Created By: Xzenu on June 8, 2010 Last Edited By: Xzenu on June 8, 2010

Nothingness Outside The Plot

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  • Was previously called "No Universe Outside The Plot"

The story is it's own little world: It's not merely secluded from the context, there IS no context. It is not merely the morality that is centered on the protagonists, the world itself revolves around them.

This is not when a story takes place on a secluded island or in a box: In those cases there IS still a universe outside the place where the characters are trapped. The characters are still connected to the outside world by their memories, and there are people in the outside world who could miss them.

The stories where there is Nothingness Outside The Plot are instead the stories where the characters have no backstory, no anchors outside the plot, and whatever they do there will be no outside forces of any kind reacting to it. The story does not have to take place in a pocket dimension or even a secluded town: Rather then being shown to not exist, the outside world is simply unmentioned and discarded as irrelevant.

When a show or webcomic or whatever starts this way, it usually melts away at the same pace as Cerebus Syndrome takes a hold on the plotline.

NOTP is the opposite of the two standard methods of Deconstruction, and that is most likely one of the two reasons why it exist at all: Certain tropes and theories are SO much easier to play straight when there is no context to take into account.

The other reason for NOTP is that it is simple. By leaving EVERYTHING as TBD (To Be Defined), the author can concentrate all effort on the actual plot, and save the worldbuilding for later.

Closly related to Protagonist-Centered Morality: Both tropes are about the world revolving around the character(s) although in different ways.

NOTP easily leads to characters becoming The Omniscient, because when there just isn't anything outside the plot then a character can effectively become omniscient by having a decent overview of the plot.


  • In Bleach, noone seem to notice when all of Karakura Town and its people are teleported into another dimension for a substantial period of time.

Web Comics
  • Order Of The Stick lived by this trope until the foreshadowing at the end of book one. (Strip 120 in the online version.) Only then, when the dungeon that the entire plot have taken place in is destroyed, does the plot and the dungeon turn out to have some relevance outside of itself. Of course, one can argue that the NOUTP starts falling apart already when the protagonists encounter the Linear Guild, or even when Roy's Father is introduced.
    • Later heavily deconstructed when it turns out that characters who arn't relevant enough to the plot to be named actually don't even HAVE names... at least not until they become relevant to the plot.
  • Ctrl-Alt-Del started out this way, then gradually introduced a social context.

  • Moral Dilemmas in academical Philosophy usually rely HEAVILY on this trope: You are supposed to accept, or even take for granted, the premise that the characters and situations involved have no social context whatsoever.


  • Deconstructed in The Thirteenth Floor. The trope is (literally) true for one of the characters, and he goes mad when he realizes it.
  • Deconstructed in The Truman Show: The movie have two plotlines that eventually merge. The "inner" plotline suffers heavily from Nothingness Outside The Plot, but the "outer" plotline reveals that this is caused by manipulation rather then bad storytelling.


This section will NOT be included in the final version. Just having it for now to help define what this trope is by defining what it is not.

  • Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes: While the main characters are children who live in their own little world, they still have partents and it is in many ways indicated that the outside world matters to the characters.

  • Most of Season One of LOST The characters have no contact with the outside world, not even people on the island outside their own group. Yet, the society they came from still live on inside them. Each character is shaped by their past, they have memories shown in flashbacks, and some of them hope to the outside world.

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • May 11, 2010
    Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. It's pretty much the entire point of the play.
  • May 11, 2010
    According to Roger Ebert, the minor characters (if not all the characters) in Christmas With The Kranks.
  • May 11, 2010
    Gilligans Island

    LOST? Never actually saw it but it sounds like it would fit.

    Flight 29 Down (don't kill me).

    ...basicly anything else involving people stuck on an island.

    Lloyd In Space.
  • May 11, 2010

    Stories set on isolated islands or spaceships does NOT fit the trope if the characters have any relevant connection to the outside world - memories, emotional ties, or such. I'll make that clearer in the next version of the trope description.

    LOST is as far from this trope as a show can get. In the first season the characters are anchored in the outside world by their memories, presented in a huge number of flashbacks. Later in the show there is also direct contact with the outside world.
  • May 11, 2010

    Hmm, interesting.

    What did Roger Ebert say about those characters?

    I have never heard of it before, from the page it looks like it's So Bad Its Good - in a very squicky way.

    The movie itself appear to be about peer pressure, and at a FIRST sight it looks to me like it's so far from this trope it can get - since it's about how the main characters are pressured by the surrounding society.

    On a second thought, I would guess that your point has something to do with how characters (in this case the minor characters) in certain movies can do pretty much anything without the surrounding society reacting? Is that so?

    Regardless, this is a issue I think I need to address well before the trope is launched. Where the line should be drawn.

  • May 11, 2010
    OK, having checked the videotape it was actually Richard Roeper who said it. [1] "[The neighbors] have no lives apparently, no jobs, their only mission is to gang up on the Kranks."
  • May 11, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Samuel Beckett loves this one - Endgame, Waiting For Godot, probably others.
  • May 11, 2010
  • May 11, 2010
    Oh, and Christmas With The Kranks is an adaptation of a pretty good John Grisham novel, Skipping Christmas. From what I understand...Adaptation Decay does not begin to describe the movie.
  • May 12, 2010

    "Has No Life" (as in no jobs etc) and "Pocket Universe" / "Bottle Universe"...

    Do we have tropes for this allready. If so, I should link them and contrast. If not, we should make those tropes!
  • May 14, 2010
    After adding to the Oot S example, I think I'll distinguish between not having any background and not having any current ties to the outside world.
  • May 30, 2010
    Hmm, I think I'll rename this to Nothingness Outside Plot, or Nothingness Beyond Plot.
  • May 31, 2010
    The titular town in Pleasantville is literally all that exists in its universe; when Jennifer asks what's outside the town, the teacher tells her that if you follow the road out the north end, you just find yourself at the south end of town. By the end, however, the town has become connected to the wider world.
  • May 31, 2010
    • In Bleach, at one point all of Karakura Town and its people are teleported into another dimension for a substantial period of time, and nobody inside or outside the town seems to ever notice this.

  • May 31, 2010
  • May 31, 2010
    I'm with johhnye on this one; this is going to rely on careful structuring, mostly to differentiate it from another one I've had in mind for a while; the "name and fact about yourself"-style intro that appears in 99% of psychology lessons (expect at least one oh-so-funny reference to the original "I'm Foo and I'm an alcoholic"). And I'll probably add both to this trope as well. Truman show will be listed as a subversion, pleasentville I don't really know how to label it. Seems to be an interesting movie, I probably should watch it. :-)
  • May 31, 2010
    Hmm, I made a post and then tried to edit it. But it seems I collieded with someone else's post! And probably in another thread too, since there is no johhnye in this thread.

    Anyway, my intended message was that I'll add, Bleach and Pleasentville and also The Truman Show tomorrow. :-)
  • May 31, 2010
    Would Dark City count? It's technically in a box, but the characters also have no backstories thanks to the Strangers.
  • June 1, 2010
    Hmm, borderline example. Dunno if it should count... If the expriment was limited to the main characters then it should definitely count. I think it counts anyway, but I'll have to think about it some more.
  • June 1, 2010
    Wait, no. The characters in Dark City have a definite origin they was originally kidnapped from the real Earth. Played straight, this trope doesn't fit at all. However, it could be considered a deconstruction in the same way as The Truman Show.
  • June 8, 2010
    About the Bleach example, are you talking about the current arc? because, it is one important plot point, that the town in question is not Karakura Town but merely a copy.