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Literature / Story Thieves

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Be More Fictional
Story Thieves is a book series by James Riley, author of the series Half Upon a Time. It chronicles the adventures of Owen Conners and his half-fictional friend Bethany Sanderson as they travel through fictional worlds in search of Bethany's father who went missing when she was four. In the process, the two friends come across and befriend many fictional people and discover a plot to separate the fictional and non-fictional worlds by removing non-fictional people's imagination. The series consists of five books.

  • Story Thieves: The first book in the series where Bethany and Owen meet.
  • Story Thieves: The Stolen Chapters: The second book in the series. In this one Owen, Bethany, and Kiel are opposed by a strange fictional kid in a question mark mask who is supposedly related to Sherlock Holmes.
  • Story Thieves: Secret Origins: The third installment where we finally find out who Bethany's father is and discover the identity of Nobody, the blank-faced man who has been helping our heroes in the past few books.
  • Story Thieves: Pick the Plot: In the fourth book, which is formatted like a choose your own adventure book, we follow Owen as he tries to escape a time prison and stop Nobody.
  • Story Thieves: Worlds Apart: Nobody succeeds in separating the fictional and non-fictional world, resulting in nobody in the non-fictional world having an imagination. After getting his imagination back, Owen embarks on a quest to reunite Bethany's two split halves and stop Nobody from wiping out the entire fictional multiverse.

