Feasibility Matters

We naturally follow a “what’s in it for me” law in everything we do, be it the pursuit of a hobby (fun overweighs the cost), a job (money overweighs the effort) or an investment (gain overweighs the risk). Even if we’re not aware of it, we’re always performing this comparison in our minds, and logically assume and expect others to do the same.

The good ol’ gain over cost estimation that drives our modern world is also valid for fictional worlds. We expect fictional characters to have the common sense to make profitable choices, otherwise they lose credibility. If they make poor choices without good reason, we nturally assume they’re a bunch of boneheads, and we’d be right. So, as writers, we must learn to make good feasibility studies whenever we plot our stories.

Feasibility whaa?

Feasibile means capable of being accomplished or brought about. In other words, realistic. A feasibility study is an analysis and evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it is (1) technically feasible, (2) feasible within the estimated cost, and will later be (3) profitable. In other words, possible, affordable and worthwhile.

When they want something, people intuitively performe a feasibility check and choose the path of least resistence to get the thing they’re after. Sane people will always opt for the course of action that is easiest, least costly and least risky to reach their goals. And your characters should do the same.

Since you’re a writer, you’re probably a sadistic little bastard who loves to create lovable people, bestow them with all that’s good and nice in the world, and then plop them into chaos and watch the squirm and writhe in their own despair. I know I do, and I love it. But just because we like to make our characters’ lives miserable doesn’t mean they should make things complicated for themselves.

If your protagonist has a goal that he wants to reach, he’ll look for the shortest way to reach it. You will put obstacles in his way—or better yet, the antagonist will put obstacles in his way—but he’ll always look for the easy way out. Your protagonist will never opt for a convoluted solution to his problem if he can pick a simple one. He won’t be looking for ways to give as much as possible, risk as much as possible and alter his personality just to cross the road and get a bagel.

So remember, when you send your protagonist forth into the mighty adventure of Storyworld, make sure you run a feasibility study on his choices and actions. Make them smart and sensible, and feasible within your story. Nobody wants to relate to a thickhead, not even a fictional one. And you don’t want your readers to watch some dude heroically jump the barbed-wire fence with the gate wide open, now, do you?

18 Replies to “Feasibility Matters”

  1. This is what I wish more authors would realize: Your protagonist will never opt for a convoluted solution to his problem if he can pick a simple one. He won’t be looking for ways to give as much as possible, risk as much as possible and alter his personality just to cross the road and get a bagel.

    Great post, and the rest in your a to z series are excellent too. πŸ™‚ BTW, we miss you!!

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    1. Regarding the bagel comment: It really depends on how important the bagel is. In your character has an animal mindset, then they very well might risk life and limb for it. For animals, three things are like god to them,

      1. Food.

      2. Territory/safety

      3. Sex

      Obviously if they don’t have food, then safety/territory is a mute point. Yet I totally get what you were saying… for a human it would not make any sense… but for a crazier type of mindset it would : )

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! Well written thickheads do indeed run feasibility checks, they just don’t use the right parameters or underestimate the effort and the risks, you’re absolutely right!

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  2. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to have found your blog through A-Z. πŸ™‚

    Excellent point and post. While my characters might find themselves in “unbelievable” situations (I tend to write in the paranormal realm), their responses need to make sense. If they take the long-way-round, no one’s going to go with them.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! It’s true that there are people in real life who can’t tell a bold decision from a stupid one, but they don’t make good fictional characters. πŸ™‚

      Like

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