There's also a third kind of dumb mistake: when the protagonist is convinced they've done something wrong and then the author intervenes to show that no, they were actually right! My least favorite example is the protagonist committing a crime and then the author saying there was a law passed a few days before it happened that made this activity not a crime. I really hate that kind of blatant plot manipulation.
My least favorite example is the protagonist committing a crime and then the author saying there was a law passed a few days before it happened that made this activity not a crime.
Does that actually happen? That's too absurd for words.
-- Dan Hemmens
Yes. In David Feintuch's Prisoner's Hope. The protagonist sets off a nuclear weapon to save a planet, which is treason in his future society that hates all things nuclear, and goes home to await trial- only to receive word on the way that the Earth government has just passed a law saying that if a nuclear weapon is set off to save a planet, then it's not treason. Do not ask me why I read these books.
Damn. How did that even work? Wouldn't the protagonist getting away consequence-free suck a good deal of the sacrifice/nobility out of his choice? Why do writers do that to their stories?
I saw that less as a moral vindication than as a cheap deus ex machina.
Protagonist *did* think he was committing treason and sentencing himself to death in order to accomplish his goal, *did* at the time have every reason to believe that he was making a sacrifice... but Feintuch wanted to keep him alive for the next book.
That's utterly ludicrous. It's made even more ludicrous by being completely unnecessary. Any halfway-decent lawyer could make the argument that saving a planet wasn't treason, any halfway sympathetic jury could at least plausibly buy it.
The whole *concept* of precedent law is based on the idea that a court is there not only to try the facts of the case, but also to make a call on how and where the law should be applied.
-- Dan Hemmens
Plus, it seems like that would be a lot more interesting. I mean, dealing with the sway of public opinion and the legal battle and if the protagonists has any enemies, are they going to try to affect the trial. And was it really justified -- could there have been another way?
You could tell a whole part of the story about the consequences of the protagonist's actions, and how he deals with them. Sweeping it under the rug is boring.
That drives me nuts! That kind of dumb mistake has no place outside of farce and most authors who make that kind of mistake aren't trying to write farce. They just can't bear to see their special widdle protagonists get punished at the end.