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Disaffected Youth Story Meme

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Entire topic deleted. This thread hardly got started before people started grumbling about 'dumbing down stories', so nothing in this thread is even worth reading.

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

I'm sure you see the trend. It seems the most popular story—at least in the world of sci-fi—is the 'disaffected youth' motif.

I don't deny that's a viable theme, but hardly the only one. I've no idea if it's more successful in general and find it difficult to analyze. A statistic based on your stories are no grounds to imply the existance of a particular trend among the masses of readers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@robberhands

Deleted

Replies:   robberhands
REP
Updated:

CW, on the surface it would appear that you found a trend.

The main problem with such an analysis is you do not know who your readers are. You may have 50,000 downloads for each story, but the readers of each story is not the same group of people.

There may have been a theme in each story, other than the 'No one understands me' theme, that attracted and retained your readers. Just because you found a common theme does not mean it was the reason for the stories popularity. I read all three of the stories, and I liked them for different reasons than the theme you zeroed in on.

The only way to achieve meaningful results is to have a known group read the stories and then ask them about their opinions. Assumptions like finding a common theme without knowing why your readers liked the stories can lead you to an incorrect conclusion, although I do agree the 'No one understands me' theme is very popular.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

the publishing industry has been pushing this line for years, but they've dressed it in the "Young Adult" appeal. However, it stands to reason it applies to many other stories.

According to a deceased, famous German critic, the only two themes worth to write about are love and death.

Publishers not only want to discover trends, for quite obvious reasons, they strive to create them. Maybe for you personally the 'No one understands me' theme is attractive, too. Maybe you even excel in writing stories with that theme, which could be a reason your readers favor them among your books.

Others, like me for instance, will never write a story with that theme, nor do I feel a special fondness to read them. I read 'The Catalyst' and if you wouldn't have just explained to me that 'disaffected youth' was a main theme of the story, I wouldn't have noticed it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP

gone!

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Others, like me for instance, will never write a story with that theme, nor do I feel a special fondness to read them. I read 'The Catalyst' and if you wouldn't have just explained to me that 'disaffected youth' was a main theme of the story, I wouldn't have noticed it.

So I'm guessing no one else here has noticed any similar trends in their own stories? That was basically the aim of this post, simply to verify my observations with some additional 3rd-party observations.

Replies:   Joe Long  Joe Long
Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

So I'm guessing no one else here has noticed any similar trends in their own stories?


Stories need conflict. Even if it's a fantasy or sci-fi, readers will most likely be drawn to a type of conflict that is both realistic and one they can relate to. Therefor, I don't think it's unusual at all for this type to be popular, as it's something the vast majority of us have experienced at some point (along with love and death and any combination.)

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Once again, there IS no centralized, government-sponsored literary research group to conduct these kinds of independently verified studies.


But there are lots of universities with professors of literature and professors of sociology.

In today's academic world the performance of university professors is judged largely by the quantity of articles they publish.

Replies:   Joe Long  Crumbly Writer
Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

So I'm guessing no one else here has noticed any similar trends in their own stories?


I'm doing a young adult coming of age erotic romance - so, yes.

Teens are trying to learn to be adults. Some experience things and mature faster than others. Some have hangups that hold them back - such as a dad who keeps telling him he'll never be any good. Then when my protagonist finally does find love, it's in the wrong place. "She's your cousin. She's only fourteen." Yeah, and in a lot of ways she's more mature than he is. Well, until she starts banging her boyfriend and drinking beer and smoking pot.

Joe Long

@Dominions Son

In today's academic world the performance of university professors is judged largely by the quantity of articles they publish.


While I'm judged by the quality of the articles I publish.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Joe Long

While I'm judged by the quality of the articles I publish.


Quality of articles is hard to measure and can get bogged down in subjective judgements.

Quantity on the other hand is simple, objective and easy to measure.

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Dominions Son

Quality of articles is hard to measure and can get bogged down in subjective judgements.


Wisdom of the crowds. Publish and duck.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

I just stumbled upon this particular trend when I finally started looking at my stats differently, and tried to figure out what my most downloaded stories all had in common.


That is exactly what I was trying to explain. You used your stats to define popular stories. Then you went looking for 'something' that they had in common. You found the 'No one understands me' theme in all 3 stories. Then you jumped to the conclusion that since they all shared that theme, the theme must be the reason why the stories are popular. You then extrapolated and said that future stories that use that theme will be successful.

