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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, this is a pretty open ended question, but I was just curious what people thought.  If you could go back in time and prevent one thing from being in pop fiction, what would it be?  I'm thinking more tropes, environments, character arcs, and things like that, but if you really can't stand one specific thing, then that's fair game too.

I think mine would be "clean violence" in fiction.  And, I more mean it in serious fiction rather than satire.  I could watch Chuck Norris kung fu kick people all day, but that's because it's all so over the top.  My problem comes more the prevalence and lack of consequences that comes from wrapping things up neatly with two fists.  An example I can think of is procedural police shows.  Nearly every episode has someone knocking the bad guy out cold, or one of the main characters getting seriously hurt, and then five minutes later it's all perfect.  It wouldn't bug me if it didn't happen all the time.  I just think that after a while it paints a picture of violence as a tool and that it all goes smooth and according to plan.  Which, in real life, is simply not the case.  I don't care how skilled Liam Neason/Jason Bourne is, if he's up against 2-4 people, no matter how unskilled they are, it's going to be a giant mess, and he's not going to have a good day.

Heh, I don't know.  In general, I have hard feeling about violence in fiction, and just how much it is in fiction, but I think the clean pg-13 kind can actually be worse.  By showing an idealized, quick and easy situation, it gives the idea of a level of control to an uncontrollable situation.  Like, I actually worry about someone somewhere being in a bad spot and thinking, "I could just knock this person out and get away."

But, that's just me.  What do you all think?  I'd also like to see a lot more main characters from Latin America in pop fiction, but that might just be me too.  Any weird little things that you just sit around and think, how did this become a thing?  Or, how didn't this become a thing?
 

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The new star wars movies come to mind... and the mandalorian tv show.

I know storm troopers have always been cannon fodder for the protagonists, but at least in the old movies you get to witness certain times when the storm troopers were successful or competent in what they were doing.

Old star wars movies, yeah I might have joined the empire to earn a quid. Star wars today, not a chance, come up against any opposing individual in the galaxy with a whole squadron of dark troopers at your side and it's still a guaranteed death.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
GTurnbull said:
Old star wars movies, yeah I might have joined the empire to earn a quid.
Ha, okay, that's pretty funny.

But yeah, ever since stormtroopers went out like chumps against the ewoks, they haven't been the same. Maybe the emperor gave them all that gear as a galactic joke. The packaging for their armor reads, "Warning, this product contains post it notes, old pizza crusts, defective packing peanuts, and a nice glossy coat of paint" Emperor thinks that it's hilarious.
 

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I think R rated violence is just as guilty of.lacknof realism as pg-13 violence. It's still innacurate, but in a more over the top grotesque way.

In general, pop fiction and realism are not great friends. I'm not sure "more realism" counts as changing one thing. Would it even be pop fiction anymore? I'd certainly like more realism across the board (relationships, characters, emotional reactions, trauma, violence, wealth, sex), but I don't think readers share that feeling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Crystal_ said:
I think R rated violence is just as guilty of.lacknof realism as pg-13 violence. It's still innacurate, but in a more over the top grotesque way.

In general, pop fiction and realism are not great friends. I'm not sure "more realism" counts as changing one thing. Would it even be pop fiction anymore? I'd certainly like more realism across the board (relationships, characters, emotional reactions, trauma, violence, wealth, sex), but I don't think readers share that feeling.
Both are good points for sure. I guess fiction is fiction for a reason :D If everything was super realistic then it would just be me writing down what I did today, and nobody wants that. And, I'm not really against these things, I just kinda wish that there was a greater range of what falls somewhere in between realism and the standard fantasy. Just a few more sprinkles on top of that vanilla.

Readers will definitely dictate what goes on out there. I don't mean to say anything here from a, what's good for business standpoint. More of a, what could a bright and distant future look like, standpoint. Because somedays I like to think that we can have realistic characters with realistic relationships and sex, but somedays I like to think that Pluto's still a planet too, so...meh. Maybe I'm just prattling a bit :D
 

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I often find myself internally ranting about realism. When reading, when watching TV, movies, the works. There's not enough of it. But, I think it's just another balancing act.

I watched Normal People a few months back. I had Hulu at the time and I think it was the top show on metacritic, or close to. It was an Irish drama with actors I'd never heard of and it was based on a book. Ding ding ding I had a winner, or so I thought. I only made it to episode 4 before conceding that while on paper it looked perfect, it just wasn't for me. Which is odd, since I mostly appreciate indie movies and things generally Greta Gerwig-ish. But there's something worse than a nonsensical, whiplash-inducing, hot-and-cold relationship (yes, I'm looking at you Riverdale), and that's a boringly realistic one.

Moral of the story? I apparently need some unlikely happenings as much as I need realism. Whether I'm eye-rolling because it's too over the top, or looking at my phone because it's too down to earth, the result is the same: I'm aware I'm consuming a fiction. And not sucked in is the highest crime and misdemeanor.
 

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My sister was trying to sell me on Normal People. I watched one episode and didn't get into it. I was kinda annoyed at it on principle because everyone was making a fuss about the realistic, well done sex scenes advancing the relationship... And hello, have your heard of romance novels?

