1. Earthshine
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    Earthshine Member

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    Are Revenge Plots Passé...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Earthshine, Dec 27, 2013.

    Hey everyone,

    This is my first post so please be kind.

    Anyway, I have a story idea I have been toying with for the past few years. The plot is essentially one of revenge, though it is tied into other ideas such as revolution and reform. The main character is also largely driven by revenge throughout most of the story.

    Last year I wrote a chapter from this story and took it in to my university writing class for my peers to read. While everyone seemed to like it, a number of them commented that revenge plots are over-done, passé, boring and so on. Do you think this is the case? Or can revenge plots work under certain circumstances? Are there certain elements that could make a revenge plot more interesting.

    Also, I was wondering what other ways a person might respond to betrayal. There is obviously revenge, and also forgiveness. How else might people respond to betrayal?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Cerebral
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    Cerebral Active Member

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    Welcome to the forum, Earthshine. I think you'll find that most people are kind (and supportive). That's been my experience anyway.
    Is that what your peers said? Hm. I always thought that the first thing one learns when beginning to write is that there are only a handful stories in existence, and that every plot is some variation of one of them. If that's true, then all types of plots are "over-done." It's all about execution.

    As to the rest of your questions...I'm afraid I'll be of no use. But as a response to betrayal: what about indifference? Or petty, useless anger? Or suicide(!)? Or just plain sadness? I think that's all I've got.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Revenge is one of the basic motivations. How could it become passe?

    There are only a few such basic motivations. Defense of a love one. Greed and fear of destitution. Competition and the alpha drive. Survival vis a vis a limited resource.

    If people found your story boring, don't blame the premise. Blame the execution. The good news is, the execution can be fixed. That is where practice and study comes in. Here, you ca lean the fundamentals of plot, an of modulating and escalating tension. It's no short path, by it is both exciting and rewarding.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    one could say any plot is 'passe,' as they've all been done over and over and over again, since first appearing on the walls of their innovative authors' cave walls... and that everything written since then is simply 'creative plagiarism'...

    all a fiction writer could do in the millennia to follow is to treat the same old basic plots and plot devices--such as 'revenge'--with a fresh new pov and 'voice'... provide some intriguing new twists and turns in the 'old standards'...

    which is what we do... hopefully....
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    There are two possibilities here, one the readers were homogeneous and a different group of readers may have had a different opinion.

    Or, you had a well written piece that still needed some unique element to make it your story and not the same story that has been written a bit too often recently. That doesn't mean revenge is passe, but the film market has been saturated with quite a few hero types that kill a gazillion foes who wronged the hero in some tragic way, usually having killed his wife or lover so there can be a new romantic interest in danger in the plot. That might be overdone.

    But the theme itself, themes always repeat, for centuries they successfully repeat and they will continue to do so. And there most probably is a way to write your story in an interesting successful way.
     
  6. Earthshine
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    Earthshine Member

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    Hey everyone,

    Thank you for your replies. They have been most helpful. Now comes a long process of reworking my idea :).
     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    There are, it's said, only seven basic plots, but we get a lot of mileage out of them.

    As for revenge, every story is, basically an attempt by the protagonist to regain a stable life after something that causes his/her life to spin out of control, from their point of view. It can be needing a date for the prom or needing to rescue the universe from, whatever. In your case your protagonist wants more than to redress a wrong, through punishment of the wrongdoer—revenge as against retribution.

    The problem I would see is that your protagonist doesn't have poetic justice on his/her side. As a reader, do we want to see the wrong righted, and the wrongdoer punished, but, has our protagonist abandoned moral standards in the desire to make the wrongdoer suffer, for personal satisfaction as against correcting a wrong?

    That matters because traditionally, at the black moment before the climax, the reader wants the protagonist to win as a reward for being steadfast, and cheers when the protagonist uses their one true and reliable resource, dumb luck. Facing failure, outmatched, and without resources, we provide our protagonist with a lucky break to take advantage of and tip the scales in their favor. And then we cheer as our hero wins. But if in winning the protagonist then heats up a branding iron and makes the antagonist's hours hell; if our protagonist blows up the building that houses the antagonist's company, complete with the janitor and the other workers who have done nothing wrong, revenge has been achieved, yes but the reader is not going to be happy.

    Seems to me that revenge has no moral component, other then, "That bastard deserves this." It might be true, but retribution has a more noble goal, from a reader's POV because it's more measured.

    Your mileage may differ.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  8. Earthshine
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    Earthshine Member

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    Thank you. You've actually given me something very interesting to consider.
     
  9. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Just remember that when writing, everything has been done before. But that's like saying, why build a car when there are so many cars? You know what shape a car takes. It has wheels and an engine. But there's a lot of different kinds of car out there. Cars will never stop being made... and cars will always look different.

    There's a simpler explanation for this, but at 2:30 in the morning, my brain is too fried to find it.
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Cogito said, revenge is one of the most basic motivations. Every can relate to it in some way. I find it fun to write about. And there are so many ways to go about getting revenge. The story I am currently working on has the main character seeking revenge for the wrongs committed against her and her friends. She isn't out so much to kill her enemies as she is about destroying their world and everything they hold dear.

    Something to keep in mind when writing about revenge is that they are stories of sacrifice and preservation. By that, I mean the main character is usually either willing to sacrifice everything to defeat the antagonist, or attempting to preserve what they have left to thwarft their foe. Everything should have an opposite and equal reaction. If your MC sacrifices their friends, how does his friends' loved ones react? Will they come after the MC for their own revenge? Likewise, if the MC defeats their foe, where does that leave the foe's family?

    If you want a good example of a revenge story, read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dummas. It's one of the most famous revenge stories around and the characters are well developed and all have their own motivations. You also get to see repercussions unintentionally caused by the MC's actions. There was a movie adaptation made a little more than a decade ago starring Jim Caviezel that is decent for what it is, but they cut out half the story and characters.
     
  11. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    I like revenge as a plot, I would just say that you need to focus on how dark you want your character to go, will he or she go through with it no matter how terrible it may be possibly causing them to be unlikable to the reader by the end, or will they stop before the end b/c they've learned to let go of their grievances
     

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