Discussion PERFECT FORMULA FOR XIANXIA NOVELS

Discussion in 'Novel General' started by freemen muaddib, Apr 16, 2021.

  1. freemen muaddib

    freemen muaddib Member

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    After reading hundreds of novels I reached the conclusion that (for a male at least) the perfect novel needs THREE ingredients to engage the reader without boring him:

    1 - STRENGTH : Constant MC drive to Increase his power/strength via cultivation or other means. The greater the obstacles he overcomes, the hardship he endures and the explosion of his power after he strengthened himself, the greater is the psychological reward. Even if the MC is not necessarily power-hungry, he should be forced to react when witnessing the cruelty of strong vicious people against the weak. Xianxia cultivation is the greatest narrative formula ever invented to satisfy the huge human psychological craving toward power, allowing the MC to become an immortal god. But to be exciting cultivation must be challenging, so avoid skills like Devour (to absorb enemy cultivation) or Soul Scrying (to instant learn enemy's techniques or skills) because like all cheats those are tension-killers. EXAMPLES: I Shall Seal The Heavens, Against The Gods, Martial God Asura, God of Slaughter, The Desolate Era.

    2 - BEAUTY : An unending series of beauties in distress, with saving them as the main motivation to go on with the story. The MC should not be necessary a righteous person, but he should have a soft spot for damsels in distress. The beauties must not necessarily become part of the MC harem, they just need to be grateful to him. Of course the greatest psychological reward is for them to fall in love and have sex with the MC, but it should always require some additional work to conquer a girl's heart and earn a reward from her. Unless you are writing a comedy, 'yandere' girls are tiresome and uninteresting. Also ecchi scenes (involuntary flashing and accidental skinship) are good, but explicit sex scenes are boring. Sex must always be a mystery unveiling journey, it should be only hinted or described with poetic paraphrasing (Heaven is Not Lonely is a great master in this art), leaving the rest to the reader imagination. EXAMPLES: Womanizing Mage, Ancient Strengthening Technique, Battle Through the Heavens, Martial Peak, 108 Maidens Of Destiny.

    3 - WISDOM : The MC must outsmart his enemies. The most cunning, the better. Battle strength alone is not going to keep interest in the long run. Scheming and strategy, especially long term grand designs and political ploys, keep the story interesting. Antagonists also need to be crafty to make defeating them a rewarding experience. Kingdom building on the other hand reduces interest, because the power of the MC becomes manifest and boring. The best MC is one that is always scheming against the system and hiding his strength. Unless he is undercover or secretly harboring rebellious plans, bestowing any position of authority to the MC will make him a part of the system and hence a much less interesting character. EXAMPLES: Legend of Ling Tian, Otherworldy Evil Monarch, Nirvana in Fire, Transcending the Nine Heavens, Lord of The Mysteries

    So the basic formula for long term interest in a novel is Cultivation (i.e. Xianxia/Xuanhuan) + Save-The-Beauties + Cunning Protagonist. Note that this three ingredients are necessary but not sufficient conditions to make a good novel. You still need a great story, some great characters and a fascinating world around those, otherwise even if you are hooked by the formula it would be an empty experience.

