Archive for January 22nd, 2011

Jan 22 2011

Types of Story Strange Horizons Has Received Too Often

Published by under Fixing Cliches,Plotting

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Strange Horizons has a list of stories it receives too often.  Here are some that I think are especially unpromising.

  • Person is (metaphorically) at point A and wants to be at point B. The character walks to point B, encountering no meaningful obstacles or difficulties. The end. (A.k.a. the linear plot.)
  • Weird things happen, but it turns out they’re not real.  (“It was a dream” or “It was insanity” are bad enough, but “It was a story the character was writing” is uniquely loathsome).
  • The main reason for the main female character to be in the story, and to be female, is so that she can be raped.  (Can I add “or so that she can fall in love with the protagonist?”)
  • People whose politics are different from the author’s are shown to be stupid, insane, or evil, usually through satire, sarcasm, stereotyping, and wild exaggeration.
  • Story is based in whole or part on a D&D game or world.  (Or any video games, unless you’ve been licensed to create a licensed work).

I’d like to sort of dispute Strange Horizons’ complaint about works that “[claim] that superhero stories never address the mundane problems that superheroes would run into in the real world.”    Yes, many superhero stories do handle such mundane, everyday situations, so such a claim is obviously incorrect.  But I don’t think it would be cliche, or otherwise problematic, to address everyday life in a superhero story.  Hell, at least one publisher (This Mutant Life) specifies in its submission guidelines that it’s looking for such submissions: “Stories which deal with the everyday lives of people with unusual abilities or physical characteristics are ideal [for us].”

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