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Halo Writing Workshop

OP Flugel Meister

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Usually at least a dozen.
Could you provide a few specific examples of tropes and the like that we should try and avoid?
KaneXX12 wrote:
Could you provide a few specific examples of tropes and the like that we should try and avoid?
So, tropes and clichés and Mary Sues are relatively easy to spot. Here are the definitions of each one:

  • Trope - A figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
  • Cliché - A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
  • Mary Sue - A Mary Sue is an idealised and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognised as an author insert or wish-fulfilment.
A trope used in a story often appears as a big twist or turn that unsettles the flow and impacts heavily on the theme of the story. Essentially it's a twist that comes across unnaturally, with no previous hints, leads or aspects that provide an indication of the event. Tropes aren't necessarily a bad thing, but can be used poorly. The trick is to be creative without resorting to an unoriginal approach, which then moves the written event into the cliché territory. One example of a good trope would be the 'I am your father' line from The Empire Strikes Back. A Mary Sue is also a form of trope.

Clichés are often glaring indicators of an inexperienced writer. They can be via dialogue or exposition. So one example would be the whole 'rescuing the damsel in distress' thing. It's a cliché. That's why the character Ripley works well in the Alien series. Or why Wolverine works well because he's the anti-hero. In terms of dialogue it could be a character saying lines such as:
  • Fit as a fiddle
  • Old as the hills
  • time will tell
  • When life gives you lemons
  • sent a shiver down my spine
As you can see these sayings have been used so much they are no longer accepted as original aspects of writing. Some do work in writing, but usually in parodies or with self-deprecating characters who like to point out the poor writing, such as Deadpool. Essentially, clichés are elements of writing that have been done so much they are entirely familiar with the reader. And readers want originality in stories. They want new experiences. A character turning up at the nick of time to rescue someone, or a character coming back from the brink of death. Sure, there are ways that this can be done well. Just look at A Game of Thrones, especially with Ned Stark SPOILER. You expect him to be allowed to avoid execution and join the Night's Watch on the Wall. But instead he's executed. It works really well.

Mary Sues are by far the most common mistake in Halo fan fiction. Take one superhuman Spartan soldier and add the wish fulfilment of a young writer, and you end up with a character who is unnaturally gifted, even for a Spartan. I've read so many that have a single Spartan standing on piles of dead Sangheili whilst killing hundreds more and then going on to singlehandedly destroy an entire fleet without any help. This is basically when the writer puts themselves into the shoes of the character, and it becomes a fantasy outing. More often than not, Mary Sues are appearing where Spartans are now high ranking officers and have brushed shoulders with every known character in the UNSC, who give gushing recommendations. To see examples simply head to the 'Describe your Spartan' thread in the forum. ; )

In summary, be original. Don't completely deviate the flow of the story in order to 'shock' the reader. A good writer will craft a superb method for a character becoming the bad guy or the sudden death of a popular character. Most importantly, though, a character will have their own issues and problems that help make them feel realistic. Don't have a 'perfect' person. There's no such thing. The reader needs to be able to relate with the character or characters.
The more mindful you are of all this, the harder it is! Or maybe, the more mindful you are, the harder you are on yourself about it all. Not sure. Maybe both, which is at least a good sign that it's sinking in.

But it's difficult. I found that with my mind on alert for cliches and tropes, I saw everything as a trope. Maybe because the old war themes of death, honor, legend, etc. are too worn, or maybe they're worn because they're true and I just need a fresher way of depicting them.

Don't know how you all feel, but to me it definitely feels (still - after my latest entry) like a translation issue; finding the right way to get material and scenes out of my head and onto the page. I don't think it's an issue of trusting the reader for me at this stage, just about refining a style of minimalising what I'm trying to depict.
The more mindful you are of all this, the harder it is! Or maybe, the more mindful you are, the harder you are on yourself about it all. Not sure. Maybe both, which is at least a good sign that it's sinking in.

But it's difficult. I found that with my mind on alert for cliches and tropes, I saw everything as a trope. Maybe because the old war themes of death, honor, legend, etc. are too worn, or maybe they're worn because they're true and I just need a fresher way of depicting them.

Don't know how you all feel, but to me it definitely feels (still - after my latest entry) like a translation issue; finding the right way to get material and scenes out of my head and onto the page. I don't think it's an issue of trusting the reader for me at this stage, just about refining a style of minimalising what I'm trying to depict.
Tropes can be a good thing. It all depends on how you use them. If everything is a metaphor then the direction of the story might suffer as the reader will become confused as to what is an honest depiction of the events and what is carrying an alternate message.

The main issue with young or inexperienced writers (and I still make mistakes BTW) is that most fall into the trap of writing long, slow build ups at the start, such as he or she was walking somewhere. or an object gliding through space. Look at any best seller in a shop and they don't start this way. I guarantee that the first paragraph is where most people fall over and make mistakes.

The other main issue is info dumping on the reader, instead of showing them. Lastly, some fans make themselves the Spartan. And then it becomes a fantasy. A Mary Sue. Unrealistic.

The best approach is to:
  • Have convincing characters as the crux of the story. each has their own distinct tone and their own agenda, but this doesn't always need to conflict.
  • Show don't tell
  • Good dialogue
  • A running theme, such as loss or ambition or abandonment
  • Hook the reader at the start and provide a sense of closure at the end
I should also point out one very important thing here. I'm not published. At least not in fiction. I've had video game reviews published but I've never had any fiction published.

This means I'm still learning, too. At the age of 42. But I'm getting there. My writing is constantly improving and I'm trying new approaches. The advice I provide is based upon what I've learned via the professionals, both tutors and published authors. The reason I do this is because I really could have done with someone explaining all this to me 20 years ago.

