1. TheClintHennesy
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    TheClintHennesy Member

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    The generic plot syndrome

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheClintHennesy, Jul 27, 2015.

    Hi everyone! So... I'm working on this... story thing at the moment. I don't know exactly on what medium it will be presented (series of short stories, as a novel, a visual novel, etc.)

    Last night, I showed the stuff I wrote to my brother and made him run though the current written stuff. He said that it felt generic... so I was like asking him what exactly does generic mean? And what isn't a generic story exactly? I mean- you'd obviously have a hero and a villain, right? and at the end of the story, the villain would normally be defeated and all that. And speaking of generic, there's this 7-act story thing I read that a lot of stories tend to follow.

    Personally- I feel that a story being "generic" (if generic means that it follows "the Hero defeats Villain and Happy Ending") has nothing to do with how good it is. I just watched Ant Man recently and it pretty much was a good, entertaining movie. I felt like they didn't have to pull off some hipster plot for it to be great. It was entertaining, funny, and solid.

    So I was wondering- what do you guys think? Do you really need to try to find something "original" for it to be good?

    I'm working on a story right now. It has a "Generic" Plot Line.
    It goes like this:


    Beginning: A war is currently going on. The Main Character is lost and broken. He decides to leave home along with his dog in hopes to find a better life- an adventure. During the short adventure, he lost his dog, his only family left (Inciting Incident). He gets into a state of despair. He meets a demon who helps him and lets him know he has a responsibility.


    Middle: The main character and the demon go through a series of trials. They encounter allies and enemies who become allies along the way. They find out the key needed to end the war- a fourth realm called “Aetheria”, the land of the Fae. The Fae have the power to resist the Celestial’s powers, Lumen. They also find out the man behind the war- and how it started.


    End: The great Celestial Seraph, Lord Sol is defeated. The worlds are finally at peace...

    It's pretty simple when it comes to plot. It's "nothing new". However, I feel like what truly makes each and every story unique is that they are written with each of our own unique voices.

    That's all. :p
     
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  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    "This plot seems generic/unoriginal/derivative to me" is code for "I can make out a pattern in this story that I have seen elsewhere, and I am going to comment on that pattern instead of commenting on what makes this story what it is."
     
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  3. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I didn't know you were writing a story about Sam Winchester. Lol Jk. But in all seriousness what I view as "generic" is something I've seen before. Something that comes up too often or just seems lack luster. That's why I always try and find a more interesting way out of a situation or an interesting way to describe something rather than just [blank].
     
  4. Chewie
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    Chewie Member

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    Most basic storylines have been done over and over again, Coming of Age, Romeo & Juliet to name two, its more of what's around the story which makes it original. Example Romeo and Juilet, Titanic and Avatar. All three films (one play) are all the same stories star crossed lovers from different worlds but it is the world around them which makes them different and feel unique.

    I would say don't focus on the main plot 'Hero defeats Villain and Happy Ending' being generic, but mainly your world and the main character and supporting characters being unique.

    I read a tone of Coming of Age stories, but I only read the ones were the world pulls me in and immerses me.
     
  5. Clover
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    Clover Member

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    I also find that a storyline being "generic" has nothing to do with how much I like it. However, if it's generic in more areas, like its tone, character, language etc then I might lose interest. Usually it's the characters and particular styles of writing that keep me hooked. My dad has written the beginning of a new version of the Faust story (based on the earliest written version). I knew the story (in fact, I'd just read the Marlowe version), but I loved it. It had its own style, and beautiful descriptions of character. I guess your brother didn't find something to hook him in, but that doesn't mean other people won't. If you're committed to the story, hopefully more people will read it and understand why. :)
     
  6. innocentghost
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    innocentghost New Member

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    Well from reading that, it sounds like the story has the possibility to become generic. I think the smaller interactions between characters during the middle will really determine whether it would become generic or not. Having a few passing or minor characters in the middle will certainly help.
     