Not that we're necessarily realistic. But there are enough books that plenty are on the realistic side.

I do tend towards realism, mostly, but more when it comes to the characters and relationship and less their circumstances or finances. Sure, there aren't a lot of hot billionaires who truly earned their money, but that's not really the meat of the book.

I do think there's a spectrum as you said Nik, but it's one of those things that isn't easy to broadcast in packaging. I really have no idea how "realistic" a genre book is going to be when I pick it up. I've had quite a few unpleasant surprises there. I almost wish we have a five point realism scale (among other scales) that we could offer as a hidden option or something.

And then certain things are genre norms you can only fight so much. Like a romance hero with a beer gut. Realistic. But I don't know if that's going to sell. I have stopped describing abs in lurid detail (who knows? Maybe the guy doesn't even have a six pack?!?!?) but I don't know that I could push it much further than that.

We had a death in the family right around then so I never made a point of trying to get back into Normal People. It might get really awesome. I have no idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Crystal_ said:
And then certain things are genre norms you can only fight so much. Like a romance hero with a beer gut. Realistic. But I don't know if that's going to sell. I have stopped describing abs in lurid detail (who knows? Maybe the guy doesn't even have a six pack?!?!?) but I don't know that I could push it much further than that.
Ha, that definitely made me think of Stranger Things. Hopper can both save the day and absolutely destroy a plate of supreme nachos. And he might even sing Jim Crorce while he does it. Added bonus.
 

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I've been punched and it hurts like hell. You don't just stand up and take another whack. You run or you hit back and the same thing happens to the other guy. And most people are crap at fighting. We're not all boxers an  kung fu experts.

Car chases. You can't drive on the pavement and not knock someone down.

And the biggest bugbear: someone fires a million bullets and misses you every time (Rambo.) The good guy fires one and hits every time.

And another thing, since I'm on a rant, does the hero really have to be the best at everything when they're telling us about their CV?

 

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wearywanderer64 said:
I've been punched and it hurts like hell. You don't just stand up and take another whack. You run or you hit back and the same thing happens to the other guy. And most people are crap at fighting. We're not all boxers an kung fu experts.

Car chases. You can't drive on the pavement and not knock someone down.

And the biggest bugbear: someone fires a million bullets and misses you every time (Rambo.) The good guy fires one and hits every time.

And another thing, since I'm on a rant, does the hero really have to be the best at everything when they're telling us about their CV?
I am laughing because my hero just told my heroine this in my WIP a couple days ago. That you do not walk away without a scratch after being punched the way they do in movies, and you cannot zigzag and avoid a hail of bullets.

My vote would be emotional abuse (edit: particularly, controlling behavior) as romantic. I hate bashing romance so I have hesitated, but I do not hate bashing abuse, so there you go. (See what I did there.) Bad boys are often just bad men, and a lot of women could testify that love of a woman does not change an abusive man. Well, they could, except that you cannot testify from the grave. If my thought on reading your story is, restraining order now, I do not buy this as a romance. And more. I think it is a dangerous message to give women.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
wearywanderer64 said:
I've been punched and it hurts like hell. You don't just stand up and take another whack. You run or you hit back and the same thing happens to the other guy. And most people are crap at fighting. We're not all boxers an kung fu experts.

Car chases. You can't drive on the pavement and not knock someone down.

And the biggest bugbear: someone fires a million bullets and misses you every time (Rambo.) The good guy fires one and hits every time.

And another thing, since I'm on a rant, does the hero really have to be the best at everything when they're telling us about their CV?
Ha, yep. Yep on everything. The person who is the best at everything is always kind of an, uggh, moment.

And, as far as getting punched, yeah it's so much more variable in real life. I do Thai kickboxing in my spare time, and I don't spar as much as I did when I was younger, but I learned pretty well how hard it is to expect things. That other person might have a granite chin or they might buckle. They might see everything coming or they might not. You really have no idea what a punch will do until it lands. Just walking up and knocking somebody out is like the spiritual successor of Rambo with bullets flying all around him. It only works because the story wants to have disposable thugs being disposed.

Although, I will say, I always thought the first Rambo was actually incredibly realistic. Everything was a mess, and it just kept on getting messier. They got ridiculous, but that first one was almost weirdly realistic.
 

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Count me in as one who tires a little of the superhero ex-Special Forces guy who can not only fix electronics on the fly (literally -- he can fly everything from jet packs to helicopters) but knows every martial art out there and has such a top secret clearance that even the FBI can't find out his background while he's saving the world from zombie nuclear terrorists.

In a way, it makes for exciting reading, and exciting action movies. But it's pretty much unreal.

At the same time, that's part of the appeal, the fantasy. People want heroes and larger than life characters. If every movie or book was totally reality based they'd be fairly dull reading or viewing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
jb1111 said:
Count me in as one who tires a little of the superhero ex-Special Forces guy who can not only fix electronics on the fly (literally -- he can fly everything from jet packs to helicopters)
I always snicker a little when someone puts their head under a hood and can fix a car. There might be literally nothing you can fix on a car without some kind of tool. Put a hose back on? Maybe? Pull a dead fuse? An action hero carrying a leatherman would be amazing.
 

