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"Jumping the Shark"


Jack Scribe

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:*)

 

I was doing just fine until the bit about "Do not put "The End" at the end of your story."

OOps.

 

However, i will take issue with one of his rules; Names-we-wish-we-had. Sure, i agree it's bad to have a lot of 'em, but I for one really like an unusual name or two.

 

In fact, one of my favorite characters has an extremely unique and original name, "Rhys", which I find fits perfectly and helps the caracther. And no, he's not one of my characters; I only wish I had that kind of a flair for naming; he's one of Graeme's in the story "Heart of the Tree".

 

Thanks very much, Jack! This is a great list!

CJ :)

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I was doing just fine until the bit about "Do not put "The End" at the end of your story."

OOps.

This one has some question about it. Sometimes a story does need "The End" at the end because it maybe the point that the author wants to finish the story, but the reader may think there are still things to come (because of some loose ends). However, most of the time the end of the story should be self-evident.

 

However, i will take issue with one of his rules; Names-we-wish-we-had. Sure, i agree it's bad to have a lot of 'em, but I for one really like an unusual name or two.

 

In fact, one of my favorite characters has an extremely unique and original name, "Rhys", which I find fits perfectly and helps the caracther. And no, he's not one of my characters; I only wish I had that kind of a flair for naming; he's one of Graeme's in the story "Heart of the Tree".

I'd like to take the credit for that name, but I can't. I was the name of someone I knew from university. My view is that while most names in a story will be "standard", having a handful of unusual names is acceptable because there are people out there who were burdened with those names by their parents. There is also the cultural context -- there are several of the names listed that may be more common in other cultures. For example, I've met several people with the names of Justin, Trevor and Brad -- all on that list. Again, in Heart of The Tree I have girls named Mia and Padma -- but both of those characters have non-western parents.

 

This list should be taken as a guide because it really does point out a lot of cliches that are overused, or things to avoid unless you're confident you know what you're doing. By all means ignore one or more of them and include them in your story, but make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. For example, I'll always use some unusual names in my stories but I'll try to keep the percentage down to roughly the same percentage of unusual names that I encounter in real life.

 

And nobody - absolutely nobody - says "Gee" anymore.

 

Er... :wacko: should I be changing my name to "absolutely nobody"?

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yeah, that was nice! I have heard something like this somewhere before.

 

Does reading this remind you lots of Nifty stories? :D Well, I was certainly of those writers. But now, I have improved.

 

Btw, I'm in another minority- I cry easily. :(

 

Ieshwar

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Ouch! A very comprehensive list and I enjoyed reading it. Needless to say I was doing a mental checklist as I read (agree totally, done that, woops - done that too much, etc.). I really laughed when I read the one about the hospital scene (I so used that once).

 

I have sat in far too many churches listening to young children play their festival pieces. After listening to the same piece five times (not to mention its repetition over the years) it does not really matter to you if it is being played well or poorly. You just need something fresh... preferably with a beer on the side. I guess these story lines and characterizations are something like that and Nifty (since it was disparaged) is rather like that music festival. We start somewhere as authors and the craft grows (or doesn't) in us.

 

They say that the movies of the Great Depression were full of glamour, romance, and wealth because they were essentially an opportunity to escape from the oppression and poverty of the people's lives. That makes sense to me and certainly these films were hyper-fluffy. How many of us invest the time in writing the mundane reality of living fearfully in the closet or write about the thousand little indignities we do to our souls daily in an effort to shield ourselves from the world? I conceived a story that might revolve around a boy's unrequited and secret infatuation for another boy in his class. I was there once and I am sure so was everyone else. This too is a rather clich

Edited by eliotmoore
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Jack, Thanks for posting this. The story I'm working on right now is the first one I've attempted with a gay theme (as opposed to having a gay character or two) and I knew I had to be to be breaking genre rules somewhere...now I know where.

 

Hmmm...

 

So far it kind of breaks the jock hero (though he's an out gay jock and not really a hero) -- but you're supposed to write what you know, right?

 

And we got the tears going a few times...

 

And I know I'm going to break a cliche scene rule for plot purposes...

 

Ah well.

 

I guess your first story is the place to break 'em.

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Jack, Thanks for posting this. The story I'm working on right now is the first one I've attempted with a gay theme (as opposed to having a gay character or two) and I knew I had to be to be breaking genre rules somewhere...now I know where.

 

Hmmm...

 

So far it kind of breaks the jock hero (though he's an out gay jock and not really a hero) -- but you're supposed to write what you know, right?

 

And we got the tears going a few times...

