Nothingness Outside The Plot


(permanent link) added: 2010-06-08 00:04:34 sponsor: Xzenu (last reply: 2010-06-08 03:55:49)

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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.


Examples:

Anime
  • 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
  • The 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.

Philosophy
  • 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.

Theater

Film
  • 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.


Counterexamples

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.

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