Periodic Table of Storytelling
November 12, 2013 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Like many, you might find TVTropes a little overwhelming. Understandable -- who has the time for 20,000+ pages of tropes? Fortunately the major tropes have now been organized into the Periodic Table of Storytelling.
posted by ricochet biscuit (40 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just can't believe they have it so indexed and cross-referenced. It's like the site just sprung into existence already fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus' forehead.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2013


This is like the perfect torture for pedants: A periodic table that is not a periodic table of tropes that are not tropes.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


Of which only a fraction strictly relate to TV.
posted by Iridic at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really wish the periodic table was linked HTML instead of just an image.

Wait, no, sorry, I don't, I have things to do tonight.
posted by Sequence at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I now want to start NaNoWriMo twelve days late and include examples of each of these.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Did they gey Rhaomi to put it together for them? I keed! I keed!
posted by JHarris at 2:31 PM on November 12, 2013


If you bump the res up to 500mpix you'll see hidden in the TBL box a representation of all the fake periodic tables ever created including this one. Welp, see you in 10,000 years
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:38 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand. They have clearly tried to reproduce the 'group' structure of the periodic table. How hard would it have been to have tried to find some analogue for atomic weight? I mean, really? Why does nobody who wants to make a fake periodic table understand what the periodic table is actually for?
posted by Acheman at 2:43 PM on November 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


I mean besides Look Around You, obviously.
posted by Acheman at 2:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've come to hate TVTropes because I'm sick of people using the names of the pages in casual conversation. STOP SAYING "DEADPAN SNARKER" YOU UNCREATIVE DICK.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:58 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


You should really link to the art student 'DawnPaladin' who created this with the help of the TVTropes members back in 2011. The home for the periodic table is over on deviantart.

You can buy a print - useful for those of us that love the piece and want to reward his/her efforts: )
posted by air at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does nobody who wants to make a fake periodic table understand what the periodic table is actually for?

Eh, it's technobabble. However, I see tvtropes actually has a page discussing the parodic table of elements trope.

Goodbye forever, everybody.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've come to hate TVTropes because I'm sick of people using the names of the pages in casual conversation. STOP SAYING "DEADPAN SNARKER" YOU UNCREATIVE DICK.

Creativity is, unfortunately, a lot to ask of some people - even geniuses use clichés sometimes - and the site provides a useful and extensive shorthand.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:24 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a good start. I'm in the process of writing a program that will randomly arrange text sections based on TV Tropes and then do an evolutionary pruning using the Hero's Journey as a model, all to create Tropes- based stories. When this is done, I'll be able to create a story on any genre by typing a few commands, and once I market it, anybody will be able to be a writer without the pain of trying to be original.
posted by happyroach at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Swapped the link to the deviantart page because wooooo attribution.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am suitably pleased that "Redshirts" is its own element.
posted by jscalzi at 3:37 PM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


the site provides a useful and extensive shorthand

I don't really think this is true, at least not as a general proposition. It provides an obsessively detailed collection of in-jokes, for sure, but an in-joke is different from a useful piece of critical analysis or observation. The TVTropes naming conventions, such as they are, are those of nerdery rather than analysis, particularly the penchant for tagging the claimed topoi not with an abstract, general description, but instead with a cute/funny/referential specific instance. If you actually want to communicate the idea "insane explanatory theory," the most useful way to do so is not to say "epileptic trees."
posted by RogerB at 3:41 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a self satisfied smuggery to tvtropes that I never thought you'd be able to create and keep consistent in a group project so large, but somehow they have and do.
posted by dng at 3:47 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's fair, RogerB. I actually dislike the nerdery, anyway.

an in-joke is different from a useful piece of critical analysis or observation.

No doubt. The "Tropes Are Not Clichés" slogan always struck me as a self-excusing shrug.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Despite being a super-pedantic academic (the whole "those are not actually tropes" issue), I enjoy the site. From a practical POV, I've found that those of my students who frequent TVTropes tend to be much quicker at understanding and identifying genre conventions, as well as concepts like metafiction. So, yeah, it's nerdy and jokey, but still helpful.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:16 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


And then there's element Tbl, "Periodic Table of the Elements". If they get any more meta, the entire Tropes site will disappear with a strange sucking sound.
posted by emjaybee at 4:19 PM on November 12, 2013


The TVTropes naming conventions, such as they are, are those of nerdery rather than analysis, particularly the penchant for tagging the claimed topoi not with an abstract, general description, but instead with a cute/funny/referential specific instance.

