cricketmask: (my own reality is the best reality)
[personal profile] cricketmask
I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative kinks lately. I've written a little about them before, although I wasn’t particularly organized about it. Lately, though, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands for writing and reading and watching tv/movies and whatnot, and there are definitely things that I gravitate towards over and over again. Even more, I will probably enjoy the movie/show/book/fic simply because it includes one of my narrative kinks. I prefer that they’re done well, of course, but I can’t even count how many bad movies I’ve watched (and enjoyed!) simply because they promised something vaguely dystopian.

Setting and Universe Tropes:
1. Post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopias -- la la la, MY FAVORITE THING EVER. I love post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopias even when they’re not particularly well-realized – like, I adore Doomsday beyond all reason, and if you think about ANYTHING in that movie too hard your head is liable to explode – but when they are explained and developed well? UNF. When it comes to the apocalypse, I’m particularly fond of blasted-out nuclear desert worlds, and also crumbling, half-deserted cities slowly being overtaken by nature. When it comes to dystopias, the more militaristic and/or sci-fi, the better. Alternate history, the future, aliens, supernatural monsters – give me all of it. ALL OF IT.

2. Westerns -- I love pretty much all westerns, whether it’s the classic western, the deconstructionist western, the space western, the weird western, and so on. I suspect it’s partly because I’m a native of the west coast and grew up with stories about the gold rush and the Oregon Trail. There’s also something about the landscape out here that just GETS to me, whether it’s the deserts of the southwest or the plains of the California valley, the crags of the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascades, the thick pine forests of the northwest, the wide open Montana sky, the sagebrush of the high desert. I love the dust and the grit, the conflict between man-imposed law and order versus the inherent wildness of the land. I like seeing characters struggle with what it means to be “civilized,” and the ways in which they may be very wrong about what that word means. Also, I kind of just like cowboys.

3. Cosmic horror -- I love cosmic horror so much. SO MUCH. I love the idea that there are things out there that are much too big for us to understand, things with motivations far beyond what we would understand as “good” and “evil.” There’s a sense of bleakness and despair in cosmic horror that really appeals to me, especially if there are characters that either (a) decide to carry on regardless, because they REFUSE to live in a world where they merit little more concern than an ant and they’ll be damned if their lives are going to be meaningless, or (b) embrace the despair and go utterly mad as a result. Also, there are often monsters, and these monsters may or may not have tentacles, and cephalopods are AWESOME.

4. Institutional settings -- by “institutional”, I mean boarding schools, hospitals, asylums, prisons, and so on. I like stuff set in these places even when they’re functional, just because the nature of the setting forces certain kinds of character interactions, and there are consequences when the characters act in ways they’re not supposed to, but what I really love is when these settings are dysfunctional in some way. Maybe the people in charge are evil. Maybe there are supernatural forces at work. Maybe society itself is fucked up, and people are being forced to live in these settings when they really shouldn’t be there. I love seeing how the characters cope with this...or how they don’t.

Character Tropes:
1. Sentient and sapient artificial intelligence -- this is one of my BULLETPROOF narrative kinks, holy shit. I am so incredibly into exploring the idea of what it means to be human, and I am ALL OVER anything involving self-aware computer programs, robots, androids, or other forms of artificial intelligence, especially if they themselves are struggling with the idea of what they are. I particularly like it when AI of any sort confronts the idea of programming -- if you’re programmed to feel something, is that emotion real? What does it mean if you can alter your programming? In virtual spaces, who gets to define what’s “real” and what’s not? There are also enormous power imbalances to explore when you have humans interacting with AI, especially if there’s genuine emotion and attachment involved. I just. GUH. I can’t get enough of stuff like this.

2. Characters who are touch- or affection-starved in some way -- I’m fascinated by characters who avoid touching others/being touched, while at the same time desperately want that sort of close contact. I think…I want to know why they’re that way? And how it affects them? Then, how does it get addressed and potentially overcome? There’s probably a lot of id-satisfaction involved in this one, because I tend to avoid physical contact with most people (exceptions: fiancé, parents, patients, and like three of my friends) but simultaneously crave it, and I guess I just really like seeing that dynamic explored in fiction. I think it makes me feel a little less weird about my capital-I Issues. :|

3. Good characters who are utterly broken and turned into a tool for Evil, with extra-mega-bonus points for them eventually fighting back and either destroying Evil or turning Evil into Less-Evil or even Slightly-Good – have you noticed that I really like when characters have to struggle with things? Especially if what they’re struggling with is something in their own nature? BECAUSE I REALLY DO LOVE THAT. I don’t even know how much more to explain this, except that I really dig hurt/comfort tropes and this maybe ties into that? I don’t knowwww.