You made the assumption that because the 3 stories all had good stats there had to be a 'common denominator' that resulted in good stats. Assumptions of that type frequently lead to faulty analysis because the researcher is looking for facts that support the assumption.

If you have not asked your readers why they liked the stories, then you have no idea why your readers liked each of the stories you used in your analysis. Your readers may have liked each of the stories for reasons other than the 'No one understands me' theme. Just because the stories have the same theme does not mean the theme is what made the reader like the story.

The nature of the stories' conflict is far more likely to be the reason your readers liked the story. I read your stories and my assessment is very different from your observations.

In "The Cuckoo's Progeny" the primary conflict is about a group of young people who learned their genetic code was not human. The story's conflict was centered on the young people's struggle to evade the Government Agencies and learn about their background. I see that as very different from the 'No one understands me' theme.

In "Stranded in a Foreign Land" the conflict is similar. A group of young people encounter a group of aliens and help them to evade the Government Agencies that are trying to capture the aliens. This theme is also very different from the 'No one understands me' theme.

Both of the above stories have the 'Generational Conflict' theme of young adults in conflict with older adults. That is a very popular theme and I suspect that theme is what gave you good stats. From what I recall of the two stories, there are elements of the 'No one understands me' theme, but those elements are not major contributors to the stories' plots.

In "Singularity", there is what you might call a 'No one understands me' theme. Personally, I would view it as a 'No one believes me' theme. NASA loses contact with the space vehicle that appears to be destroyed a trillions of miles away from Earth, and a day later the astronaut wakes up in his home. The conflict in the story centers on the astronaut being unable to provide the Government and Scientific communities with factual evidence that they find acceptable to explain his experiences during the space mission and how he returned home. Add in that the astronaut now has abilities that are believed to be impossible and you get a story that readers find interesting.

Bottom line CW is that the 'No one understands me' theme may look like the basis of a trend that explains your stats, but you are excluding other factors that may be the cause of the stories having good stats.

richardshagrin

@REP

stats

What does STAT stand for?
Meaning

STAT Standing Tall and Talented (nickname for basketball player Amare Stoudemire)
STAT Sooner Than Already There :-)
STAT Some Time After Tomorrow (humor)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

What does STAT stand for?
Meaning


It doesn't stand for anything in this context. Stats is an abbreviation of statistics, it's not an acronym or an initialism.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

But there are lots of universities with professors of literature and professors of sociology.

In today's academic world the performance of university professors is judged largely by the quantity of articles they publish.

Except, 'Literary Studies' always focus on metaphor and 'hidden meanings' and language structure, rather than on which fictional styles are 'easiest to read'. No single author or publisher is going to finance a long-scale research project when they trust their intuition on what works and what doesn't.

Thus, although it appears that there's a TON of research into writing, there's actually very little actual productive research. And, frankly, what little there is reinforces the 'less is more' concept of speaking only in short 1 - 7 word sentences of only 1 to three syllables. (Why do you think every single lecture you attend includes the tedious 5-point PowerPoint displays which bypass any in-depth analysis of what they're claiming?)

Crumbly Writer

@REP

If you have not asked your readers why they liked the stories, then you have no idea why your readers liked each of the stories you used in your analysis.

I'm sorry, REP, but you've got a much higher opinion of 'objective research' than reality bears out. I HAVE asked my readers repeatedly what works and what they dislike, and I NEVER get useful answers. What I get, are initial impulses, based on other things. It takes time, working with them one on one, NOT doing random surveys of dozens or hundreds of readers, to dig out what really bugs them about a story, because readers are focused on the STORY, not on what's MISSING from the story.

That's especially true with beta-readers. Managing beta-readers is hard work! Everyone will tell you the 'story is great', but often, I'm forced to sit and watch someone read the story. Every time they pause, or get up to do something else, I'll peak at what page they're on. Typically, you don't put down an exciting story (even to pee), but you do put it down when something about it rubs you the wrong way.

That's NOT a simple process, and it can't be achieved by asking a bunch of strangers what they 'think' about a story.

However, I will concede that 'disaffected youth' is an oversimplification. Most of my plots have very complicated, overlapping plots which make them interesting and drive the story forwards. Selecting a single theme is difficult, in any situation.

However, certain trends assert themselves over time. Writing about older people tends to produce less popular stories, just as stories about teens and young adults tend to be popular. While I wouldn't write ANY story who's sole focus is 'disaffected teens', it is worth considering how a potential future plot fits into the particular motif. If it doesn't, it may not be as popular as you're hoping. That doesn't mean you "dumb it down" to a single theme, if means you 'beef it up' by adding some additional conflict points to drive home how unique the situation the characters are facing.

