Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A plot device fails

Wikipedia defines a plot device as,
 "...anything which moves the plot forward or maintains it.A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief. However a well-crafted plot device, or one that emerges naturally from the setting or characters of the story, may be entirely accepted, or may even be unnoticed by the audience."
Plot devices are used in novels, television, and movie scripts. They may be a thing or event that reinforces the overall story line in the reader's or viewer's mind. Some are obvious (the statue in The Maltese Falcon) and some are subtle. Some plot devices are cleverly finessed while others are stereotypical and border on cliches. 
Plot devices are important. They maintain the story line and more importantly, they keep the reader involved in the story, they must encourage the suspension of belief that is required to enjoy a fictional tale. 
The importance of plot devices came to me while watching last season's final episode of Castle

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, a brief synopsis. A crime novel writer receives permission from his friend, the New York mayor, to shadow a homicide detective in order to gain insight into procedures he can use in his books. Not surprisingly, the detective he follows around is female, young, pretty and troubled. They quickly become friends and eventually lovers. The plot is standard, it's been done too many times before. I waited until season four before watching an episode, and then only because I'm a rabid fan of Nathan Fillion (Firefly and Serenity). The show contains just enough humor and misdirection (every episode has multiple points where everyone thinks they know who the killer is, only to be proven wrong) to keep it interesting, so it wasn't long before I went back and watched each season. There's also a plot device that runs through many of the episodes in every season; who killed Detective Beckett's mother? That question has been answered last season and that plot device has been replaced with another; will Beckett and Castle get married?
It's this latest plot device that rang false to me and disturbed my suspension of disbelief. 
Castle is supposed to be a best-selling author. He's wealthy. He has a house in the Hamptons and an apartment in New York. He travels the globe frequently, almost casually, and in first-class. He doesn't have an office, he works at home. His daughter just left home for college, and his mother lives with him in his apartment.  
Beckett is a typical detective, not wealthy and tied by her job to New York. At the end of last season she was offered a position as an investigator for the Attorney General of the United States. This would involve a move to Washington D.C. 
This is presented as a deal-breaker for their relationship. Castle opines that this will mean they won't see each other any more. 
This plot device makes no sense. 
Castle could easily move to D.C. and let his mother keep his New York apartment. He could incorporate Beckett's change of jobs into the life of his fictional character based on her, Nicky Heat. In fact, a writer might welcome this change in the circumstances of his character. It opens new possibilities and venues. Introducing this "issue" into the plot makes us wonder what possible objection Castle could have to following his girlfriend to D.C.
Perhaps the writers will explain this satisfactorily in the next season. If I were writing for this show I would have avoided introducing that issue. 
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