  7. TheClintHennesy
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    TheClintHennesy Member

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    Well- The entire summary above was really just a very... vague... run through. xD There's a lot more details but I Wanted to streamline it without going too much over it. :-x

    I think I'm starting to understand what he meant... Patterns and "Cliches"... Though, sometimes, I feel like trying so hard to avoid a pattern or cliche is like... putting in extra work on something you don't have to. It's like not listening to a song because everyone is listening to it- even if you like that song. :eek:

    Shouldn't we just write stories we like and make it as interesting as we could an enjoyable as we could rather than trying to blatantly avoid cliches and "generic-ism" :eek:
    Personally, I don't like stories that try wayyy to hard to come up with something new, it becomes something I'm very unfamiliar with and just hard to catch up/understand.

    What do you guys think? :eek:

    xD
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends. Some genre's come with built in plots and formats and nobody really needs to shake them but writers do need to add something fresh to the mix or else what's the point? Take a dead genre from the 80s – man-vs-beast. The format was pretty standard - beast attacks community - man is brought in to expel beast - after much bloodshed beast is killed. That's the framework. And most writers think that by creating 'new' characters and offering a new beast that their job is done. That by having a killer snake and not a shark they're being original. And too a point they are as long as they stop the familiarity there.

    What gets most writers into trouble is not by starting a story like Jaws but by cannibalizing Jaws to fill in all their blanks; beast hunter is a loner, beast hunter is an expert on said beasts, beast hunter's word is never taken as golden, community ignores warnings, death of beast is always difficult. Add to that any given trends at the time - divorce, woman's lib, even something as dumb as sushi - and soon you have rip offs not real stories. And believe me as a frequenter of flea markets I've seen and read many a Jaws rip off.

    Some however rather than being a rip off were not only good but surpassed Jaws in IMOHO. One of them was a terrific book entitled Alligator by Shelley Katz.

    One thing that kept the stories from being generic was an attention to details, not the big details – it's a snake not a shark – but the little details.

    I think that's where originality lies not in the big things but the little things. The big things are obvious and are what are going to draw your reader to your book – ala the comparison of Hunger Games to Twilight – but the little details are what are going to truly set them apart.
     
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's missing for me is a compelling reason for the main character to get involved in the story. He runs away from home to find a better life; that's fine for "what is your main character up to when the story happens to him." Then he gets involved with a demon, but why?

    I think you need to come up with an event that forces your MC to make a decision... to get involved with that demon to accomplish something... save the world? save the family he ran away from? That kind of thing.

    As long as the reason makes sense to your MC, you can make it make sense to your reader. And making that make sense to your reader will draw your reader further into the story and it won't feel generic because they'll be emotionally involved in the outcome.
     
  10. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Demon = good? Wat?

    What's somewhat disappointing about this is how bland the concept is. I mean it's not a bad idea, but with so much space to fill in ideas you leave the canvas pretty blank. What I would suggest you do now is create a storyboard where you can put down ideas. Sure this is a story simply about a war, but think about all of aspects about war that you need to fill in.

    Backstory: How the war started, how your main character got caught up in the war, why the heck is a devil helping him?

    Weapons: Maybe include some futuristic technological weapons that grant the main character special powers. Maybe he has some unique piece of equipment that makes him stand out from other soldiers.

    War: Whose side is he on good or bad? Sometimes you don't need to be on the good side to make a compelling story I mean look at the Holocaust, but then again in war is there really any right or wrong?

    Those are just a few things, but you can get really specific if you want and if the more specific you get the more immense the story gets until eventually the story becomes another world.
     
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  11. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    Yeah that's usually how I write. Get a backstory (which for me involved creating an entire universe and timeline etc) and then basically storyboard what I want to write with a guideline.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey now...
     
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  13. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I could be good for the right amount of souls. Err, I mean. I'm a good guy.
     
  14. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Umm...
     
  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I tend to agree. There's at least one example here of an author who wrote something unique that flopped, followed by a wizard story that was a success.

