The Power of Plot Compels You

I’m writing fanfiction on this story. There is a non-human enemy skulking around and hiding totally intending on attacking a place, even attacked a lone guy to study him. Anyway the protags knows it’s planning an attack. But what I don’t fully get is it’s framing the enemy being very cunning and not bold as they haven’t properly struck yet. Wouldn’t intel be very important? Any attacker, cunning or not, needs intel. Why frame an enemy doing basic intel as very cunning?

So, there’s something very backwards here. You’re asking me why your character is doing what you’ve decided they’ll do, rather than asking what they would do. There’s a couple distinct instances of this, and it comes down to a fundamental writing problem. You’ve decided on the plot, and are now running into logical failures when you try to implement it.

You have a character who wants to attack a base. Before you get that far, you probably want an answer to, why it wants to attack the base. Your PoV characters may not be privy to this, but as the author, you need to have decided this.

“Why,” is very important for the advance planning that follows. If your character needs to extract something, then they need to create an approach that will prevent that resource being destroyed. If this is a prisoner rescue, for example, you can’t exactly carpet bomb the place (they also may not have the option to begin with, but you understand what I mean.)

Similarly, if it’s a rescue, they probably don’t want to risk being detected before they’re ready to act, because that could result in heightened security, and the individual they’re trying to rescue being moved elsewhere.

All of the advanced reconnaissance you can collect is worthless, if the base you’re studying goes on high alert and starts pulling in extra forces to comb the surrounding area for you.

On the other hand, if the entire point is to draw in additional enemies for that carpet bombing, then, yes, picking off lone sentries, working the nerves of the people on the base until they send out a call for help, is the one approach you’d want to take.

Now, to be clear, I don’t know what the parameters of your story are, nor do I know what setting your working with is. However, as a writer, you need to know why your characters are doing what they’re doing. (All of your characters.) You don’t need to (and, really shouldn’t) share all of that with the audience. It’s fine to let them work out the motivations of all your non-PoV characters. (Sometimes it will be clear, sometimes it won’t.) However, If you ever sit down and ask yourself, “why is my character doing this?” Something has gone very wrong.

-Starke

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