    IMPORTANT: A Xianxia that respects those three rules does not have to be repetitive or factory produced garbage! One of the most common criticisms of the Xianxia genre is that it's repetitive. The main characters commonly sets out to prove their strength in their hometown, offend several people more powerful than them, flee or mask themselves, grow until they surpass their previous rivals, and then move to a new area inhabited by people with a higer cultivation to repeat the provoke - flee - growth - victory - transition cycle all over again. This is called the "mountain beyond mountain" model. While it is true that the increment in strength of the MC must be followed by the appearance of new enemies of comparable strength, otherwise the tension disappears, this must not happens in the aforementioned way, but can be realized in millions of different ways.
    A writer that sticks to the "mountain beyond mountain" model is surely lacking in imagination. A great writer uses his creativity to narrate much more interesting stories, realistic or idealistic. The first type depicts life in all his gritty, ugly details and inconsistent, fickle nature, and leaves all abstractions and judgements to the reader. The second type is the most "poetic" and loved by intellectuals, because it uses the classical literary technique invented by the greeks of making characters out of single ideas, and then weave stories derived from the interactions and conflicts of those ideas. This allows the author to put the ideas to test, showing how much each idea is worthy and why some ideas are good and others are bad. Do my three rules above stop you from doing that? No. No one can stop you from writing high quality idealistic original stories and at the same time respecting the three rules mentioned above. Those three rules are like minimal safeguard devices, like saying that "a car must have wheels, seats and an engine" does not limit the car designers in any way. If you want to make a flying car with no wheels, then you are to invent the flying car first as a new genre and prove that it works. No xianxia should to be written recycling any repetitive story pattern: invent a new, fresh story every time and then just add the three ingredients above to make it psychologically edible. If you cannot do it, it's not the formula's fault but your lack of imagination...
    If anything, my formula does the very opposite: it helps breaking the shackles of the genre. Many authors wrote their first xianxia following verbatim the story format of the most pupular xianxia, because they are scared that if they write something differently, the reader would not like it. But my three rules ensure that you are finally free to write anything you want, all you need to be sure that the reader is not going to be bored is to follow those 3 simple rules. EXAMPLES: Zhu Xian, The Joy of Life, Nightfall, Way Of Choices, Lord Of The Mysteries, Immortal Devil Transformation, Grasping Evil.

    My related list on this kind of novels.

    UPDATE 1:
    If you need to boil it down somehow, you can think of it as a three feelings rule of xianxia:
    First: the feeling of increasing ones strength.
    Second: the feeling of having always a new beauty to help.
    Third: the feeling to outsmart a cunning adversary.
    The moment you stop feeling anyone of those 3, your interest in the novel drops. You can be lacking in any other narrative element but those three.
    While writing a xianxia you should always ask yourself: how long since I’ve last let the reader feel to have increased the MC strength? How long since I’ve last let the MC to have a new beauty to save? How long since I’ve last let the MC to outsmart a cunning adversary? If too many pages or chapters are gone without having the reader experience those 3 feelings, then you are at risk of having him drop the novel.

    UPDATE 2:
    Xianxia is not a genre tailored for female readers, because women lack the craving for strength that men have. There is a minority of women that makes exception anyway, mostly the tomboysh kind, so a xianxia for women is theoretically possible. But being male and female psychology different in too many aspects, some formula rules should be changed. With female readers and a female MC, I recon that we should at least change the 2nd rule to something like: ‘the feeling of having an attractive or mysterious male character suddenly caring (openly or not) about the female lead in trouble’. But I’m a male, so I’m not the right person to define the rules for a theoretical shojo xianxia.

    UPDATE 3:
    An essential part of the xianxia genre is the cultivation system. Historically all xianxia cultivation systems stem from Daoism and the daoist doctrine of inner cultivation, but you are not limited to it. Truthfully, as long as you respect rule one (constant growth of the MC strength), any cultivation system will do. Even a genetic or cybernetic based cultivation system would work. The sky is the limit, literally. The truly difficult thing creating a cultivation system is being choerent and profound at the same time.
    To grasp the logic of cultivation systems I suggest any writer to read the following four novels. The following novels feature four among the best cultivation systems ever written, and should be read in this exact order:
    1) ‘The Desolate Era’;
    2) ‘I Shall Seal The Heaven’;
    3) ‘Heavenly Jewel Change’;
    4) ‘Lord of the Mysteries‘.
    The first teaches you how to write a ‘canon’ based system, the second teaches you how to expand beyond the canon still ensuring a system that is profound and captivating, the third teaches you how to write a completely original but still very powerful system, and the fourth teaches you how to make even the most limited or strange western esotericism into a cultivation system xianxia like.
    Once you have mastered those four, you can invent any system for your novel and it would work without never be boring for the reader.