    In the business world, established businesses tend to stick to what they know rather than going with something too disruptive as they do not have the support structures in place to look after something new. I think there is definitely an element of comfort factor, moreso with films, where audiences are satisfied when their expectations for a particular genre of movie can be met.

    If you like what you have written, that's a great start. From there it depends on your goals - to be published, to impress friends or family, etc.

    Part of the problem is the feedback from your brother is not detailed enough, or lacks constructive elements for improving your story.

    As @peachalulu says - the small details can make a big difference. If the flavour that the small details add are not enough to spice up the story, perhaps you can look at them and how they can be strengthened? I cannot help you specifically without reading the story itself, but I hope that is of some use.
     
  16. TheClintHennesy
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    I see what you mean then. :) That makes me feel better.
    Right now, I'm making the framework of the story- so pretty much, it's all very "zoomed out".

    That still makes me think though- are the "little details" supposed to be included in Plot? :-o
    I thought plots were like the segments of narratives that happens one event after another.
    (So having a generic plot but a fully built world of characters and relationships would still work.)

    Just a thought. Thanks for the reply though. That definitely calmed me down. :)

    Got it. :)
    I've posted on the Character Development forum about this. I've been having an issue with my main character actually.

    I'll work on it. Thanks so much! :)

    Hey! :D So Uhh... I didn't really put it up the Original Post because I didn't want to put too much info on the story.
    I've been working on the framework for the story for the past 2 months. The characters and events and what leads to the war- etc...
    But to answer your questions:

    Demons: So my story revolves around the Armature/Theme (what ever you call it) of "Indifference"- We are all the same. That is the very core of Edun’s storyline. Whether we are born privileged or born at a disadvantage, we are all human and are never exempted from flaw. It is what being human is all about. In my story- Demons (as a race) are representations of men and women around the world who are born disadvantaged and are seen as "bad guys"/"villains" because of what they are and who they are. Angels (as a race) are representations of the ones who are born privileged, have the power, and can occasionally abuse that power. One of the goals of the story was to bring in a group of characters together all with very different backgrounds and make them settle each other other's differences. In a time of important need, no matter what you are or where you're from- if you're on the side for what is right, you'll all help each other out.

    How the War Started: So how the war started is sort of "grey"- but it has something to do with the mechanics of how the Celestial (Angels) hold their power. The main "Villain"- this Celestial Seraph. I wouldn't say that he's evil- but rather selfish in such a way that he doesn't want to give up that power. This "power" is an energy source of Lumen. Lumen is like what makes angels "Angels". It can be used as a weapon, as a medicine, fuel, etc. It's basically a form of "light magic". All Angels are born with Lumen- but born Lumen is limited. Using the Lumen you are born with will make the angel race age. Another way to "harvest/obtain" the Lumen is from the humans- us. It is through human prayer and sacrifice these Angels can use Lumen. Because of some recent event (another story in the same world) and us humans just changing- slowly relying on technology- the Celestial are starting to grow short on Lumen. So this Seraph decides to break a small of the "gates" between Hell and Earth and cause a global panic. People start believing in the supernatural again. Then- the Celestial would descend into Earth and use that global panic to fuel them with Lumen. Of course- this isn't revealed at the beginning or whatever.

    Basically, an analogy I can think of would be- a families are starting to use modern-day equipment and etc to take care of rats and pests. They don't need exterminators anymore and all that. This makes the exterminators gain no income. What they do to fix the issue is purposely breed rats and pests and release it into the neighborhood and get back into business. Think of it this way- but an entire race will have to sacrifice a lot more than just going broke if they don't do anything about it.

    Weapons: So the "Weapons" in the story is not just a weapon- like a dagger or a gun or whatever. This "Weapon" is another race called the Fae. I won't explain too much about it cuz it's going to be another paragraph- but basically the Fae are resistant to Lumen and there are ways for humans and Fae to sort of "team-up" or something (I don't know what to call it.) I designed this entire world as a game. xD Now I feel like it's hard to the the story as a narrative if it weren't a game.

