Writing: ‘why doesn’t she just’

When I’m talking about films or books with The Big Spoon, his great gift is asking questions that show up how much stories rely on characters reacting out of proportion.

If she knows she’s ill, why doesn’t she go and ask for a prescription? If they know a crime has occurred, why don’t they report it? If he’s sorry, why doesn’t he send a card? If the child was adopted, why not tell it? If the ghost wants the door closed, why not leave it closed? If she only ever calls to cause trouble, why keep answering the phone?

If a powerful character owes him a favour, why doesn’t he just call it in before people die? If the feud is all due to a misunderstanding, why doesn’t she just tell her? If his nightmares are affecting his judgement, why doesn’t he try sleeping in a different room?

I don’t mean that the story should actually take the simpler path. The Big Spoon recognises that fictional characters do not get to take the option to sit in comfortable chairs wearing comfortable trousers, drinking tea and letting conflict sail past them. But when there’s a ‘why doesn’t she just…’ question, it must be addressed.

‘We’ve come too far to turn back’ is only valid when it’s literally about fuel consumption.