But if you're ever in doubt of your writing ability, think of this: J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was previously rejected twelve times by publishers. And almost a thirteenth. Her manuscript ended up in the slush pile at Bloomsbury, which is one step away from the bin/garbage. The story goes that it ended up in the hands of one of the senior members of Bloomsbury who handed the first three chapters to his daughter to read, as it was intended for that age range. His daughter read the submission and asked for the rest of the book.

Of course, not every author goes on to have an estimated wealth of £600m. Many still have regular jobs. But even the most successful people sometimes need a little luck and timing. So if you intend to get published at some point, study your market and read and write as often as possible. Start small, with original short stories and submit these to magazines and publications, competitions etc. Then try a novel.

Unfortunately, too many unpublished writers try to create a 7-book series that was inspired by Lord of the Rings or Halo or A Game of Thrones. And they never get published because they're trying to run before they can even crawl. I see it all the time in the many writing forums I visit. I was even tempted.

There are loads of books out there that are really helpful for writers wanting to learn and develop and to get published. Some better than others. Here's a few of them:

One of my inspirations was Stephanie Meyer. I figure if she can get published, so can I.
I'm going to take this moment to shamelessly promote my own completely-unrelated-to-Halo work; what started life as a short story has now degenerated into a structureless mess (60,000 words in and just now introducing one of the main secondary antagonists coupled with an utterly incomprehensibly vague backstory about the Air Force, whose characterization has changed from "pretentious snobs" to "all communist" with no real explanation) with more characters than the Chinese Alphabet, probably because I insist on giving every single minor character a stupidly detailed backstory despite the main characters having all the personality of wet cardboard (to the point where the bloke who appears in a single scene solely to tell a bad guy information to blackmail another bad guy with is probably more interesting than both lead protagonists combined) without any real point to it.

Here's an excerpt from it.
EDIT: Managed around my question
I should also point out one very important thing here. I'm not published. At least not in fiction. I've had video game reviews published but I've never had any fiction published.

This means I'm still learning, too. At the age of 42. But I'm getting there. My writing is constantly improving and I'm trying new approaches. The advice I provide is based upon what I've learned via the professionals, both tutors and published authors. The reason I do this is because I really could have done with someone explaining all this to me 20 years ago.

But if you're ever in doubt of your writing ability, think of this: J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was previously rejected twelve times by publishers. And almost a thirteenth. Her manuscript ended up in the slush pile at Bloomsbury, which is one step away from the bin/garbage. The story goes that it ended up in the hands of one of the senior members of Bloomsbury who handed the first three chapters to his daughter to read, as it was intended for that age range. His daughter read the submission and asked for the rest of the book.

Of course, not every author goes on to have an estimated wealth of £600m. Many still have regular jobs. But even the most successful people sometimes need a little luck and timing. So if you intend to get published at some point, study your market and read and write as often as possible. Start small, with original short stories and submit these to magazines and publications, competitions etc. Then try a novel.

Unfortunately, too many unpublished writers try to create a 7-book series that was inspired by Lord of the Rings or Halo or A Game of Thrones. And they never get published because they're trying to run before they can even crawl. I see it all the time in the many writing forums I visit. I was even tempted.

There are loads of books out there that are really helpful for writers wanting to learn and develop and to get published. Some better than others. Here's a few of them:

I jumped in here to thank you. These references are fantastic. I'm constantly trying to improve my writing and I didn't even realize some of these books existed! Thank you, again!
Don't know about you guys but I find this latest contest much easier. Characterisation within a defined word space has been a lot easier to handle.

I've been using the same character throughout, not as a continuous story, but as a way of developing/understanding him better each time. This psych report - or something like it - I should have started with in the first place.
Mine killed me inside a little bit. I've had that mentioned death planned for a little while, but this made it final. These are also characters that I've been developing for quite a few years in my short story/novella "ODST: Helbound".
Mine killed me inside a little bit. I've had that mentioned death planned for a little while, but this made it final. These are also characters that I've been developing for quite a few years in my short story/novella "ODST: Helbound".
It doesn't hurt to try with a clean slate and use a brand new character. In fact it can often lead to a breakthrough.
Submitted an assessment for the 5th Writing Contest, but wanted to post this one too since it basically spawned as a companion piece.

Psychological Assessment:

Subject: Venka – Spartan III (B-297)

Subject is becoming increasingly unstable. Mild disorder cases are typical of Beta recruits, but rarely develop into severe sociopathic tendencies beyond desired parameters. B297 is highly intelligent, excels in military theory, tactics and execution – but completely lacks the ability to function within a unit and is often unresponsive to orders. B-297 has also shown no real capacity for empathy or guilt and, as a result, is inclined towards psychological manipulation of her peers.

Evidence of this can be found primarily in the relationship between B297 and her biological brother (See file B-298 “Niko”).

Since arrival, B-297 has operated alongside B-298 exclusively. Attempts to separate them to facilitate team building have been met with extreme violence. However, she consistently exhibits contradictory attitudes regarding B-298, who is frequently the victim of physical abuse from Venka. This is followed by nurturing physical contact and positive verbal reinforcement.

All of the above is indicative of early childhood trauma prior to any warfare related PTSD, but records are insubstantial.

Indoctrination, solitary confinement and corporal punishment have failed to curb these behaviors, and have only served to exacerbate B-297’s efforts to inflict bodily harm on her trainers.
Hey, So I am going through a writing phase, and am a huge halo fan, so I have written a small halo story and I hear this is the place to come for feedback.
I am sorry, but I am going to have to make multiple posts to get it all up.
For whoever critiques this, please dont be afraid to be brutally honest with the feedback.

There is one more page to upload but I hit the limit for posts today...so I guess a cliffhanger?
I will post the ending the minute I can
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I would post that to someplace like Fanfiction.net, to make it easier to read.
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