Visiting Tropes #2 (Syndromes & Curses)

In this series we explore various, popular tropes found in media. This is done by tapping that nifty “random trope” button at tvtropes.org, reading the base material of three results, and throwing our thoughts at the wall to see what sticks.

As we do.

 

“Occam’s Razor”

Occam’s Razor is a phrase for which I’ve read the definition at least five separate times and can never remember what it means. Hopefully writing this piece will break that pattern and actually cement the phrase into the wet blob of grey meat between my ears.

Basically Occam’s Razor is believing a theory based on the fewest number of “stretches” or leaps in reason or logic.  It is an anti-conspiratorial guideline (not a rule) which condemns the need for grandiose assumptions.

“When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not unicorns.”

Tvtropes.org has a nifty ladder of concepts to help us understand this on a step-by-step level:

There have been theories that ancient aliens built the Egyptian Pyramids instead of humans. For this to be true, we’d need the following givens:

  1. aliens exist
  2. they are intelligent
  3. they exist contemporaneously with humans
  4. they develop interstellar/intergalactic travel
  5. they know how to find us
  6. they can build pyramids
  7. they would not leave any evidence of their existence
  8. they would waste time building pyramids

The more normal theory only requires that:

  1. humans exist
  2. humans can build pyramids
  3. humans would waste time building pyramids.

 

…and we don’t even need to ask if humans would waste time building pyramids. We have proven time and again that we will go to much greater lengths to sacrifice our most precious resource to the gods of futility and vanity.

The most infamous example of abandoning Occam’s Razor I have in my arsenal is the reveal of Obito as the man in the mask in Naruto. There was soooooo much material absent from this reveal, yet the majority of the fans suspected this development, while the minority of us who actually cared to do research knew it couldn’t be him.  The majority were dropping so many “but maybe if”s and it was maddening.

Not as maddening as them actually being right in the end, but still.

 

“Golden Egg Syndrome”

Plot twist! This isn’t actually a trope, but rather a concept related to storytelling and cognition.

I first heard this on the Writing Excuses podcast (check dat crap out, yo. It’s da shiz) and it resonated with me because I was guilty of it.  Have you ever developed a story idea in your head?  Did you become really emotionally and mentally attached to that story?  When time came to write/draw/whatever something other than your story, could you do it?

The Golden Egg Syndrome is what happens when we’ve spent so much time and energy incubating our perfect creative product that we end up being unable to create anything else. You are either intimidated by the prospect of starting from the beginning again, your new creations end up being the Golden Egg with new skin, or you think whatever else you make won’t be as good by comparison.

I managed to break this eventually (thank you fan-fiction, for being close-to, but not entirely worthless), but I have at least one friend who is currently in the throes of this problem.  He’s so far along in his ‘mind-story’ which has been developing for over fifteen years that he wouldn’t even know where to start writing it.  But he doesn’t want to reboot it, or do anything else, so he resigns himself to squeezing out every ounce from a plot and world which should have concluded long ago.

People who’ve never experienced Golden Egg Syndrome might think this is ludicrous, and it is, but it’s also very real and much harder to break than you’d suspect.

 

“So Beautiful, It’s a Curse”

This one’s probably self-explanatory, but lucky for you we get to delve a little bit into nuance.

At its core, this trope orbits the perception of other characters and the feelings it places upon them.  If you have a supermodel walk onto a scene (whether casually or with purpose), it’s likely to inspire some level of jealousy in those nearby.  If not jealousy, then maybe intimidation, suspicion, or other negative emotions.  Because of this, the supermodel becomes open to multiple different avenues of maltreatment, such as being noticed only for their stellar good-looks and not for their character, abilities, or values.

