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Author Topic: Overused story ideas  (Read 15471 times)
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Ed
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« on: July 06, 2009, 03:54:32 PM »

In a bored moment I happened upon the Black Ink Horror submission guidelines, and it struck me we could all do worse than look down through the list to make sure we stay away from "OVERUSED STORY IDEAS". There are quite a few of these lists around, and I may add a couple more to this thread yet.

Anyhoo, take a look at this page - http://www.sideshowpresspublications.com/Submission_Info.html - and then scroll down to where it says "THE BIH GUIDE TO OVERUSED STORY IDEAS" and tuck in to the list. See how many of them you've written at some point, or seen many times yourself. Must admit I often read through the submissions to our annual comp and groan at some of these very same tired ideas. The mutilated genitalia ones I find particularly tiresome.
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 04:26:14 PM »

Protagonist wakes up trapped in a room/basement/pit, and is tied down, naked, and about to be tortured.

Guilty. One of my first flash entries here fit this mold perfectly. Ah well.
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 05:02:21 PM »

After reading hundreds of shorts for both Escape Velocity and as a fiction judge I too could compile a list of commonly used themes for all genres. For horror there is a list created years ago by Strange Horizons. Here it is again
http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common-horror.shtml

Note they don't proscribe any such stories, just point out they see a lot of them. Hard to be original isn't it?

Geoff
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 07:43:39 PM »

Stories involving hitch hikers

Boy I am caught "dead to rights" on that one. I think I have written about 4 or 5 of those. Only tried to publish two of them and failed with both..... bleh
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Ed
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2009, 03:18:08 AM »

We talked about this at band camp. If you find yourself wanting to write an overused story idea, such as a hitch hiker story, then you have to bring something new to it - turn it on its head, look at it from an angle you haven't seen it before, think outside of the box.

One of the guys there had a story about a millionaire awaking from cryogenic suspension a few hundred years in the future and finding it difficult to fit in. It was very nicely written, with barely a fault. Even as I was critting it I was thinking this is good, but there's something wrong here that I can't quite put my finger on. Tom Monteleone voiced it - he'd seen the same story dozens of times before in his days as a sci fi writer and editor. He added, even if you're the most skilled writer who ever lived, without fresh story ideas you won't get anywhere.

In this case he suggested telling the story from the point of view of the disgruntled tech whose job it was to reanimate these people. That's something you haven't seen before, so you can take an old idea and give it a new twist, with a bit of effort.
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2009, 03:46:38 AM »

Except that I've already written one of those from the techie's pov. Nothing new under the sun  grin
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Ed
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2009, 03:50:29 AM »

Yeah, he also said sometimes you'll get caught out, but them's the breaks bleh
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2009, 04:45:35 AM »

Which all goes to prove it's about character not plot! Put an engaging and sympathetic character into some BIG trouble, have him struggling desperately to get out of it, and have his troubles worsen... and even if he's hitched a lift with a trucker who has terribly mutilated genitals on account of he accidentally got them caught in the liquid nitrogen that he's using to preserve the late Hollywood sex-bomb that he's transporting from one cryogenic facility to another and you'll still be all right. It can still be a fine tale. Just don't make the genitals or the cryogenics the main character in your story.

But there's also another side to all of this. Why are so many movies essentially the same? Why are so many books the same? Why do kids love the same stories over and over? There may be an underlying need for some people to read/watch similar stories time and again.

Derek
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2009, 08:15:39 AM »

I think some people, children in particular, find it comforting to have a routine - it brings order to an otherwise random event. Just as people like their monsters to look like monsters. It's nice to have things squared away in their own easy little pigeonhole.
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2009, 01:35:28 PM »

Yes, the familiar is comforting, hence the millions of samey westerns books and films. So are basic instincts that are enacted in books and film such as revenge and the resolution of conflict. However, experienced readers and film goers also yearn to find the unexpected.

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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2009, 01:44:04 PM »

No, go on, elucidate huh
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2009, 09:34:54 AM »


Anyhoo, take a look at this page - http://www.sideshowpresspublications.com/Submission_Info.html - and then scroll down to where it says "THE BIH GUIDE TO OVERUSED STORY IDEAS" and tuck in to the list.

argh, and there I was about to start work on my 'mutilated penis' magnum opus.
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« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2009, 06:54:11 PM »

My ultimate gag reflex stimulator....

Semi literate street talking teen finds supernatural way to get even with an authority figure. Lots of gore and angst... bangh bangh bangh bangh
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