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Saving the world

jhnmakii

Is it only me or is the whole 'saving the world' theme spoils most story?

I casually read stories but whenever the saving the world thing comes around, it feels like there's a deadline, a tension, it takes out the fun for me.

awnlee jawking

@jhnmakii

I think most readers would disagree with you: a good story requires conflict.

Not that I'm likely to complete it, but you won't like the novel I'm currently writing. It involves an alcoholic scientist trying to save the world.

AJ

Replies:   jhnmakii
jhnmakii

@awnlee jawking

I'm not saying conflict is not good.

What i was trying to say and i probably shouldv thought of it more before posting is that, the whole saving the world theme often puts the story in fast pace.

Say for example, a story about random people getting abilities, We all want powers of our own, so many possibilities to explore the ability turn up short because the author has to move the plot to save the world.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@jhnmakii

Yes, that's a standard theme of so many superhero stories and I too find it a turn-off. But it puts bums on cinema seats - take the Avengers, X-men, Fantastic 4 etc.

What do others think? Can you have a good 'saving the world' story without superpowers?

AJ

garymrssn

"Is it only me..."
No there are others like you.

"...is the whole 'saving the world' theme spoils most story?"
No there are lots of people who like those stories.

Crumbly Writer

I agree, I look at the number of 'Apocalypse' stories (where the world will end in 24 hours unless the character can halt the greatest evil to face the planet, and cringe. But I think it's more a question of degree.

In my day, comic book heroes earned their claims. Superman saved the planet every single comic, and no one took the series seriously. Spiderman, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four mostly focused on evil villians who never seemed to succeed, and only 'saved the world' after earning the readers trust that they wouldn't pull that one trick out of their hats at the ... drop of a hat!

There's a level of trust an author needs to earn with readers. If every book is a life or death struggle, then the author has a very limited imagination and an inability to express themselves short of writing about 'the ultimate evil' (as if facing people like Hitler, Mussolini or Idi Amin isn't serious enough).

Looking at my own works, I tend to go for the 'anti-hero'. Not the 'evil hero', but rather someone who struggles to understand, rather than trying to change the world. If they happen to save lives, that's really a secondary benefit, but they're instead trying to understand what's going on and help whoever they can. Even when the civilized world ends (My "Great Death" series), the lead character is a reluctant hero, downplaying his role and trying to convince others to do whatever they can to help others.

Now that the Summer movie season is here, and I've seen the latest list of 'Summer Blockbusters' (isn't that an oxymoron?), I've decided to avoid the movie theaters for the entire summer until the Academy Award season arrives with more 'artistic' films in the fall. If the Avengers save the world from annihilation one more time, I couldn't care less!

In short, you don't need to save the world to have story conflict. World saving is like cliff-hangers, it's a story telling shortcut, taken to avoid developing a real, well-developed story.

I don't mind a fast-paced action story, but please, focus on saving the main characters and possibly his girlfriend, you don't have to drag mankind into the situation.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

In short, you don't need to save the world to have story conflict. World saving is like cliff-hangers, it's a story telling shortcut, taken to avoid developing a real, well-developed story.

I don't mind a fast-paced action story, but please, focus on saving the main characters and possibly his girlfriend, you don't have to drag mankind into the situation.


It should also be noted that some of the "save the world" is rather subjective in a number of cases. A certain hairy guy who makes pots "saved the wizarding world" although it never seemed that the danger in question actually posed an imminent dire threat to anyone outside of Britain. (Keeping in mind, it's written largely from the perspective of a teenage boy. Teenagers in general not being known for having internationalist, or any other kinds of broad perspectives, when it comes to life beyond what is right in front of them.) At least until the last book when the big bad personally left Britain and offed two other specific people, which still falls far short of demonstrating he's a global threat.

Yes, there is the (ironic, given the author's political leanings--She identifies as socialist) somewhat deliberate linking of the book's "big bad" and his supporters with Hitler and National Socialist(Nazi) Germany.

Except using that as a basis, Kristallnacht maybe happens, but none of the "diplomatic" annexations have occurred yet, and neither has any overt military action on other nations. Meaning the final book has you in ~1938 Nazi Germany, except it's been moved to Britain.

