Scripts, Clichés, and Tropes! Oh My! Part 1

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

The Weditor and I were talking about genies the other night around 11pm while the Dragon roared herself to sleep. I’m sure that’s normal conversation for a married couple as they’re going to sleep right?

We were discussing how she had been surprised when a genie turned out to be malicious, and I really wasn’t. It’s not that I’m smarter (Hahaha, far from it). It’s that we were exposed to different kinds of genies. She was mostly exposed to Disney’s Aladdin and I Dream of Genie, while I spent my youth reading horror and adventure stories like Goosebumps and Bruce Coville. We’d been exposed to different Scripts for what it means to interact with a genie.

When I talk about Scripts, I’m talking about tiny stories and definitions that a writer doesn’t need to explain because the audience already knows them. It’s a form of shorthand that we use to create consistancy and fast paced narratives.

When someone reads Genie, they will assume certain things are true. (Eg. There’s a lamp, grants wishes, Middle Eastern origins, etc.) Scripts are extremely important and we use them all the time. Often when a character is alien to the main culture, them not knowing the Script is played for humour.

There’s an episode of Stargate SG1 where a character is telling the group they’ve been impregnated without having sex. When asked if they’d ever heard of anything like that one of the characters replies with, “Vader,” and a second replies with, “I was thinking of King Arthur,” to which a third character goes, “You were!?”

A virgin giving birth is a simple Script that we associate with Christian mythology. By naming other less known instances and avoiding it, the writers are playing with our expectations in a humorous way.

This subconscious use of Scripts is one of the biggest reasons that when you write you need to know your audience. Either while you’re writing or while you’re editing. Using an unfamiliar Script or a different version can not only throw someone out of the story, it can confuse them enough to stop reading.

Always make sure your stories go through multiple editors or beta readers and you’ll find how some people have no concept of certain kinds of Scripts, and others are so aware they think it’s obvious.

The next book of mine to be published is called The Sign of Faust and deals with a genie, D&D, and a lot of confusing wishes. It relies on the audience understanding certain fantasy Scripts. One of the editors had a little trouble at some points because they weren’t familiar with the Scripts, and because of that I made sure to explain a little more to avoid confusion.

I’ll talk more about Scripts and how they are similar but different from Clichés and Tropes in a later post.

 

Later Days,

Éric

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Why I LOATH Strategic Voting

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Hello Imaginary Friends,

In this post I’ll be talking a bunch about Canadian and Ontarian politics but I think it should apply to any form of democratic elections.

What am I talking about

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a big push towards movements like ABC (Anything but Conservative). At first I thought it was a cool idea and something that would get people interested in voting.

It took a few years before I realized why it bugged me. It wasn’t until someone told me not to vote for a certain party because it would be “wasting my vote”. In Canada and Ontario, each electoral district has multiple candidates from different parties. There are only four parties that run candidates in each area across the province of Ontario. If you vote for a party that doesn’t have much chance of winning people will tell you that your vote is wasted.

When that person told me not to vote for a certain party (It was the one I was going to vote for by the way) I was insulted. It wasn’t because I’m deeply partisan and was insulted for my party. I don’t belong to a party and I probably never will. I was insulted because the person was saying my opinions didn’t matter. That’s a form of strategic voting and I’ve come to loath it.

Voting in the Real World

In a perfect world, everyone who can vote reads the political agendas and plans and vote according to their belief system. We don’t live in that world. In Canada and Ontario, less than 40% of people voted in the last federal and provincial elections.

That means if you ask 10 people on the bus (And they tell you the truth) if they voted, 6 of them would not have voted. So the party that won with 30% of the vote actually won with about 13% of the population who could vote.

What’s Strategic Voting

So it makes sense that when you have a Party, who is disliked you’d try to make sure they don’t get elected right? So let’s say the Darth Party is in power and their strongest political rival is the Vulcan party. You don’t like the politics of either but you’ll vote for the Vulcan party because you really don’t want to get the Darth party elected. You really preferred the politics of the Browncoat party but were told that they would never be elected and you didn’t want to waste your vote.

Guess what happens? The Browncoats get less votes and a party you didn’t believe in was elected. Maybe the Darths don’t win and you feel validated or maybe they do and you feel you’ve at least done your duty in fighting the Empire. It’s a false sense of accomplishment. Next election, after some stupid moves on the Vulcan’s part you realize they’re all scum and decide to vote Darth to make sure the Vulcan’s don’t get elected.