 

And I know I'm going to break a cliche scene rule for plot purposes...

 

Ah well.

 

I guess your first story is the place to break 'em.

These are not rules. They are guidelines. Some of them are very, very good advice because they are bad writing practises. Others are complaints about cliches that occur in a lot of gay fiction.

 

The jock/nerd pairing, for example. However, if you write well and make it believable, then I don't see why you can't write about such a pairing. Yes, it's been done a million times before, but then most romance themes have.... There are a lot of people out there who enjoy romances as a form of escapism and fantasy. Don't expect to get critical acclaim if you write such a story, but you won't have hordes of people telling you not to do it, either -- it's more likely to be the opposite.

 

If you need to use one of these cliches for any reason, then go ahead. Just be aware that they are cliches and either come up with a new twist, or make them a small part of a larger story. Alternatively, just write them so well that no one will really mind :D

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Yes, these are guidelines. Lots of things I disagree with. The name stuff, the examples do not strike home to me. Justin VS. David? I actually chose some outlandish first names for one of my stories, to make it a fantasy, and to have the characters being totally unique. I found out later on that these first names were quite common in French-speaking African countries.

Tears? Well, I do cry when I'm tired and upset, and I don't consider myself a wimp, but I'd have to see a study proving that we are physiologically unable to cry.

 

But yes, as many advice, a lot of them are good reminders of what may turn out to be a clich

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I had no idea that schools don't use school bells anymore. Good thing I don't write high school stories, anyway. :P

 

Schools still DO use school bells! My HS (I graduated in June of this year) uses bells. No bells = half the kids still on the quad chatting up some girl or guy or just zoning, the other half trying to get to their lockers or trying to open their lockers, all of them waiting for the bell.

 

Colin B)

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The Names-We-Wish-We-Had. Our parents gave us boring names - like David and John - so we�ll give our characters the names we wish our parents had named us. Justin. Tyler. Trevor. Cody. Brad and Chad. Brice or Bryce. Roland. Tobias (Tobi for short.) Precious names -- names that are cute for a 3-year-old little boy but awkward for anyone older -- like Casey or Corey. Biblical names like Isaiah, Noah or Jonah. Names that are derived from professions (and are very popular among the Southern landed gentry) like Hunter, Trapper, Carter or Tanner. Common names with cutesy spellings like Taylar, Brien, Khile. Stop it!

 

I'm sorry, but Nick has dated himself with this one. Many of the names he objects to are what parents named and are naming their kids. Go to the U.S. Census Popular Baby Names page http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/ for the most popular names by year of birth. Here's the list of the 20 most popular boy's names for the year I was born, 1989:

 

Male names

1 Michael

2 Christopher

3 Matthew

4 Joshua

5 David

6 Daniel

7 Andrew

8 Justin

9 James

10 Robert

11 Joseph

12 John

13 Ryan

14 Nicholas

15 William

16 Anthony

17 Jonathan

18 Brandon

19 Kevin

20 Kyle

 

It's really interesting to look at the top 1,000 names for the year you were born, and compare the list to earlier and later years. I'm not even in the top 100 for 1989; Colin was the 126th most popular boy's name when I was born. Caleb (#91) and Devin (#96) and Spencer (#107) were ahead of Colin. My middle name Ian was #68 in 1989. I checked the year my granddad was born, 1938. Colin was #836 and Ian was #901. My granddad's name Robert was #1 in 1938 vs #10 in 1989.

 

Colin B)

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It's really interesting to look at the top 1,000 names for the year you were born, and compare the list to earlier and later years.

My first name wasn't in the top hundred the year I was born, though it has been as high as 6th.

My middle name *shudder* hasn't been in the top 1000 ever!

 

Camy B)

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The names. Yes, most name I use are here. I never checked but I know my name will never be there. But perhaps, when I'll be famous... Though I don't mind a few rare name too. I have 'Zephyr' stuck in my head for the moment.

 

And he said about location (the dialogue about sand in ass was great :D:D )but is location always important in a story. In a long story, perhaps, yes, isn't it? But I never took the trouble thinking about the location for short stories. I made it in such a way that the reader fits in in his location. At least, that is the effect I look for.

 

And he said about writing about your location... it's really appealing but what should I write about here? It's pretty boring. :(

 

Ieshwar

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And he said about writing about your location... it's really appealing but what should I write about here? It's pretty boring. :(

 

Ieshwar

 

I try either writing about a fictional place (i.e. somwhere that could just fit in anywhere, as you said) or writing about places I've been. I live in London know, but prior to a couple months ago, I lived in a boring little town in Canada, so I placed my stories in places that I know well enough to write about.