It's not a plot-writing panacea, instead it's another thing to consider when crafting a story, simply another tool to select from when fashioning a story.

Then again, my "The Lad Who Poked the Devil in the Eye" was one of my least successful stories, whose main character was someone that no one understood, and who didn't trust or speak with anyone else. Instead or providing a compelling character, readers assumed he has a serious mental illness and abandoned the story before getting very far into it (based on reader feedback, where they each listed that very reason).

Again, it's not a simple answer, only another way of establishing richer conflicts in an existing story (i.e. one where you already have the primary conflict in mind before you start writing).

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Writing about older people tends to produce less popular stories


You just need the "right" older people. Something along the lines of the movie RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous).

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Does anyone else see any similar situation ...?

I see some anecdotal evidence that seems to support your contention.
I gather your question is whether stories which publishers classify as appealing to the YA market have a broad appeal across all readers, especially if they use the disaffected youth theme.

I think the most popular TV shows is a reasonable surrogate for what attracts readers. When I strip out the reality and crime shows, what's left among the most popular shows seems to support your assessment.

I see a high prevalence of young characters who are at least misunderstood, if not disaffected.
The TV classification system seems to distort the ages, with no characters under 18 "allowed" to do more than think about sex, but there seems to be a very high prevalence of characters in their late teens and early twenties - often played by actors who are much older. Certainly characters "just starting out in life" seem very common.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Typically, you don't put down an exciting story (even to pee), but you do put it down when something about it rubs you the wrong way.


That's an excellent point. I often read SOL stories while I have a program churning away in the background. I've noticed that some stories I'll read to the end of a chapter no matter what, others I'll prioritise responding to program prompts, sometimes breaking off four or five times.

I think it's true to say that I'll finish the chapter first for all stories I rate at three stars, and for most stories I rate at two stars.

AJ

REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I'm sorry, REP, but you've got a much higher opinion of 'objective research' than reality bears out.


There is a great deal of 'Research' done, but not all research is 'Objective Research'. Objective research requires a set of 'rules' to prevent the researchers from contaminating data. No offense meant but I would not classify your research as objective.

I don't dispute what you are saying but I do have a few observations.


I HAVE asked my readers ... and I NEVER get useful answers.


'You' are the wrong person to get research data from your readers. Readers are often unwilling to 'open up' with the author for a variety of reasons.


What I get, are ... readers are focused on the STORY, not on what's MISSING from the story.


Your readers read the stories for entertainment. They don't have to do a book report or analysis of the story for a college paper. They aren't looking for the data points you need for your analysis, so they probably struggle to answer your questions. You don't get good responses because your readers aren't interested in supporting your analysis.

I suspect your questioning techniques are part of the problem. If you are asking the typical 'What do you think?' questions, it is understandable that you get " initial impulses". Survey companies understand how to get beyond the "I don't want to talk about it' wall that you encounter. They would be a better candidate for doing the analysis, but the cost factor makes this option unacceptable for your use.

I have a hard time believing you watch your Beta Readers read your stories. If I have to pee, then that takes precedence over any story I'm reading regardless of how interesting it is.

I am not interested in discussing 'How to write a good story' at this time. My interest is in your remarks about analyzing the results. Most stories that have good stats are not single theme stories. It is the melding of multiple themes and actions that grasp the readers attention and result in the good stats. If you are looking backwards to determine 'Why?' a story received good stats without adequate, valid reader input, then you are making assumptions. That is highly likely if you start your analysis looking for a single common theme that resulted in the good stats. Generally speaking, good stats are the result of how the author merged multiple themes and event to create an interesting storyline.

ETA: minor edits

Crumbly Writer

@REP

There is a great deal of 'Research' done, but not all research is 'Objective Research'. Objective research requires a set of 'rules' to prevent the researchers from contaminating data. No offense meant but I would not classify your research as objective.

Neither would I. That's what "anecdotal" means. That's precisely why I'm asking for some additional feedback. But for a long time here, every time someone broaches a topic, you start going off about 'how it's never been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt', while I keep insisting that NO ONE is doing ANY literary research which stands up to your unrealistic demands.

Literature is NOT an objective science. The procedures which work for one may fail utterly with another, while often the best rules break most established rules. This is largely the wild west, so you're continually deriding any conversation not document by research sidetracks any efforts to compile some research.

