Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Felix Infelix: I'm not sure the mention of "His Dark Materials" should be included, since it was written by one person and therefore can't have another writer causing characters to act differently than normal. It seems somewhat confusing to me, and given the number of other pages that complain about mention a Writer On Board, I figure it's important for the examples to be as clear as possible. Anyone else agree with me?

Tanto: Writer on Board doesn't necessarily indicate interference by someone else. The creator is just as likely to use his characters as mouthpieces as anyone else.

The rule of thumb is that when a writer is obviously, anviliciously using the characters or the story to advance his own viewpoints or opinions, that's a Writer on Board.

Ununnilium: I would speak, but I would merely be echoing Tanto's excellent summation.

Mister Six: But the characters don't "act like idiots" or "against their previous characterisation" at any point in the HDM books. The trope, as far as I can see, is unconvincing characterisation used to force an Aesop, message or specific concept close to the writer's heart. An example of a creator going against his established creation might be something like the Cerberus comic, which started out as a swords and sorcery spoof and eventually turned into a great big tirade against women due to the writer going mental.

Lale: "Writer on board" to me says when an author is visible and begins to drift into "telling" instead of "showing," when they don't "keep their own crap out of the work" as they say on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Unconvincing chracterizaton and Character Derailment do fall under that.

YYZ: Bad plotting and bad characterization both fall under this trope, in instances where both plot and characters are subjugated to the theme. HDM tends to lose its readers' Willing Suspension of Disbelief if they're not willing to buy into the God Is Evil / Rage Against the Heavens aspects of it; Philip Pullman has practically admitted that his main intention in writing HDM was to provide a dark mirror image to the Christian influences in C.S. Lewis' fantasy works. Generally, if a writer starts off with a point in mind, it risks becoming a Writer on Board, because the point is Important and therefore they're going to hammer you with it at every opportunity.

Lale: The above sounds right on target, except for "Bad plotting and bad characterization." No doubt those occur when there's a Writer on Board, but they're hardly limited to that reason.

Felix Infelix: While I fully agree that when a writer has a point to make, they risk overwhelming the story, I don't remember feeling that Pullman's point "did" overwhelm the story. However, it's been a few years since I last read the books, so I may be mistaken. I actually planned to reread them soon, so I may eat my words in a few days. I will say, though, that if Pullman was a Writer on Board, then I think the Chronicles of Narnia also suffer from a Writer on Board, or at least the the last book does.

Phartman: Lewis' stuff was mostly hidden with allegory, but I remember one character in HDM explicitly referencing Christianity by name in a negative context. If the whole point of the trope is when writers use their work as a soapbox, then both authors can be mentioned. Just because Lewis was more clever about it doesn't mean he didn't do it.

Lale: I've never read HDM, but the Christian streak in Narnia is purely symbolic — not subtle, but never Script Wanked.

Phartman: That sounds about right. Unlike Pullman, Lewis isn't necessarily targeting anyone else's viewpoint with his material. How would the two be classified, I wonder.

Lale: Lewis was promoting his beliefs, while Pullman was promoting his beliefs via bashing another's? (Like I said, I'm just guessing from what I've read on the wiki, having not read HDM.)

Phartman: That's part of it, yeah. I found it a little silly that Pullman considered HDM a "refutation" of C.S. Lewis' work; I'm not totally clear on how articles of a person's faith can possibly be "refuted" at all.

Anonymous: I found that the third book single-handedly created its own fictional mythology, rather than merely deriding someone else's. Even then, it only did its deriding vocally. There was nothing at any point in the story of any of the three books that seemed like an allegory for any religious or atheistic context. Just one point where Pullman uses one character as a mouthpiece for trash-talking religion. To me, that says writer on board. Everything else, including how poorly the characters stuck with their roles and adhered to previously-established plot devices is completely irrelevent.

Mister Six: The trope specifically states that Writer on Board only applies when the author's obsession with getting his message across overrides established or logical characterisation. The fact that it's linked with Wall Banger and Creator Breakdown is a clue to this. Whether or not you agree with Pullman's religious and political viewpoints, the book at no point forces any of the characters to act unusually or stupidly to get those viewpoints across. I'm cutting it.

Fast Eddie: Pulled ...
* Literary example: Much of the story in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is directed solely by the author's antipathy toward the Christian undertones in C.S. Lewis' fantasy series The Chronicles Of Narnia.
... so people can have some idea what some of the discussion above is going on about.

Lale: About Evangelion, granted the finale is the most violent, blatant case of shameless Creator Breakdown in history, but I didn't see any Character Derailment or Ping-Pong Na´vetÚ to make it happen.