    UPDATE 4:
    Face-slapping is the perfect example of a common but non necessary element of the xianxia genre. Even if face-slapping is absent, if the 3 rules are there, the novel works. Take Lord of The Mysteries for instance: many of the most common tropes of the xianxia novels are missing, including face slapping, and yet it is still a genuine great xianxia novel because it respects all the 3 rules. No one is going to loose interest in a xianxia novel if you stop giving the reader flace-slapping scenes. But try to miss any of the three-feelings-rule, like the save-the-beauty element, and to replace it with something else, like money-hoarding, status-rising or kingdom-building, and you will see the reader suddenly dropping the novel after other 50-100 chapters at best. Even if you add an entire harem, but those girls have not been individually saved by the MC in a save-the-beauty scene, the reader would get bored.

    UPDATE 5:
    Can a xianxia novel still be interesting even if it does not adhere to the three-feelings-rule? ‘Interesting’ is a word with a broad meaning. I would rater split the interest in two categories: hooks and meat. Hooks are those elements deemed psychologically necessary in a novel to grab the attention of the reader so you can feed him the meat. And the meat is what the novel is truly all about. The original ideas of the author are in the meat, and those are the difficult part to write. Hooks are necessary but not sufficient conditions to make a good novel. You still need the meat (an intriguing story, great characters and a fascinating world) to make the novel good. But the hooks cannot be underestimated, because if those are missing no matter how good the train is, without rails is not going to reach his destination, the reader mind. I mean, there are great artists that can break the rules of a genre, and still succeed in keeping the interest, but those are able to do this only because they have invented new rules that work, and with those are going to estabilish a new genre. But if you don’t first master the rules that work, you cannot create new rules. No artist likes to stick to the rules, but creating new rules that work is very hard. Before inventing cubism, Picasso mastered all previous painting styles. But if you are not Picasso and you don’t want to estabilish a new genre, staying within the 3 rules of xianxia it is enough to create an infinitely rich world with stories and ideas that are truly ‘interesting’.

    UPDATE 6:
    Rule N.2 does NOT transform a xianxia novel in jack off material! As I said, rule n.2 only dictates that the MC should often save a beauty in distress, getting in return her sincere gratitude. Everything beyond that is optional and up to the author.
    I really do not understand why the act of saving a beauty can be categorized by some as a ‘jack-off material’. The instinct to help a woman in trouble is one of the most noble and admirable traits in the human male (one of the very few ‘good ones’ if you ask me), because women are ultimately more fragile than men. The added requirement of being beautiful is just to make the experience more rewarding for the reader, because the appreciation of beauty is an universal psychological trait (in both male and female) and even if it is not fair towards ugly women, if an author starts writing novels where the MC prefers ugly girls to beautiful girls, it would be not believable at all and at worst the MC would be categorized as a weirdo with an ugly fetish. Of course you can make the MC save ugly girls too if they are in trouble, but that would never be as psychological rewarding as saving beautiful ones. And because we are talking about rules to make a novel more interesting and more rewarding for the reader, since there are only advantages and not disadvantages, why should anyone oppose it? This is xianxia, not some realistic literary genre required to adhere to the nitty-gritty aspects of real life even if the reader is not pleased with them. Xianxia is a genre born to allow the little humans to dream to be immortals and as powerful as a gods. It is the ultimate redemption of the soul by means of imagination from the shakles of the bitter reality of life. Then why in the world I should reduce the excitment in reading it?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021
  2. Green Apple

    Green Apple Actually I'm secretly an orange.

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    So your three points could be summed up into 1. putting nasty people who nobody likes down to earth be it through strength or smarts and 2. horny factor
     
  3. freemen muaddib

    freemen muaddib Member

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    You forgot the most important point: the feeling of increasing ones strength. The moment you stop feeling that, your interest in the novel drops. In the same way the feeling of having always a new beauty to help. The moment you stop feeling that, your interest in the novel drops. Also the feeling to outsmart a cunning adversary. The moment you stop feeling anyone of those 3, your interest in the novel drops. You can lack in any other narrative element but those tree.
     