Scenario Tropes:
1. Groundhog Day time loops -- THESE ARE MY KRYPTONITE. My weaknesssss. I can’t get enough of them, whether it’s the classic Groundhog Day version, or the far darker Supernatural version in which someone dies over and over again until the main character gets their shit figured out. There are so many ways to riff on the time loop – maybe more than one character is aware of it, maybe the actions the main character takes during one repetition of the loop actually affects what happens the next time it repeats, maybe they go crazy, maybe they don’t, maybe it’s not actually a time loop at all but they’re hopping universes and need to get back to the original…and so on. I just really, REALLY love watching the characters struggle with what it means to be stuck in a time loop and how their actions affect others. What do they do when they realize they can say or do whatever they want with no consequences? Is that a good thing, or a terrible one? Kryptonite, I’m telling you.

2. Fairy tale remixes -- I love these in pretty much any form, whether it’s new versions of the stories featuring the actual fairy tale characters themselves, new riffs on familiar stories (see: Freeway, which is one of the best versions of Little Red Riding Hood I’ve ever seen), or fanfic AUs involving characters from other universes in fairy tale-like stories. I feel like remixes can draw out or highlight themes that were barely touched on in the original stories, and I especially love when elements that were problematic in the original story are turned on their head in the remixed version.

3. When the characters are stuck with each other for some reason-- road trips, stuck in an elevator together, having to share a hotel room and/or bed, needing to pretend to be a couple, trapped together somewhere cold, needing to team up in order to fight something worse, and so on. I especially love this trope if the characters are antagonistic for whatever reason, or if they’re awkward with each other because of feeeeeeelings. I like that the characters in these situations are forced into interacting with each other in ways they might not otherwise, and I really enjoy seeing how their relationship unfolds as they have to navigate the challenge of the situation and the way they may or may not feel about each other.

4. Zombies -- zombies, weirdly enough, are something I can’t get enough of in movies, tv shows, and books, and CAN’T STAND in fanfic. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to read about terrible things happening to characters I love? For whatever reason, it’s okay for bad things to happen to characters I care about when the world has already been established as Crapsack Zombie World, but I very rarely read fanfic zombie!AUs. When it comes to fanfiction, I can handle the walking dead only if they’re not rotting, mindless, or murderous. They can want to eat people, but I prefer that they, um…don’t. In every other form of media, however? SHIT, SON, THE ZOMBIES CAN EAT WHOEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT.

Miscellaneous Tropes:
1. SCIENCE!!! -- this applies to regular science, which is amazing no matter what, and also over-the-top SCIENCE!!!, which I love beyond all reason. SCIENCE!!! Is partly why steampunk, dieselpunk, and whatever-punk-comprises-the-Fallout-universe all appeal to me so much – there’s this sense that humanity is tinkering with things they probably shouldn’t tinker with, and it’s entirely possible that it’s all going to go horribly wrong and destroy everything.

2. Medical stuff -- this is one of the rare tropes that I’m really picky about. I love stuff that’s set in hospitals or has to do with medicine in general, but I want it to be ACCURATE. I’m so fucking tired of seeing things where the doctors do everything cool and nurses are treated like shit, or where medical conditions aren’t dealt with in a way that’s remotely realistic, or where antibiotics are ~magical~ and solve every problem instantly. NO. BLUH.

3. Anything related to scent -- this is one of my faaaaaaavorite things about stories involving werewolves or other supernatural creatures with enhanced senses. Like in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, where he describes wolves and dogs experiencing smell in terms of color? OH MY GOD. I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. I’m still enormously into BPAL these days, and I love trying to describe the way the oils smell. Do they evoke color, emotion, a memory, music, taste? Descriptions of scent, especially if they’re unique and evocative, are one of the quickest ways to get me to fall in love with a book or story.

4. First times -- I love watching people fall in love, and I love when they finally get together, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE when it's weird and awkward and uncomfortable but they carry on regardless because they adore each other. Especially in fanfic, oh my god. I could read First Time fic FOREVER and be absolutely delighted with my choices in life.


There are other things I gravitate towards a lot, like stuff set during WWI or WWII, or anything involving dinosaurs, or stuff involving parallel universes that occasionally intersect, or fantasy worlds just on the other side of this one, but none of those really get to me the way the stuff above does. Like, if I see something that promises dinosaurs, I’m like, “ooooh, yay, dinosaurs, I should check that out sometime.” Whereas if something promises a time loop? I’m like, “WHY AM I NOT READING/WATCHING IT RIGHT THIS SECOND WHYYYYY?”

It’s funny – looking back over the list, my tastes in fiction run a bit darker than I always thought. I am really big on dysfunctional people in dysfunctional settings and situations! Also, robots!
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October 2013

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