On Creativity – Tropes and why we love them

A ‘trope’ is a recurrent literary theme, motif, or structure of a plot when it comes to writing novels and stories. Most tropes are presented by authors again and again, in differing formats and story-lines, and yet, though readers generally recognize them and sometimes even preempt certain happenings and resolutions, they still continue to prefer the same type of story-line and continue to read and enjoy such books and stories again and again.

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Most tropes are over-used, and yet, they still sell. Why? I must admit that I myself find that I tend to gravitate towards reading familiar tropes, especially when I’m in a certain mood where I need a nice comfortable reliable story… and yet… is writing a novel and basing it on this much-recycled outline acceptable? I mean – where is creativity?? And what about originality?

Take for example the Rags to Riches trope – here the main character is usually a young unknown person who, through some circumstance or other, ends up becoming rich and famous. Some well-known examples include Cinderella, Pretty Woman and Slum Dog Millionaire.

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Another well-known trope is the Love Triangle – this one actually needs no explanation does it? Everyone enjoys a good love story, but throw in some unrequited love, a couple of misunderstandings, a pinch of jealousy and heartache, and there it is, the usual popular T.V drama series cocktail!

A third trope, which never gets old, is what I call the Ugly Duckling story-line. Think about My Fair Lady, The Princess Diaries, Miss Congeniality or The Devil wears Prada, and you have it. Basically this kind of story also usually ends up becoming a ‘moral lesson’ = Unkept girl has a make-over and transforms into a beauty, then realizes that looks are not everything… but she still looks pretty now anyways.

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Want another one? How about the Unknown Hero who saves the World trope? I guess I don’t even need to give examples for this one… *cough*Spiderman*cough*Superman*cough*Marvelingeneral*

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And what about all those post-apocalyptic dystopian teen-movies which seem to add up all of the above?! The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Giver… ugh! I read the books before there was even a hint of any movie, and I realized early on that they were all the same, and yet I still gobbled them up! Why!?

I guess we all love the familiar, we all dream of becoming rich, popular heroes and that never changes.

Yet, artists, BEWARE. Writing/creating something familiar while portraying it in an entirely new and creative manner is one thing, re-writing the same thing over and over and over again, is another. ‘Familiar’ is a tricky word, since it is most often dangerously close to ‘mediocre’, not to mention ‘boring’. 

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If a Sequel is not written by the original Author, it is NOT a Sequel

This is something which personally I never had to wonder about, but which, I realised yesterday, some people seem to misconceive.

What is the difference between a sequel and a fanfic?

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Is ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’, which is the book which comes after ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, a sequel? Well, of course it is, since it was written directly by the same author, Lewis Carroll, and continues the journey of the main character, Alice.

Are ‘Good Wives’ and ‘Little Men’ sequels to ‘Little Women’? Of course they are, as all of them were written by the same author, Louisa May Alcott, and follow the March family throughout the years.

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Is Robin Hobb’s ‘Rain Wild Chronicles’ a sequel to the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ and the ‘Liveship Traders Trilogy’, even though its not about the same people? Yes it is, because it is set in the same world, tackles events which obviously take place after the other books and which have an impact on them, and because it is WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

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On the other hand, what about books like P.D James’ ‘Death comes to Pemberley’, which was written as an obvious sequel to ‘Pride and Prejudice’? Do you really consider it a sequel? The time-frames are right, and the writer is good, but it’s not written by the original author is it? The flavor is totally different. And what about Alexandra Rippley’s ‘Scarlett’, which was written as a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’? The realistic feelings of loss and hope in the face of desperation are totally lost to a whiny prima donna who does not capture the original heroine’s spirit in the least. So, written right or written wrong, no I personally DO NOT CONSIDER BOOKS WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT AUTHOR AS PREQUELS, not even if they do take up the original story-line and move forward from there. For me, that is pure fan fiction. Which has a totally different niche in the literary world, and which I like to read at times too. But which is distinctly different from a REAL SEQUEL, if you know what I mean.

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I hear you ask, what about Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series? Jordan got sick (in fact he wrote a couple of his books while bed-ridden) in the middle of it and the last few volumes were in fact written by Brandon Sanderson – so are those real sequels? Yes they are. Why? Because Sanderson not only used the original notes minutely written and explained by Jordan, but he also continued with the original story-line as decided by Jordan, and developed the characters as Jordan had originally planned.

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On the other hand, look at the Virginia Andrews franchise. Virginia Andrews only actually wrote 6 books before dying. The ‘Flowers in the Attic’ saga (prequel included) and the standalone novel ‘My Sweet Audrina’. After that, her family said they were using another writer to work with her notes, but keeping her name on the books. Because the notes were hers. Really? I read a couple of the books which ‘came after’, and honestly couldn’t see a glimmer of Virginia. On the other hand, the ‘new’ books tackled totally new and different characters and formed up new serieses, so they never aimed at being ‘sequels’ to anything. All they did was keep alive V.A’s name, and that’s fine.

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I guess a person’s definition of a ‘sequel’ can be different depending on his/her point of view. However, for me, no ‘sequel’ is real unless it is written by the same author as the previous book/s.

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All the rest, no matter how well written, thought out and executed, are fanfics. And there is nothing wrong with that. As long as the distinction is clear.

And honestly, whenever I hear of a ‘sequel’ to something good being made (by someone else apart from the original creator), be it in books or movies, I am terrified they are going to destroy and twist the whole plot-line entirely. Think about the rumors of ‘Labyrinth 2’! *sobs*

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Male Genitals – A Fashion Statement?

