Six years ago, I wrote about the question why and how it can improve your storytelling. As in why are your characters doing this? Why are they going here? Why would he do/say/think that? (You can read that post here.)
These are routine questions that my husband asks as he reads drafts of my novel. And while his questions are sometimes annoying, they do make my story better. And they have changed how I write because as I write, I am already looking for what scenes he is going to question.
Another way to get good at questioning the character motivation/action or plot of your work-in-progress is to check out the Pitch Meetings on the Screen Rant YouTube Channel. In this series by Ryan George, a pitchman (Ryan) presents movies to a studio executive (also played by Ryan). The movies may be current or slightly older, but either way studio exec Ryan questions and points out flaws.
When asked to explain a flaw, our pitchman sometimes answers “I don’t know,” “because,” or “because they are (or aren’t) the main character.” And sometimes a plot flaw is brushed away because it is “super easy, barely an inconvenience.”
Check out this section of the “Jurassic World Pitch Meeting.”
This “super easy, barely an inconvenience” thing happens a lot. I was watching Criminal Minds the other day. The agents opened a closet to reveal a bunch of boxes containing old records. They needed to find an old patient who may be the unsub (bad guy). Did it take them long? No, it was super easy, barely an inconvenience as they opened one box and found the file right away. I know TV shows are under a time constraint but it wouldn’t have been hard or time consuming to show their search taking longer.
Here are two other short clips that show a movie’s flaw. The first is from Captain America: Winter Soldier.
If you really want a good Pitch Meeting with lots of flaws. Check out the one for Ready Player One. (The book was better than the movie and didn’t contain a lot of the flaw that the movie did.) Here is just a snippet of the Pitch Meeting.
So, don’t take the easy way out. Give your characters challenges. And make them work for their goal. Question everything they do because your readers sure will. Rarely do people do something without a reason. And yes, that reason may only make sense to them but at least there needs to be a reason beyond it is what you (the author) want for the story. Always, look for the flaws in your story and answer the question “why” and you will add realism and believability of your story.