This book series provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Assuming the author doesn't write any more books, the last book seems to end on this.
  • Audience Participation: The Fourth Book, which is formatted like a choose your own adventure book.
  • Author Powers: A quite literal version. All fictional people can rewrite themselves, but they require a non-fictional anchor, preferably an author, to do it without disappearing.
    • In addition to this, Authors don't actually have any powers beyond creating characters, as after they create the characters, the characters are free to do whatever they want, and the Author is just chronicling their adventures using their imagination.
  • Bad Future: Kara takes Owen to two, one fictional and one non-fictional.
    • He visits the fictional future in the fourth book (or, at least, he can if you choose to send him there) in which his future self is part of some sort of resistance group and the Countess rules things.
    • He visits the non-fictional future in the fifth book that's styled after Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the existance of fictional people has been revealed but it's been spun so that all fictional people are perceived as evil and an oppressive, tyrannical government has taken over in order to "protect" people from them. Ironically, the person at the top of the oppressive government is Dr. Verity, who is fictional himself.
  • Berserk Button: As of the fifth book Fowen's seems to be being called Fowen.
  • Big Bad: Nobody, though he doesn't think he is.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A very weird version in the fourth book in which Owen knows he is being controlled by readers and even addresses them but, in a strange twist, it's actually the readers that are fictional and Owen is in a fictional book as a punishment by Nobody.
  • Call-Back: It's only between two books but in the third book Nobody open's up the Pick the Plot book to a page in which you have the option to either let Owen be eaten by a dinosaur (a rather inaccurate T-rex, according to the cover) or not. Sure enough, that choice is actually in the book and it's mandatory that you run into it. (It's also mandatory to let Owen escape the T-rex to continue the plot but your allowed to let it eat him with no penalty.)
  • Cloning Blues: While he got over it, Kiel is said to have had these in the past (specifically in the fourth book of his own series where he finds out he's a clone of his arch-enemy, Doctor Verity.)
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of the first books shows Bethany bringing Kiel into a book while there are dragons and castles in the background. Not only does she never jump into a book in Kiel's world but she never brings Kiel into a book at all.
  • Evil Gloating: Everybody tries to exploit this and after the first or second time it fails because the villains have either gotten smart (Dr. Verity) or are very knowledgeable of story tropes (Nobody). It always works with Fowen, though because he has a crazy obsession with proving himself better than Owen.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: or rather, from nobody to Nobody. Nobody used to be a random mook under a mad scientist who escaped into the non-fictional world and learned how to rewrite himself.
  • Genre Savvy: Due to his large imagination and love of books, Owen is often this.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Bethany, who is half fictional (though technically, her dad was still human.)
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dr. Verity after being hit by the probability ray.
    • Earlier Fowen supposedly pulls one but it turns out he's just being super selfish and wants to hog all the glory.
  • Legacy Character: Doyle Holmes who is related to Sherlock Holmes and is furthering his Legacy.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Dark is Bethany's father, Doc Twilight, not that he knows that.
    • Lampshaded earlier in the story when Owen does this as the ending to his book and calls it out as cliched. This turns out to be a bit of foreshadowing.
  • Meta Fiction: The story Owen wrote in the third book. (The book itself might count too but it's hard to be sure).
  • Mr. Imagination: Owen is this when he's not fleeing for his life or worrying about saving two worlds or agonizing over how stupid he's been or, well, anything.
    • Subverted with Bethany. While at first, she looks like this it turns out she's actually entering books instead of getting lost reading them.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The fourth book which takes a break from the usual formula to be a choose your own adventure book (not like there's any way to get a different ending.)
    • A minor example in the third book where the writing will occasionally be interrupted by comic pages showing things that have already happened, usually when Owen is in the in between world with the giant comic.
  • Rewriting Reality: happens several time in the book but only with specific characters (Nobody can rewrite himself, Bethany can rewrite herself, Owen defeats Nobody by rewriting himself to be his author)
  • The Reveal: In the second book: Doyle is Fowen
    • In the Third book: The Dark is Doc Twilight (who is Bethany's Father. Yes, they actually did that.
    • Also in the third book: Nobody is... some random mook we've never met before. And also evil.
    • Additionally, in the second book: Nobody is James Riley. (Except not really because the fifth book reveals that James Riley is actually a real person who was absorbed by Nobody. Mind Blown.)
  • Room 101: As is to be expected from a Bad Future specifically styled after Nineteen Eighty-Four, Owen is brought to a room that forces him to relive his worst memories so as to "reeducate" him when he is suspected of being a fictional sympathizer. Fortunately, since this is a children's book, this doesn't work.
  • Self-Deprecation: When Mason Black refuses to teach Nobody how to write he instead goes to James Riley and claims that he "wasn't much," clearly the author getting in a dig at himself.
  • Shout-Out: Several books are namedropped in the first book such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and others.
    • Doyle Holmes' name is a shout out to the original Holmes' author Arthur Conan Doyle.
    • Squirrel Girl, Bones, and various other comics and comic book characters are mentioned in the third book. In addition, the superhero team Owen is modeling their powers off is either the Teen Titans or Young Justice.
    • In the fourth book Owen quotes Star Wars (specifically the famous "I've got a bad feeling about this" line). However, Kara says he's quoting "Star Fights" and it's left ambiguous as to whether that's the book's version of Star Wars or if Kara just got the name wrong.
    • Later on in the same book he makes another Star Wars reference, saying that Kara gave him a chance to "Strike Back" just like in "Star Fights".
    • The Bad Future Owen visits with Kara in the fifth book is cleaerly based on Nineteen Eighty-Four complete with its own version of Room 101.
  • Show Within a Show: A weird version in that Story Thieves is actually a series in the fictional world and you, the reader, are in fact fictional. Or not, as it turns out that at the end of the last book that James Riley (The real one) publishes the book in the non-fictional world. So there's a 50-50 chance of you being fictional.
    • A more traditional example shows up in the Kiel Gnomenfoot series, the Doc Twilight comics, The Doyle Holmes books, Earth Girl, and The Time Prison.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Dark.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: The entire series started because Owen happened to run into and see Bethany climbing out of a book.
  • Swapped Roles: A minor example in the third book where Bethany is more reckless and eager to jump into books while Owen is more cautious. This is likely a product of the Character Development in the first two books.
  • Unknown Rival: Fowen is this to Owen. Fowen is obsessed with being the "best" Owen Conners (whatever that means) while Owen just doesn't care and just thinks he's annoying and kind of pitiable.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: A rare book example in the fourth book, where you can do numerous things to screw Owen over and you're not penalized at all (though, Nobody does mildly scold you about it you can do it anyways, over and over.)
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: As often as Owen is Genre Savvy he is also this due to the books throwing him for twists and unexpected curves.
    • Bethany also winds up this during her more reckless moments.
    • Fowen, good god, Fowen. He shares Owen's love of books and large imagination but he's almost Owen's exact opposite in personality and lack of genre savviness.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Every book in existence is real because an Author thought up the characters. (but not the scenarios. Those are the characters themselves)