The Same Old Story

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The subject of whether is anything new to write about is one that seems to come up in every fandom. [1] Even Star Trek fans were complaining of plot and story recycling just a year or so after the show ended.[citation needed]
a "script generator" by Paula Smith from Code 7 #2: "Have you ever wanted to write an S/H story, but couldn't think of a plot? For those of you who are still virgules in these woods, we present the one & only: S/H Script Generator." Click to read.

Recognizing the similar plots and the sometimes sameness of fan fiction, fans sometimes created their own "Script Generators" or "Story Generators". An example of this theme is the The Omnipotent Third Season Star Trek Script Generator

Pre-Trope

Back when media fan fiction was a very new activity, the subject of tropes was just beginning to be touched upon. Without the more contained language and definition of tropes, fans relied on longer, clumsier phrases. Early Star Wars and Star Trek fans pointed out to others what they considered formulaic plots by summing them up in phrases with hyphens:

  • "Kirk-as-slave-story"
  • "Han-is-a-Jedi-story"
  • "Spock-pon farr-Kirk-slave-story"

Today, fans freely use recognizable tropes, a fannish shorthand, to describe their own stories and those of others.

A Zine Publisher Gives a Reminder

After a zine reviewer complained of a story having a oft-seen plot, a zine publisher wrote:
[I want] to remind everyone that there are supposed to be only about 6 basic plots in notion, with around 40 variations on these. This gives very little scope for new completely original ideas. Stories therefore have to depend on quality of development and writing or an imaginative twist, to catch and hold the readers' attention. We don't, after all, criticise detective stories because they're always about theft or murder... or Westerns because they're usually about conflict with Indians, rustlers or stagecoach robbers, or cattle drives with their resultant problems... Amateur writers are usually writing the sort of story that they want to read but can't find in the professional books, and frequently come up with more original development and better character interrelationship than the professionals. [2]

Some Anecdotal Comments

  • "I had to laugh at list of scenarios that have been done to death... I don't think I could stand a "shore leave" or "camping" scenario again. The "stranded on a planet in Pon Farr" is pretty old, too." [3]
  • "The sickly sweet harlequin romance plots, the pon farr plots, the captured by Klingons and forced to have sex (and discovering that it wasn't so bad) plots, the beautiful Kirk in the slave market plot, and even the sexual abuse/healing plots are becoming too standard in too many stories." [4]
  • "Yes, I still read all the ... 'get Marion out of the convent stories" I find. Some of them are really well-written, too. I'd never say that people should stop writing those themes. It's just that I'd love to see one with something completely unexpected in it." [5]
  • "The sickly sweet harlequin romance plots, the pon farr plots, the captured by Klingons and forced to have sex (and discovering that it wasn't so bad) plots, the beautiful Kirk in the slave market plot, and even the sexual abuse/healing plots are becoming too standard in too many stories." [6]
  • 2001: "... after a certain point, when there are thousands of stories out there for a specific show, a lot of the known writers in that fandom do tend to write less or move on to a new show because it is giving them new inspiration. I stopped writing Trek quite some time ago, after being very prolific for some years, because I'd begun to feel I was repeating myself. ... Whilst newbies feel comfortable in writing their interpretation of the characters and feel that they are encouraged to do this, then the fanfic side of the fandom cannot, and will not, be dead. If writers/readers acknowledge the fact that like every other genre of writing there is ultimately nothing new - only a new writer, giving their interpretation/portrayal of the same idea - in fanfic, and accept this, then fanfic is not dead nor dying; nor will it be so." [7]
  • "Is the fiction coming out of Pros now just formulaic PWPs? I don't think so, if you define PWPs as an opening paragraph, a couple pages of sex, and a closing paragraph with them sighing happily. There's a lot more in the stories and novels still being written today than simple sex scenes. That said, I don't think any of the stuff being printed today is really "new." There are only so many plots, and they've all been done at least a hundred times already." [8]

Also See

Additional Reading

See No News Ain't Necessarily Good News, a 1990 article complaining of the same old stories in Star Wars

References

  1. the same can be said of canon; a fan, citing Star Trek: DS9 comments: "I've noticed how many fans frequently observe or criticize an episode for borrowing or reworking old story ideas. Sometimes I think these observations are a bit of a stretch and assume the show's writers recall every minor aspect of previous episodes the way fans do. I don't fault [the show's] writers for reworking old ideas because there's no such thing as an original idea. It's what they do with them that counts." -- from a letter in Multi-Species Medicine #12
  2. from IDIC #39
  3. from On the Double #9 (1988)
  4. from On the Double #9 (1988)
  5. from Herne's Stepchildren #6
  6. from On the Double #9 (1988)
  7. from DIAL #19
  8. from DIAL #19