Why I Loath Strategic Voting

What you did was vote negatively. You didn’t vote for what you believed in, you voted against something you didn’t like.

Let’s say out of the 40% of people who voted, 5% of the 40% voted strategically instead of voting for what they believe in, we could theoretically have a completely different election result.

With the exception of some rare elections, especially in Canada, the deciding outcome is decided by a staggeringly small number of votes. And even the elections that look like they were complete unalterably wins are decided by a less than a hundred votes.

What’s my Point

In the short term, strategic voting sounds like the best policy, get Vader out of power and deal with the rest later. But it encourages an unhealthy way of looking at politics.

If you look at what’s happened the past 3-5 Federal Elections you’ll see the true cost of Strategic Voting. The political parties have decided that it’s more effective to paint their opposition as horrible monsters, or completely incompetent, than it is to have a well thought out platform.

Strategic voting is the best way to screw up the electoral process. All we end up with is a party we hated less than another.

Is that what you want? To always get something you sort of are ok with?

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “The government you elect is government you deserve.”

Change can only happen if we trust in ourselves and each other to do the right thing, not just the least objectionable.

Well My Imaginary Friends, I firmly believe that we deserve to vote with our hearts and that in the long run it will not only make for better politics but for a better world.

What do you think?

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Evil is Stupid

Taken from Demotivational Posters: http://www.demotivationalposters.org/now-you-see-demotivational-posters-71725.html
Taken from Demotivational Posters

Why do we accept that villains are stupid? Not that they make stupid mistakes but that they are stupid. Think of a villain… I’ll wait… Ok do you have one? Great!

Are they stupid? Not unintelligent. All Bond villains are brilliant but soooo stupid. “I will destroy the world.” Chances are you’ve thought of a dumb villain and chances are it doesn’t bother you that they’re dumb.

It’s like there are four classes of villains, anti-villains, comic, stupid, and scary. Some villains are just there to make you laugh and some are there just to give the protagonist something to achieve.

Most of what Loki does in Avengers and Thor seems absolutely dumb. Did he really think he could get away with it? I mean really? No of course he didn’t. I don’t think Loki is a villain any more than I think Dexter is a hero. Loki is an Anti-Villain. He wants to be a bad guy and he wants it bad but at heart he’s really a big softy.

The comic villains are the ones that are so over-the-top that they are barely even considered villains. Darth Helmet from Spaceballs or Amilyn (Paul Reuben) from the Buffy movie.

The stupid villains are everywhere. Sometimes it’s just bad writing. Benedict CumberKHAAAAN from the latest Star Trek was a super-genius but apparently didn’t understand how to work a scanner. (Armed torpedoes beamed on his ship and he didn’t know?) STUPID!

I’m not against villains having flaws. Sauron, from Lord of the Rings, loses simply because he’s too arrogant to think anyone would destroy the ring. Other than that he was a scary level of brilliant. Benedict CumberSmaug, from the latest Hobbit, is so prideful that he doesn’t believe anyone can touch him. Pride and Arrogance are the most common fault in villains and Heroes.

Now try to think of a villain that truly terrified you. In horror movies, we have Micheal Myers, from Halloween, and Jason, from Friday the 13th, all they want is to kill. No elaborate plans just carnage. That’s scary! The audience knows what the villain want, understands why they want it, and knows they’ll get it.

Disney has some scary villains. Gaston is a true villain. He pretends to be dumb but plans and schemes. He’s a bigot, murderer, and hates progress. Worst of all, he’s charmed everyone around him to make them think he’s the Hero. Now that’s scary.

Or how about Ursula, or Cruella De Vil? They make a few mistakes but overall they were good at what they did and they did it ruthlessly.

I love television but it’s the worst offender when it comes to having stupid villains. Every recurring bad guy in Bones starts out as scary and then they have to make them stupid at the last minute. Castle did it for a few villains. Whedon seems to avoid this by making a lot of Anti-Villains. Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Eureka, and to a lesser degree Stargate all had this problem.

Back to my original question: Why?

Why do we, as an audience, allow stupid villains?

Is there a villain that scared you with how smart they were?

Until later,

Eric

P.S. Evil Overlord list!

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