If you'd like to go out, invest several hundred million dollars to start up a literary research organization, then I'll support your efforts. But if you instead insist that NO ONE can ever assert ANYTHING, then you don't have a literary leg to stand on.

By the way, when have you ever read ANY of my stories that consist only of a single theme? There are a few authors here who may fall into that camp, but if so, they're unlikely to get far.

No one is talking about writing tripe. Instead, we're trying to discuss options, to discover which hold water and which leak like sieves. If you don't approve of that approach, then go back to programming. Otherwise, at least let the rest of us exchange ideas without belittling our efforts to understand a little more than we do now.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

But for a long time here, every time someone broaches a topic, you start going off about 'how it's never been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt', while I keep insisting that NO ONE is doing ANY literary research which stands up to your unrealistic demands.


Not true! I never made that comment or any comment of that nature in this or any other thread. I questioned the techniques you used in the analysis you described in this thread.

I have no demands regarding literary research - so I cannot have unrealistic demands. If someone wants to research something that is fine with me. However, if they define a flawed approach or technique and then start bragging on their results like you did, I will comment on their flawed research. Not to shoot them down, but to help them see the results are flawed.

Apparently, you cannot accept constructive criticism when that criticism identifies you made a mistake in setting up and conducting your research.

Literature is NOT an objective science.

Absolutely true. But literature doesn't have to be an objective science to do literary research using valid techniques. Your techniques were not valid and I commented on the flaws in your research techniques. The main flaw in your technique was the assumption that since you had good stats for the three stories analyzed meant there had to be a single factor that caused all three stories to have good stats. From that point on, your research was a waste of time.

The procedures which work for one may fail utterly with another, while often the best rules break most established rules.


That describes a 'flying by the seat of your pants' approach. Such an approach never yields valid results. If two people can't apply the same procedure to analyze the same thing, then there is a problem with what they are doing or the procedure. Established rules are in place for a reason; you are deluding yourself if you think changing the rules will give you valid results. What changing the rules does is usually give you the results you want, not valid results.

This is largely the wild west, so you're continually deriding any conversation not document by research sidetracks any efforts to compile some research.

I don't deride the desire to do research. I do point out what I believe is a flaw in the methodology that will or may result in flawed results. Evidently, you view comments made to help someone achieve valid results as comments made to put them down for doing research.

I never said any of your stories had a single theme. What I said was, you are looking for a single theme that is common in the stories you analyzed. That was the action you took as a result of making your erroneous assumption.

Instead, we're trying to discuss options, to discover which hold water and which leak like sieves.

That is not what you have been doing in this thread CW. Since you elected to totally change your original post, I can't cite what you said.

From my recollection, you defined having done research by analyzing three stories because they had good stats, and then you told us that since you found the 'No one understands me' theme in all three of your stories, you concluded that the theme was the reason your stats were good for those stories. You went on to say that you believed that using that theme would give you good stats in the future.

You apparently don't realize the scientific method is applicable to the type of research you are trying to do. If you had used the scientific method, you would have analyzed the stories that had good stats and those that had poor stats to determine what factors contributed to good stats and what factors causes poor stats. Then you would have examined your stories to see what factors were present in each story.

One of the things you might have learned is, a theme contributes to good stats, but it is not the cause of good stats and good stats are the result of multiple factors, not one. Something I have been trying to tell you but you fail to accept. If you want, you can write your future stories using the 'No one understands me' theme, but if the other factors that gave you good stats aren't present, then you will fail to get good stats in the future.

Good luck in the future. I'm done trying to help you avoid a pitfall.

Dominions Son

Is anyone else as confused as I am about CW claiming:

This thread hardly got started before people started grumbling about 'dumbing down stories'


I don't recall seeing anything remotely like that on this thread, and I can't find anything now trying to search the thread.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

Is anyone else as confused as I am about CW claiming:


Confusing the issue is a common defense strategy. :(

richardshagrin

ReSearch. Looking for one or more Re s? Or searching again? Not sure why researching is more believable than just plain searching. Maybe it should be Finding?

Replies:   red61544
red61544

@richardshagrin

Not sure why researching is more believable than just plain searching. Maybe it should be Finding?


When you fail to find by searching, you need to research. The real question is, "If your research is successful, are the results called the "refined?"

awnlee jawking

@REP

I have a hard time believing you watch your Beta Readers read your stories.


I used a similar technique.

