Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Forays in Fiction: Story on the Ropes? Get Tropes.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling, Second Edition
by Dawn Paladin
Designs & Interfaces / Infographics
I found a new playground for storytellers today: TV Tropes Wiki.  It began as an exploration of tropes in TV stories but has expanded to include all media.

On this page for the trope spoofs and parodies of the periodic table there is a list with links to examples, including one that is a periodic table for the TV Tropes wiki itself.  When linked to the relevant articles in the wiki it almost amounts to a table of contents.  Some are calling it a cheat sheet for storytellers.

In my exploration in the forums on TV Tropes and the comments on the image's page on Dawn Paladin's Deviant Art site I saw several nay-sayers who felt something was wrong about thinking you could break down the rich complexity of all stories into these simple (simplistic?) elements. Or that it meant there was something wrong--simple headed? shallow?-- about the human mind that needs story to be comprised of simple, familiar elements that can be moved around like lego blocks.

My answer to that is:

  • Look at all the rich complexity in all that computers can do, including the internet.  Would you complain that breaking it down to the two states of on and off, which is what the ones and zeros represent, is proof of some lack in that complexity or that it somehow dishonors it or the mind that comprehends it? 
  • And what about the four elements that make up DNA which is the code for building all living things?  Does that make living organisms less awesome? Or the brains some organisms have less useful?  
  • Then there are the atoms and molecules that the original periodic table was designed to organize which are the building blocks of all matter in the universe.  Does that lessen the astonishment and awe one feels when contemplating the universe?  Or reflect poorly on its existence? Or in any way make it irrational to admire it? 

At any rate that Storytelling Periodic Table only captures a small subset of the thousands of tropes that have been added to TV Tropes.  That should calm the naysayers objections.  Though I think it is the fact of the existence of repeatable, reusable, recognizable mix and match elements they are objecting to.  Some are confusing tropes with cliches.  Do I really need to make another list?

0 tell me a story:

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