    War: Really- there are only two sides to this war. The ones that want change and the ones that want things to stay the same. The Hellbourne are sick of their place. The Celestial want things to stay the same and started a war so they could get what they want. Us- humans go in different ways- some side with the Celestial and some side with the Hellbourne- and there are some who make their own side and stay with technology etc *whispers We're just . The earth is caught in between a crossfire. :p

    The main protagonists of the story all want the war to end. The main protagonist consists of a human, a demon, an angel, and a fae... and like 2 more people (the Demon's Sister and the Angel's Close friend) that join them. Being with each other for awhile, they learn that there's good and bad in everyone, both angels and demons, and all decide that the war should end with the three worlds connected and open for everyone.

    Thanks again for your feed back. I think being asked a question from others really helps me decide and fleshen things out more as a statement. :) Definitely helped.

    lol. Anyways- I've literally typed a bit of the story and everything- so anyone's free to comment or what ever as well and just tell me what they think so far.
    And uhh- I'm more of an artist than a writer- and this started out as a Concept Generation Project Prompt rather than an actual to-be-written story- so if you guys want drawings and all that for the story I'm working on, I have a development blog (TheClintHennesy.wordpress.com). I'm planning to make a progress journal here as well once I reach the quota. :p
     
  17. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Why didn't you include stuff like this in your main post? You make your story sound so bland in your main post and then you have ideas like this that you've been hiding from us. :confuzled:

    Point being it already sounds like you've got a plot worked out. The only thing it sounds like you're really missing is a plot twist of some sorts that will completely confuse the reader. For the most part though it sounds like you already know what you're doing.
     
  18. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Yeah. Like make the human MC do the opposite of what he needs to do...

    But his action is not stopping the war - it's working with the fae to help the demons to kill the angels. So do the opposite of working with the fae.

    eg:

    MC loses someone close and the only thing nearby is a fae. Do you remember the scene in Green Mile where they find John Coffe with the girls and he says, "I couldn't help it"? Like that.

    So he hates fae and seeks to hurt or kill them for most of the story, becoming notorious for that. Towards the end he learns it was in fact an angel, and in fact the fae was trying to help his friend / lover / whatever and thus he joins the demons, using the fae to kill the angels to exact revenge. Thus ending the war.

    This is what I meant by "doing the opposite. Make it a twist?"

    It was off the top of my head and 10 seconds of thought, I am sure you can come up with something far more interesting.

    Hope that makes more sense.
     
  19. Song
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    Song Active Member

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    Generic can mean alot of things to different people. It can mean that the particular storyline has been overdone. It could mean that recently your brother has seen or read to many things that follow that pattern. As an anime fan, the amount of times I've seen a series about 'boy aquires special powers' or 'shy young guy is thrown together with 5 different fiesty women who all love him' so many times. So when I see another, I think 'oh god not again'. For me the teen-fantasy genre is becoming generic. Take one teen, put them in some kind of distopian environment, sprinkle a hook like a maze or a contest to the death and simmer over 5 books and one big movie deal. However others might not feel the same way.

    One of my friends told me (and I'm sure it's a famous quote) that there is only one story in a book and thats the journey. You have to make it interesting enough for people to want to go on. If it isn't then people are going to focus on the negatives more than the positives.
     
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  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It's hard to say what your small details will be without looking at your book but these little details can really help shape your characters, events and things. There were tons of clever details in Harriet the Spy. Too many to name but here's a few - her arrogance ( when at a time most young characters were nice girls ), her insistence on eating tomato sandwiches ( if only to drive the cook mad ), her fondness for egg creams. Her tool belt and phony glasses when she went spying.

    Here's a detail that effected a scene. When her nanny Ole Golly took Harriet along on her date ( the man had come by bicycle ) Harriet rode in the delivery box. Now the man could've showed up by taxi ( it was New York )- but the scene wouldn't have been half as brilliant. I could name a ton more but that's sort of the idea. You want to grab for something a little different as it will really help you to enrich your scene.
     
