Glossary of Terms Used

Critical/LitRPG Terms:

References: Turkey City Lexicon, Fritz Freiheit, Bucks County Writers Workshop, TV Tropes, the Roger Ebert Lexicon, and my own observations.

The Sins, LitRPG specific:

What Level Am I?  The main character has leveled up so high and so quickly that future level-ups do not add anything to the story.

How Many Powers Do I Have?  The main character has so many powers and abilities that they can do anything at will.

Does Anyone Remember What I’m Doing?  The main conflict in the series has been resolved, but the author still wants to keep writing in the series.  Thus the protagonist seems listless or to have no real purpose except to get handed quests or tasks to complete.

Keep the Outside World Out:  Trying to get rid of the problem of not having anything for the characters to do by introducing new factions, invented problems, or outside interference.  Cf:  Deus Ex Machina.

NPCs are not replaceable: Getting rid of a character that has a specific role, so that they can be replaced with another character that has the exact same role.

Create a Real Villain:  A villain who skins puppies and makes handbags out of them is definitely evil, but also boring.  The villain needs to have a conflict with the main character that means they must be in conflict with each.

Side Characters Matter:  As the protagonist becomes more overpowered, the side characters become more irrelevant, making it the adventure of one person who can do anything.  Cf Wish Fulfilment story.

Vanilla Wafer Good Guy:  A main character who is generically good, but has no real personality or character traits beyond being “good”.

Mechanics Without Story:  A story with things that happen but no real characters, plot, or motives.


Generic Problems

Just Cause Villain:  A villain who has no real reason to hate the main character or to go after the main character, but does so because the plot requires it.  Cf:  Batman v Superman.

Side Character – Plot Generator.  A character who has no real role or personality except to generate things for the main character to do.  Cf: Damsel in Distress, though the gender is irrelevant for this character archetype, women are most often picked for this role.

Borrowed World Fantasy:  A fantasy World that looks exactly like a another, more famous one.  For most fantasy authors, this tended to be Middle Earth, while most LitRPGs tend to look like World of Warcraft.

Call a Rabbit a Smeerp:  A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. “Smeerps” are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)

Ice Plant: Omission of specific detail. Author refers to an item without revealing information whether they’re talking about a vegetable or a factory.

Infodump: Putting a huge amount of information into a small amount of time, particularly if it’s before the reader is invested in the story at all.  When it’s the very first thing the reader encounters, it’s known as “Front-loading”.  CF: The 4th draft of Tombstone for a huge amount of front-loading.

Bang. Bang. “By the way, are you married?” Interspersing of inappropriate action into dialog in an attempt to keep the plot moving.  Cf: Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur.

Does It Really Matter Which Hand He Used? Adding irritating and irrelevant details to a passage that is already dense, weird or distasteful.

Squid in Mouth. The failure of an author to realize that certain assumptions or jokes are not shared by most people. In fact, readers will look upon such writers as if they had squid in their mouths.

Plot Coupon:  When something happens that hasn’t been set up in the story.  E.g. a character goes into battle and suddenly discovers that they have a new power that they never knew of.

Plot Token:  An object whose initial function is unknown that will be used later to further the plot.

Poor Me Story:  Story where the lead character, usually a male protagonist, complains that he can’t get laid, his mom and dad don’t understand him, his fiance doesn’t really like him, etc. No one who asks for pity gets it.

I’m wonderful/Wish Fulfillment Story: After I slayed the dragon and rescued the damsel, I took on and destroyed the enemy and taught the inhabitants how to do everything. I solved the problems, found the treasure, was the object of every girl’s desire…

The Gotcha! story: Ha, ha, you just read three thousand words about a bug, or a cloud, or a rock, or some other insensate creature or object.  A deceived reader will reject both the story and the writer. You have to play fair and be honest, or take up politics.

Anecdote Story. These are the amusing or intriguing little things to mention at a dinner or cocktail party. They have no meaning outside of the small incident itself. Although they can be incorporated into a story through a character, they don’t substitute for AN story.

The Fantasy Lover story: The lover is a dream image, a succubus or incubus, a spirit, a ghost, someone who is great in bed, then disappears. The Fantasy Lover  doesn’t wash dishes, leave dirty socks on the floor, go shopping, get headaches, complain . . . More wish fulfillment that goes nowhere. Get a live-in companion and get a life.

Autoerotic fiction:  A story in which the author is clearly the protagonist and all of the characters are there to tell him how wonderful he is.  Cf: The Room.

Deus ex Machina, “God in the Box”, or “Outside Intervention.”  Story featuring a miraculous solution to the story’s conflict, which comes out of nowhere and renders the plot struggles irrelevant.

If anything is possible, then nothing is interesting. –H. G. Wells

Just-Like Fallacy:  SF story which thinly adapts the trappings of a standard pulp adventure setting.  CF:  Borrowed World Fantasy.

The Tabloid Weird:  Within the story, whatever is going on can be “tabloid weird”, but not so weird that the people in the story would regard it as impossible.  Breaking the tabloid weird usually happens when writers cross too many genres together: a steampunk novel that also has a Sasquatch detective in it.

And Then plot:   A plot in which this happens, and then that happens, and then something else happens, and it all adds up to nothing in particular.  As Matt Stone and Trey Parker point out, a good story should be filled with two phrases:  Therefore and But Then.

Idiot Plot:  A plot which works because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author’s convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own. (Attr. James Blish)

Kudzu plot:  A plot which is so gnarled that readers have a hard time following it.  Cf: Day Break

As You Know Bob:  Info-dump through dialogue, in which characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very common technique is also known as “Rod and Don dialogue” (attr. Damon Knight) or “maid and butler dialogue” (attr Algis Budrys).

Stapeldon:  Name assigned to the voice which takes center stage to lecture. Actually a common noun, as: “You have a Stapledon come on to answer this problem instead of showing the characters resolve it.”

Used Furniture:  We’ll set it in the Star Trek Universe, only we’ll call it the Empire instead of the Federation. Cf: Borrowed World Fantasy.

Against Own Interest:  When a character suddenly behaves in a way that is against their own interest because the author needs to move the plot forward.

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