Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Furry Tropes

Over the weekend I went to some of the writing panels at Confuzzled, and in one of them, one of the speakers touched upon the notion of cliches in furry literature. While it wasn’t the main subject of the talk, the cliches he mentioned almost had applauding.

For a while I’ve been thinking about the issues faces furry literature. At the guild we’re all about trying to promote furry as a literature of its own, however, some of the stereotypes we find in furry can impact on this desire. I think it would be helpful, to both the FWG’s mission statement and to writers themselves, to list some of the cliches in furry writing that are just overdone. What makes you roll your eyes and stop reading? What appears formulaic to you? What cliche just makes you cringe outright?

More to the point though, if we have a frank discussion about it, identifying areas that have become cliche will help furry literature move forward. If you know what’s become old, you then can innovate from there, or make a pastiche if you’re a staunch postmodernist.

The first two points were put forward by the speaker at the panel.

  1. Gay drama/coming out stories.
  • This may well be controversial considering the fandom’s acceptance of LGBTQ, however it is something we do see a lot of. The main point would be to just remember that there’s a lot of material like this out there and you need to be aware of it if you don’t want to be repetitive.
  1. Highschool survival stories:
  • This one in particular was my favourite one by the speaker. From time browsing websites, a lot of stories find their setting in school, typically with an intelligent but bullied protagonist facing persecution. I’m tempted to think this is due to the prominence of high-school age people in the fandom.
  1. Furry Victim Complex:
  • As in stories where anthropomorphic characters are the victims of stigma and persecution from humans in particular. A lot of these ones seem to come down to the idea of being different and standing out (perhaps this is down to furies at large feeling persecuted by mainstream society). I encountered this recurring theme throughout most of the stories in the Furry Future that had humans in them - almost to the point where it seems if there are furries and humans in the story, you know there will be discrimination.

Anyway, those are a few to start off with. What cliches have you observed? Do you agree or disagree with the ones above, or others?

  • Sorry, for posting this in the wrong forum, I had multiple tabs open. Can someone move this to general writing discussion?

A couple slightly devil’s advocate points to ponder. (It’s probably a coyote thing.)

First, I suspect we see these stories an awful lot in furry in part because we don’t see them nearly as often outside of furry. They sometimes get boring to us, but there are many more young people than you might imagine who pick up a Kyell Gold book and think Oh my God, this is me and I haven’t read that in a book before. So I tend to be a little forgiving of these, even though I don’t write about them that much myself. I’d certainly like to see people in the FWG branch out into other themes—but I think we by and large are. I’d argue guild writers are already way more likely to say “Oh God, it’s another high school coming out story”; I’m not worried about us flooding the market. :slight_smile:

Second, though, furry may be uniquely qualified to explore themes revolving around identity and, yes, marginalization. I’m not intrinsically bothered by “humans vs. furries” stories that deal with issues of segregation and prejudice. My objection is more that they’re easy to do badly. The most clichéd thing we tend to do in this part of furry space is to set up a society that’s basically a facile sci-fi analogy of the Antebellum South, but that’s not the only way to approach this. There’s interspecies tension throughout MCA Hogarth’s Pelted universe, for instance, but it’s frequently the humans who feel like they’re on the short end of the stick. In my milieu of The River, where “Tow” and Kismet are set, technically everyone is human, and the tension between “cisform” humans and totemics runs along pretty different lines.

But my real case for not throwing the kitten out with the bath water on this topic is simple: right now, in 2016, themes of identity and marginalization are a really big deal. To quote Jakebe’s review of The Furry Future:

With real-world racial issues splashed across recent news cycles, it’s disappointing to see stories that miss the opportunity to explore the mentality and motivations of these prejudices carefully. It would be wonderful to see stories that try to deeply understand the people who perpetuate these abuses and/or the minority populations who must endure them.

You don’t need humans in the mix to explore these themes, of course—there was a recent furry movie which used predator and prey for this. You might be familiar with it. :slight_smile:

At any rate, I think a lot of what keeps being pointed to as furry cliché can actually make terrific stories: themes of grappling with sexuality, defining our own identity, and dealing with prejudice. That’s potentially really potent, engaging stuff. I’d be inclined to turn this a bit on its head and consider how we can use these tropes without making them feel tired and cliché.

(Minor pet peeve: a trope is a recurring theme, motif or device. A trope may be clichéd, but “cliché” and “trope” are not synonyms!)

Agreed on all points and I’m not just sucking up to the new president.

I like to explore these tropes myself. I try to make them less black and white. Less hate, more squirming, a multi-prong conflict of social interests is more likely to be unique.

I agree with all your points Chipotle! Furry literature is great for dealing with some really important and serious themes that have real-life implications, however, that means that it makes it harder to carry out well in writing because it’s such an issue in many people’s lives outside furry.

