Tag Archives: Digital Storytelling

Applied Phlebotinum: TV Tropes and Fiction Writing

You know how sometimes, when you’re reading a book/watching TV/playing a game, something happens, and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve seen this before. And now that guy’s going to die, and those ones are going to fall in love as a result, and the bad guy is going to switch sides.”

There’s a reason for that. It’s because there is usually a particular rhyme and reason to storytelling, and people who read/hear/watch/play a lot of stories know that there are common threads.

This is the basis behind TV Tropes, a wiki site dedicated to giving a name and basis for the things we recognize in the kinds of storytelling without even realizing it.In the words of TV Tropes’ actual home page,

This wiki is a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means “stereotyped and trite.” In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

If you’re a writer of any sort, you have undoubtedly used a number of these tropes in your own work. If you’re not a writer, you have no doubt seen dozens of them. But do you really understand them? Can you use them in a sentence? Can you use them in your writing? On purpose?

Some of these tropes are fairly recognizable, while some others are a little more obscure, like Kryptonite is Everywhere, a trope pointing out the unusual coincidence that bad guys tend to often have – no! – the good guy’s weakness! Especially if the good guy is a superhero with only one weakness.

Even if that weakness is a piece of radioactive planet from the opposite end of the universe, petty bank robbers will have access to it. Sometimes multiple versions of it. Somehow.

Kryptonite Comic Image

This is a great example of what makes TV Tropes particularly useful. Though the site started (as the name implies) pointing out common tropes in TV shows, it has expanded to include literature, comic books, anime/manga, movies, video games, and even webcomics.

That means you can see how the same plot device or storytelling element shows up across multiple different forms of media.

Every time you look up a trope, you are given a detailed desrcription of that trope (complete with links to related tropes), and then at the bottom, a list of noted examples of that trope appearing in fiction.

If you prefer to just go search for your favorite movies, shows, or games, and see what tropes appear in those, you can do that, too.

Should you actually find yourself on TV Tropes, I must warn you: you may be there for a while. Once you start breaking apart the individual elements of fiction and seeing behind the curtain, it’s hard to stop. You end up learning a lot about the tricks and tools of constructing  a story, and then you start seeing them show up when you consume fiction, and you start to want to know more. It’s hard to stop.

So the next time you see someone use Applied Phlebotinum, or somebody gives a Hand Wave explanation to move the plot along, you should have no trouble calling it out.

Beyond NaNoWriMo

You may have already seen Ruth’s post about National Novel Writing Month, the month long writing marathon open to anyone interested. While NaNoWriMo has been going on since 1999, other versions of this intensive writing activity are popping up this year. Here are a few other examples that play off of NaNoWriMo’s crazy-intense goals. For digital writers, check out:

Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo):

Because NaNoWriMo defines its novel-length writing challenge as 50,000 words, DigiWriMo follows their word count challenge. The point of DigiWriMo is to try to write 50,000 words digitally-by blogging, tweeting, whatever you’d like. The challenge is to think creatively: not only about what you write, but how people interact with what you write as well. See more about how DigiWriMo got started by reading this interview with the cofounders; or to participate, follow this link.

For academic writers (I’m looking at you, mentally-blocked dissertaters), there are a few option:

Academic Book Writing Month (AcBoWriMo):

AcBoWriMo started last year as a beta project when PhD2Published blogger, Charlotte Frost, challenged herself and a colleague to tackle all of their soon-due academic writing during NaNoWriMo. This might be a great way for those of us writing dissertations, theses, or even the dreaded semester-long essay to try to get a bulk of it done quickly. It doesn’t all have to be written gold, but at least it gives you a starting point to revise from. Check this out to see the (relatively) relaxed rules of AcBoWriMo. Interestingly, the 2011 AcBoWriMo inspired the #AcWri twitter tag and “fortnightly” live chats. This year, AcBoWriMo has turned into:

Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo):

In order to not exclude those not writing books, the AcWriMo folks have dropped the “Bo” from their name. Again, PhD2Published leads the charge for Academic Writing Month, but The Chronicle of Higher Education has picked up the call this year as well.

So, what writing competition are you considering? What one do you wish you felt up to tackle?

 

Do-it-Yourself Storytelling in Video Games

In most video games or digital narratives, the story is provided to you as part of the experience. Some games, like Dys4ia, are specifically geared toward telling a story as their entire purpose.

But in some cases, you only have the digital environment to work with, and often, that environment gives you only a context, and no particular narrative.

This is where a lot of classic game stories come from. For instance:

Save the princess!

Super Mario Brothers

And, um… save the princess!

 

(The Legend of Zelda)

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Dys4ia: An Interactive Autobiography about Gender and Sexuality

Let me start off here with a disclaimer.

Our topic of discussion this week is a game that deals with some potentially uncomfortable personal stuff. It deals with bodies, and body parts, and gender perceptions, and it does all of this in a pretty mature (as in not for kids) way. That’s in terms of some of the visuals but also the language used. So consider the “NSFW” tag applied.

That said, Dys4ia is a successful art game because  it discusses these issues openly and honestly, without being squeamish. More on that shortly. Continue reading

Digital Storytelling and Creative Writing

You don’t know me (yet), but here are some things you need to know about me: I love creative writing, I love reading, and I rarely pick up a book for fun.

Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t read Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings after their second books. I didn’t read the Hunger Games at all. And I haven’t touched Dickens or many of the classic pieces of fiction that are so often considered exemplary in the field of creative writing. For that matter, I didn’t watch their movies, either. Yet I love reading. I love storytelling, and I actually do, professionally, a form of creative non-fiction writing.

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