On Plotholes, Informed Attributes, and Gnawing Bunnies

I’m going to start by saying I love shonen manga. Swordfights, energy blasts, insane power-ups – they are Fun. And sometimes if everything has just not been going your way, you just want something going boom in fiction. Preferably with squished bad guys.

But characters are not just the funky powers and slashy swords. (Sorry, all you action-adventure types out there, it’s true.)  Unless the character was born from a lab vat – okay, some are! – they had some kind of family to raise them, some kind of friends-slash-competitive acquaintances while growing up, and some kind of skills besides Unrestrained Violence.

A lot of shonen manga, adventure stories, urban fantasies, what have you, recognize that. And get it in, at least as backstory. Harry Dresden with his stage magician father, Aang with the other kids in the Air Temple, Alibaba’s tutoring in court, politics, and trade.

What annoys me, sometimes, is that too often that kind of thing stays as just backstory.

…Yes, yes, I am so hypocritical here, I say I come for the explosions and then I pout because I want Character Development. I’m a fan. Comes with the territory.

But for me, this is an impetus to write; fanfic and otherwise. Because if a creator throws out an Informed Attribute – having early training in stage magic, knowing that the kid who sounds Fair and Reasonable is out to make people miserable, being able to successfully out-bargain an experienced trader before you’re 13 – the law of conservation of narrative detail means that the reader has some fair expectation that this will come up again.

If it doesn’t… well. The creator’s set up an automatic “Argh!” from anyone who was gleefully anticipating that particular Chekhov’s Gun to go off.

There is nothing that motivates my bunnies more than “Argh!”

Seriously. “Logic Fail!” and “Plothole” and “we saw X before, why didn’t it come back?” are some of the things that will spur up the Inner Brat right along with the creative impulse. Remember the Inner Brat? It’s scary, it doesn’t take no for an answer, and it thinks those mountains in the way would look just awesome hit by a Getsuga Tenshou.

…So. That’s just a few thoughts I have on how the plotbunnies get going, and what keeps them going. And now you know where the “Economics” fic came from. *G* In a way, this is what created Count Taka and Myrrh, as well: annoyance at how vampires and/or monster hunters are portrayed as just antagonists/action types on the screen, without going into, if this were a real setting, how would it work long-term?

So if you’re trying to get a story going, try tapping into the power of Argh. Just… be sure you want to. Because plotbunnies stop at nothing.

And I think I have another idea for Alibaba and trade, hmm….

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17 thoughts on “On Plotholes, Informed Attributes, and Gnawing Bunnies

  1. I think the biggest thing that annoys about informed attribute is the informed part. We are told they are good at X but we almost never seen them use X even when the situation calls for it. Every solution is thump it harder.

    Now I’m all for nifty fight scenes and cool explosions but I still think it’d be interesting like if in Magi, our heroes got to laid down a smackdown both economically and physically since Alibaba was supposed to good at trade. And for that matter so should Sinbad (Ja’far can’t have done everything with their trading company and I bet Sindria the company was still heavy in trade).

    My bunnies are currently growling about the slavery in Magi. Both the stated slavery and what the Kou Empire is trying to pretend isn’t slavery. Mostly because they think the full impact of being treated as a thing, not a person, is kinda of being ignored. And that slaves, regardless of what their masters attempt, are never happy about being considered property instead of people. You can convince them that submission is better than fighting but that’s about it. If they are happy, I’d check for mind control spells.

    Of course, they are also grumbling about the As Long It Sounds Foreign naming of characters, and trying to figure out distance and travel times in that world. Because feet (hoof) and sail isn’t exactly speedy.

    Also they kept muttering about how the bad guys are supposed to have more cards than the protagonists, not the entire darn deck .

    I wanted cute kid fic – the bunnies are insisting on a full AU with more stuff than cute kid fic.