 

Menzo

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Which all gets back to the purpose of this article:

 

Be aware of these issues. Even if you disagree with Nick's sentiments, the concept of what he is talking about is valid and if you go against it, do it because you have chosen to do so, not because you didn't know any better.

 

On the names, yes, some of the examples he's given are dated. But if I read a story set in Australia, the USA or the UK, and there was NO ONE with what I considered a common name, then I would find that unrealistic unless the story gave a reason (eg. set in a small isolated community that used some obscure book for naming their kids). In Robert Heinlein's The Number of The Beast, one of the lead characters had a name starting with Z. His brother also had a name starting with Z, but then this was explained by an eccentric ancestor who set up a trust fund that supplied money only to male descendants whose name started with Z. Naturally, all the parents found names starting with Z for their boys....

 

On places and writing about what you know -- it isn't hard to come up with a fictitious place, but it will be set in a country and hence a cultural context. It is easiest to write about a cultural context that you know about. In my current novel, I have someone who is Hindu, but I ended up not developing her character because I just didn't know enough and I was afraid that if I tried, I'd make a fool of myself by getting it hopelessly wrong. I stuck with things I knew -- characters based on experiences I'd had or seen and events that I either knew something about, or had listened to people who know about them (such as the birthing scene, which was inspired by both observing a birth, and stories from my farmer brother-in-law about problem births). Most of the things in Falls Creek Lessons are directly attributable to my experiences at that place while I was learning to ski. Because I knew the place, the descriptions could be that much richer. Equally, if anyone came back to me to say "but that's not realistic" I could respond with "but that's the way it was!".

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I'm sorry, but Nick has dated himself with this one. Many of the names he objects to are what parents named and are naming their kids. Go to the U.S. Census Popular Baby Names page http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/ for the most popular names by year of birth. Here's the list of the 20 most popular boy's names for the year I was born, 1989:

 

<snipped>

 

Colin B)

 

I have to laugh at the 'bottom' 20 for the year I was born:

 

Jarrad

Nicole

Samson

Terril

Tucker

Bob

Brody

Charley

Claudio

Jeb

Leopoldo

Tad

Wilfred

Woodrow

Dino

Forest

Isaias

Jevon

Nicklaus

Paulo

Rosendo

 

Politicians, foreign origins, and a cartoon.

 

Forest could be either the General or the actor (talking inspiration)

 

Now of course... Im in the bottom 20... or at least what I go by on here...

 

Peace,

Bob

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he does bring up some valid points though, and some things that NEW writers need to keep in mind as well as things us oldtimers need to be remade aware of....

 

and names.... sheesh... half my character's names aren't in ANY baby book in ANY language cause I make them up right there on the spot.

 

happy writing,

 

Lugh

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  • 2 months later...

i absolutely loved that list.

 

i was thinking of posting a story called "the prototype" that was basically a spoof of 90 percent of the stories.

 

i mean there are literally always two high school boys that find each other actually pretty easily, at least one always has a troubled childhood, one cries, there's often a homophone who has something bad happen to him or he "sees the light," the names aaron, aiden, hayden, and kyle are very common in gay stories, the main couple is usually intact at the end of the story.

 

i actually get frustrated because my stories very rarely go near that list, and i feel like i actually get read less because of it. it seems like people kind of come here to read what they wished had happened to them when they were young. i mean isn't it suspicious that the great majority of stories fall under high school? hmm...

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i actually get frustrated because my stories very rarely go near that list, and i feel like i actually get read less because of it. it seems like people kind of come here to read what they wished had happened to them when they were young. i mean isn't it suspicious that the great majority of stories fall under high school? hmm...

I believe there's a couple of reasons for so many stories on high school students.

 

You've picked one -- that there's a degree of wish fulfilment in them. That's why romances are so popular in general. The other major genres in the wider literary community are escapism. A lot of people read to either escape their reality, or to dream of a better/happier life.

 

The other major reason I believe there are so many high school based stories is that it is a time of change. Life is more intense at that age -- puberty has hit, with hormones making everything that much more dramatic. The characters are moving from old kids to young adults. Change is a constant companion at that age. The characters have a lot of control on what they do, but there is also a lot of things that are outside of their control that can be imposed on them. All of this gives a fertile field in which to base a story.

 

Stories require a plot, and that means something that triggers that plot. This means that something has changed -- and it is easy to find something that's changed for high school age characters.

 

Just my views....

