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Diogenes the Cynic
04-09-2008, 02:06 AM
A lot of times, after I read a few chapters of a novel, I'll be able to kind of recognize the whole plot formula and be able to predict everything that's going to happen for the rest of the story. This happens a lot with movies too. After you see all the expository scenes, you basically know where eveything is going to go.

So my question is, what are the the things you see in the set up for a story in movies or books that make you think, "ok, I see where that's going to go?

My example:

In any novel or movie about a detective hunting a serial killer, if the detective has either a child or a love interest (pregnant wives work really well), you can rest assured that in the 3rd act, that child and/or love interest will be kidnapped by the serial killer and the hero will have to jump through hoops to rescue them.

What else do you see as big, blinking neon signs about what's going to happen later?

Sampiro
04-09-2008, 02:34 AM
If a character coughs in a movie there's a 50% chance he or she is suffering from a not quite yet diagnosed terminal illness (one whose first symptom is coughing, even if it's late stage prostate cancer or AIDS).

In war movies supporting characters are usually safe until they tell a story about back home. They paint a bullseye on their head with backstory.

In almost any movie any scene or back-story information about a character that seems unnecessary will usually come back in the final reel. (Mike Myers pokes fun at this in Wayne's World and Austin Powers with "Gee... he really seemed to give me a lot of superfluous information considering what I asked him" type lines.) One of the greatest advantages of novels over films is that often the back-story and asides really are just there for interest or to add dimension.

Argent Towers
04-09-2008, 02:43 AM
If a woman manages to knock to the ground or seemingly kill an evil male character, he will not actually be dead. He will be lying there, but rest assured he will rise up again, when the woman is least expecting it.

In any teen comedy there is a 70 percent chance of one of the characters unwittingly ingesting some kind of bodily fluid.

Argent Towers
04-09-2008, 02:48 AM
Also, in any given movie about military training, if the young recruits go on leave to a bar in town, wearing their dress uniforms, there is an 80% chance that one of the guys will be pressured to go hit on a woman by all the other guys, and he will go up and talks to her and make a complete idiot of himself and all his friends will laugh at him but he winds up taking her home anyway.

A handsome male character with blond hair, who is not the lead, will usually turn out to be evil.

Lakai
04-09-2008, 03:29 AM
If a movie is a romantic comedy, this will always happen:

1) Two people fall in love.
2) One person screws it up.
3) The person who screws it up makes up for it and the two are back in love.

Superhero movies where the superhero already knows about his powers when the movie starts:

1) Evil villain shows up that kicks the superhero's ass.
2) Superhero has a moment where "he knows what he must do".
3) There is a final battle.

Mosier
04-09-2008, 04:59 AM
If something has pointy ears, it's very old, very powerful, and always one of the good guys.

If something is wearing a helmet that covers its face and rarely (or never) takes the helmet off, it's almost always very old, powerful, and one of the bad guys. In addition, there is a 99% chance that if you're watching a fantasy movie, the main bad guy wears a full suit of sweet looking plate armor most or all of the time.

People who go from good to bad will always die as a result of their own greed/ambition/betrayal/etc.

The killer always deliberately leaves clues for the detectives, explaining his motives and how brilliant his scheme is. The killer is almost always extremely intelligent and almost completely reclusive. The killer has some sort of intimate connection with the detective/hero, and will at some point try to explain how they're really "not all that different" from each other.

edit: if a person of one race kills a person of another race, it is almost certain to be either an accident, or a misunderstanding. It is always a poignant description of real life society, and an appeal to make a change and help improve the world.

Mops
04-09-2008, 06:13 AM
Some things in crime fiction that surprise me if the result is not what the convention leads me to expect:


References to peripheral things that are not followed up turn out to be significant: if someone answers "that was in 2002, right after we came back from our Australian vacations" it will turn out later that something significant happened in Australia.
If someone puts off reading some note or report/returning some call, because it does not sound important, it turns out to be important.
If someone usually is armed, and goes somewhere leaving the weapon behind, he/she will have cause to regret it. (Particularly within the last third)
If someone goes off somewhere without telling anyone he/she will have cause to regret it. (Also, particularly within the last third)

blinkingblinking
04-09-2008, 06:22 AM
I got distracted while watching the 2005 film of War of the Worlds- I was waiting for Tom Cruise to be a hero with his crane-operating skills. The first 5 minutes are all about how he is the best crane operator ever. Then this is not mentioned in the whole rest of the movie.

CalMeacham
04-09-2008, 07:36 AM
I got distracted while watching the 2005 film of War of the Worlds- I was waiting for Tom Cruise to be a hero with his crane-operating skills. The first 5 minutes are all about how he is the best crane operator ever. Then this is not mentioned in the whole rest of the movie.