  4. Joospinch

    Joospinch Don't click my avatar!!!

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    I disrespectfluffy disagree
     
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  5. Ddraig

    Ddraig Frostfire Dragon|Retired lurker|FFF|Loved by RNG

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    Or you can make an engaging story with amazing complex characters and intricate world building but I guess that is not "optimal" when you are trying to factory produce garbage soap operas in written form. Just like soap operas, the kind of average xianxia you are referring to only requires one thing - allow the readers be able to turn off their brains and serve as a medium for timepass.
     
  6. Halcyon Observer

    Halcyon Observer Setting in motion

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    What you've described is the basic cultivation novel, and for the most part, authors fail to meet the third quality (WISDOM) you've mentioned.

    Instead of strength, I'd much prefer to read of someone who's struggled with their cultivation and had to deal with their fears that they're worthless. It makes for a more relatable and dynamic character, which can definitely help deepen their relationships with other characters in the story. You are correct in that the average MC satisfies a reader's craving for power. But that doesn't make the MC or the story legitimately interesting.
    Instead of beauty, I'd much prefer the MC to not stick his dick into as many beauties as he can find. Maybe settle for one, two if you really want, and maybe someone who isn't a 9 or 10 on the attraction scale. I find the damsel in distress idea repulsive because it insults not only the female characters, but it also insults the readers and hurts the image of the MC and the world of cultivation. If you really wanted to take the Casanova route, at least stop writing the women as static characters.

    I have a feeling that the authors already know there's a lot of bullshit, but they have to make a living off of word count, so if shit pays, here it is. On the off chance the average cultivation novel is a direct reflection of the author, all I can say is that if they get transported into a cultivation world, they have a shit ton of Heart Demons waiting for them.
     
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  7. freemen muaddib

    freemen muaddib Member

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    ‘Interesting’ is a word with a broad meaning. I would rater split the interest in two categories: hooks and meat. Hooks are those elements deemed psychologically necessary in a novel to grab the attention of the reader so you can feed him the meat. And the meat is what the novel is truly all about. The original ideas of the author are in the meat, and those are the difficult part to write. But the hooks cannot be underestimated, because if those are missing no matter how good the train is, without rails is not going to reach his destination, the reader mind. I mean, there are great artist that can breake the rules of a genre, and still succeed in keeping the interest, but those are able to do this only because they have invented new rules that work, and with those are going to estabilish a new genre. But if you don’t first master the rules that work, you cannot create new rules. No artist likes to stick to the rules, but creating new rules that work is very hard. Before inventing cubism, Picasso mastered all previous painting styles. But if you are not Picasso and you don’t want to estabilish a new genre, staying within the 3 rules of xianxia it is enough to create an infinitely rich world with stories and ideas that are truly ‘interesting’.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
  8. Nimroth

    Nimroth Someone

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    Funnily enough most of those points is exactly what bores me when reading those stories.
    Aside for the wisdom/smarts part I guess, if I didn't feel that most of those stories fail at that anyway.
     
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  9. Fluffums

    Fluffums 【R-18 Researcher】【Seeker of Moe】

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    All three of those points just boil down to one word: Fanservice.

    Different types, of course, for different fans. Fans of action like it when the author describes increasingly deadly battles and a constant addition of more powerful special attacks, and fans of beauties love having more beauties in the story, especially attracted to the main character, and fans of intricate tactics / strategies / mind games / politics love having those things added to the story.

    None of those make a story intrinsically better or worse, they just make it more relevant to the interests of the target audience and less relevant for people outside the target audience. If you think of it in terms of rating, an OK (3) novel on novelupdates with those three ingredients can become a 4 or 5 for someone who likes everything you mentioned, and a 1 or 2 for someone who dislikes those things.