{{SchlitzrŘssler}}: Tanto wrote: "The rule of thumb is that when a writer is obviously, anviliciously using the characters or the story to advance his own viewpoints or opinions (...)"

If that's the case, we'd have to include Star Trek by Roddenberry? The problem I see here is that if an author sits down let's say he or she designs a fictional culture that functions by other norms, other taboos and values than the society of most of the readers, and the author has the protagonists "defend" their values and viewpoints against opposition, everyone assumes this must be because the author shares this ideology and is preaching to the reader. But it does NOT necessarily mean the author is preaching, maybe he is simply describing a socienty as alien as possible to the modern reader without actually personally endorsing it. If I were to write a historical novel set in ancient Viking (or Roman or take your pick) society, for example, it is not a society I would want to live in, but I could still make sure to show the protagonists as feeling justified in their way of life, and showing that their culture worked. For example, H.P. Lovecraft was not a believer of the supernatural.

Unfortunately, I often see the knee-jerk reaction from (usually US American) readers that every piece of literature that showcases the dark sides of socalled "Christianity" and the Church must mean the author is an atheist (with every negative connotation that entails for some people).

Lale: "socalled Christianity" that references the Crusades and other clearly anti-Christian ideas, ideals, and movements in history is not Christianity but hypocrisy, and the problem is that such writers don't make a distinction (probably because their own experiences have led them to believe there is none, which is sad).

{{Chandagnac:}} I'm curious. How were the Crusades "clearly anti-Christian"?

There are plenty of people throughout history who have acted like the definition of the Knight Templar trope in the name of Christianity. Yes, we now believe that that isn't how Christians should behave, but it's certainly not "clearly anti-Christian".

My Conclusion: SchlitzrŘssler was right. There are many groups- just look on almost any internet forum and you'll find some- that rail against any author who dares criticize any aspect of Christianity. And, Lale's post is a good example of how the Christian religion has traditionally moved to match popular morality, defining everything that is believed to be 'good' as Christian, and everything 'bad' as non-Christian. I guess that explains how "godless" became a synonym for "wicked".

Kizor: Speak for your own media and language.

Charred Knight: I really don't know what media your talking about, I can understand if it was say Fox News but I highly doubt that channels like CNN, or MSNBC would lambast someone for criticizing christianity. The Golden Compass failed in America because it's popularity was about the same as Eragon, and the Box Office reflected that. They had unreal expectations.

Chandagnac: to Kizor- right, fine. Altered my preivous entry to make it clear that I'm presenting my personal thoughts on the Christian religion.

Anonymous: Do we really need a religion debate here? I think we've lost whatever point Tanto was trying to make. Something about Gene Roddenberry and not neccesarily believing in what you write about, right? It does seem virtually impossible to be sure whether a person is really a writer on board or is just pretending to be, I admit.
Writer on Board is always a bad thing. Uncle Tom's Cabin would be Creator Breakdown.

"A very minor form of this occurs early in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when the narrator feels the need to point out four different times how unwise and unsafe it is to close oneself completely into a wardrobe - undoubtedly as an effort to prevent kids who read the story from getting themselves locked into something by accident. (Don't Try This at Home)"
Um, that's a Running Gag. Like how he says "What an exciting day the maid was having" about 3 times in The Magician's Nephew.

The Evil Dr Bolty: ...Tropes Are Not Bad? The trope is "obvious authorial intrusion," defined as the writer changing the characters or setting in order to tell the story he wants. Sometimes the story the author wanted to tell was good and the changes were well-received - just like Character Derailment itself is sometimes a good thing (as the entire cast of Nextwave can attest).
Eno: Couldn't help but notice that most of the A Clockwork Orange entry has been simplified back to what it was. Maybe it's just my favouritism of the original version, but really you might as well say the entire book is Writer on Board (it's still talking about how Pavlovian conditioning is inhumane even if you remove the last chapter; that simply elaborates on it) if it apparently fits the criteria. —- Considering the addition of a few of Orson Scott Card's other works. Several times I've been struck by the suspicion that I was being patronized, often accompanied by an incongruous shift in tone.
"This also happened in The West Wing when internet critics hurt his feelings. The West Wing at least had the advantage of being pretty spot on, and quite funny."

Funny yes, but spot on? Television Without Pity laid a smackdown on Aaron Sorkin because he was being rude to the other posters. When they didn't give him enough leeway for being Aaron Sorkin, he spat the dummy. Compared to most forums, T Wo P has exceptionally polite and sane posters, because the strict rules and mods that Sorkin was complaining about keep trolls away.

