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Natural development vs violent intercession

Brian G Turner

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Just finished watching Rain Man, and all the family really enjoyed it.

However, it was interesting to see my kids expecting someone to be murdered, or an accident, or some other violent event to occur that would reconcile the brothers played by Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

In the end, it was a naturally growing closeness that developed between them and allowed them to value one another - something that is much more natural and obviously harder to pull off.

It made me realize how the shock of a violent incident to bring people together seems like an overly-used trope in film, and was left wondering aloud how it might affect people's story development in their own writing.

So does anyone here worry about developing natural relationships, or are violent intercessions simply a lazy trope in film?
 

picklematrix

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My take is that violent intercessions are, indeed, a lazy trope.
It comes down to the fact that I have never seen it happen that way in real life. Sudden deaths have yet to bring a disparate family back together, in my experience.
I think Rain Man mirrors real life closer than most films in that regard.
Traumatic incidents, in real life, may even work to further solidify family schisms, depending on circumstance.
 

Plucky Novice

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It probably is an overused trope but arguably originated in human behaviours.

People do bond over shared experiences, traumatic ones even more so. Additionally, the loss of a loved one can result in a greater appreciation for those who remain.

Personally, I prefer the natural relationships because they are truer to life.
 

CTRandall

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It's definitely a trope. Traumatic events may bring people together for a short time but, as the event recedes into the past, pre-existing differences re-emerge. That said, it ties in so easly with high drama that it can be difficult to avoid indulging in it. And traumatic events can certainly destroy bonds. Is it overused? Yes, when it's done without any care or thought; no, when it's used well and in a way that makes sense.

We all experience gradual development but it's hard to write. I would love to be able to do that convincingly but I find it a struggle to pull off. It's difficult to think of sci-fi/fantasy novels that do it as purely as Rain Man, primarily as SFF conflict is usually externalized and often violent. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness comes to mind, as does Enemy Mine (at least the film--I haven't read the story) as examples of gradual change.
 

Toby Frost

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I agree. The trouble is, tropes are often there because people find them emotionally satisfying. All the unrealistic things that happen in Romance, for instance, happen because they work in novels, by satisfying the reader. The arrival of some crisis that forces the characters to change their view on each other is dramatically pleasing, in the same way as having all the suspects in the room when the murderer is revealed. And it's much easier to write.

I've recently been working on two projects that include characters slowly getting to like each other. It's really difficult to do so without dramatic events. I think it takes a lot more plotting, and a more gradual approach. But it's more realistic, especially for adults who might be more wary and less impulsive than younger characters.
 

sknox

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Yeah, I'm a little mystified by the anecdote. There are many, many stories--film, plays, books--that don't involve a violent intercession. There are also a great many extremely sensitive stories that do. I happen to be reading The Kite Runner right now, just to give an example.
 

tinkerdan

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I would agree that the violent or even tragic intercession is now days a trope. However that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be used and that doesn't disqualify it as natural development.

What do I mean?
The violence or tragic event is just a means of gathering a group for some common purpose. Making too much about it that drags on is the trope however there are elements that are a natural progression as have been highlighted already.

A family comes together for a funeral of a loved one. This brings them close together. For a time. Eventually life goes on and people have to return to whatever daily routine they had before otherwise they are broken.(which is often an offshoot trope of this.)

If a family was close to begin then this could bring them closer for a longer period of time and that would still be natural. If a family is for some reason fractured and distant then it might be more like forcing them together for short time and they might be itching to get on the road again and back to normal-ville quickly.

For strangers it would more likely bring them together for some temporary though possibly indefinable length of time. On some rare occasion it might bring together some who stay close afterwords. But I still think that this part is a natural part of a process that started after the event.

Any relationship involves the meeting of those involved and that's the event, what happens after that is the building of the relationship which is all a natural process. That doesn't mean that a writer won't slip up and try to push the relationship too fast because he's lazy.

I just recently finished re-reading Fountainhead by Ayn Rand[I did this because I had just read J Michael Straczynski's Auto biography Becoming Superman and anyone having read both of these books will understand the reason reading one might bring to mind the other.] Anyway the relationships in that Fountainhead are complicated in some cases hideously damaging. They often seem to take a long a painful route(a serious amount of narrative time and space on the page so the author looks far from lazy) to ferment, however they also are not always very believable or natural because it seems that the relationships are there to help drive the plot and fuel the often length soliloquies.
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There is a need for a healthy balance that adds the natural development in a way that makes sense to the story and not just because it makes a good plot device.
 

CTRandall

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Can anyone think of examples of natural relationship development in sci-fi/fantasy? It's not quite what the original post meant but, though I'm not a huge fan of George R R Martin, the Hound's development from nasty brute to not-so-nasty brute in GoT works well. There is plenty of violence along the way but it isn't one, single event that brings about his change. It's more his exposure to Sansa and Arya that does it.
 

LukeLee

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It doesn’t have to be violent intercession to create a bond. Perhaps the wording of the question is leading us toward a particular conclusion - most people think it is an overused trope. One way is the forming of a bond over time, but it doesn’t have to be. Bonding through a shared ‘unusual’ experience is very common. It is how team bonding events work. That experience can be challenging in some way (taking people away from the norm for a short period) or a violent experience or simply surviving a disastrous event. The bond among the military is much stronger after they have had a shared war experience.
 

The Bluestocking

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Can anyone think of examples of natural relationship development in sci-fi/fantasy? It's not quite what the original post meant but, though I'm not a huge fan of George R R Martin, the Hound's development from nasty brute to not-so-nasty brute in GoT works well. There is plenty of violence along the way but it isn't one, single event that brings about his change. It's more his exposure to Sansa and Arya that does it.
Read Anne Bishop's COURTYARD OF THE OTHERS series - many of the relationships are developed organically and naturally there. There are *some* violent intercessions but not used in a tropey way. Some people complain that the series is "slow-moving" with the emphasis on world-building but Bishop really digs deep into character and relationship development over growing friendship/bonds.
 
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