I'm not going to dispute the nerdery aspect (just check the list of obscure anime references on any page), but I don't see anything wrong with the cute naming system. It's not an academic project, it's a hobby; they go to pretty extensive lengths to explain what all the tropes mean; and the names they use are sometimes pretty great mnemonics. (Once you learn what a macguffin is, it's a pretty useful term...and if you watched and loved Six Feet Under: dude, NARM is a war cry.)

Also, I had to look up "topos" and I wouldn't say that a term of such precision is really any better for the casual reader.
posted by psoas at 4:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've found that those of my students who frequent TVTropes tend to be much quicker at understanding and identifying genre conventions

Me too! But I've also had to read papers where that kind of student uses TVTropes' terminology to reinvent a critical wheel that goes back to Aristotle, in all innocence of the idea that they could look it up in an actual book someplace. And because TVTropes nerdery doesn't provide the kind of footnotes that Wikipedia's kind of pedantry encourages, it's even harder for such a reader to connect the dots and figure out what idea or term from classical rhetoric or contemporary literary theory is, you know, the actual droids they're looking for.

Also, I had to look up "topos"

Yay! Pedant achievement unlocked!

and I wouldn't say that a term of such precision is really any better for the casual reader.

Not to deny that it's also jargon, but it has the benefit of a couple thousand years of serious and consistent use over things like "epileptic trees." If the casual reader has to look it up the first time, at least they've learned something that might be useful the second time.

posted by RogerB at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


who has the time for 20,000+ pages of tropes?

You'd be surprised. See y'all in the New Year.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:49 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


But I've also had to read papers where that kind of student uses TVTropes' terminology to reinvent a critical wheel that goes back to Aristotle, in all innocence of the idea that they could look it up in an actual book someplace.

True.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:53 PM on November 12, 2013


Personally, I love TVTropes because I'll find something that defines a moment that is part of what I like about a show, and then I find a dozen other sources for the same kind of pleasure.
A good quarter of my media drive is stuff I discovered via TVTropes and hell, the tone may not appeal to everyone but I enjoy my recherches and temps perdu there.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:11 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyhow, I don't mean to be too much of a sourpuss here. TVTropes is fantastic and lovable, a copious overflowing of joyously obsessive nerdery that no one but an ingrate could dislike for what it is. It's just that you wouldn't want to mistake it for what it's not: it's a kind of outsider-art version of literary theory, and like all such feats of autodidacticism, it's limited in ways that its writers and readers sometimes seem oblivious to, lacking some of the contextual awareness that could connect it, and its audience, to so much more of the rich intellectual history of other projects and ideas like it.
posted by RogerB at 5:26 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Y'all realize that TVTropes is by far the biggest and most complete pop culture analytic tool most people have access to, right?

I truly don't understand what's there to be smug about. As the long tail of pop culture criticism, overtime it's likely to overtake any other author.

>It provides an obsessively detailed collection of in-jokes, for sure, but an in-joke is different from a useful piece of critical analysis or observation.

There's a lot of analysis of literary conventions, customs, genres, plot types, plotting, characterization. Calling it all an "in-joke" seems a bit much?
posted by pmv at 5:28 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you actually want to communicate the idea "insane explanatory theory," the most useful way to do so is not to say "epileptic trees."

Sure, if you wanna be a square.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That chart... it goes on forever — and — oh my God — it's full of Tropes!
posted by meehawl at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2013


TV Tropes is the best because it is, by far, the most successful recommendation system I've ever tried.

I go in and say, "I love this work, what tropes does it use?" And then I realize that I absolutely love Shoot the Dog, or whatever, and I pick a book or movie or TV show that also uses that trope, and give that work's synopsis and (helpfully spoiler free!) list of tropes a quick skim, and from there I have a super-reliable judgement about what the flavor of the work will be. It takes 5 minutes and I have found a new thing that I will almost definitely enjoy.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:46 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am not a person who is into cremation. And I realize that even if I were, this would not be anatomically possible. But if I wanted to be buried anywhere, it'd be in TV Tropes. Because it is the most awesome website ever (though Metafilter comes close, of course). I can get lost in it and constantly find new and awesome things that explain our world and pop culture.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:20 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's a kind of outsider-art version of literary theory

Thank you for explaining what I love so much about TV Tropes, as well as numerous other internet things I've become obsessed with over the years, going right back to 2002 when I couldn't stop lurking on a forum where people read and commented on The Lord of the Rings, a chapter a day, in a huge loop forever.
posted by Acheman at 11:38 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


TV Tropes is the best because it is, by far, the most successful recommendation system I've ever tried.

