plotline are dropped like a sandbag from the Mechane, in the middle of a desert where no one will be inspired should he die on the way back home. And even though he manages to make it to his allies in time, well, his plotline has No Ending because Elan convinced the resistance to stick to non-flashy proxy siphoning and allow his empire to rot from resource shortage instead of an epic collapse. He doesn't take it well.
  • Roommates plays with, discusses, lampshades etc.. this for comedy and tragedy. The cast members (almost all more or less medium aware fictional characters from multiple stories) are not above using their Plot Armor, routinely facepalming when they notice Tempting Fate moments, angsting on the fact that The Good Guys Always Win, etc. Also one of the forces powering magic taking A Wizard Did It to brand new levels, and is treated as Sentient Cosmic Force. As of Kings War there is also an honest to goodness Anthropomorphic Personification of it running around... (s)he is a jerkass.
  • Sire calls it "the Binding", and because the main characters are descended from fictional characters, they're affected even more strongly by it.
  • Use Sword on Monster: Deconstructed. A side effect of magic being introduced to the world is the theory becoming physical law to go along with it. Heroes using the magic automatically show up when magic does, as do magical monsters and demons for them to fight, because that's what heroes and monsters do. This implies that the Dragon, which seems to be the source of all magic, may also be its slave because its role as God of Magic means it's also been turned into the Big Bad by narrative necessity.
  • The Way of the Metagamer: Narrativium not only exists, but can be manipulated through use of a literal Plot Hole.

    Web Original 
  • Patchwork Champions: Narrative is as fundamental a law as physics. In the final story arc, the Big Bad nearly succeeds in his Take Over the World plot when he creates a device that can rewrite narrative laws to work in his advantage.
  • How the world of Channel Awesome functions. All the reviewers are able to interact with the things they review, and their lives echo the tropes the dissect- i.e. Linkara deals with convoluted comic book plots, The Nostalgia Chick finds her side-kick being possessed, and The Nostalgia Critic is often facing off against all sorts of aliens, ghosts, and Mickey Mouse.
    • This is directly acknowledged in the fourth year anniversary, To Boldly Flee, by the fact that their version of the Force is the Plot.
    • An In-Universe example: one of Film Brain's catch phrases for when the actions of the characters in the movies he reviews don't make sense: "and he did that because..."
    "Because the plot says so!"
  • SCP Foundation:
  • Frequently in Screen Rant Pitch Meetings the producer will question why something happened, and the writer will point this trope out with a response ranging from "Because" to "I'm gonna need you to get all the way off my back".
  • Oculus Imperia: "The Daemon: A Treatise On The Nature of the Daemonic" makes clear that Daemons in general operate on this logic. They don't instruct their followers to carry out complex rituals and human sacrificies because "the sound of a human meat-flap" have any special power; what they have is narrative significance, emotional weight borne of millenia of story-telling; since Daemons are, ultimately, psychic creatures born from the emotions of sapient beings, they're shaped by the stories those beings tell. As the Historitor rather chillingly puts it:
    Occulus: They are stories... and they are stories that hate us.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball lampoons this multiple times by taking it to the logical conclusion:
    • "The Job" shows that if Richard ever gets a job and maintains it, the universe will start to fall apart until it is eventually destroyed. The threat of destroying the universe is not grounds for dismissal, so Richard would actually have to be fired for legitimate reasons for the universe to continue existing. "The Routine" has a Call-Back where Richard's official title is "Richard the Unemployable", which shows that he's aware that being jobless is essential to the fabric of the universe.
    • "The Test" has Gumball decide that he's going to break out of his role as the Loser Protagonist, which turns Tobias into the protagonist and turning the show into an awful, clichéd sitcom, complete with a Laugh Track. Eventually, it gets to the point where Tobias starts to take over Gumball's life, taking his girlfriend and place in the Watterson family. The universe will warp itself just to have a Loser Protagonist, it seems.
    • "The Others" focuses on a girl about to move out of Elmore whose life runs on Daria-style teen drama plots. Much to Gumball's dismay (because he doesn't know why a person can have a life without him involved somewhere), her last day at school is exactly as drama-filled and solemn as one would expect, no matter how many times he tries to steer it in a less gloomy direction. The only time Gumball manages to succeed in keeping her from leaving is at the very end, when he rallies the entire town into invoking Status Quo Is God on her.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Goes to College", Homer treats the entire situation like he's a character in an 80's college movie. He keeps pulling pranks, insults and demonizes the Dean (who's the nicest guy in the whole campus) and never studies, simply because that's how he's seen it in fiction and believes that it's what he's meant to do. Naturally, this attitude only causes trouble for Homer and his dorm-mates.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: After the first couple of Friendship Missions directed by the Friendship Map, the mane characters realize that the map calls specific ponies because of their specific talents, abilities, and personalities. When Rarity and Applejack are called to Manehattan to solve a problem, they comment that the problem could have been solved quickly and easily with Twilight's magic, but the map must have good reasons for only summoning the two of them. The result is a community-building experience that wouldn't have happened if the more mundane matters had been fixed with a wave of a magic horn.

Alternative Title(s): Narrative Causality, Law Of Narrative Causality, Law Of Narrative Convenience