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What things in fiction are turnoffs to you?

Discussion in 'Arts & Entertainment' started by Mouthwash, May 24, 2019.

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  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    This is a place to rant about tropes in fiction that you dislike!

    My list:

    1. D&D style deities, i.e. patrons of concepts like beauty, justice, war, etc. It feels incredibly trite, as well as a fundamental misunderstanding of how religion and sacredness work. The idea of a patron you could serve in return for power is a good one, but worship? In settings like this, the only gods that are even mildly interesting are the evil ones, by sheer fiat of how twisted they are. If we're talking about something that isn't like Jewish/Christian/Islamic divinity but merely a powerful being, well, it can horrify far more easily than it can inspire - consider how interested you are in a character who worships the "benevolent goddess of beauty" and "spreads love and happiness" vs a character who serves the monkey-demonlord Azazgjfrrn, who will release his soul in exchange for him damning a thousand others.

    This also leads to grimdark-feeling universes that weren't intended to be such, as the writer leans on the evil and horrific aspects of it to generate interest (feels a bit like this happened with Fall From Heaven, though Kael explicitly told me he wrote dark stories for the lore).

    2. Unrealistic action girls. This trope is incredibly common these days (wonder why something called 'feminism' is so intent on portraying women as being just as violent and aggressive as men). It's okay in a comedic context, but when you open a serious story with a teenage girl beating up a heavily muscled man (nsfw) I immediately stop reading.

    3. Use of dwarves, elves, halflings, and especially orcs/goblins. I mean, I can tolerate the first three, but it's a cringy read unless they are some seriously original twist on the theme. Is it really that hard to come up with your own thing?

    Brandon Mull shows how it can be done. Take two major races from his Beyonders series: the Amar Kabal and the drinlings. The former are regular humans who have a "seed" attached to their bodies that can be planted after they die, which grows them fully restored to a young age inside a plant, memories and all - making them immortal. The drinlings are a humanoid race that develop and learn at an extremely fast pace, making them perfect soldiers, but only live two to three years. Two races every bit as good as elves and dwarves, but with very interesting characteristics that you actually have to learn about.

    4. Starting off with the biggest bad evar of that setting being the antagonist. This is something that should always be worked up to, at the very least, and best avoided altogether. Again, using Beyonders as an example (that series does so much right that basically everything else gets wrong), the main antagonist isn't the most powerful wizard in history, whose coming was foretold in prophecy at the dawn of time. He isn't even a particularly powerful one. He's just the last wizard left who managed to hide while all the others destroyed themselves, and is basically unopposed in an age where wizardry has been forgotten. This has the triple benefit of (A) not making strangely weak or incompetent, as ultimate big baddies usually have to be to get defeated by the heroes; we know he's not invincible from the start, (B) preserving the mystique of the setting, so that you aren't served up what are claimed to be its best mysteries and powers (C) raising lots of interesting questions about how he survived and what his motives are that wouldn't be asked of a generic Dark Lord.

    (Due to sci-fi's nature, 4 doesn't apply to it.)
     
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  2. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Warlord

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    In film & television, more than in literature: Flashbacks and expository voiceovers:

    Flashbacks: If there's an interesting story, some relevant character development or plot-point, it should be part of the story that's being told, not an aside. And if it's not interesting or relevant, or doesn't move the story, you should get rid of it anyway.

    Expository voiceovers: Show, don't tell. Also, your audience is smart enough to put things together, provided you've told your story adequately. If your plot is so confusing that your audience needs Cliff's Notes along the way, your script needs work.

    Obviously, there are exceptions to both of these gripes. A voice-over that's more about style than substance can work, for example. There's one example I can think of, at the beginning of the Netflix series Jessica Jones. That voice-over is pure flavoring, not exposition. It's a shorthand notation that tells us about the genre the show is aping: The neo-noir "hard-boiled detective", Jessica is Mike Hammer. The voiceover works in conjunction with the fog and the saxophone in the background, if you didn't speak English and couldn't understand a word, you'd still get what it was trying to tell you.



    I think there are good flashbacks, too, but I can't think of one, right off the top. Use with caution, and with purpose. If your flashback or voiceover is patching up holes in the script, story, or characters, find another way to do it.


    +1 to this. There are perfectly good games, novels, movies that I simply cannot hang with because they've chosen the most overdone, boring, repetitive setting. I would also add to this list, 'anything like traditional zombies - mindless masses of shambling, generic threat.' Yawn. (I'm looking at you, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen.)
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  3. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Bad expository dialogue
     
  4. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    Oh yes, this is a big one: a timeskip after a major season/book ending cliffhanger. I don't know why so many shows do this, but it is not okay.

    (Occasionally it can be used creatively to set up a mystery, but most of the time it seems like pure laziness.)
     