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    1. The thing with slavery and “treated as a person” is at least partly a cultural thing. Our culture is all about “individuality at all costs, no matter how self-defeating.” Even in business, the concept of “one little cog in the works” is a source of horror and revulsion, even by those who consider it necessary. But even just a couple generations ago (my parents, at least) the culture was quite different. If you weren’t part of some greater whole (family, business, whatever) doing your part, it was something to feel ashamed about and drive you to work harder to achieve it.

      And, the term “slave” has been tarnished in our history, so most are incapable of looking at it objectively, even when they can accept something that is functionally identical as a good thing. Because terminology matters, especially when cultural connotations come into play. Because most of us don’t actually study the history of language, or what words actually mean, let alone analyze the meanings that we are given to see if they are self-consistent and valid.

      Now, about informed attributes, plotholes, etc, I’m actually kinda on the opposite side of the coin. I don’t mind stuff we’re informed about not being used. What gets me is when we’re informed about something and then get the opposite. Crack. “This character is like X”, *Character proceeds to do the exact opposite of X with no justification or character growth to explain it.*

      Which is why I complained about Sif’s hair-color in the movies. It wasn’t just that we were told “she had yellow/gold hair color” and then were shown something different with no justification, instead it was that her hair was such a critical part of her character that it was used as a title, “Sif, of the golden hair”, and for no reason at all, no justification to explain it, the movies changed her hair color. It would have been fine if they had given us a reason for the change, or had shown us some history for her that justified it as part of the AU. (ie: it’s not just that this is AU and not like the myths, it’s that the nature of this AU justifies this change)

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      1. Well…. I wouldn’t say that people were necessarily happy to be slaves. But there were some times and places where being a valued slave in a rich household wasn’t necessarily a bad deal, compared to what a lot of lower-class free people were going through. If slavery had a time limit or other regulations, if you could buy yourself out without too much hardship, if you could help your family by selling yourself in and then buying yourself out… then it might not be too much worse than taking on heavy loans.

        Might.

        More probably, though, your life was going to become much crappier when you lost your freedom. Whether you were male or female, a lot of societies assumed that a work slave was also a sex slave. A slave’s rights and ability to earn and own goods and property varied quite a lot, and the enforcement of slaves’ rights varied even more. Masters made up their own work rules, and you have situations in the ancient world as varied as factory farm (latifundium) and weaving factory (gynodochium) slaves, house slaves, philosopher and doctor slaves, bleach factory slaves, gladiator slaves, etc.

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      2. Valid point but still there is a difference between choosing to part of a larger enterprise because you consider it your duty and being told because you are property you ARE going to be doing this thing. It’s the lack of agency. A choice between shame and a job you might not like is not a good choice to make but it is still a choice.

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      3. @suburbanbanshee

        And being valualbe might have an advantages and some people might have found that tolerable for that reason. Or tolerable because they knew their condition was supposed to be temporary. Also selling yourself means you chose to do this. Someone didn’t kidnap you and force you into the situation. Through a choice between starvation and slavery is not much a choice.

        And the reason people tended to think “work” slaves as also for sex was because, in a lot of cultures, legally their bodies did not belong to them. They had no right to say “no” if their master wanted to have sex with them or for them to have sex with someone else. And depending on the laws, that wasn’t even the worst thing a master could do to a slave. And people being people, there were probably at least some who did those worst things simply because they could.

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      4. Yeah. I was mainly just noting that there’s a lot more to this than just “slavery evil” and “slaves must inherently hate being slaves (without mindcontrol changing their personality)”. That not only are there a lot of things that are exactly what we in our modern culture imagine with the term “slavery”, yet because it has some other name applied to it we don’t even notice it or we make excuses for it, while there are other things that are named “slavery” and thus we look on with horror despite them actually being identical to stuff that we consider common place or even good. And that’s just considering terminology applied, and how that affects our view of things. When you add in how culture affects things, our cultural views greatly affect our view of slavery as horrible evil.

