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Author Topic: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic  (Read 1507 times)

Offline Yora

Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« on: December 05, 2015, 05:16:40 PM »
One thing that I notice all the time both at worldbuilding and outlining is that I constantly drift away from the original image and theme I had in mind for the world and falling back in line with the conventions of the "standard fantasy setting". When it comes to deciding something, the easiest and most obvious thing to do is doing something similar to how those things are most commonly done. Doing them the generic way.

It is taking a constant and repeated effort to remind myself again what great ideas originally motivated me to start all this work in the first place. I regularly have to go back and watch the movies again, read the stories again, look at the images again, play the games again, and hear the music again to reignite the inspiration. I conciously remember what I started out to do, but it pretty quickly lose the spark and remember only the form of things but not the essence that I wanted to capture.

I think I am able to manage it, but it's a constant struggle. How are your experiences with that?
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2015, 08:10:17 PM »
That is strange you drift away while outlining, I'm the opposite, I tend to drift away when pantsing. Then some notes and even a little of outlining or adapting gets me back.

Can't say about the worldbuilding, I simply make it as I go, although I had a vague idea of how I wanted it. Surprisingly, making it as I go, culture/myths/world/setting/economy/etc got coherent with the theme. Well, at least in my opinion, so far  ::)
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Offline AshKB

Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2015, 10:29:48 PM »
I tend to find that with most people, it seems to be the opposite - the initial idea is more likely to be generic, because that's easier for brains to deal with. And because that's the Original Idea, there's resistance to changing it.

I do it to, sometimes. Then I work at it to not fall back onto lazy tropes.

What helps me is honestly the amount of reading I've done. I read a lot of non-fiction, a lot of history and anthropology, so I constantly have in my mind other cultures than just SFF. I also have read a lot of essays dissecting tropes, or exploring them, so by now it's second-nature to constantly re-examine what I'm doing. I love playing with tropes, or twisting them on their head, so if my inspiration wants to go trope-y, I'm comfortable with either rolling with it to have fun in that direction (tropes can be fun!), or going with it to change things as I go.

Tropes exist for a reason, so maybe alongside the reworking, if you became more comfortable with twisting things up, it'd be easier? 'Okay, brain, the heir to the crown doesn't want to do this, how can this be interesting'. Or even sometimes, tropes exist for a reason, and it's okay to use them. You don't have to completely reinvent the wheel.

But to a certain extent, it's just going to be work. I've found it easier to embrace knowing that I'm going to have work hard at it, because I think my story-ideas are worth it. So, maybe that might help, if you accept that it's going to be work.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2015, 11:00:23 PM by AshKB »
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2015, 01:28:25 AM »
We're with Yora on this one - clear ideas and inspiration to begin with that seem to progressively dissolve over time.

The different experiences are probably another artifact of the different approaches to writing. It can be useful to think of a discovery writer's first draft as an extremely verbose beat sheet - after all, it occurs at the same point of story development. When this issue crops up, discovery writers get their story back on track by referring to their outline, and that's probably the best approach for planners too.

You're already sort of doing this by re-immersing yourself in your inspiration, but that probably takes up a lot of time and effort to get back on track each time. I think something that could help is an idea outline: an outline that distils the essence of what you're trying to portray in the story in as short a space as possible. If you can sum up the central ideas and inspiration in the space of a page or two, then you could refresh your memory and get back on track much faster than you might have been able to otherwise.

You could even keep it open as you work, and refer to it whenever you have a new idea to see whether the new idea fits with the ethos of the project. If it does, put it in, if it doesn't, save it in a separate ideas-to-be-explored file.

Could be worth a try at least!
« Last Edit: December 06, 2015, 01:30:03 AM by Raptori »
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Offline ArhiX

Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2015, 03:13:35 AM »
I use one of your methods - " Write 3 ( in my case more) words that defined your main idea from the beginning. And keep it that way alongside the journey.

My second method is to 'drift away'. Yup. I just let myself swim in ' generic ' current. I use cliches I use most obvious tricks. Just to pass thtough. When I'm done, I go back to the beginning of the story and mess everything up. Make it rrsonate with a list from 1st method.

Guy and girl are rivals and generaly toxic to each other but still fall in love and have fu-fu-fu-fun time?Hell no! I go back and make them fall in love... In the same person.

Another couple is going to have fu-fu-fun time? Lel. I make her stab the guy. Why? I will just line it up later.

I do something like that after my 1st draw. It seems to work and makes things less predictable. And funnier.

My 3rd way is to listen to music that inspired me back then when I just started to make up the story. Some gloomy gothic rock.

4th is to play and beat the game that actually inspired me - Prototype. I think it can be harder with Mass Effect trilogy though. And no movies beside Three Kingdoms it's still too long as it's a series.