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This was pretty interesting. I dont think I've broken any of those guidelines! Lol

 

I know I've never done the alarm clock thing and...actually I think I broke a guideline that wasnt listed. I write about high school characters but I never put them in school! Halloween for example...school was only mentioned about twice. Once in the beginning and a little bit towards the end but they didnt go on a day to day basis lol I think I happen to choose rather basic names and I've always avoided the "This is what I look like" introduction. I slightly did it a little in Last Chance with Jamie but I wasnt so "Here I am this is me" about it. I've never done the collision before I did the dead parents thing in Halloween but I replaced Steven's parents with foster ones. Locations...really my story isnt about locations it's more about emotions and events. Never did the oversized body parts actually I tend to work around explicit sex if I can. I mean...I want my stories to be heart warming not "Here read it and jack off" you know? Talk about feelings I've definetly done that one. Sports hero...actually none of my stories had any really sporty characters. Well...Matthew in Last Chance but that was his history and was never a big element in the story.

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...actually I think I broke a guideline that wasnt listed. I write about high school characters but I never put them in school! Halloween for example...school was only mentioned about twice.

I don't think that's a guideline. Many interesting things happen to people outside of school, so I don't see any problem with a story that involves school-aged characters, but with very little mention of school.

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And he said about location (the dialogue about sand in ass was great :D:D )but is location always important in a story. In a long story, perhaps, yes, isn't it? But I never took the trouble thinking about the location for short stories. I made it in such a way that the reader fits in in his location. At least, that is the effect I look for.

Good point, Ieshwar! Personally, I tend to be uninterested in stories that rely heavily on location. In fact I prefer when the location isn't mentioned at all, or more or less glossed over. I just get sick of hearing about "the rolling hills" or the "endless sky" or the "constant rain" or the "expansive ocean" of whichever place the author is using. I like my stories to primarily be character driven and secondarily plot driven, and while geography may have a small impact on these things I'd rather the author do the work of developing them properly outside of that context. In other words I don't want to hear "his parents were liberal and accepting of his homosexuality because they grew up in California" or "since my neighbourhood in Seattle was experiencing yet another storm I had to stay in doors". Anyway those things ARE fine sometimes but IMO they should be incidental as should any mention of geography.

 

i absolutely loved that list.

 

i was thinking of posting a story called "the prototype" that was basically a spoof of 90 percent of the stories.

I've been planning to write a parody with these cliches since I first read the list too!

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Good point, Ieshwar! Personally, I tend to be uninterested in stories that rely heavily on location. In fact I prefer when the location isn't mentioned at all, or more or less glossed over. I just get sick of hearing about "the rolling hills" or the "endless sky" or the "constant rain" or the "expansive ocean" of whichever place the author is using. I like my stories to primarily be character driven and secondarily plot driven, and while geography may have a small impact on these things I'd rather the author do the work of developing them properly outside of that context. In other words I don't want to hear "his parents were liberal and accepting of his homosexuality because they grew up in California" or "since my neighbourhood in Seattle was experiencing yet another storm I had to stay in doors". Anyway those things ARE fine sometimes but IMO they should be incidental as should any mention of geography.

I agree that the list is more geared towards novels than short stories, though location can still make a difference in a short story. It doesn't have to be a full-blown description of the place, but stories happen SOMEWHERE and the reader will often need some context. If it can be a generic location (eg. a hillside, a park, a beach, a city street), then that's fine, but fixing it can sometimes add to the flavour. eg. New Years Eve at the Rocks in Sydney -- those who have never been there may not appreciate the extra depth that this can give to the story, but those who have will appreciate the short story more. Just remember, readers will take different things from the story -- you don't need (and probably shouldn't try) to write so everyone understands everything equally.

 

However, I disagree with Kevin's views on preferring things to have a vague location. That may be true for stories set in a place he's familiar with (ie. the USA), where all that would need to be indicated is north/south, east/mid/west, or non-mainland USA, but even there, refining the location can help set the flavour. Not everyone will appreciate the flavour (as I mentioned above for short stories) -- I probably wouldn't, for example -- but it helps those who are familiar with those areas.

 

My biggest disagreement is when the story is set in a location for which the majority of readers are not familiar. I would want detail for any story set in India, for example, because otherwise I'll be lost. I need the context to help me understand the story and the characters. Yes, the characters should still play the major role in developing reader interest, but the location CAN help. I know I've had readers email me to say that part of the appeal of my stories is that they are based in Australia. I don't do a lot of geography, but when I do I try to make it accurate.

 

(Note to self -- try to work out how to set a story in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef....)

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