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Author Topic: The most overused settings  (Read 449 times)

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Offline LinnaTopic starter

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The most overused settings
« on: July 21, 2011, 08:27:54 PM »
I got to thinking about this the other day.  Why do we always fall back on the same situations and settings?

I mean, I'm not saying it's a bad thing... entirely.  But it seems that every day I see the same thing: Elf warrioress looking for an orc to level her up, or it's something like, Need abducting aliens to probe me.  And that's just the adult situations.  Why do we fall back on the same thing time and again?

I think it's kinda the whole... comfort zone... we all want to feel comfortable and hate to branch out sometimes.  But that's kinda the fun part, figuring out what you like and don't like.  Maybe I'm reading too much into this and just need to go back to reading my book.  Or maybe I need one of those aliens to come and probe me a bit.  Hmm...

Offline Enmuro

Re: The most overused settings
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2011, 10:34:08 PM »
Design and Avoiding Cliches makes a nice point on why we use cliches (With a unicorn graph even!). A plot that reads Elf x Orc is easy for anyone to understand at a glance. Pointy Eared Hipster x the Megalithic Man makes me think overly much and there's the sense that even reading that, I'm not on the same page as the author. Whereas generally, everyone knows what to expect from an Orc and an Elf warrioress (proud, haughty, slim physical build, pretty).

Finding the elusive middle ground between cliche hackneyed scenarios and "wtf is this guy thinking, I have no idea where he's coming from" is what we can aspire to. Good luck, because I so much as suggest a vampire with an overbite and I get boo'd out of my dnd group. And don't get me started on the failure of my extreme bobsled orgy plots.


Offline Shjade

Re: The most overused settings
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2011, 11:18:47 AM »
The short version: people know what they like and go with the guaranteed payoff.

Even when we're not playing into the "popular" ruts chances are we're playing into our own. For instance, I have a soft spot for messing around in time and space and tragic results. Does this result in the elf warrior losing to the orc brute? Now and then, sure, but more often it'd be something like the elf warrior starting the story off by getting killed then waking up some few hundred years later when discovered and reanimated by a necromancer and the subsequent changes necessary in her "life" regardless of whether the necromancer is an exploitative bastard or the nicest guy on earth; or the cute guy next door with a crush on his neighborhood MILF finding out that thousands of years ago she was actually a warrior before elves more or less went extinct and now she passes the days drinking a bit more heavily than is healthy in a vain endeavor to wash out lifetimes of lifetimes she's had to leave behind her just to keep taking part in the world as it changes around her.

You know. Standard stuff.

Point just being even those folks who seem to be thinking outside the box or just playing other-than-standard probably have their own themes and inclinations if you look closely enough. Look at the uncomfortable summations of most of Neil Gaiman's stories, for instance: they all pretty much boil down to "social outcast stumbles into another world and finds out they're important." Neverwhere, Coraline, Mirrormask, American Gods - you can drop them the same plot box, more or less, if you're inclined to look at it that way. It's just the way we're wired. ;p

Offline Xanatos

Re: The most overused settings
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2011, 12:36:55 AM »
There is also the unfortunate truth that there are only 9 (or so) base story ideas in existence. There are books written on the fact that there is no such thing as originality because its all been done before, and half of it during the years people always think Humanity was uncreative and "primitive" (I use primitive loosely yet pointedly), I.E. early nineteen hundreds and earlier. Most science fiction ideas were written during the early nineteen hundreds, a few or more during the eighteen hundreds. 

So, with the knowledge that nothing is original, what are people to do? They have no choice but to choose something that has been written to death. Sure, some ideas have been used less, but those ideas do tend to be used less for a reason - they are disliked, looked down upon, seen as taboo, hated, and etc etc. The only thing people can do is change things up as much as possible, which isn't much unfortunately. Really the only "cure" to an overused plot is a writer who can capture the readers imagination.

I think, also, a big reason for things like the elf x orc plot is because people associate with humanoids better than other more extreme or exotic things. Especially if the person is less sexually secure. I have branched out a bit thanks to being more comfortable with my writing and ability to portray things and with my sexuality (online anyways). I've always been open to a lot of fantasy/sci-fi/strange/unusual things, so mostly for me its been more of a growth as a writer that has seen me expanding here and there. For others, I am sure its based solely on what their sexuality allows.

Then there is the annoyingly intrusive... society. Vampires in modern society are like a glorious plague. They can, at the same time, be so deviously delightful to see/read about/play as, yet also like as everyone knows -coughs- twinkling vampires -coughs-, can be so damned dreadful that it makes one want to stake the vampire mythos and toss it out into the sun to die a horrible death. My point, is society latches onto things, and people get fascinated simply because its what society tells them to like.

Also, keep in mind, some people intentionally "want" to play certain things because they know it will attract potential partners to RP with. I certainly have entertained the thought of creating some plot ideas merely to attract "anyone" to RP with because I feel empty and wanting to fill it with an RP. I

As for the frustration, I know how you feel. I see way to many ideas I consider to be mundane and as populated as Australia's mouse plague that happens every few years. I do wish people would branch out more, but for the most part its a selfish and unrealistic expectation. Not everyone wants to nor is capable of doing so.

Offline kylie

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Re: The most overused settings
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2011, 05:51:17 AM »
     Yeah.  As someone who can't seem to stop leaning toward kidnaps...  But damn, not _another_ grabby van or cabin in the mountains!  Noooo.....
  At least, I always used to struggle with this on chat sites.

     I'm familiar with the approach that there are only so many basic stories, but I also think there is a sort of historical and personal cachet involved.  People are looking for people who will put just the sort of vibe and atmosphere they like, onto something otherwise "familiar."  Or they're looking for the sort of retelling and reframing that makes a "timeless" story move them.  Picking up present-day allusions and current fashions for the cast, telling the story in ways that reflect on present issues. 

     I used to love watching cable's Battlestar Galactica because it could compress matters of sacrifice, jealousy, risk, patriotism, courage, etc. into small segments and yet speak between generations.  There were vibes of the classic American swaggering, romantic Wild West gunslingers and the usual unforgiving Big Machine(s) set against the struggling, imperfect Civilization and its leaders plagued with impossible questions of risk and sacrifice.  Set in outer space and speaking to questions of patriotism and torture fit for post-9/11, or jealousy and insecurity fit for both contemporary gender wars and DNA manipulations...  I could go back to that show and I'm sure I'd find so much that just grabbed a story I knew was touching, and made it pertinent and gut-wrenching here and now.

    Not that every story needs to grab directly at some national history.  But I think people tend to look for a certain vibe "click" to make these familiar narratives, less so.  We can't change the whole language or the entire plot of familiar stories entirely, but we can tweak from various angles  and see if the effect grabs us.