  5. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Interesting thread. Apart from the usual bad writing issues, my big complaints are:
    -Wasting the reader's time: This happens a lot in fantasy books where the author really wants you to know how much thought they put into things, all the research they did, or just doesn't know how to end the book. (The Mists of Avalon is a massive offender for this.)
    -Frequent chapter cliffhangers. I was reading Revelation Space and I dropped it because of how much this was starting to piss me off. The reader would be introduced to a character, the character would start on an adventure, go on for a few chapters, and then right before something interesting happened, the author would have a cliffhanger and move to a different character, and then go through the same process. This went on for like 4 characters before I just got bored because there wasn't any payoff.

    I'll be honest, I'm not sure where you are getting this from. From what we know of ancient polytheistic religions, people rarely "worshipped" gods in the sense that we think of in today's terms. One would give them offerings to invoke their favor, and perhaps even feel a connection to one, but not out and out worship as the omniscient omnipotent Lord of All. Indeed, in a world where divine powers can be invoked by the village priest, and the Gods are as real as syphilis, the relation between mortal and the divine would look very different than on earth.

    Wizened old men who can unleash the tendrils of the voidspawn to flay the flesh from their enemy's bones, fine. Women beating up a guy, unrealistic that destroys immersion.
    Sure, seems legit.

    For me, it all depends on the environment the creator is going for. Take the Dragon Age series for example. Their elves and dwarves fit snuggly into the Tolkienesque formula but you still get interesting characters with them. Varric the dwarf is a perfectly interesting character, and in my opinion would be less interesting if he was actually a reptile that engaged in oviparous reproduction with the egg transferred to a nonsentient gender for maturation.
     
  6. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    I agree with this and aren't sure what you're objecting to. Like I said, some kind of patron could be interesting, but they don't work well as gods (note that virtually every real pagan god was viewed as flawed in some way, not as a paragon of virtue. You worship the Greek goddess of love; you're also worshipping a vain, cruel adulteress).
     
  7. GoodSarmatian

    GoodSarmatian Temporary Pattern...reassembling...

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    I have to disagree with the gods thing a bit.
    Gods that represent abstract concepts can be very versatile. Good or evil, depending on the follower.
    The Godess of Love can also be the Godess of Desire or Obsession or Rape.
    The God of Wisdom can also be the God of Trickery or Betrayal.

    Elves and Dwarves are overdone.
    I prefer A Song of Ice and Fire style fantasy where magic is rare and humans are the only sapients.
    If you have other species, they should be more original and truly alien.

    Biggest Bad Ever is stupid nonsense, but could be plausible with a lot of worldbuilding that justifies why they've just now become powerful.
     
  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    In TV and movies, one thing that is a pet peeve of mine is when they choose actors to play the kids who are too short, and so don't match the adults. The typical 15 year old girl is taller than her mother. Not 8-10 inches shorter, as is typically cast. And if teenage boys tend to get their height a few years later than teen girls, it's not as if a boy should be a foot shorter than her father. If you're showing 2 parents who are above average height, the kids should be also.

    Now this ads into the fact that they frequently cast adults to play teenagers. But that means that as the snow goes on, or the movie gets sequels, the "kid" character never gets any older, because (s)he never gets to 'grow up', since the actor playing the character is already full grown.

    Another pet peeve is that the "this is the end of the world" meme in shows, which is very common in scifi, fantasy, and superhero, is just been done too many times. And rarely well. There's only so many times that the world can be on the brink of extinction, except for the hero (or band thereof) who just barely save it. I mean, eventually odds are they'll lose, and that will be that.
     
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  9. Kyriakos

    Kyriakos Alien spiral maker

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    Maybe we only see a fraction of the "end of the world" movies, cause in the vast majority the world did end :jesus:
     
  10. rah

    rah Warlord Supporter

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    I hate teaser scenes where they show/write something extremely funny, extremely sad, or extremely out of character and then immediately being faced with a new scene/chapter, 16 hours before. Those drive me crazy.
     
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  11. Zkribbler

    Zkribbler Warlord

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    Champion: Raquel Welch's breakout movie One Million Years BC begins with the line: "This story happened a long time ago." Y'think?

    Generals who slept through their academy's class on terrain use. They line up their troops on a wide open plain, while the enemy does the same. Both sides then charge.

    Inadequate or non-existent research. E.g. The second scene of Troy takes place in the Port of Sparta. Sparta was a landlocked city.

    Too right.

    Generals who scream "fire!" at a time before the invention of firearms.

    Good guys near explosions who are hurled harmlessly through the air rather than being blown to bits.

    Big Bads who are out to conquer the world simply because they are evil.

    Screaming-hot girls who are attracted to dweebs.

    Breaking computer passwords by typing in a few random characters.