Hindsight being what it is, we know Hitler was a global threat at the time, but he was "an internal matter" at that time. I know Churchill was already making noises by then, but it wasn't so clear cut for everyone else at that point. I doubt it would be clear cut for the majority of people alive today(in the 1st world at least) if they were presented with the same circumstances. The mindset is so completely different from their normal daily lives they simply cannot begin to grasp how large the perception gap actually was(and probably still remains).

Basically someone taking Hitler out of the picture back in 1938 would have drastically changed how he went down in the history books. What would have become of the Nazi Party is another barrel of monkeys, that may or may not have given him notoriety from beyond the grave, but hardly gaining him the distinction of having been a "global threat" as his historical ranking now stands.

But that's a digression.

------------------

The thing about sci-fi and fantasy is that it lets you create a parable of the modern world without directly playing on or to present day groups or attitudes. It abstracts things out just enough that a writer can reach a bigger audience, and get away with, more than they probably could get away with writing a piece set in the present day contemporary world.

It just happens that some certain tropes are very easy to play to, and in particular if you're aiming for an "epic" story(or movies with lots of explosions and destruction), you're going to naturally go for the big ring and make it a "global" or national issue as a means to justify risk of life and limb, and all that other carnage.

Like a book series that deals with a bunch of hungry people playing in elaborate games to the death, which only involved (part of?) North America. Or another post-apocalyptic type series centered on a group of people taking refuge in the (mostly depopulated) city of Chicago convinced the rest of the world is a wasteland and they're the only ones left, so anything that impacts them as a whole impacts the entire world, right?

Could probably throw a couple M Night Shyamalan works into the mix as well for perspective games on that front, but anyhow.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

In my day, comic book heroes earned their claims. Superman saved the planet every single comic, and no one took the series seriously.


Yes, but think about just how powerful Superman is. That's where the problem lies, any threat big enough to actually challenge Superman is going to be an end of the world level threat.

A story about Superman going after ordinary bank robbers is going to be very short and very boring.

Looking at my own works, I tend to go for the 'anti-hero'. Not the 'evil hero', but rather someone who struggles to understand, rather than trying to change the world.


That's not what an anti-hero is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antihero

An antihero (or antiheroine) is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality.[1][2][3][4][5] These individuals often possess dark personality traits such as disagreeableness, dishonesty, and aggressiveness. These characters are usually considered "conspicuously contrary to an archetypal hero".[6]


An anti-hero is generally morally ambivalent, but not out-right evil. The Punisher is the iconic comic book anti-hero. The very early Batman comics had him as an anti-hero, he carried a gun and he sometimes killed the bad guys.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer


Even when the civilized world ends (My "Great Death" series), the lead character ...


I was wondering whether your protagonist qualifies as a superhero. IIRC he had the unique genetic ability to survive all the plague variants.

AJ

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

If every book is a life or death struggle, then the author has a very limited imagination and an inability to express themselves short of writing about 'the ultimate evil' (as if facing people like Hitler, Mussolini or Idi Amin isn't serious enough).

For almost 3 decades Clive Cussler wrote many entertaining books, where the main characters had to figuratively or even literally save the world each time.
And each of those stories were very creative IMHO.

Saving the World is the goal, it's how they get there that makes things interesting.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Grant
Updated:

@jhnmakii

I casually read stories but whenever the saving the world thing comes around, it feels like there's a deadline, a tension, it takes out the fun for me.


If there's 50 or 100 or 300 years to do the job, it could get rather boring along the way.

Of course when Flash has only got 14 hours to save the Earth there's a deadline to work to and the character doesn't have time to do other things.

Generally the tension resulting from a deadline is what makes it fun for most readers.

It could just be that you're more the Flight of the Code Monkey reader where the final goal isn't of much interest, but the details of getting there are?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Grant

Of course when Flash has only got 14 hours to save the Earth there's a deadline to work to and the character doesn't have time to do other things.


Of course, when the Flash has only 14 hours to save the Earth, that's like a 2 week deadline for normal people.

I am sure that there is some happy medium between 24 hours and decades, where a save the world story could be told that is both interesting and has well developed characters.

Crumbly Writer

@Grant

For almost 3 decades Clive Cussler wrote many entertaining books, where the main characters had to figuratively or even literally save the world each time.
And each of those stories were very creative IMHO.