Kizor: The page history has two different versions of Orson Scott Card's example. The second one seems to deny that it belongs in this article, then go well out of its way to insult us all. Your help would be appreciated in figuring out if there's more to it, but for now I'm restoring the first one. I haven't read much of Empire despite several attempts, but what the author intended seems irrelevant when the reader ends up continuously asking himself if the book is supposed to be some kind of blatant satire.

* Orson Scott Card's Empire, where the characters will pause during the action to explain exactly why any disrespect for the military whatsoever is unpatriotic and therefore evil. (We'll grant that this is an exaggerated description, but he does compare An Inconvenient Truth to the Unabomber Manifesto.)

* Orson Scott Card's Empire, where the characters will pause during the action to explain exactly why hatred of the military is unpatriotic and therefore evil. (We'll grant that this is an exaggerated description, but we engage in it anyhow because we believe in creating strawmen out of what we disagree with, when we can't deal with it in a logical, civil way...which, actually, is the main point of Empire regarding rhetoric on both sides.)

theorc: If he doesn't actually make the comparison, the example should be pulled. If he does (I haven't read the book) then it does seem like this trope, whether you agree with him or not.

Mercy: I've just edited the example given of the Stargate SG-1 episode "Emancipation", removing the section "the episode's writer forgot that the entire civilized world turned away from treating women as property about two hundred years ago." 1808 is a long time ago, and "Civilized World" is a slippery concept. Do you include, say, the Ottoman Empire, Imperial China and Japan under the shoguns? All were alive and well two hundred years ago, were arguably civilized and treated women as property. In the United Kingdom, the law treated women as becoming their husbands' property on marriage until the Married Women's Property Act of 1882.

Scifantasy: I take issue with the Schlock Mercenary second-level comment. Besides that his last name is "Tayler," Howard has put some great defense-of-lawyers stuff in Massey's mouth on occasion; the swipes he takes at lawyers are rare and no worse than your average lawyer joke. (Anyone else here know the Bronze Rat one?) Doesn't really strike me as Writer on Board, just "hey, jokes!" I've yanked it, but preserve it here:

  • Taylor's also not big on lawyers. ("Yes, I know they are all lawyers. You're supposed to be cheering for the friendly, human one.")

Scifantasy: Anyway. I sort of take issue with the main-level too, but that would be a lot harder for me to short, I think Howard just believes everything should be about people, not structures...sort of the anti-Leviathan.
Rebochan: I took out King of the Hill - the show mocks everyone. Actually, it often focuses on the narrow-minded attitudes of the conservative community its in (evolution, school prayer, sports over academics, fear of teaching sex-ed, etc.) well before it picks on intellectuals.
Filby: How is this an example?

  • Green Arrow #75 where the villain Deathstroke used a device to turn Black Canary's own powers against her and was able to hold her hostage, while forcing her to suck on his sword-blade. Without trying to escape or use her superpowers, which are more than capable of precisely breaking metal at point-blank range. Green Arrow, rather than trying to fight the villain or challenging him to quit hiding behind a woman, wound up begging on his knees for Black Canary to be spared. Despite the whole Justice League showing up to save the day (making both Black Canary and Green Arrow look even more ineffectual), Deathstroke and his accomplice still manged to escape thanks to a Deus ex Machina bomb that somehow neutralized the powers of every single JLA member for a few minutes.

Taking it out. It's copy-pasted from Wall Banger (or vice versa), anyway.
Rann: Was removing a few examples, and noticed that a lot of them seem to be more fitted to Author Tract. The description of the trope itself doesn't seem to do a very good job distinguishing the two. Would anyone have any particular objection to rewriting the trope description to make this clearly apply to either long-running episodic works that took a swerve at some point (making it clear the author decided to shoehorn something in at a later point, not at the series' creation), or works where multiple people contribute to canon and someone new to come in started pushing their viewpoints? Doing so would go a long way towards distinguishing this as the middle ground between Author Tract and Armed with Canon.
Beforet: Shouldn't the Dallas example be under Executive Meddling?

SynjoDeonecros: Is there a way we can get a Troper Tales section for this page? I just recently encountered a "Transformers fan" (yes, the quotes are intentional) who feels this trope is the only way one should write stories, with characters and setting being used only as tools to further the Author Tract, and focusing on the characters being a crime of "over-humanizing" them. Yes, i'm serious with this. Apparently, in his mind, it's this trope that makes Beast Machines vastly superior to Beast Wars, and the latter far more Anvilicious than the former (because the former's villains are tools for the Author Tract, y'see, whereas the latter are just doing things For the Evulz).
{Quodo}: I'd like to contest the {Sharpe} example. The way that the aristocrats are portrayed in it is rather accurate as to how they would have reacted in real life to someone who rised from the ranks. Now if we're going to discuss Corwell and CATHOLICS well...