        On the other hand, as has been pointed out, there’s a lot of different things that fit under the category of “slavery”, and quite a few of them are quite horrible and evil. Tho pointing out the bit about theory vs practice (what the law said, vs how well and how consistently it was actually applied) is also significant. Roman law dealing with slaves is actually quite interesting for just how thorough it was (and how many “modern inventions” it included), even if in practice it rarely came anywhere near the ideal the written law promoted because of corruption.
        At one point, Roman law gave slaves more protection than citizens, to the point of requiring slave owners to ensure that their slaves could earn their freedom, providing health and monetary insurance for their slaves, providing legal backing for their slaves, and several other things. It was even law that if a slave owner had sexual relations with a slave, the slave would be freed and the slave owner would be made a slave himself, even if it had been consensual. The way around that was to free the slave first. Which came with its own legal requirements, including setting the ex-slave up with housing and a business. Of course, practice was significantly different. Because all the politicians were breaking those laws, and knew where everyone else kept their skeletons, so no one was willing to rock the boat by actually enforcing them.

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      5. >not only are there a lot of things that are exactly what we in our modern culture imagine with the term “slavery”, yet because it has some other name applied to it we don’t even notice it or we make excuses for it, while there are other things that are named “slavery” and thus we look on with horror despite them actually being identical to stuff that we consider common place or even good.

        You’re claiming that the horror that led to England effectively bankrupting their own empire to stop the slave trade and the U.S. Civil War is just a matter of terminology. Support this with evidence and examples, please.

        >At one point, Roman law gave slaves more protection than citizens,

        Because citizens were supposed to be able to protect themselves. They didn’t need the law to do it. They were allowed to be armed.

        > It was even law that if a slave owner had sexual relations with a slave, the slave would be freed and the slave owner would be made a slave himself, even if it had been consensual.

        …No. That is, historically, not what happened, and not what was considered legal. Legal was male citizens dominating other non-citizens for sex. Illegal, and leading to the loss of citizenship, was allowing yourself to be “topped”. Whatever Roman lawbook you’re reading, you need to find some actual history.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. …I think you need to read some history. Both ancient and current events. Seriously.

        For one thing, if our culture truly were about individuality at all costs, we would have no churches, no marriage, no families; no police, first responders, or armed forces.

        >”the term “slave” has been tarnished in our history”

        …That would be because it is an evil institution. It takes away another person’s free will. It is cruel. It encourages cruelty.

        Oh, and by the way, it’s illegal. Or supposed to be.

        If you want to look at the origin of the word “slave” in English, I encourage you to do so. It will lead you on an interesting path through the Middle East, the Crusades, and Vlad Tepesh, sometimes called Dracula. He was very, very determined not to be a slave.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. *Wry G* I’ll go for a full AU. And yes. That’s one of the things that makes me freeze up about the whole Alibaba joining up with the Kou Empire part of canon. Because it’s awful enough to take slaves in the wake of a war. To say you’re doing it to “educate” people – people who won’t ever be allowed to work at anything that requires thought, because they’re not Kou – is a particular brand of horror.

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  2. This is actually one of the reasons I like Akatsuki no Yona.

    At the beginning, Yona is a spoiled, self-centred princess and her abilities reflect this. On the other hand, her dance training makes her group’s cover of traveling performers more realistic. She uses it every once in awhile at bars and such to get information.

    Jae-ha grew up in a port town. He knows how trading towns and the seedy parts of towns work best. He is the one everyone goes to advice in these places.

    Shin-ah’s backstory involves killing any outsiders that approach his village. His swordsmanship specializes in taking down multiple opponents swiftly. However, do to this and his village’s unique culture he has little control over his eye ability.

    Hak is a legendary fighter and a former general. He understands tactics and is shown to be politically savvy enough to understand the goings on around him.

    Sorry, I’ve just wanted to rant about AkaYona for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The character development is great. If a character appears more than once, he or she will be more than they first seem. It also does a good job of mixing serious and light-hearted. Ao the omnivorous squirrel.

        As a side note, Zeno’s backstory does not appear in the anime. His introduction is sort of weird too. You don’t learn a lot about him until a good 50-60 chapters after his intro. They’re making an OVA about it. Actually, all the dragon’s backstories are depressing but Zeno’s is the bloodiest.

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