I stumbled upon this website- http://tvtropes.org/ – which is crammed full of a seemingly endless parade of tropes used in storytelling. I’ve been clicking through it and just learning and learning- they have names for all the tropes out there, many of them extremely creative, as well as examples of each from books, Tv, movies, comics, etc..
I feel like this should be standard material for writers to know. I’ve read countless books on plot, story, craft etc, but none that I going through tropes, basically all the possible plot shapes/twists/events, in such an encyclopedic manner. I go through it thinking -‘Oh yeah, the villain in my book is a ‘Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds,’ and ‘Oh yeah, I’ve used a ‘beta-test baddie’ before, and they did that in LOST too? We’ll hang a lampshade on me…
Woobie= a sympathetic bad guy, like the bad guy in God of Ruin
Beta-test baddie= a prototype version who gets replaced because he/she’s flawed, like Ultron in Avengers or Data’s brother Lore
Hang a lampshade= writer’s trick to defang a plot hole by referring to it directly, then moving on.
Go check the site out and get lost down the rabbit hole. It is endlessly self-referential, with its own language of ‘technical terms’.
Yesterday I watched episode 2 of the Chinese School, a fascinating experiment on the BBC, where 5 Chinese teachers come and teach Chinese style in a UK school. 50 students in a class, largely rote memorization and copying and passive listening, 12 hours a day.
Wow. The British kids are out of control, understandably. It looks like cruel and unusual punishment. But the Chinese teachers are really sincere- so I have sympathy for everyone.
In these lessons there is no carrot and no stick. No carrot of interesting, interactive material or teaching style, and no stick of the wider Chinese culture, which only rewards high performance in such classes, and punishes failure with not having food to eat (they have no social welfare system).
Fascinating stuff- been discussing it with my Chinese students. Yup, they really went through that. UK uni is massively different, I think. Many really struggle to make a clear, logical argument in essay form. They did it differently in China.