Oh my yes. My latest pickup from there is Welcome to Night Vale. Although I first read about it on MeFi, it was the TVTropes entry that convinced me it was something I'd like. And for someone who doesn't mind being moderately spoiled for most things, it provides an antidote to the current spoilerphobic attitude that many reviewers seem to take—it's one thing not to reveal the big twist at the end, but too many reviewers go so far in the opposite direction that they won't mention any plot points appearing after the first ten minutes of a film.

I like TVTropes a lot, browsing there frequently, editing occasionally. My biggest gripe is the proliferation of examples that kinda-sorta-not-really fit the trope being described. Especially when you have two similar but not identical tropes, with the distinction clearly spelled out in the description of each, and being mutually exclusive ("Trope X is A, B, C, and D; Trope Y is A, B, and C without D")...and then you get to the examples, and there's 75% overlap between the examples listed for those two tropes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:18 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have truly come to loathe TV Tropes. Like many sites on the Internet it started off as being about a thing but now is largely about itself. It's not an analysis of storytelling, it's simply making everything into a Thing (with sub-Things and "subversions" of Things) to no real end other than it now being a Thing, which people can now come in and tell you all the obscure animes where it sort of takes place. When I unwittingly click on a link to TV Tropes I get mad, not because it's a big time suck I'll get lost in, but because it's once again being used as a reference when really it's not enlightening in any way at all.

TV Tropes is the adult version of those dumb travel bingo games they used to give to kids to amuse them on car rides. "I saw a farm!"
posted by Legomancer at 5:45 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just as there are only seven actual plot lines and the periodic table leads to a more detailed physics, there seems to be room for a theory of quantum tropes, string tropes and and many attempts at a unified trope theory. (Ah perhaps that's what postmodern literary theory is all about?)
posted by sammyo at 5:59 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, once you read about the Five Man Band you really DO see it over and over again.
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:11 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would have been great to have TVTropes as a resource back when I played Dungeons & Dragons. I was in a group that played AD&D 1st ed., except it wasn't called 1st ed. then because it was the only ed. of AD&D (to give you an idea of the time frame). We started out with a single campaign, run by a single DM, and did that for about a year. Then another member decided he wanted to DM his own campaign, so we had two campaigns with two separate character groups going side-by-side for several months. Then, all of a sudden, everyone (including me) wants to DM their own campaign, so we have a half-dozen campaigns or so going.

In my campaign, the players decided they wanted to do something different. They wanted to play Evil characters. Well, all but one player, who still wanted to be a Good character. So we end up with a single Good character among an otherwise-Evil party.

I realize now, with the benefit of age and wisdom and TVTropes, that this could have been a great hook for a campaign. With some backstory and motivation for all the characters, especially the motivation for the Good character to be with the others, there could have been some really interesting storytelling there. I would have insisted that the Evil characters all have concrete motivations for being Evil, that you couldn't just do it For The Evulz unless you were going to pull that off really well, and even then I would have let at most one player do that. I would have set moral dilemmas for the Good character to see if he could be corrupted, or if he would stick to his principles.

TVTropes would have helped with all that—both with a general understanding of the importance of good storytelling, and with particular character types for NPCs and plot elements. Truly creative people may be able to pull those off without the assistance of something like TVTropes, but I'm not that creative and TVTropes would have been a great help in generating ideas.

But we didn't have TVTropes, and I was young and stupid and not particularly creative, so my campaign played out a lot like all the others with the exception that the Evil characters would sometimes steal from or kill or do other nasty things to NPCs without provocation, while the Good character held back and grumbled but couldn't really stop them when they did that. That's fun at first, but it gets old pretty quick.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I unwittingly click on a link to TV Tropes I get mad, not because it's a big time suck I'll get lost in, but because it's once again being used as a reference when really it's not enlightening in any way at all.

Honest question, where are you finding TVTropes being linked as a reference from? I love the site, but I think I've only ever seen it acknowledged on MF and that one XKCD comic. If not for those inroads, I wouldn't even have known it exists.
posted by psoas at 10:02 AM on November 13, 2013


Yeah, count me in as someone who doesn't fully understand the TV Tropes love. I mean, it's clear a huge amount of work has been put into it, but I don't get the, "Oh, it will suck you in for days!" thing at all. It's mildly interesting to me, at best, despite my own nerd-dom.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:28 AM on November 13, 2013


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