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Author Topic: Originality?  (Read 14254 times)
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JonP
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« Reply #30 on: April 01, 2008, 06:42:26 AM »

I also think it's vitally important to take your own life experience and ideas, beliefs and attitudes, concerns and outrages, etc etc about the world and to try and use all of this to shine a different light on any given story to that which any other author could do.

Spot on. The most interesting stories to me are the ones that take ordinary people with ordinary attitudes and place them in an extraordinary situation. That way, you can use the extraordinary to comment on the ordinary, and use the ordinary to comment on the extraordinary.
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bintarab
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« Reply #31 on: April 01, 2008, 12:02:06 PM »

As Geoff said, his interviewee claimed that there tends not to be vivid characters in sci-fi -- whether you agree with that or not, the complex characters are the ones who will drive a plot in unexpected directions. These plot prompts won't create a person for you or present you with the core conflict(s) that challenge the characters, they can only put images in your head for you to sift through. A trumpet at sea? What kind of person would bring one there? Maybe she didn't even want to take the trumpet to sea -- then why did she? The lists are random enough that the unexpected pairings can lead to other unexpected details. I think maybe one danger is in falling back on a plot cliche to structure around the prompts. They're familiar, so it's easy to think of one that will help make sense of those unexpected prompts like the idea of bringing a trumpet to sea.

About the ordinary/extraordinary: I read a powerful essay by Massumi (maybe it was in one of his books?), where he took apart the idea of both the ordinary and the extraordinary. The example he used was about violence against women: domestic violence is presented in our media as "ordinary," but it isn't. Then he talked about a shooting at a college in Canada, where the young man deliberately targeted women. Investigation later uncovered writings where he spewed vitriol about women and how they rejected him. Massumi pointed out that this incident was presented in the media as if it was extraordinary, but it isn't. The two misrepresentations combine to create a (false) image of our society as equitable and non-sexist.

Readers' tastes run that way, I think. Maybe many think that a story about a woman facing domestic violence is boring -- they're thinking it's too ordinary. It would be treated as a "story for women," a human-interest piece, thinly disguised preaching (whether it is or not). Off-hand, I can't remember any sci-fi plots that include domestic violence issues, though I'm sure someone has tackled it. Doesn't it seem like it's not an "extraordinary" thing to include as part of a story about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation? On the other hand, a shooting by a man out to avenge himself on all the women of the world for rejecting him sounds "extraordinary" enough for inclusion (if only as an allegory), doesn't it?

I only bring this up to point out that cliches can be revived and new plot ideas cooked up by questioning the definitions we use for "ordinary" and "extraordinary" -- that theme of violence against women is just one of many that can be upturned this way.

It doesn't make for an interesting story though.

~bint
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Pharosian
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« Reply #32 on: August 04, 2009, 06:40:13 PM »

grin  14,000 word short - I've been well on my way to one of those before.  Thing is, you know absolutely nobody could be bothered to crit it, no matter how good it was.  Shame, really scratch


Well, *almost* nobody... I'd do it if the story was good.  Wink
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