Saving the World is the goal, it's how they get there that makes things interesting.

I'll admit, in talking about taking writing shortcuts, I write sci-fi, despite not reading much in the field, because I don't consider myself an accomplished enough writer to write about people's 'everyday lives'.

I write 'Big Stories' because it helps me write more compelling stories, so I'm as guilty of this trend as anyone. I wrote two stories which fall outside this story type, a mystery (as yet unpublished) about a detective who saves the entire NY Police Department (still a 'big story' tale) and a romance that concentrates on the internal conflicts of a particular group that I've got personal experience with.

Even so, I don't concentrate on the 'Earth saving' (as opposed to 'earth saving', which is what gardeners do). Instead, I focus on the personal challenges the characters face, whether that's wrestling with their own limitations, trying to learn their own abilities, or wrestling with others' expectations, the stories need to be about more than 'the end of the world as we know it'!

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I am sure that there is some happy medium between 24 hours and decades, where a save the world story could be told that is both interesting and has well developed characters.

For the most part, stories do not portray a character's life. Instead, they only capture a salient snapshot of that life which reflects on larger issues of humanity. Thus most stories will start with a catalyst point where something goes horribly wrong, and focus almost exclusively on how they respond to the challenge. Once that challenge is resolved, the character and the story is largely forgotten, but hopefully the story is told well-enough that the reader can see aspects of themselves and the world they live in to read beyond the limits of the story.

Thus almost all stories are limited in scope. That isn't really the issue. What is, is how much the story reflects on their personal lives, and how much is 'wish fulfillment' (ex: an eight-inch cock, the ability to fly, or their ability to read people's minds).

There are many 'world saving' stories which are phenomenal, several which are hugely successful but ultimately disappointing, and the vast majority which simply aren't terribly good. That doesn't really diminish the genre, it just highlights the limitations of the 'world-saving' genre.

Replies:   Dominions Son
moredrowsy
Updated:

@jhnmakii

I feel the same way with the saving the world theme, especially the do-over stories that inevitably lead to saving the world trope. A lot of authors fall short of being consistent with the development of the story.

Take for example, A Fresh Start by rlfj. It's a great do-over story detailing the main character's intra and interpersonal interactions. We see his first life's problems and regrets, his current problems, his budding relationship with his "future" wife and her concerns with his life and dreams. Great development of the main character along with the minor characters. For example, we see his friend's struggles expand his car dealership business and the loss of his son due to cancer. Then come along with the inevitable allure to "save the world" because of the main character's future knowledge of Bush's War on Terrorism, the Arab conflicts and etc. At this point, the author goes from great dialogues, character interactions and their mundane problems to summaries after summaries of events to manipulate the forces to save the world. To make matter worse, the main character's roadblocks to save the world are so easily solved with some bravery. At that point, it felt like reading a history book with plot armor thick enough you can taste the metal. It just got fucking boring.

Another point is that the readers ultimately know how the story will end: the world gets saved by the main characters. This in itself is spoiler-ish and kills the anticipation and drama, unless the author is good enough to make the main characters believably human to actually struggle through the problems to save the world.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

For the most part, stories do not portray a character's life. Instead, they only capture a salient snapshot of that life which reflects on larger issues of humanity.


I don't disagree with that, but most of the very short deadline save the world stories don't even manager that.

Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

Of course, when the Flash has only 14 hours to save the Earth, that's like a 2 week deadline for normal people.


I'm pretty sure he was referring to Flash Gordon, not The Flash.

richardshagrin

These days Flashers expose more than most, and are not unusually fast.

samuelmichaels

@richardshagrin

These days Flashers expose more than most, and are not unusually fast.

How about Flash traders?

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

These days Flashers expose more than most, and are not unusually fast.

The Flash can expose himself 7,832 times and no one is the wiser. Flash Gordon was never a great flasher, but Barbarella (both the comic and the Jane Fonda movie) made up for everything he missed.

jhncanson

I'm just gonna put this here,

I think i'm put off by most save the world stories because the story focuses more on the end goal of saving the world than the journey there.

There would be a difference if say, the story did not need a type of 'the world will end' plot booster, say small things will propel our dear mc to ultimately reshape/save the world.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@jhncanson

There would be a difference if say, the story did not need a type of 'the world will end' plot booster, say small things will propel our dear mc to ultimately reshape/save the world.

