Authorial Fait

Posted on 23 February 2010

I have this nagging sense that I’ve kibitz about this before, but a quick glance over my saved blogs (dear lord they are starting to pile up) say I haven’t, so here I go.  Authorial Fait: when the author makes something happen because they just wanted it to happen, not because it makes plot or character sense.  The name (and I swear this is the name, despite Google thinking I’m crazy) comes from the French word faire (and probably Latin before that), meaning “to make”.  So yeah, duh.  So, sounds like by default this is a bad thing, but I just have to go on a rant regardless anyway, so nyah.

There are instants where it actually isn’t all that bad, but in those cases, it typically isn’t called by this term either.  Things such as random dumb luck, a single coincidence (authors are usually allowed one before they get called on being too convenient), or the laws of physics bending but being explained on the why of it.  But, those aren’t what I’m here to talk about.

No, I’m here to talk about the bad.  About the Terry Goodkind lobotomizing his characters so he can write his “philosophical treatise with fantastical elements” or even Tolkien completely ignoring the Eagles as a means of getting the Ring to Mordor.

The typical worst instance of A.F. is when a character forgets who and what they are and makes a decision that is a really sucky decision for no reason at all.  Sometimes these are supposed to be covered up by “gut feelings” and “hunches”, but really, they are thinly veiled attempts of the author writing themselves out of a corner.  And it usually comes down to a bad effort at plotting.  Either the characters are to smart and need to be occasionally dumbed down for the badies to even pose a threat (such as the characters forgetting things they saw or heard only moments before), or the good guys are just out matched and out gunned and need to have dumb luck or random strokes of Idiot Savant-hood.  Yeah, really kills the story for me.

Slightly less horrible is when a random unrelated event conveniently changes the course of the plot.  A person was thrown off their horse and died (looking at you GRR Martin), or a meteor crashes and kills someone, or the peasants who had been off screen and apparently unreliable did manage to show up and save the day.  It is just about as bad as when a Dungeon Master gets angry at their players and has them all be eaten by a dragon.  Not that I play AD&D or anything . . . nope.  Not me. (really, not me.)

So . . . oh heck.  I don’t even know where I was going with this.  Authorial Fait bad! Fire good!  Plotting and character balancing good!  Random meteors bad!  That is all.


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