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Plot Armor: for Writers and Others

Several weeks ago, I went over a lot of writers’ terms in my acronyms blog. I recently learned a new term for writers. It is also used in discussions of TV shows, movies and video games. The concept is not new to me, but the phrase is. It’s plot armor.

What is Plot Armor?

In the past, I have associated the concept of plot armor with typical American stories. It exists in both novels and Hollywood productions. As a general rule, the good guy always survives. He’s inexplicably indestructible and/or super lucky, so even though he may encounter un-survivable situations, he still survives. Additional to that, for the majority of American writers, the good guy always wins.

In contrast, I’ve noticed that with European movies and stories, anything goes. You never know what to expect because the protagonist can die and the good guy can lose. As a writer, I feel that is more natural and more true to life’s circumstances.

Oprah giving away plot armor to everyone

I love the “love always wins” approach of Dean Koontz, one of my favorite authors. However, I do also like the pull of the unknown when you don’t know where the story will take you until the author or screen writer gives the destination. The thing I like least, though, is when they stop the story or movie short, without a conclusion, basically letting you imagine the outcome you’d like. I prefer to let the storyteller tell the whole story from beginning to end.

Plot armor is not just for movies and video games. It exists in novels and stories. Which brings up a good question for writers: how much is too much? It’s important not to take advantage of readers and push the story’s plot too far into the unbelievable.

Like my grandmother used to say, “You learn something new every day.” I recently learned of plot armor and just had to share this phrase with you. I wonder if it was new to you…

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Yoda saying, "T
he plot armor is strong in this one."

Jenifer Tull-Gauger Kyoshi

Children's picture book author/illustrator. Traditional karate teacher and practitioner. Loves drawing and all kinds of art. Also into animals, plants and Mother Nature.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Vidhi

    The phrase is new to me. Plot armor used to be… basically my trust in books, but ever since I read Divergent by Veronica Ross (you might have heard of it?) my faith in plot armor died.
    I also started reading the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, but the main character lost her… humanness as the series went on. It’s an amazing series, and I love the story and the writing, but it’s so unpredictable.
    There’s also All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, which is about a depressed main character with (I think) a sleep disorder. Beautiful book, but the ending shook me.

    I feel that using the “Hollywood ending” all the time makes the book unrealistic, but that stretching a reader too thin makes them drop the story. The key is to have a good balance of good, happy things and bad, negative things without wearing out the reader to the point that they stop reading.

    And always try to give the story the ending it deserves, whether it be happy or unhappy. An unhappy ending isn’t necessarily a bad one, and a happy ending isn’t always a good one. Just so long as you finish the story.

    Thank you for sharing this post and your thoughts. I did learn something new. ^^

    1. Jenifer Tull-Gauger Renshi

      You are most welcome. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the importance of having a balance in stories and plots, as well as your preference on endings. I do agree! I have heard of Divergent, and enjoyed the movie, although I have learned to not expect plot armor in Science Fiction stories, probably due to watching the old series “The Twilight Zone.” Thank you for sharing the other books which some of us might want to read. I will be looking up the Uglies in the near future. Glad you learned something new.

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