    Picking locks in seconds using paperclips or ice picks.

    Not dying by falling into any amount of water.

    Give a henchman a submachine gun and he can't hit anything.

    Ignoring Newton's 3rd Law. The same bullet that hurls a victim thirty yards through the air should also hurl the shooter thirty yards in the opposite direction.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
  12. Paul in Saudi

    Paul in Saudi Chieftain

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    In novels or in films, a child suffering will make me think of bailing out.
     
  13. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Warlord

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    Hey, man, let a guy have his fantasy. :lol:



    (That's Geoffrey Arend and Christina Hendricks, television actors who're married irl. If you were wondering.)
     
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  14. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Flashbacks and voice-overs can be used effectively (as they are in The Handmaid's Tale, to show what the characters' pre-Gilead lives were like or what event in their lives had the most impact on how they behave in-Gilead).

    One thing that annoys me is non-English words and phrases just for the hell of it, if there's no in-story logic behind it, and especially with no translations. One of my favorite Star Trek fanfic authors specializes in Chakotay/Seven of Nine romances, and has a habit of having them speak a mixture of Spanish and Swedish to each other. Of course she provides translations, but it's annoying and makes no sense in a setting where universal translators are ubiquitous.

    That said, I've been developing a few terms and phrases in my ongoing Kingmaker story that give a bit of a medieval fantasy flavor but should still be clear in context what is meant. Basically I was too lazy to research some of these terms to see if they were in common use in 11th-century Europe, so I made something up that conveys the general idea in context.


    BTW, saying "fire" with regard to weapons isn't just a modern firearms thing. People fired arrows and crossbow bolts during medieval times and earlier.
     
  15. Zkribbler

    Zkribbler Warlord

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    :nono: They "loosed" them. Or the ever-popular: "Ready, steady, shoot!"

    [To be safe, I should review Ivanhoe or some such & see what words they used.]
     
  16. Zkribbler

    Zkribbler Warlord

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    God bless Project Gutenberg :worship: for its free downloads of out-of-copyright literature. A search of Ivanhoe shows "fire" is used 53 times, all in the context of "campfire," "fire in the eye," or conflagration. "Shoot" is used 23 times, in connection with archers.

    Edit1: I thought Ivanhoe was one of the first major works in English, written before gunpowder. Alas, it was written 1819, so the above proves nothing.

    Edit2: This passage comes from the "word origin" of Thesaurus.com: "Fire applied in English to passions, feelings, from mid-14c. Meaning "action of guns, etc." is from 1580s."
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2019
  17. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Heh, this is how Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne starts (the game, not my story). The game begins with the pov character captured and in the midst of being hanged while one of the villains gloats... and then the next scene is "earlier that day..." and we see how things start. My prose adaptation starts even earlier, with two of the protagonists waking up and getting out of bed (necessary to establish what happened when, since the game rushed some things; the pacing is a bit uneven when comparing how long it took which characters to do what/go somewhere).

    I remember one of my Grade 5 teachers reading us Ivanhoe. Literally the only things I remember of that were that she could pronounce the French names and the principal (when he substituted one day) could not ("I'm just going to call him 'Brian Gilbert'"), and the phrase "the brave and beautiful Rowena."

    I tried to watch the movie and found it unwatchable. I tried to read the book for myself, as it was on one of my college English reading lists. I found it unreadable.

    Ivanhoe in its traditional form is crap.

    If you want major works in English written before gunpowder, you need to look at stuff like Piers Plowman or Everyman or Canterbury Tales. And that assumes that said gunpowder was the stuff used in the mid-1400s when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, not much earlier when Marco Polo encountered it in China. Everything Shakespeare wrote is post-gunpowder, although I don't remember if any of his plays referred to it.

    Ivanhoe is one of those godawful 19th-century novels that imagines all sorts of nonsensical things about the medieval period that just were not historically accurate, or if they were, the writing style itself was horrible. There's not a lot of 19th-century literature I can tolerate, but my favorite is Oliver Twist, by Dickens. Some of it is quite different from the musical/movie (ie. Fagin dies and the Artful Dodger gets shipped off to Australia as one of the child convicts).
     
  18. Serutan

    Serutan Eatibus Anythingibus

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    Along the same lines, when a computer goes wonky the characters go through all sorts of convolutions to get it under control instead of just shutting off power.
     
  19. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Well, to be fair, if you're on a starship and the computer runs your air supply and artificial gravity and inertia controls, you're not going to want to shut it down.
     
  20. Serutan

    Serutan Eatibus Anythingibus

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    It's certainly true that you don't want to lose those things in space. But even ignoring the 'pet peeve in entertainment' aspect, it is very poor design to have critical systems like that with a single point of failure; i.e. a single computer.
     

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