Make it believable

I know, I know. I should post more. But I’ve been away for a week, and my brain knocked off its keister for another by a snotball storm.

The other not-posting issue is not having anything to post about, but I’ll work on that, I promise.

So it’s 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning, and the cartoons that are on aren’t the ones I like to watch, so I thumbed the remote to Terminator: Salvation on the Movie Network. It was already a quarter in when I started watching it — Marcus had just met Kyle (the actor for whom, by the way, is as perfect a young-Kyle as I could imagine) — and now I’m about halfway through.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the movie, but only if I don’t think about it. Unfortunately, I had a brief flash of thinking in the middle of a snotball blizzard a little while ago, and I wondered:

If the theorem that computers don’t make mistakes — the humans who use them do is true, why do the Machines have such bad aim?

Unless I missed it somewhere, isn’t their mission to eradicate the human race? Or at least subdue them to the point where the humans are nothing but a herd of sheep…

In which case, why?

The Machines have no need for humans. Machines can build more Machines. Machines can build Machines to do every job a human would be needed for, so unless the Terminator series are the precursors for the Matrix movies, there is no purpose in keeping humans alive beyond, you know, infiltrating the humans, finding John Connor, ending the Resistance, yadda yadda yadda.

In which case, here’s another question: If John Connor is such a pain in the butt, why not take the easy route and nuke the planet, getting rid of everybody at once? It’s not as if Machines need a healthy planet in which to thrive.

It all comes down to believability, to make sure that every why question can be answered with something plausible. It’s the Mythbusters approach to character and plot building — is the condition at least possible?

That’s what I try to keep in mind when I write a story. It’s what makes me go back and rework something that might not work for someone else to at least lead them into figuring out the answer on their own, or explaining it outright.

I like Terminator: Salvation. It’s a smash-bang flick with nonstop action that picks up an audience and carries it all the way through the movie, kicking and screaming, until they sit down and realize the premise of the movie — that it’s not just humans who can suffer the human condition after all.

For me to like this movie, I have to turn off my brain. There’s just too many why questions that go unanswered. It’s not all that easy to turn off my brain when I read a book, and I end up tossing books that fail the believability test within the first three chapters. But the books that let me think, well, this is at least plausible (or don’t even give me the chance to get to that point), those are the books I cherish.

Now if only they’d pay authors the equivalent of a big movie budget, to make it fair…

Leave a Reply