    Personally, I'd be okay with a slice-of-life xianxia where the protagonist doesn't necessarily have a need for strength but just enjoys cultivation and hanging out with his buddies, and they all go on a road trip to celebrate breaking through the first major stage with various perils and opportunities, but mostly just experiencing the world before deciding on their future course in life. No need for strength, no need for constant beauties in peril, no need for lots of strategies to beat up stronger opponents. But, because they gain a lot of experiences along the way, they still end up getting stronger, they still end up meeting beauties, they'd still have problems they need to make strategies for like running out of money because they got drunk and spent too much money on the beauties they met.

    Sounds a lot better to me than the novels you mentioned.
     
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  10. L4

    L4 Well-Known Member

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    I Like foreshadowing and a Proper Impossible end Boss as in tdg
     
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  11. All The Wrong Novels

    All The Wrong Novels Well-Known Member

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    Wuxia instead of xianxia, but Gu Long's The Optimistic Heroes (also translated as Joyous Hero in some places) is a lot like this and is more about hanging out with the characters than just endless leveling up stuff.
     
  12. Daresan

    Daresan Well-Known CN Master

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    You are 100% on point, i dont read for part 2 but part 1 and 3 is improtant, should not be cliche and devoid of common sense.

    Rather than number 2 i look for mc to reach high level and go back to place where he started and look at mortals, how his clan or relatives developed stuff like that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  13. dvces

    dvces Member

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    Our interests align,
    Im currently writing, a novel which literally has all 3 of these since i could not find MANY , I have found a few that check these boxes and i LOVED them.

    However,
    1) there is not many of them
    2) they end and once there is no words left to read. Since there is so few of these types of books, the inventory is so lacking.
    3) any man that says they do not look for #2 is lying to their sub-concious

    100% agree
    thanks for making this. gunna use it as a reference point
     
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  14. Daresan

    Daresan Well-Known CN Master

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    I am not lying i am really honest, number 2 is what makes me quit most novels. I enjoy novels without romance much more than the one with it. Most of my favourites do not have save the beauty trope.

    1. Lord of mysteries ( i dont think it has save the beauty trope, there is no romance at all even though there are few hints)
    2. Reverend insanity ( Mc is more likely to kill the beauty then save the beauty)
    3. Warlock of the magus world (Mc is more likely to use the beauty then save the beauty, There are some parts where mc does save the beauty but can be overlooked because mc does not care about the beauty and using her for his own benefit)
    4. Paradise of demonic gods ( Mc is asexual does not have any emotions)
    5. Trafford trading club (Mc does not have any feelings more like robot until 500 chapters)
    6.My house of horrors (Mc is more likely to get killed by the beauty rather than save her, there is romance but with ghost)
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  15. MidstNost

    MidstNost 【Jin Mori's Banana】

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    You forgot "perfect formula for cliché xianxia novels"
     
  16. theweebbecomesme

    theweebbecomesme Active Member

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    Your formula is extremely accurate for any author that simply wants to make money off their novel. It has a very, very low effort:reward ratio as people lap up these kind of generic cultivation novels even though most are kinda boring.

    If you want to write an actual good novel, there is no formula for it. You need to be original and skilled at storytelling. There is no real shortcut.
     
  17. freemen muaddib

    freemen muaddib Member

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    As I said, Rule 2 does not require romance, just saving the beauty and getting her gratitude.
    And Lord Of The Mysteries has many save-the-beauty elements:

    • saved Melissa from poverty
    • saved Selena from a malicious entity possessing her
    • saved Elizabeth from the nightmares induced from the curse of Lamund castle
    • saved Fors from becoming a monster under the full moon curse of Mr. Door
    • saved Sharron from the Rose School of Thought assassins
    • saved Daisy and the other girls from the human trafficker Capim
    • saved Audrey many times
    • saved Cattleya from the corruption caused by the Hidden Sage ramblings
    • saved Helen from the demoness Vice Admiral Ailment Tracy
    • saved Edwina Edwards who was trapped inside the book Groselle's Travels
    • saved Hazel from Amon
    • saved Queen Mystic Bernardette many times
    • etc. etc.