Maybe they should've added a scene where he had to rescue the car keys from the "Grab with a Claw" arcade game they'd fallen into. And he was down to his last quarter.






Other way-too-frequent things I'm annoyed with:


"The monster/killer's loose in this big complicated maze. Let's split up to find him. We're going over here. You go over there, where it's dark."


"I know the killer has sword to get you, but you're perfectly safe here. The place is well guarded. You just wait here while we go out to where we're absolutely certain he is. I've even given you a sedative to help you rest."


"THAT'S what their weakness is! Spray them with Salt Water!"


"Of course we're sure he's dead. We found his body, but it was burned beyond recognition. But we're sure it's him because we found his ring/one unburned finger with his fingerprint/his distinctive tattoo."

Randy Seltzer
04-09-2008, 10:26 AM
Setup:
Hero is equipped with a weapon/skill with a "regular mode" and a "SUPERAWESOME mode." The SUPERAWESOME mode is a one-shot deal.

Result:
In the end, the hero will use the special aspect of his weapon to overcome his arch-nemesis.

For example, in Cold Mountain, I knew at about page 25 that Inman (protagonist) would kill Teague (main antagonist) in the end because the author gives Inman a gun with a special second chamber that would shoot one especially large round.Or in Kill Bill, vol II, we know exactly who is going to kill whom, and how he is going to die. Respectively: the bride, Bill, the five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique, and the Conservatory.Happily, in both of these there is an additional twist so that the whole thing isn't a complete wash.

Cervaise
04-09-2008, 12:09 PM
For what it's worth, I spend a few paragraphs musing about the general phenomenon of the totally predictable movie in this post about A Good Year (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=395868) (the Russell Crowe movie from a couple of years ago). Nothing since then has changed my mind, either about the particular movie or about the audience's reason for enjoying stories like this.

Kamino Neko
04-09-2008, 12:18 PM
Also, in any given movie about military training, if the young recruits go on leave to a bar in town, wearing their dress uniforms, there is an 80% chance that one of the guys will be pressured to go hit on a woman by all the other guys, and he will go up and talks to her and make a complete idiot of himself and all his friends will laugh at him but he winds up taking her home anyway.

I can't say I've ever seen this one. (Maybe...it sounds like something that'd be in Top Gun, which I hardly payed attention to.)

But it reminds me of one...

If a group of military men go to a bar in uniform, and encounter uniformed members of another service, a fight WILL break out.

BrainGlutton
04-09-2008, 12:21 PM
If the attractive male and female lead are thrust together by circumstances or a joint task at hand, and if they appear to dislike or mistrust each other and they're always arguing, it's not certain the obvious sexual tension ultimately will be consummated (it never was in A Few Good Men), but it's better than even money.

Lemur866
04-09-2008, 12:23 PM
I got distracted while watching the 2005 film of War of the Worlds- I was waiting for Tom Cruise to be a hero with his crane-operating skills. The first 5 minutes are all about how he is the best crane operator ever. Then this is not mentioned in the whole rest of the movie.
The Martian tripods are simply superadvanced versions of Tom Cruise and his crane.

KneadToKnow
04-09-2008, 12:23 PM
Say you've got a book that deals with the possibility that Jesus had offspring and that there might possibly even be people alive today who are the descendants of Jesus. And for whatever reason, the author chooses to describe in some detail the color of Jesus' hair in a famous painting.

Then imagine this author mentions the hair color of one of his main characters roughly every eight pages, and it just happens to be the same hair color as Jesus' in that famous painting.

And still people seemed to be surprised by the way that book ended.

(And this was, for the record, nowhere near my biggest complaint about The DaVinci Code. It's just the one that fit the OP best.)

DeadlyAccurate
04-09-2008, 12:27 PM
In any novel or movie about a detective hunting a serial killer, if the detective has either a child or a love interest (pregnant wives work really well), you can rest assured that in the 3rd act, that child and/or love interest will be kidnapped by the serial killer and the hero will have to jump through hoops to rescue them.

I don't like it when bad guys act in ways that are less intelligent than the heroes, setting up scenarios that only seem designed to allow the hero time to succeed. Damn it, if you have every intention of killing someone, and you have no problem doing it, then don't wait until the hero can get there to effect a last-minute rescue. (I read the Evil Overlord list frequently to make sure I don't fall prey to the same thing.)

Silver Tyger
04-09-2008, 12:28 PM
No one has EVER died from falling off some thing. Ever.

(ps, plugging tvtropes.org cuz well, it's the best answer to this)

Sampiro
04-09-2008, 12:29 PM
And I've mentioned the "Hyper Fertile Doomed Hero Cliche" before: if the hero has sex only once with the heroine, then dies valiantly, the last scene will feature her a few years later walking with a child who's a (few years - 9 months) old.

