Hello Mythcreants, I am your Star of Hope again with a new question:

*Spoiler warnings for Assassins Creed Rogue*

How can I write a conflict based on a misunderstanding without making it contrived? For instance the hero hates a character for something they didn’t do, but due to very unfortunate events and carelessness, this person made themselves unwittingly a suspect as they made the mistake of helping (unwittingly) the bad guy or making the impression of being associated with them.

However, often in fiction, when something similar happens it feels contrived and makes the hero even more unlikable, like in AC Rogue where Shay mindlessly accuses Achilles of killing innocent people with some ancient precursor sites, despite having no idea what destructive power they hold. Had he explained properly what happened, all the deaths and conflict that happened because of that could have been averted.

How could I avert such a contrivance? If the entire trope is bad, I might as well drop it, so feel free to tell me your opinion, guys and gals and non-binary pals.

With Love,
Star of Hope

Hi Star of Hope,

So what we call a misunderstanding is typically something where someone gets the wrong initial impression and then the characters don’t communicate sufficiently to clear it up. This setup works great for comedies, because the stakes are lower (so it’s more reasonable that they don’t make the effort to clear the air), misunderstandings can be quite funny, and comedy audiences just don’t expect it to have the same level of realism.

In darker and higher stakes stories, misunderstandings can happen, but they are generally cleared up by the end of the scene. If it takes longer, it starts to feel contrived.

However, this can change if it’s not just an innocent misunderstanding. An antagonist may purposely keep characters apart and poison one or both against the other. This still has its limits, though. Mainly, the antagonistic character needs to be in a trusted position, so the protagonist(s) they are misleading has a good reason to take their word instead of trusting the other protagonist or their own impressions.

Any kind of misunderstanding works better if the protagonists involved don’t know each other that well and/or only have the opportunity to interact with each other briefly.

I hope that gives you an idea. Happy writing!

Chris

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