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I really hate the trope where a character withholds information just because.  If you've got information that could save the world, you're not going to keep it to yourself just because the hero needs to discover it for themselves or whatever.
 

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Crystal_ said:
My sister was trying to sell me on Normal People. I watched one episode and didn't get into it. I was kinda annoyed at it on principle because everyone was making a fuss about the realistic, well done sex scenes advancing the relationship... And hello, have your heard of romance novels?

Not that we're necessarily realistic. But there are enough books that plenty are on the realistic side.

I do tend towards realism, mostly, but more when it comes to the characters and relationship and less their circumstances or finances. Sure, there aren't a lot of hot billionaires who truly earned their money, but that's not really the meat of the book.

I do think there's a spectrum as you said Nik, but it's one of those things that isn't easy to broadcast in packaging. I really have no idea how "realistic" a genre book is going to be when I pick it up. I've had quite a few unpleasant surprises there. I almost wish we have a five point realism scale (among other scales) that we could offer as a hidden option or something.

And then certain things are genre norms you can only fight so much. Like a romance hero with a beer gut. Realistic. But I don't know if that's going to sell. I have stopped describing abs in lurid detail (who knows? Maybe the guy doesn't even have a six pack?!?!?) but I don't know that I could push it much further than that.

We had a death in the family right around then so I never made a point of trying to get back into Normal People. It might get really awesome. I have no idea.
It might just be me. I find myself alone in my opinions sometimes.

From what I saw, which was not even half, it's just one long winding road of misunderstandings and unclear communications, and there was already one time jump by the time I quit. I know it's true to life, I've known those people who have a tangible connection but can't seem to understand each other. It's just more painful and awkward than enjoyable to me. Maybe if I read the book and I could be in their heads it wouldn't be as dissatisfying as watching it.

Not describing abs is something. I don't think I've ever come across a romance without a washboard description. And I think I read another kboarder saying they deliberating wrote about millionaires instead of billionaires a few years ago. But what you said is true, in the end it's often just window dressing. Super rich equals super set pieces. And if the chemistry is there, and you bring realism to their relationship, that's balance.

I guess that's what I would like to change in pop fiction. Normal looking people. When I'm reading, it's never the physical description that gets me, it's the way they carry themselves and deal with problems, the way they treat others and animals, hell even the quirky family members are more important to me. But I get it, we're visual, we like pretty things. Normal looking people would probably never make it past niche.
 

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As long as the story engages me and I find it entertaining, I am generally prepared to suspend my disbelief about many things, including violence without consequences for the 'good' guys. On the other hand, I only have to see the word 'ex-CIA' in a blub and I'll immediately pass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
kathrynoh said:
I really hate the trope where a character withholds information just because. If you've got information that could save the world, you're not going to keep it to yourself just because the hero needs to discover it for themselves or whatever.
Ha, yep :D We watch Supernatural sometimes and the two brother characters say, it never ends well when we lie to each other, from now on we tell each other everything. Then like two episodes later one of them has a big secret. I'm still not sure if it's better or worse because the writers seem to fully understand that it's kind of ridiculous.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Bite the Dusty said:
I guess that's what I would like to change in pop fiction. Normal looking people. When I'm reading, it's never the physical description that gets me, it's the way they carry themselves and deal with problems, the way they treat others and animals, hell even the quirky family members are more important to me. But I get it, we're visual, we like pretty things. Normal looking people would probably never make it past niche.
I always really like stories about normal people in extraordinary situations, so I get pretty excited when they look or seem like normal people. A little while ago I was reading a book about two scientists and it was very refreshing. Like, they weren't over the top "sexy doctors" and they weren't stereotype dorks, but it was all somewhere in the middle, and I was reading it thinking, yes, yesss.
 

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NikOK said:
I just think that after a while it paints a picture of violence as a tool and that it all goes smooth and according to plan. Which, in real life, is simply not the case. I don't care how skilled Liam Neason/Jason Bourne is, if he's up against 2-4 people, no matter how unskilled they are, it's going to be a giant mess, and he's not going to have a good day.
John Wick, or even Die Hard, handles this a little better. He's a wreck by the end of each encounter.

Still a bit of suspension of disbelief as he takes out 10 armed goons with one injured arm, but it at least shows some cost to punishment doled out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
A.D. Nello said:
John Wick, or even Die Hard, handles this a little better. He's a wreck by the end of each encounter.

Still a bit of suspension of disbelief as he takes out 10 armed goons with one injured arm, but it at least shows some cost to punishment doled out.
That's a really good point. I read an article about the screenplay for John Wick and it was pretty interesting. The writer put down move for move details for the action in the screenplay rather than writing, "fight happens" And, I think John Wick in general is a good example that realism (heh, kinda) can sell. It had extremely little plot, not a ton of character, but it sure gave us something new.

The first few Ong Bak movies were very realistic action, but I don't know how popular they were. It's always going to be somewhat movied up, but Die Hard and John Wick are great examples of realism in action.
 
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