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Men have always been fond and rather proud of their ‘family jewels’. Let’s face it however (just between us girls), having genitals which literally dangle in the way of certain physical pursuits like running, bending, horse-riding, and during medieval times, sword-fighting, is not really practical, not to mention comfortable. This is why, mostly during the Renaissance, society saw the rise of that most prominent and masculine of apparels – the codpiece.

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A codpiece is a pouch or covering flap of material which was attached to and covered the genital or scrotum areas. It was generally worn by males as early as during the Greek classical era, however it is during the  15th and 16th centuries that codpieces reached their ‘peak’, in that the fashion was to further pad and emphasize the importance of a man’s codpiece (talk about advertising the size of one’s ‘assets’), rather than concealing them for modesty’s sake. This trend most probably began with the shortening of men’s doublets (hip-length fitted jacket-like garments worn in Europe by men over their shirts). When hemlines rose and hoses (thin tight-fitting tights or breeches) became longer and open at the front, this resulted in under-dressed genitals, which further stressed the importance of the codpiece as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.

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Codpieces were generally made of linen and either stitched or held closed with laces or buttons. Victoria Miller, a researcher and student at Cambridge University who is studying the history of the codpiece as part of her PhD, related to The Guardian newspaper that the codpiece first ‘came into fashion as something really modest, a triangular piece of fabric. In the first couple of decades of the 16th century it started to be stuffed. Then it got to epic proportions, some more phallic, some more testicular or ovoid in shape… Men always agonised about their masculinity – and especially the question of size’.

So basically, the codpiece was the male rendition of a stuffed push-up bra.

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Those concerned with public morals started to be worried about the issue. In 1555 a Bishop in Frankfurt became notorious for publishing a pamphlet criticizing the codpiece in that he berated the fact that ‘young fellows have their cod-pieces in front puffed out by the flames and rags of Hell so that the Devil can sit and look out in all directions, causing scandal and creating a bad example’, bemoaning the ‘poor, giddy, innocent girls [who] are seduced and enticed’ (quoted from: http://www.fashionintime.org/history-mens-undergarments-part-1/). Interesting description!

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During the time of Queen Elizabeth (1533 – 1603) the codpiece started to become smaller and smaller, until fashions totally changed and its use was abandoned.

Or were they?

What about those contemporary artists and singers who, as a fashion statement, have chosen to strut around in leather or even gem-encrusted codpieces on stage? It is well known that during the glam-rock era of the 70s and 80s notorious personages like Jethro Tull, Rob Halford (of the band Judas Priest), Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses) and even David Bowie (check out his 80s movie ‘The Labyrinth’) sported prominent codpieces.

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Have you watched any periodical dramas on T.V recently? How about ‘The Borgias’, ‘The Tudors’, or ‘Wolf Hall’? What about all those BBC historical adaptations? Noticed anything popping out of those skinny tight-fitting tights and leather pants?

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How about the colourful costumes of all our favourite comic-book heroes? Superman, Batman, Robin – now those are some famous guys who REALLY put the spotlight on their prominent masculinity, don’t they?

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What do you think, should codpieces come back into mainstream fashion?

—- A version of this article was published on Eve online magazine here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/07/23/male-genitals-a-fashion-statement/

Game of Thrones – S05 FIRST FOUR EPISODES LEAKED!!!

I wish to apologise for not writing for quite some days now. A lot of things are going on, not to mention the fact that I’ve been sick for around 5 days now, and I am heartily fed up of it.

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Fed up of not being able to sleep properly, fed up of my chest hurting due to all the coughing, fed up of feeling as though I have a tennis ball lodged in my throat (what I actually have is inflamed glands), fed up of not being able to speak louder than a whisper without splattering everyone with phlegmy bouts of coughing, fed up of not being able to breathe, and fed up of feeling so damn tired all the time!

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Anyways, no more moaning – scout’s honour!

Because finally, the fifth season of GOT has begun!! I haven’t watched the first episode yet, but I can’t wait to hear that catchy GOT tune blaring across my TV again! What’s more, not just episode number one is available, since THE FIRST FOUR EPISODES OF GOT WERE LEAKED OUT!

Yessss dears!! We get to watch four uninterrupted hours of this devilishly enthralling saga!

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Thank you HBO!

2014 Good Movies – What have I missed?

This morning I had the idea of looking around youtube trailers for good 2014 movies, to check up if I had missed watching any. While I was at it, I also viewed a couple of trailers for good movies coming out in 2015, and made a very short (for now) list. Here goes:

2014 – To Watch

1. Mr Turner – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of the notorious landscape painter J.M.W Turner

2. Effie Gray – Released Oct 2014 – Biographical drama about the life of art critic John Turner’s wife and their strange relationship. Also about the Pre-Raphaelite artistic movement.

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3. Wish I was Here – Released July 2014 – I don’t usually like comedies, but I’m curious since Zach Braff (‘Scrubs’) is not only the main character but also the writer, producer and director.

Any other movies you think might be worth watching? I love horror, psychological thrillers, historical dramas and anything to do with fairytales. Not the ‘Frozen’ kind, but the ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Maleficent’ kind.

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2015 – To Watch

1. Pan – Release July 2015 – Yes another Peter Pan remake, so what? ;p

2. Ex Machina – – Released April 2015 – An experiment which makes one reflect on the actual origins of life. Sounds interesting.

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3. Unfriended – Released April 2015 – Psychological horror – How powerful are social media?

4. The DUFF – Released February 2015 – Yet another movie about the school ugly duckling who turns into a swan. Yes these things do happen, because I was such a case, so I have a soft spot for these kind of movies. So there ;p

Again, any other movies you might want to suggest are more than welcome.

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