4 In Thoughts & Observations

The Predictably Stupid – Conflict For the Sake of Conflict? Or True to Life?

A writer friend introduced me to the term “wallbanger” some time ago—and they don’t write erotica. 🙂

No, this friend was referring to when you read a book that either a) ends with an unsatisfactory/cliff-hanger ending or b) the characters do stupid crap that frustrates the hell out of you.  Both events make you want to throw the book against the wall, hence “wallbanger”.

Now, I’m a devout reader and writer of romance.  Reading is my escape, my safe haven and pressure relief valve.  One of the biggest reasons I read romance is I’m supposed to be able to count on the law of, “Thou shalt always have a happily ever after.”  If someone breaks this rule, woe to them if they don’t have the follow up/sequel already published to take away the sting.  🙂

But it’s the other one—the one about characters doing stupid things in the name of conflict to keep me reading—that really gets under my skin.  And yeah, it happened just last night, which is why I’m writing on it today.

For those of you who aren’t avid readers like I am, let me give you a different explanation of what I’m talking about.  You know those cheesy scary movies where the soon-to-be victim does something you see coming a mile away?  Leaving the gun/knife/baseball bat behind…walking into a dark house where the power doesn’t work…going to research a suspicious sound when any sane person would high-tail it out of dodge?  These are the types of moves I’m talking about, minus all the blood and gore.

Last night’s predictably stupid move involved the heroine doing the one thing she knew the hero wouldn’t want her to do.  Granted the whole thing was a set up by the “bad girl” in the story.  The heroine even knew and admitted it was a setup, but she did it anyway.

I could have forgiven the action if it was the only occurrence.  I mean, we all screw up.  And getting things right the next time around leaves me all warm and fuzzy.  But she’d already done similar actions two other times earlier in the book.

Hello, wallbanger.


After the heroine’s third, predictably stupid move, I scanned through the remainder of the book just to see how things ended (because it was book three in a series and I felt invested), but shut down my iPad at the end of it thoroughly disgusted.  I felt cheated.  Disappointed.  And I think it dimmed some of my appreciation for the author.

Is this a fair response?  Maybe the author did what she was supposed to do in garnering a reaction from me.  Maybe she was reflecting true-to-life behavior because—let’s face it—lots of people make bad choices over and over again in real life.  (Me included.)

How do you react when you read a book, or watch a movie/TV show, and a character walks headfirst into a scenario they know is a mistake?  Does it bug you?  Is it like watching a train wreck?  Or are you able to appreciate it for the conflict it’s intended to be?

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  • Reply
    Marianna Ramondetta Heusler
    September 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    There is something called the “willing suspension of disbelief” but that can take you only so far. There is something else as well “The difference between fiction and fact is that fiction has to make sense.” If it doesn’t, the reader usually becomes discouraged.

    • Reply
      September 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Love it! My version of “willing suspension of disbelief” = “Check my brain at the door.” (Hubby calls it a chick flick. LOL)

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    When a character is TSTL (too stupid to live) she’s also TSTR (Too stupid to read).
    Bang goes the book, right into the wall!

  • Reply
    CJ Burright
    October 1, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I like tension, but when the protagonist does stupid things over and over…it gets old fast. If the stupid acts make sense, at least to the character, I can give them the benefit of the doubt, to a point.

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