But I guess it's much more easier for me as everything is basically one giant WIP - not 10 years old project.
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2015, 02:18:49 PM »
When this issue crops up, discovery writers get their story back on track by referring to their outline, and that's probably the best approach for planners too.

 :o What outline?


When I find myself getting generic, I tend to look for a way to make fun of it (and/or myself), rather than stripping/rewriting. For example, I had at one point a character giving one of these:

Quote
“There was a battle,” Wilt continued. “I was on patrol when we caught up with a small Vandu raiding party trying to steal supplies from one of the villages. It seemed routine and ordinary. As always, they ran when we showed up. We followed, hoping to wound them badly enough to stop their thieving for a few weeks. But it was a trap... They were on every side. I watched as everyone else was killed. I was knocked out and when I came to, I was the only one left. For some reason they had spared me. I couldn’t go back to my post. I couldn’t live with the shame. So I fled."

It was a longwinded, generic story, that I must have heard a million times. My way out was to change the character from honestly pouring out his soul, to making him a compulsive liar. Instead of being the same old story, it's now the same old story with a purpose: It sounds generic, because it's all bullshit he made up to excuse his desertion.

The same can work for outlining and worldbuilding. I had another character who'd originally been "Orphan girl with no family or loved ones becomes powerful mage," that changed to "Surrounded by family, just not very bright."

Offline JMack

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Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2015, 08:07:21 PM »
Where are the LIKE buttons on this thread?
I liked Justan's post.

Button. Pushed.
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Offline K.S. Crooks

Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2015, 08:11:23 PM »
I occasionally have generic moments when filling in the gaps between major plot points or when adding in background for a character. In my current story I created a antagonist who has lived for over a century. When I started writing her back story, to my horror I realized I made her an evil step-mother. I blame my kid's current love of Disney movies. I took great pleasure in altering the back story into something I have not read myself.
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Offline AshKB

Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2015, 08:24:42 PM »

When I find myself getting generic, I tend to look for a way to make fun of it (and/or myself), rather than stripping/rewriting. For example, I had at one point a character giving one of these:

Quote
“There was a battle,” Wilt continued. “I was on patrol when we caught up with a small Vandu raiding party trying to steal supplies from one of the villages. It seemed routine and ordinary. As always, they ran when we showed up. We followed, hoping to wound them badly enough to stop their thieving for a few weeks. But it was a trap... They were on every side. I watched as everyone else was killed. I was knocked out and when I came to, I was the only one left. For some reason they had spared me. I couldn’t go back to my post. I couldn’t live with the shame. So I fled."

It was a longwinded, generic story, that I must have heard a million times. My way out was to change the character from honestly pouring out his soul, to making him a compulsive liar. Instead of being the same old story, it's now the same old story with a purpose: It sounds generic, because it's all bullshit he made up to excuse his desertion.

The same can work for outlining and worldbuilding. I had another character who'd originally been "Orphan girl with no family or loved ones becomes powerful mage," that changed to "Surrounded by family, just not very bright."

Oh, that's clever.
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Offline zmunkz

Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2015, 08:32:58 PM »
It seems to me it is okay to be generic in some places at some times.  I like to find a few sparks in the character or the setting or the plot that I think carry the story I want to tell, so for me it is okay if some of the lesser elements fit nicely into what people expect, so the reader doesn't expend too much attention on them.  That way, the things that I want to call out and make different get the attention.

I don't think you want to not-be-generic-for-its-own-sake.  If a relationship is only a subplot and you spend a lot of time on really interesting and unique character/plot conflicts, then I don't mind if the relationship runs the "normal" course.  Normalcy is a part of our background environment at all times, and gives us a basis for measuring the trope-breaking things.
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Staying close to your inspiration and avoiding becoming generic
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2015, 02:12:53 PM »

When I find myself getting generic, I tend to look for a way to make fun of it (and/or myself), rather than stripping/rewriting. For example, I had at one point a character giving one of these:

Quote
“There was a battle,” Wilt continued. “I was on patrol when we caught up with a small Vandu raiding party trying to steal supplies from one of the villages. It seemed routine and ordinary. As always, they ran when we showed up. We followed, hoping to wound them badly enough to stop their thieving for a few weeks. But it was a trap... They were on every side. I watched as everyone else was killed. I was knocked out and when I came to, I was the only one left. For some reason they had spared me. I couldn’t go back to my post. I couldn’t live with the shame. So I fled."

It was a longwinded, generic story, that I must have heard a million times. My way out was to change the character from honestly pouring out his soul, to making him a compulsive liar. Instead of being the same old story, it's now the same old story with a purpose: It sounds generic, because it's all bullshit he made up to excuse his desertion.

The same can work for outlining and worldbuilding. I had another character who'd originally been "Orphan girl with no family or loved ones becomes powerful mage," that changed to "Surrounded by family, just not very bright."

Oh, that's clever.

Well thanks :)

Glad to have you back, Ash.