In an unfinished, abandoned, but IMO rather engaging, SciFi story, I invented a piece of jargon by taking a common physics word and prepending a standard English prefix. I then inserted a hyphen after the prefix because I thought the combination could throw readers out of the story unless I made it easier to parse.

An alpha reader (if there's such a thing) said the hyphen was grammatically wrong.

I set up a simple test involving (unknowingly) members of my writers' group. Those who read the version without the hyphen took longer to read the extract than those who read the version with the hyphen.

Unless I complete the story and it's grabbed by a dead tree publisher who forces me to delete the hyphen while holding me by the short and curlies, the hyphen is staying in!

Science rools!

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Unless I complete the story and it's grabbed by a dead tree publisher who forces me to delete the hyphen while holding me by the short and curlies, the hyphen is staying in!

I would tell the dead tree publisher to have another look at these quotes:
From CMOS:

7.80 Hyphens and Readability
A hyphen can make for easier reading by showing structure and, often, pronunciation. Words that might otherwise be misread, such as re-creation or co-op, should be hyphenated. Hyphens can also eliminate ambiguity.

From New Harts Guide:

3.3.4 Prefixes and combining forms
Words with prefixes are often written as one word (predetermine, antistatic, subculture, postmodern), especially in US English, but use a hyphen to avoid confusion or mispronunciation, particularly where there is a collision of vowels or consonants:

I think both are admitting they cannot specify rules for every situation and authors are entitled to insert an extra hyphen when they consider doing so will assist readers interpret something correctly.

I would, however, promptly give in as soon as they threatened to not pay me. :-)

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Cheers!

Words that might otherwise be misread, such as re-creation


They could have worded that better to draw the distinction between re-creation (creation for a second or subsequent time) and recreation (having fun).

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Unless I complete the story and it's grabbed by a dead tree publisher who forces me to delete the hyphen while holding me by the short and curlies, the hyphen is staying in!


hyphens with short prefixes is common in UK English, but not US English (e.g. co-operate = cooperate, co-ordinate = coordinate), but they aren't consistent in the overall usage. Some prefix words are never hyphenated (e.g. un... as in unnamed) while some are hyphenated in some uses but not others. However, the use of the unhyphenated versions of prefixes is now more common than it used to be.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I would tell the dead tree publisher to have another look at these quotes:

From CMOS:

And that, in a nutshell, is why CMOS, and the publishers who adhere to it, are WAY beyond even the dictionaries in sticking to hyphenated versions of words long after everyone else in the country (well, a sizeable percentage) have already adopted the non-hyphenated form.

I don't object to that clause, but CMOS has a history of sticking to hyphens long after they've been abandoned elsewhere.

I would, however, promptly give in as soon as they threatened to not pay me.

Or rather, instead of fighting over a simple hyphenated word, I'd save my outrage for when they decide to introduce a 'new lover interest', or eliminate a necessary character because some focus group decides they don't like him.

There are bigger fish to fry than hyphenations (for the few of us who'll ever see an actual publishing contract in person!)

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

They could have worded that better to draw the distinction between re-creation (creation for a second or subsequent time) and recreation (having fun).

I reckon the re-creation of recreation has benefited the retired population of Civil War re-creationists.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

but they aren't consistent in the overall usage. Some prefix words are never hyphenated (e.g. un... as in unnamed)

I suspect that's because un- words are rarely confused with anything else, and seldom have conflicting consonants sounds.

Unword: (v) when you un-create a new word. (ex: "I was unwording 'registiculate', when I discovered a new use for a new, completely unrelated word!")

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

And that, in a nutshell, is why CMOS, and the publishers who adhere to it, are WAY beyond even the dictionaries in sticking to hyphenated versions of words long after everyone else in the country (well, a sizeable percentage) have already adopted the non-hyphenated form.

I think you missed the point of my post.
AJ was told by someone that a hyphenation he chose to use, as opposed to two words, was non-standard. He was adamant he did not care because he thought the hyphen in his particular situation would assist readers.
My post pointed out that both CMOS and Harts supported the notion that authors were entitled to use hyphens which aren't strictly necessary when they consider it will assist readers.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

AJ was told by someone that a hyphenation he chose to use, as opposed to two words, was non-standard.


Sorry if I misled you, but the alternative was a single unhyphenated word rather than two separate words.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Sorry if I misled you, but the alternative was a single unhyphenated word rather than two separate words.

That's okay. I'll go back and re-read your original post, but the same principle applies: authors may and should choose non-standard punctuation when they consider it improves readability.

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