I agree with this perspective. I've stated several times that the 'end of mankind' scenarios are essentially lazy storytelling, relying on an overused plot device to push a story forward rather than investing in character and plot development. That results in fast-paced pacing, often at the cost of poor nonsensical plots.

Despite their popularity, I've given up on ALL the current superhero movies because of this issue. While Marvel worked hard to avoid this problem--earning the right to include each 'save the world' scenario--their movies feature these scenarios in every single installment, with little justification.

That's why, in my case, the journey is more important than the end point. Most of my stories are about discovery, both of the underlying problem, and also of what the character is capable of. Most of my 'end of the world' issues aren't up to the characters and are largely unavoidable. Instead, my characters wrestle with how to address issues they have little power over, and try to deal with what they ultimately mean. Typically, they only succeed due to sheer happenstance, a point they readily acknowledge ("There, but for the grace of God, go I").

Replies:   jhncanson  Perv Otaku
jhncanson

@Crumbly Writer

I sometimes read stories with superhero-like abilities.

OR just something that makes them unique. More often than not, i like to read a story how the mc's uniqueness affects his/her ordinary life and turns it into something not quite ordinary. (this is where mind control stories comes into play but more often than not, mind control stories turn into the same trope save the world stories suffer - atleast for me).

I like to think that most people in the world dreams of being unique, or i'm weird.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@jhncanson

I sometimes read stories with superhero-like abilities, or just something that makes them unique. More often than not, i like to read a story how the mc's uniqueness affects his/her ordinary life and turns it into something not quite ordinary.

I like to think that most people in the world dream of being unique.

I agree. What gives these stories their strength--when they're successful--is by channeling the 'common man' clash between great strength and overwhelming responsibility, as it helps us 'everymen' deal and relate to our everyday issues, while dreaming of accomplishing something more substantial than just getting by year after year.

The invincible 'Superman' scenario is ultimately unsatisfying because there's little challenge (other than ever increasing opponents), whereas the 'conflicted hero' works because they must wrestle with their abilities impact on their lives so we (the reader) experience a more realistic story than a simple wish-fulfillment story.

Everyone can relate to a reluctant hero forced by circumstances to taking on more than they feel qualified to handle while wrestling with the complications to their private lives (who of us doesn't have their private lives impacted by our work responsibilities?).

Perv Otaku

@Crumbly Writer

Despite their popularity, I've given up on ALL the current superhero movies because of this issue. While Marvel worked hard to avoid this problem--earning the right to include each 'save the world' scenario--their movies feature these scenarios in every single installment, with little justification.


Movies that are based on comics always overplay their hand, because while the comic has hundreds of issues to tell stories both small and large, a movie is always expected to go big, big, big, because they've only got two hours to work with.

docholladay

@Perv Otaku

I have noticed that at times they seem to be insulting the public. Those times when they combine books or rewrite the dang book to match the movie script. I have seen both at times. Maybe that is also one of the reasons I love reading more than movies.

Crumbly Writer

@Perv Otaku

a movie is always expected to go big, big, big, because they've only got two hours to work with.

Every single Marvel movie has featured some variation on an Apocalyptic event (save maybe one or two which merely have Marvel heroes fighting each other).

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

have Marvel heroes fighting each other


What's up with that anyway? It used to be the heroes worked together for the greater good and now they have them fighting each other. Are Obama and Sharpton in charge there now or something?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Capt Zapp

What's up with that anyway? It used to be the heroes worked together for the greater good and now they have them fighting each other. Are Obama and Sharpton in charge there now or something?

In the D.C. Universe, after 70+ years of publishing multiple comics every month, there was one highly successful story about a fight between Superman and Batman. Yet in the movies, they immediately focus on that one single story, strip it of all it's context, make it about the evils of doing good for all the wrong reasons, and try to pass it off as an 'action adventure' morality tale.

Note to the movie executives: It bombed! After a heralded first weekend, the fans were disappointed by the disjointed, pointless film.

The whole point of comics is building a fan base by building up to the climatic pieces by maintaining the characters, not by tearing them down every chance you get. If I see one more film about 'mutants' discriminated against for being different, I may just throw up. That theme has been played to death! We're all over it by now. Move on.

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