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  21. TheClintHennesy
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    Hey Aaron. :D I read this last night and was trying to looking more info about Plot Twists and trying to recall as many Plot Twists in movies/shows that I've watched.
    At first, I was going against the idea of having a "Plot Twist" because I'm not confident in pulling off all these types of surprises-
    But as what @theoriginalmonsterman has mentioned, It's lacking stuff to keep readers interested... so I went to google and read a bit more on "Plot Twists"

    There are, apparently different ways to do it. xD
    But I'm really in favor of killing off an important character just somewhere in the middle (Just something I cooked up headed to work in the morning.)

    So here's the thought on how things go so far:
    War is Going on- Angels are being douches- abusing their "power."
    To beat the angels, they need these "Fae" Race and their Power- but only Humans have access to that Character.
    This main character is a human- he's accompanied by a Fae over their adventure- but it's never actually revealed. (I'm figuring out how to pull this off without it being too obvious.)
    This MC meets a demon and eventually, they head over on a quest to stop the war.
    Trying to stop the war, the MC and this Demon are captured and sent out for a public, streamed execution.
    During the Execution, the Demon is supposedly killed- but the MC somehow is able to save the Demon- and in turn, have himself killed in the process.
    Also- When this MC saves the demon, it is finally revealed that this MC was in fact accompanied by a Fae.

    So this is actually halfway though the story and an important turning point in ending the war.
    It reveals the raw existence of the "Fae" for the first time in the story. Because the execution was public- and because it displays the Fae's existence to everyone- it'll definitely question the minds of those siding with the Angels- because there "finally" is a way to defeat them.

    And apart from that- the main character, the one whose story you've been following for the first have of the chapters dies. Which gives the demon even more motivation to end the war.

    Now- I hope this makes sense. There's still a flaw on this "Fae" race that I'm making- particularly, aside from being used as weapons, what else is their purpose on their story?
    I have the Demons to represent the bad faces, Angels to represent the good faces, and the Humans to represent the face of the public and how we choose sides. The Fae is still kind of blank when it comes to that part. All I know is they they are basically the ones who run "nature" within Earth. The Fae are the sources of life, death... Hmmm.... I'll have to think about this. :)

    I see. Thanks for the tips. I'm trying to steer away from the generic stuff you mentioned above. xD
    I think one specific genre you mentioned is the "Boy acquires special powers"- or anything that makes the main character look chosen/special.

    :p

    Duly noted. :)
    Details on the characters and what they like/do/don't like/don't do definitely does add more flavor to the story. Even if you had a plot of "Boy meets girl- and boy and girl fall in love- boy and girl get married", it's the little stuff in the story- the manner of how the characters speak and move, and all that- It will definitely change the playing field by a lot. :)

    I guess I'll just work on the characters a bit more as well! :)

    Thanks again for the feedback guys! :)
     
  22. tanstaafl74
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    When breaking "generic" down to such a level you only have three possible outcomes in any adversarial type of story. The protagonist wins, the antagonist wins, or no one wins. Looked at this way, all stories are generic in that way. The trick is to not worry about who wins, instead make the journey to that ending unique enough to be interesting.
     
  23. 123456789
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    YES, you are either creative, or you aren't. We should all just be ourselves.
     
  24. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    Saying that basic parts of literature (Either Pro or An wins or neither) are "generic" is a little funny to me [Funny in a bad way]. You can't write without them so can you really call it generic? No. Generic are things that have been done a thousand times before and whilst basic parts of literature fit that category they are there because there is no way around them. They have to be there to make the story. But things you can get around that are used all the time ARE generic. That being said I believe with the right writer "generic" plots and/or characters can be completely flipped on their heads.
     
  25. Ryan Elder
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    If a story follows the same formula as other stories, it can still be entertaining as long as it puts a new spin on the formula. Usually when I think of a story as too generic, I usually think that it pulled too many punches in it's themes or content. Do you think that your story does that in a way?
     

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