Why have characters do stupid stuff?

I’m listening to a book on tape in the car. It’s pretty good. The Fear Factor by someone named Harris. Not the Silence of the Lambs Harris. Sadly.

The hero has got unknown bad guys trying to wreck his life. They’re doing a good job of it too. Attacked him in his house. Messing with his bank accounts. Doing all kinds of high end billion dollar skullduggery… he feels his life is coming apart. Police. Wife angry at him. He’s about to be in shambles.

So, he’s in a hugely important business meeting and sees, out the window, the horrible man who attacked him at home… hero runs out of the building (leaving his bodyguard behind!) and chases the guy through the big city on foot.

First of all, was the bodyguard suddenly paralyzed? An older guy, a businessman, runs past the bodyguard in the lobby and the bodyguard stands still and lets him run by? The bodyguard vanishes into thin air. What do you have bodyguards for, if not to follow you outside a building when you’re obviously upset and in grave danger 24/7? Couldn’t the hero yell, “Hey, you’re my bodyguard. I saw the bad guy! Come with me!” Or something?

So the hero is suddenly alone… running after Mr. Horrible and finds himself quickly (on foot!?) in a crappy part of town… How the hell did THAT happen? He’s a billionaire for God’s sake, and he runs from his amazingly fancy office to a ratty, foreign part of town? On foot? In a car it’d take fifteen minutes at least. Puleeeeze.

He loses his quarry. He’s standing alone in the middle of what seems like a casbah (in Geneva, within running distance of the wealthy office district. Sure.) and gets a text… telling him to go to a room in a ratty hotel right behind him. So someone’s watching him!

Does our hero CALL THE POLICE? NO, he does not! What’s the DUMBEST thing he could do? Go in the hotel, alone. And, ha ha, conveniently, once he goes in the hotel, his cell phone doesn’t work. Even the writer understands that needs some plastering-over to make it stick and shamefacedly adds some nonsense about, “Rare for Geneva, he didn’t have cell phone coverage.”

Do not have your hero (or anybody!) do stupid stuff just because you need to have the plot advance. Take the time to think up clever stuff! Do not give your reader the chance to say, “Puhleeeze…”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Why have characters do stupid stuff?

  1. Melody Lopez

    I wonder if the real book doesn’t have that problem but the abridged version for the book on tape mucked it up and didn’t realize how lousy an edit it was? or what if it was actually written that way… OUCH

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      this is unabridged… I listen to the little plastic wedge digital book called Playaway. They run on one AAA battery and you plug headphones into them, or jack them into your car stereo greatest thing since sliced bread!

  2. Pingback: 25 Posts From 25 Great Screenwriting Blogs #3 | The Screenwriting Spark

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