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The Dreaded Plot Cliché

With particular thanks to my friend, ghostposts, who posted the first of these links on her LJ page, I'd like to draw your attention to the following lists, from over at Strange Horizons.  They contain details of, shall we say, somewhat overemployed plotlines, which they'd prefer not to see in submissions.

Frankly, after reading through them both I feel violated.  It's like they raided my ideas folder and listed every plot I ever came up with
 However, in the interest of sharing (and to save anyone ever needing to read one of my stories), I'm posting the links here.

Strange Horizons:
Horror stories we've seen too often

Strange Horizons:  Stories we've seen too often

My only consolation is that my current WIP - about a housesitter, who goes up the creaky staircase to investigate strange growling noises coming from the attic during a dark, and stormy Hallows' Eve, armed only with a candle - doesn't get mentioned. 

How about you?  Are there any stories on your collection that you won't be submitting to Strange Horizons after all?

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Jul. 1st, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Two ways to look at this. First, you can always twist an old idea to make it fresh. That, however, requires a truly fresh approach with some of these cliché plots. The second is not to write any of these in the first place, to be familiar with what's gone before when coming up with ideas. A lot of these are what's called "The Jar of Tang Story." Where the protag spends the entire story trudging across an orange desert surrounded by an impenetrable vitrine barrier. Which in the end is—surprise!—a jar of Tang. A lot of these are conceits not ideas that true human drama in a story can find much of anything to work with.

The above Jar of Tang example is from the Turkey City Lexicon if you haven't seen it. :-)


Edited at 2009-07-01 07:13 pm (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
You mean the Jar of Tang idea's been done too? ;)
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
You still see it pop up occasionally. Like in Apex Digest #7 with "Grass Land" by Michael Laimo, about these tiny astronauts on a world where the grass is growing above their heads and this huge roar is coming in the distance and yes, it's a...lawnmower. It was creepy, I guess, but I groaned as I saw it coming. So it can work--or not!--depending on your pov. ;-)

Jul. 1st, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember a Twilight Zone episode with tiny astronauts. The wonderful Agnes Moorhead was the giantess :)

Not to mention the Land of the Giants TV show.
Jul. 1st, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
And why one should not use them as they're from 45 year old TV shows, which were cribbing of written SF from even before that. While there are no new plots, these are not really plots but just speculative ideas that are not really fresh.

However, there was a story a few weeks ago in Strange Horizons called "Baby in a Basket." This was not a fresh idea. It combined The Terminator (which cribbed off Harlan Ellison's work for Outer Limits) and Robert Heinlein's classic time-travel story "All You Zombies." And while there was nothing fresh about "Baby in a Basket," it was well written and the characters worked. But still that's what I remembered about it, the source material. Okay story, nothing special.

Jul. 1st, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
By the way, thanks for the SFWA link. I've added it to my favorites, so I can study it in more detail later :)
Jul. 1st, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Certainly, I pull it out every now and again to refresh myself. And sometimes I get an idea on how to fix a story problem.

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed


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