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Related: form - format - repetition - tradition
See also: genre theory
Related: genre fiction - escapist fiction - popular fiction
In popular culture, formula fiction defines literature in which the storylines and plots have been reused to the extent that the narratives are predictable. It is similar to genre fiction, which identifies a number of specific settings that are frequently reused. The label of formula fiction is used in literary criticism as at least a mild pejorative to imply lack of originality.
Formula fiction is similar to genre fiction. The label of genre fiction is typically assigned because of the reuse of settings, content, layout, and/or style. The label of formula fiction is assigned because of the reuse of plot, plot devices and stock characters.
Genres like high fantasy, Westerns and science fiction space opera have specific settings, like the Old West, or outer space. Approaching the genre, certain assumed background information covers the nature and purpose of predictable elements of the story, such as the appearance of dragons in high fantasy, warp drives in science fiction, or shootouts at high noon in Westerns. These set-ups are taken for granted by the genre conventions, and need not be explained for the reader anew.
The formula is defined specifically by predictable narrative structure. Formulaic tales such as Adultery in Academia, My Jewish Childhood, or Beatniks Wandering the Midwest incorporate plots that have been reused so often as to be easily recognizable. Perhaps the most clearly formulaic plots characterize the romantic comedy genre; in a book or film labeled as such, viewers already know its basic plot.
In film, the reuse of similar settings and plot motifs is called the Hollywood cycles. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formula_fiction [Mar 2005]
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