    About the other novels that you mention, with the possible exception of Reverend Insanity, the lack of the 2nd element make them becoming boring after a while, and people find hard to read them beyond the first 300-500 chapters. The drop ratio is much higher compared to novels enriched by the save-the-beauty element. Of course there is always a minority of people that fall in love with a certain novel for personal reasons or for elements that happen to touch a particular subject loved by the reader. But even that interest after a certain number of chapters is going to fade. Only the save-the-beauty element, being an inborn instinct not an acquired taste, is never satisfied or diminished, but constantly renewed like the craving for food.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
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  18. KhayDesu

    KhayDesu ❀Rᴇᴀᴅιɴԍ Eɴтнusιᴀsт❀ | ★ᴅᴇsu~★ | ✿Loquᴀcιous✿『☕』

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    I agree, the premise of the post above is just the MC, it doesn"t cover for the plot, side characters, the world building, the lore, and relationships which is as importany as building the proper mc.

    This is why im generally very picky about CN novels as they require you to mush your brains into mashed potato and force you to read nonsense and makes you wanna fall asleep. I want a novel that captures my imagination, inquisitive, realistic and not some jumbled fantasy mumbo jumbo, makes me wanna read the raws, has sensible and realistic side characters (which is just as important) that doesn't feel like a 'Convenient Tool for plot building' and has his / her own personality, and also a world that revolves around the sun not the main character and gives yoy the feeling that everything is moving.

    Haaa~ that was tiring desu~ if i missed something then feel free to quote and reply
     
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  19. Daresan

    Daresan Well-Known CN Master

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    You are right but if the genre is xianxia then you must remember why the heck do you read xianxia? Because of power creep? I mean come on why kid yourself why will you read a xianxia filled with weak ass mc who will get fucked throughout the novel. Its not anime so the novel will be fucking boring.

    Everybody knows why people read xianxia, its common sense. it's not about the cliche, its about the execution. Good power system and constant strengthenining of mc is a must in 1000 chapters long xianxia even though i dont agree with saving the beauty trope. It should be slow to make it believeable otherwise it will be fast food xianxia.

    (this is written assuming you are guy, if you are female then this does not apply to you)

    No no, you are assuming too much, lord of mysteries have the trope very subtely which is why i didnt notice too much. If i had noticed the trope i would most likely quit the novel thats why author is amazing. I dont like mc who thinks with dick and saves the beauties left and right. I love mc like fang yuan or leylin who doesnt care if the person is man or woman.

    Lotm is way beyond other novels and it is not xianxia it is western styled novel with brilliant power system and world building.

    Only A record of mortal's journey to immortality, issth, Renegade immortal, pursuit of truth, demon's diary, DTPB, A will eternal i would call them essense of xianxia.

    A record of mortal's journey to immortality is the one who paved the way for this genre, every other xianxia novel that came after it are just riding on it's success.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
  20. freemen muaddib

    freemen muaddib Member

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    Just because you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that it is not liked by the majority. In my experience, male readers who do not like the save-the-beauty elements are a small minority. Usually they belong to one of those two groups of people:

    1) pre-adolescents (lacking sexual hormones).
    2) teens/adults with very little experience with the other sex, smart geeks, but also asperger/Spock type of people (lacking empathy).

    If you don’t feel the instinctive attention peak and dopamine rush when you read a damsel-in-distress scene, then you are lacking sexual hormones or empathy. So it is normal to not react the same as other people. As you react to power craving, so the other people react to damsel-in-distress scenes. As a writer you need to understand both. As a reader, you can choose to ignore novels that offer a stimulus in front of which you do not react. But still the majority of people enjoy the benefit of the three feelings-rule formula in a xianxia. You cannot claim the right to despise those novels as ‘trash’.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
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