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In World Building How Do I Keep From Being Trite?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Arranah, Jan 6, 2015.

  1. Arranah

    Arranah Troubadour

    My work generally encompasses several genres, fantasy, paranormal, visionary, afterlife stuff, literary fiction. In my current story, my protagonist finds herself in a number of different dimensions. My question is, how do I make them convincing without doing a remake of everything I've ever read or watched? Since there is nothing new under the sun, how do I present these new places in ways that are not trite? I've been writing for a long time, but fantasy is relatively new to me. I made the change so I could have more fun.
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    You can't avoid being influenced by what you've seen or read. What makes things "new" is you. Your personality, your life experiences, everything that interests you about something, and your view point on things is what skews things in a different direction.

    When you're writing, if you're aware of what's been done, and when you're noticing that your story is beginning to tread over well-travelled ground, you have a choice. You can either try subverting expectations or you can just run with them. Knowing when to do one or the other will keep the story from feeling stale.
  3. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    What causes the other dimensions? How do they spring from who she is or the quest she's on? Basing it in her situation will help them grow organically rather than you have to create them whole cloth, likely influenced by others' ideas.
  4. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    in his dark materials, the part of most of the new dimensions that were explored was limited in size. Some were very different and those were enlarged, the others were kept rather similar.
  5. bjza

    bjza Dreamer

    Create the worlds with the work's major themes in mind. Each one can be a reflection or variation on the topic at hand. If you've read His Dark Materials, as 2WayParadox mentioned, consider how the main alternate worlds all present a picture of authority and its abuse and/or the good and the bad of rejecting authority. The alternate worlds are not without their tropes, but the thematic unity connects them to the larger narrative and gives them relevance even when the reader is anxious to return to the main plot.
  6. Zāl Dastān

    Zāl Dastān Dreamer

    I like the comparison that tropes are kind of like ingredients in a recipe. Although it's true that many meals call for the same ingredients, the thing that matters most is how those ingredients are arranged.

    So, yeah. I don't think that there's nothing wrong with being influenced by or outright referencing other material so long as you do so in a novel (no pun intended) way. Think: what is the narrative purpose of the dimensions, aside from them being rad? Then just be sure that your treatment of the dimensions furthers that goal.

    Most of all, don't worry! Just keep writing and improving :D
  7. AndrewMelvin

    AndrewMelvin Scribe

    Keep the focus on her, and her reaction to and perception of each dimension. They, or something like them, may have been seen before, but she has not. Does she like where she is? Maybe the smell of the air reminds her of something from childhood. Maybe that weird-looking building/person/thing appeals to her fondness for a certain colour/shape/style. Maybe the strange surface she's walking on is strangely pleasant to her but nobody else. Put the emphasis on her viewpoint (and thereby the reader's) and you only have to focus on a small part of the dimension - see the reference to Pullman above.
  8. Arranah

    Arranah Troubadour

    Thanks for all your replies. So basically you are all saying that it's like writing anything else. I've been writing a long time. I know this stuff from experience. But with this I thought it would be different. When I started one scene for this book as she enters an unfamiliar dimension, I saw it in my mind, and it looked trite to me. So I stopped and decided that I needed more instruction on how to be original in this kind of setting. I always focus on viewpoint...I write literary fiction. But...Hmmm.
  9. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    Focus your attention on what you want to have in a story. Everyone draws from different sources and areas of their life for their writing, what you want to be unique is how you combine all the elements together. If you tell 30 people to write a story about a dragon living in space I am sure you will get 30 different stories. If you love ninjas and space battles then put them together. Draw on your own likes, dislikes, experiences and relationships to write the story and it will be different than anyone else.
  10. Vendzzz

    Vendzzz Acolyte

    Don't try to avoid outside influences just stay true to yourself and try to combine everything that makes you unique as a writer and as a person. It's more about how you tell the story that will set you apart.
  11. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    Everyone is different, but I think that things only come across trite when they are shallow. I think deep world building and backstory can make "tropes" like dwarves and orcs still engaging and entertaining as well as making an improbable premise work. For me, I strive for depth and feel like I can only achieve it with well-thought out characters and a slowly built world that makes sense (if they have brass, there better be a zinc mine somewhere).

    Writing well helps, too. On the surface, a nerdy boy with a scar discovering he's magical and going to wizard school can seem like a trite premise. But a skilled writer might be able to pull it off.
  12. Ky2015

    Ky2015 Acolyte

    It's been mentioned already, but I want to emphasize: You need in world reasons for everything in your history.

    But, don't TELL them you have reasons in world... show them.

    Describe the repercussions in the world, but not be like: "Juju god made this happen."
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    If you're dimension hopping, I generally see the challenge as trying to shake up reader expectations right from the get go. Think about Dr. Who for a moment. A lot of episodes start with the Doctor explaining the world they've stopped on, then opening the door and finding the exact opposite. Similar techniques abound in sci fi - landing on a planet and getting arrested for wearing the wrong color, or finding that they've landed in the middle of a disaster or a revolution.

    The key is to find a contrast in the mood, and not just the odd eccentricity, to undermine the reader's expectations. The place shouldn't just be different; being there should feel different.
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Don't worry about trite. As others have said, everything has been done before. "Trite" merely means you've done it badly. Think about how many books, plays, movies have been re-tellings of known stories--fairly tales, Greek legends, whatever. If it's done well, everyone says how very clever the author was. If it's done poorly, it's dismissed as trite.

    IMO, "trite" is neither a helpful nor a scary concept for a writer. Just tell the story you want to tell, as best you can, and let others tell you it's trite. You can't fix it before you write it!
    Jabrosky likes this.

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