Now, if that sounds absurd, guess what, that’s another part of the maltreatment. After a certain threshold is reached, your feelings become less important because look at you, you’re gorgeous. You can’t be suffering that badly.  And you know it’s true, because you’ve probably heard somebody say it before.  And if you haven’t, then as they say, it might be you.  Beauty can be a blessing, sure, in the right conditions.  Outside of those conditions it’s grounds for dismissal in any serious matter and makes you a lightning rod for disdain.

But wait, there’s more! This trope really has a lot going on, so we’re just going to gatling-gun some points, here.

People cursed by beauty run into the (expected) probably of easily being victimized in the cheap ‘rape as drama’ narrative, and can be further influenced by the culture around the medium.  They also get kidnapped a lot.  Cough, Princess Peach, cough.

Have you ever thought pretty people were, by default, mean people? Of course not, because you’re all decent human beings. But for those of us who don’t shine everywhere we go, there is an occasional gut response to staggering beauty which makes us assume the person is fundamentally unlikable.  This, as you can imagine, makes it difficult to form meaningful friendships.

And then to wrap it up, let’s draw a quote from one of my favorite websites on the internet: Cracked.com.  The following passage is from their article: “5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won’t)” (I recommend you read the whole thing, bee-tee-dubs):

“…attractive people have the same self-esteem problems the ugly people do. Like money, attractiveness is relative and if you’re hotter than your friends, at that stage you start comparing yourself to people in the media. You know, like the magazine covers we mentioned before, the ones that that have had the living shit Photoshopped out of them.
It gets worse: You know how when the hot girl at the bar tells an unfunny joke, all the guys laugh anyway? Or when the office stud makes a mistake, the female boss laughs it off? Attractive people live in a world where most feedback they get is bullshit. The compliments mean nothing — they’ve learned that’s just the sound people make when they walk by. That’s why studies show they tend to dismiss the genuine compliments they get in other areas (their work, personality, sense of humor, creativity) because it gets lumped in with the same counterfeit flattery they’ve been getting their whole lives.”
Advertisements

Thoughts From the Kitchen – (#2 My War Against the Beginning)

I used to think the beginning of stories were the easiest parts to write.  Lo, ’tis not.

The more I develop my knowledge in the minefield of writing, the more I am convinced the original conception of a story might be the most difficult, especially in the case of fabricating entirely new universes and/or timelines.  It’s all so front-heavy.  The balancing game between when to exposit and navigating exactly how much is insidious.  What’s more, at the same time, creating this framework is one of the most invigorating parts of the whole process.  The contradiction isn’t discouraging, though whether it’s daunting or not is hardly a question.  I am madly daunted by the act of creation.

We are in Quarter 2 of the year, and I’m well on my way to reaching my writing goals. (Wait, did I forget to make a post about my writing goals? Whoops.) But hey, I’m a fully functional and cognizant human being with a head on my shoulders only half filled with brick, so I’m able to recognize a decent chunk of the patterns which pass me by.  Try to pick up the trend:

  1. “Write an installment for the Puppet Kitchen at least once a week.” (25%) (About to 37.5% baby. Word up.)
  2. Write two short stories (0%)
  3. Read at least one short story each week. (37.5%)
  4. Write 10,000 words of long-form (0%)
  5. Read at least two full books. (100%)
  6. Determine new outlining system/method. (100%)
  7. Build coherent image reference gallery. (100%)
  8. Finish the “Trope Project” (50%)

There’s two goals in there with zero percent accounted for, and would you look at that, they both tie back to writing the beginnings of new stories.  Wow.  Thematic relevance.

Now, I’ve always sucked at writing short stories, so I’m honestly not bothered by that so much. In fact, I’ve got more going on in that department than the long-form.  I’m a-brewing a nasty little romp tentatively titled “The Priestess” which will count for 50% of that goal, I just haven’t filled in any of the percentiles because, well, I don’t know how far along I am in the projected 3,000 word process.  Hard to say.

