'Things what do a thing'- An Essay On Anomalies That Are Things That Do A Thing
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'Things what do a thing'- An Essay On Anomalies That Are Things That Do A Thing

by Nico

1: Howdy!

Can openers open cans, fire extinguishers extinguish fires, and coffee cups cup coffee. Things do things. It's what they do. If things doing things aren't things, they're probably a person or animal doing things, but that's a different thing and a topic for another day. Things that do a thing include objects and locations. This article will be about writing things that do a thing.

But what are things that do a thing, specifically in regards to the SCP Wiki?

This is a term that is often used when referring to an anomaly that can be boiled down to an object that possesses some anomalous property. This property is often mundane or relating to something that the object already does, such as a lemon that is extra sour or a stapler that staples really efficiently. It is one of the most common types of articles both on the wiki and on the crit forums and is typically the go-to for newbies.

There are four very common ways of executing a thing that does a thing article, all of which we will run through briefly. Keep in mind this is not a how-to guide on writing things that do a thing, just a list of common pitfalls these articles fall into, how to avoid them, and tips to succeed in writing one.

One more thing. If you are a veteran author, this is very likely already stuff you know and therefore not of much use to you. This is primarily for new authors.

SCP-005 - A key that opens locks.
SCP-1831 - A photo that makes you feel things.
SCP-2398 - A bat that makes you explode.
SCP-4514 - A thing that kills you.

These will be our primary examples today. Let's dive in!

2: "What You See Is What You Get."

SCP-005 is exactly what it says on the tin. A skeleton key, capable of opening just about any lock you apply it to. It's a thing that is good at doing the thing it is supposed to do. In a way, this is the purest form of a thing that does a thing. The article clocks in at just barely over 300 words and simply tells the reader what the thing does and what its limitations are. A simple anomaly, a simple article.

You won't see many articles like this nowadays, as this kind of anomaly is an artifact of ye olde Foundation where expectations were quite different. If this same article were published nowadays (assuming 005 in its current form never existed) it would more than likely be downvoted and suggested as an addition to the anomalous objects log. There is just too little of substance in the article. Though this gets a pass for its age, this is not what you want to emulate. Something that the audience can guess without finishing the read, is an inside joke, or is plagiarized material is also territory you want to steer clear of.

A modern example of this simple approach is employed in SCP-4546. This article features sentient fireworks which put on a patriotic display on American Independence day. There's no subtext, there's no hidden meaning, just fireworks that do their firework thing. But why does it work? SCP-4546 is cute, silly, punchy, and unpredictable. Overall a lovely romp.

Despite appearing simple, writing an article in this fashion is harder than it looks. Articles following the 'what you see is what you get' school typically need to be relatable, fun, or universal concepts. Such universal concepts make it easier for the reader to connect to the anomaly and therefore may walk away with a better experience. Remember that novelty is important here.

3: "Logs"

SCP-1831 wastes no time getting into its experiment logs, which take up more than two-thirds of the article. The anomaly, again, is simple. It's an image that implants false memories of an abusive childhood. Simple anomalies such as this one lend themselves to easy testing and varying interpretations of what may result via experiments.

This particular piece expertly paints an increasingly bleak image, with every log becoming more and more uncomfortable to read through. It appeals to a reader's sympathy as they are taken through memories of abuse. The final log delivers an impactful and harrowing climax which leaves the reader unsettled.

The main lesson one can learn from an article like this is escalation. Escalation is a very important thing in testing logs, as it allows you to start with small and eventually build into something unexpected. Envision the escalation in your logs as the growth of a plant. It starts as a seed then grows its roots, then its stem, until it eventually blooms. After all, you can't grow flowers without seeds, right?

It is important to note that logs are good for telling us new information or displaying examples of what the thing does when it does its thing. If you listed in the description that the thing does a thing and have fifty logs of the thing doing its thing without variance, that's not really interesting. Make sure not to just add extra details for word count, no one likes reading pointless filler!

Though SCP-1831 uses its logs to evoke an unnerving feeling, logs can wear many hats. Make sure to read SCP-3900 for use in comedy and SCP-2128 for horror!

