Created By: roryokane on October 24, 2013 Last Edited By: roryokane on November 6, 2013

Unnecessary Cross-Medium Trope Import

A trope is used in a medium that doesn’t require it, e.g. visual shorthand in a written work.

Name Space:
Page Type:
This is used a lot in the fanfiction Earth and Sky. I don’t remember seeing this trope in any other works, but this technique stood out a lot to me whenever I saw it used in Earth and Sky. Some examples:

In chapter 42:

Soarin flipped end over end and rolled to a stop with his wings splayed and his hooves sticking up in the air. His tongue flopped out of his mouth as a gargling sound bubbled up from his throat and he eyes faded out to X's.

That's describing cartoon shorthand for tiredness or death literally. Instead of saying “Soarin looked dead tired” (telling), or “Soarin’s eyes fluttered closed” (showing), the author conveys that meaning through the circuitous route of visual shorthand from the cartoons (showing by analogy). The shorthand was probably invented in the first place because a cartoon can’t slow down to show all of the details, whereas the written word can make digressions to describe something in detail without seeming too unnatural. The author uses the shorthand even though his medium (writing) renders it unnecessary.

In chapter 43:

The imposing pegasus rolled his gleaming eyes. "Fine, he's more than welcome, as long as he promises not to talk everypony's ear off." He gave her a wink and a grin, accompanied by a deep bass squeaky noise.

A normal-pitched squeaky noise was used in one episode of canon as a sound effect indicating something like cuteness. Rather than try to describe this connotation in words, the author directly invokes the sound effect, which fans of the show will understand.

Earth and Sky has Fluttershy make the squeak sound effect in an earlier chapter, too, but I don’t remember which chapter.

Also, a few times in Earth in Sky, when ponies are knocked hard against something, they have Circling Birdies or pegasi flying around their head. So instead of just “Applejack rolled her eyes in a daze”, the story says something like “A trio of pegasi appeared around Applejack’s head and circled it.” Similarly, when Rainbow Dash is mad at one point, a miniature black thundercloud is described as hovering over her head.

At one point, a character lampshades the circling birdies by brushing them off someone, but for the most part, the imported tropes have no effect on the world, only on the reader’s understanding. So this is not merely the Alternate Universe Musical World Hypothesis – the viewer-entertainment effects are not necessarily part of the universe of the characters.

I couldn’t find a trope like this – Do We Have This One? Has anyone seen examples of this in works other than Earth and Sky?
Community Feedback Replies: 2
  • October 25, 2013
    I think this is just Painting The Medium, making reference to the comic/animation roots of the Pony stories.
  • November 6, 2013
    You're right, this is Painting The Medium. Well, I suppose it's a subtrope, where the medium is painted unnecessarily, as shorthand - as opposed to where the medium could describe the situation, but it would take too long, and maybe throw the reader out of the story. But that subtrope is probably too rare and not special enough to warrant making a separate sub-trope for it. I'll discard this YKTTW.