The subject which frays my edges a little more violently is that long-form catastrophe. My progress has been somewhere between horrifyingly abysmal and you should just quit and die, but I’m buoyed by the knowledge that, at least, I haven’t been entirely stagnant. The outlining aspiration did give me decent reason to step back a bit before plunging into a new cosmic, supernatural urban-fantasy landscape. But you see, I’ve since figured out my new outlining format, and still the world-forming pen stays idle.  Oh, it’s not that I haven’t done any worldbuilding, either.  I’ve taken care of all that silliness and more.  No, I just can’t seem to actually write the damn thing.

Sort of.  I technically have three chapters. But this story surpasses all of my earlier endeavors in just about every regard, including the quantity of nuts and bolts. I have a pretty healthy understanding when it comes to the first draft and how it’s pretty sufficiently doomed to be a dumpster fire, regardless of who you are (unless you’re Stephen King, who I’m convinced has better first drafts than most people have final manuscripts). But I can’t seem to grasp the foundation of the story.  There’s such an abundance of available detail, and I know I have to key in on only a small handful of the most relevant information and characters, else risk death by a thousand cuts and an early grave.

But choosing those details and doing them well, while maintaining the extracurricular world which must be at least vaguely consistent around the events of the early narrative, is harder than it’s ever been in my life. In a way, I feel as though this is a good thing. My plotting, characterization, world-building, and general ideation are all objectively better than say, when I was crafting “Doubting Puppet,” my last true plunge into long-form.  But I’m not quite good enough to wrap myself around the story.

It’s like I’ve been training to overcome a wall of my own construction.  I wanted something to test myself, so I formed a wall which would loom, clad in ornate platinum or polished marble.  Something which could tower and stretch a great shadow.  I even figured out how I’d climb it.  Running start, one or two vertical steps skyward on shoes made to grip, deep breath to focus and reach.  I grab the lip of the wall!

But I can’t crest the edge. My arms are so tired from building the blasted thing, I can’t so much as lift my own body-weight enough to steal enough leverage to gracelessly yank myself over the top.

That’s where I am.  I have the wall, a tapestry of stones alchemically chosen to be unlike any wall I’d seen before.  A wall which captures my voice, with a tonal and environmental aesthetic which performs beautifully and has never been done in the scope of my knowledge, yet isn’t contrived or steering too close to the anime curse of prioritizing a unique premise over a functional one.  It plays to my strengths in its emotional narrative, character social webs, mode of conflict, and low-key moral agendas.

It’s a beautiful wall.

Which I can’t seem to climb.

Not yet, anyways. I do hope to turn the tide soon, once I shrug off this inky black creature on my shoulders with the upside-down smile I like to call procrastination.

For the moment, I take solace in that I’m not simply twiddling my thumbs.  I’m definitely enabling myself to divorce the responsibilities of certain goals from my daily schedule, but the distractions are wearing thin. Here’s hoping that when I finally become lucid enough to kick myself in the tail and just buckle down, that lucidity will come with something I haven’t felt in a long time and sorely miss: my inherent and volcanic indignance to be better.

So here’s to cracking open the crude, molten shell which has swallowed my fighting spirit, and resurrecting something worthwhile for the sake of writing a story which might, I pray, eventually evolve into something bigger than myself.

Time to write.

“Bloody, Merry” – Original Short Poem

Once upon a witching hour
Mary stole the light of Old Miss Flowers
Little Mary cut out her heart
A tired display
Of timeless power

Once upon her broken nails
She tread the shadows of fables and tales
Mary was mean, but very lonely
A dark visage
Of final farewells

Once upon her dripping hands
“Bloody Mary” to the mirror, thrice they’d chant
Attending, a slave to this midnight summons
And so again
The horror began

Once upon some broken glass
When at last the image of Mary had passed
The lonely girl cursed black fate
Immortally wounded
And wounding contrast

Once upon a wicked hope
Joy filled her fingers as they fit noose to rope
A servant no more, Mary would fly
Dark memories crushed
Just like her throat