Examples: Pearl Harbor, Cold Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean [I know Will doesn't die, but he's damned nonetheless], others

I was both surprised and glad that Titanic didn't do this.

h.sapiens
04-09-2008, 12:29 PM
If there are two men available to the heroine as a love interest, one of them a jerk and the other a nice guy, she will always start out with the jerk and end up with the nice guy.

BrainGlutton
04-09-2008, 12:48 PM
If there are two men available to the heroine as a love interest, one of them a jerk and the other a nice guy, she will always start out with the jerk and end up with the nice guy.

Usually, not always. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Wedding)

CalMeacham
04-09-2008, 12:50 PM
And I've mentioned the "Hyper Fertile Doomed Hero Cliche" before: if the hero has sex only once with the heroine, then dies valiantly, the last scene will feature her a few years later walking with a child who's a (few years - 9 months) old.


And Terminator, of course.

AuntiePam
04-09-2008, 12:55 PM
Also in serial killer novels, if a potential victim is introduced late in the book and if the writer spends a lot of time with that character, that one will get away.

BrainGlutton
04-09-2008, 01:01 PM
In any scene with a newscast in the background, any words of that newscast the audience can actually hear will be somehow relevant to the plot.

Stranger On A Train
04-09-2008, 01:15 PM
In almost any movie any scene or back-story information about a character that seems unnecessary will usually come back in the final reel."I'm sorry. That is a terrible scene. It's like, " Why was that in the movie?" Gee, you think maybe it'll come back, later, maybe?" I hate that, a TV's on, talking about the new power plant. Hmm wonder where the climax will happen? Or that shot of the cook in Hunt for Red October?"--Harry Lockhart (narrating), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373469/)

If for no other reason, this is a great movie because it lampoons all of the conventions of your standard action-thriller-buddy flick. The only time it does something predictable is when it deliberately skewers a standard plot development. Yeah, boo, hiss, I know. Look, I hate it too. In movies where the studio gets all paranoid about a downer ending so the guy shows up, he's magically alive on crutches, I hate that. I mean shit, why not bring them all back. But the point is in this case, this time, it really happened. Perry, like, lived. Yeah, it's a dumb movie thing, but what do you want me to do, lie about it?

There is also a disturbing and seemingly out of place subplot involving child molestation that the filmmaker ultimately uses to demonstrate how filmmakers push the emotional buttons of the audience which is nothing short of brilliant.

Unfortunately, Warner Brothers decided to market this like some obscure Eastern European film and after a cinema release so brief that it didn't even have a chance to nosedive, it was pulled and vanished. Pity, because it's arguably Shane Black's best film. It sure beats the hell out of any Michael Bay crapfest of random exploding objects.

Stranger

The Them
04-11-2008, 06:07 AM
If there is a timing device involved, of ANY sort, it will be shut off with 3 seconds or less before something bad happens.

If there is a snooty cute chick and a nerdy/otherwise loser-type guy...dude gonna get laid, gal wises up, they live happily ever after.

RealityChuck
04-11-2008, 08:41 AM
I often see authors and directors setting up things that will be used later, so much so that I can spot endings (e.g., the hats in The Prestige, as well as the assistant). There's also Roger Ebert's Law of Conservation of Characters, which says any character whose puspose doesn't seem apparent is more important than he seems. The most obvious was Murder at 1600, where it's easy to pick out the killer by noticing the screen time of its stars.

Annie-Xmas
04-11-2008, 08:43 AM
If a man and woman sleep together once, she will get pregnant. She will not realize she is pregnant or even late until a friend asks her about a dizzy spell or her vomiting, or during a routine physical. Apparently woman who have one night stands are to stupid to track their periods.

KneadToKnow
04-11-2008, 10:03 AM
The most obvious was Murder at 1600, where it's easy to pick out the killer by noticing the screen time of its stars.
I would actually point that one out as evidence that big-name stars in minor roles are more important than they seem, but it's a minor disagreement.

Zsofia
04-11-2008, 10:13 AM
Law of Economy of Characters - if there's one hanging around for no reason whatsoever, it's the killer. Or the whatever. Everybody in a movie is there for a reason.

CalMeacham
04-11-2008, 10:18 AM
Everybody in a movie is there for a reason.


This is precisely why I dislike that rule of parsinomy in characters. Well, that and the fact that real life isn't parsimonious, and so a movie seems more realistic if everyone isn't there for a particular reason, but styill have good lines and aren't merely background.

I didn;t particularly like Flatliners, but I thought it seemed more believable that one character didn't get the "visions"

Little Nemo
04-11-2008, 10:44 AM
If the hero discovers the secret conspiracy and succeeds in telling it all to the trusted authority figure and the movie's not in the last fifteen minutes, then you know that the trusted authority figure will either have to die soon afterwards or be revealed as part of the conspiracy.

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