if you haven’t heard the phrase “training montage,” you’ve probably encountered one. They are pervasive in modern storytelling, especially in speculative fiction, to the point where the only techniques that might be more overused are prologues and flashbacks. Like prologues and flashbacks, they are overused for a reason, serving several valuable purposes in the narrative process, but so many of them have been done, with only mediocre execution, that the technique itself has become tiresome.
Have you ever been reading or watching something, and just when things were starting to get interesting, you found yourself asking: “What? Why didn’t they do ______?” Sometimes, there’s a very good reason for this that will be discovered later, or the creator made a conscious decision for the character to make a mistake in that instance, or perhaps they were even limited by more practical considerations (in the case of movies or television) like special effects budgets and capabilities. Regardless, these dichotomies, where you think something could have or should have happened, but it didn’t, can be terribly disruptive to a story.
Though I've read Timothy Zahn before, and enjoyed his books, this wasn't a book that I sought ought to read. In fact, it wasn't even on my extensive reading list. After finishing Back to Methuselah, nothing on my reading list was really calling out to me to be read, and I happened to see that this piece was in Prime reading on Kindle, which meant I could read it for free. A short, free, light read seemed the perfect thing coming off of a heavier piece like Back to Methuselah, while trying to think of what I actually wanted to read next.
No, I'm not above using cliche titles, when they serve me. Because I'm so very fond of stirring up controversy, I'm going to talk about something that divides more people than religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin: movie/book adaptations. Fair warning: we're going to talk about some big name franchises, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and others, so if you don't want to risk potential spoilers from either the book or movie versions of any of these, you might not want to read this post. Otherwise, let's mire ourselves in controversy.
This is in some ways a continuation post to an earlier post I wrote about being written into a corner. With the recent release of the Rise of Skywalker trailer, I think we need to talk about something. Specifically, I think we need to talk about The Last Jedi.
Ultra-tough, misunderstood desert cultures can be a slightly overused trope in fantasy writing, especially alternative world fantasy. They often crop up as the much-needed army for the beset hero, at just the right time, after the hero properly impresses them and meets some ancient prophecy. It might be that the origin of this tendency lies with DUNE.
Speculative fiction, broadly, includes the stories that are typically classified as science fiction and fantasy, but if you've written in the genre realm for long, you may have noticed that the terminology employed by libraries and other sources to classify genre fiction is somewhat limited. Maybe we genre writers aren't as "serious" as the "real" authors, but that hasn't stopped us from developing our own terminology to help describe our works. Since I think that many of these terms would be useful for both readers and writers to know, I've sought to describe some of them below.