To clarify on the third point in my original post, I think it only becomes cliche when stigma and prejudice are not explored in sufficient depth. I don’t think any stories in furry publication will have this issue, however I have come across it on occasion when browsing SoFurry, etc.

Also, as I re-read my original post I got the feeling it might sound like I’m dismissing stories about stigma, persecution, prejudice - which is not my intention. I feel bad about that, and am sorry if I gave people that impression.

I was actually discussing this with a few friends last year. I noticed there are a lot of coming-out stories, but how many of said stories are of the female persuasion? Like, how many of them have a cist girl as a main protagonist? And of the same stories that have romance involved, how many of those don’t work out for one reason or another?

I actually have a story idea with these thoughts in mind that I would love to see tackled, but I fear my utter lack of experience in the field would do it far too little justice >.<

That’s an interesting question. My gut feeling is very few. I know FurPlanet seemed to be excited at being able to point to Indigo Rain as having a lesbian romance, and I was a little startled when a beta reader was thrilled by the protagonist being a bisexual woman because she (the reader) felt like she almost never saw that. (In any fiction, not just furry fiction!)

Another thing I’ve noticed furries don’t touch is transgenderism/gender dysphoria. Not even just the mundane kind but also the kind of transformatin involving magic, sci-fi, can even include species change.

my stories do that…but i’ve yet to see an anthology or anything that i can send them to.

It’s not that furries don’t touch TG too much… it just sometimes it gets a little rapey. And Metamor Keep is 1/3 TG.

Dogs of War would be an upcoming market where you might fit in a transgender story. Disguising gender to get into battle (or out of one) is plot-point that can work well. The old “I cannot be killed by a man whelped by a woman” bit is a classic!

In fact, any place you can submit a Furry story, you can probably do TG. If done well, without the changee suddenly throwing themselves at their changer in a spurt of hormones, I can promise that most furry editors will consider it.

Dogs of War would be an upcoming market where you might fit in a transgender story. Disguising gender to get into battle (or out of one) is plot-point that can work well.

So pull a Klinger eh?

The first one that came to my mind was Mulan.

Also noting that both of our examples are transvestism, which is not the same thing as transgenderism though the two are correlated.

Yes, thank you for telling transgender person the difference.

I was also joking about the connection of war and that.

There’s no way he would have known he was responding to a transgender person, and it’s a common misunderstanding for a lot of non-trans people. There wasn’t any harm in explaining it.

This is more likely a common fantasy trope in general, but I’ve seen it in plenty of furry stories too. Main character is a bored noble, turns out he’s “the one” and has some special purpose. Bog standard hero’s journey stuff. I’m not a fantasy fan though so that might just be me.

Oh yes… but add magic…

We actually accepted a wonderful story from Mog dealing with transgender of the mundane sort. Very happy and, honestly, feeling quite honored to have it <3



Dude. DUDE. Grey, I really wanna hug you right now. I know my Camp Nano project. Frick I hope I can do it justice. I seem to have this nasty habit of wanting to tackle topics I have little to no experience in x.x

So, so so sososososososo common in Fantasy >.< Would love to see bored noble learning he’s the one, and go on this long hero journey filled with pain and lost and growth, only to learn that he wasn’t the one all along XD Brent Weeks likes to play with that in his Dark Angel trilogy (still the only series I’d say the ending is worth the story itself >.<), but it feels like this could be played with far more than it really is. Tried to play with it a bit in my Emeralds, Sapphires, and Sorcery short, but it’s not furry enough for most markets and I don’t know how to fix that without screwing up the point of the story or making the furry element too… non consequential? It’s an issue I had with my first published works that I’d like to avoid in future works >.<

[quote=“Vance, post:8, topic:1631”]Another thing I’ve noticed furries don’t touch is transgenderism/gender dysphoria. Not even just the mundane kind but also the kind of transformatin involving magic, sci-fi, can even include species change.

my stories do that…but i’ve yet to see an anthology or anything that i can send them to.[/quote]

I definitely agree, we need more trans stuff in furry, especially trans of the FtM variety. I rarely ever see FtM, even in mainstream. Incidentally, if you’re looking for anthologies to submit that kind of thing to, check this out: https://www.lessthanthreepress.com/submissions.php I know they’re open to furry-type stuff, since they published one of my trans furry stories. :slight_smile:

Anywho, tropes I’d like to see more of in furry are pretty much the same as the ones I want to see more of in mainstream fiction: more non-cis-het male protagonists, more diversity, and less stereotyping. (And more bees, but that’s a personal preference. :3 )

This is a favourite trope of mine to play with. Spoiler warning - if a character in one of my stories is ‘The One’, chances are, they’re going to fail and/or die. The Actual One is more likely to be Random Extra #17 on Page 21.