4: "Logical Extremes"

So your thing that does a thing is very good at doing its thing. So good in fact, it's anomalous. In SCP-2398's case, it's the best bat ever, guaranteed to blow whatever you hit with it out of the park! This, unfortunately, also means that if you hit someone with it, they'll explode into a pile of gore.

SCP-2398 and other things that do things very good are like the cousins of the 'what you see is what you get' anomalies. What makes these different, however, is their direction. This kind of article takes a very simple idea and concept then takes it to its logical extreme. The most clear-cut (heh) example of this is SCP-2207, a knife so sharp it cuts through dimensions.

Articles like these work because they create situations which make something harmless like an anti-diarrheal pill into a never-ending stream of sewage spewing from where the sun don't shine1. It makes something normal possibly dangerous or capable of ending the world, which to many is an amusing subversion. Give the reader something to think about that they might not have considered before. "How can I just make this more dangerous" is not the same as "how can I make people unexpectedly scared of this."

5: "Subversion"

SCP-4514 is as cliche and standard as it gets. It's a knife that kills you. Why on earth does the Foundation care about a silly old knife? That's exactly what every reader asks themselves while reading the first time, as they are exposed to a description of an ornate knife, and logs of a knife being used to stab people to death. The eureka moment comes in at the very end of the article when it's revealed this whole thing is taking place in the End of Death canon.

Alternatively, look at SCP-3803. It's a business card holder that creates more business cards. This concept is played completely straight until the last collapsible when it is revealed that these cards are not as endless as one may seem. After all, the paper used in making these has to come from somewhere, right?

By taking advantage of a reader's preconception of the traditional 1-2-punch, you can completely misdirect a reader with an unexpected turn of events. When doing this, it is typically best to not include a direct mention of the pending twist in the Description. Subversions are one of the hardest methods of storytelling to properly pull off. It's difficult to set up a series of good red herrings, and it's no fun when a reader sees the plot twist coming a mile away.

The easiest way to avoid having your audience figure out the subversion is distractions. SCP-4514 achieves by this by being so completely out of character for the Foundation, already establishing that something is not right. The fact that the ages of the subjects it is tested on are listed is another curveball, which becomes even more confusing when it is tested on subjects nearing 150 years in age. SCP-3803 instead opts for humor, showing the audience silly names before ultimately hitting its twist.

If you can come up with a unique subversion and way to keep readers distracted before hitting them with a twist, you're on the right track.

6: "Further Notes On Things That Do A Thing"

We've looked at a good number of things that do things, and you may have noticed a few recurring themes in the selected reading. That's right, testing logs and simple anomalies. These two things often go hand-in-hand, as a simple anomaly is easy to interpret in various ways and is easily applicable in a lot of situations.

For example, a knife can cut, slash, and stab, but it can also be used to open jars, hold things, whittling, etc. The simplicity of the tool keeps it from being overly specific, like say, an ice cream cone maker can only really make ice cream cones. To put things as simply as possible, you can't fit a square peg in a round hole, but you can fit a nondescript vague blob through just about anything.

Another less subtle thing present among most of the examples is a story. All but SCP-005 tell a story about the object, the people surrounding the object, the reasons why the object exists, etc. It is commonly said that articles need a story in order to survive on the Wiki nowadays, and I am inclined to agree to an extent. A story keeps the reader invested and is the easiest way to engage someone.

Alternatively, you could make either your thing be something really cool, do something really cool, or both, but this is very difficult to pull off and if done incorrectly may have accusations of 'style over substance' levied against it. This mostly comes down to personal taste, so your mileage may vary.

I know I said this earlier, but please remember that this is not an end-all-be-all when it comes to things that do a thing. These are simply my observations on these articles after having been on site for a while and doing a lot of crit work, both on and off-site. I hope this helps you if you are interested in writing a thing that does a thing, and may your things do the thing well. Thing.

7: "TL;DR"

There are many ways to write a thing that does a thing. The most often seen are:

What You See Is What You Get
Nothing fancy, just the thing doing its thing. Try aiming for something broad or relatable here. No room for blandness!

Use logs to your advantage, create an escalation of events to lead your readers on an exploration of your thing's properties. Make sure not to just add extra details for word count.

Logical Extremes
Take a thing's ability to do a thing and turn it to 11. Go wild with this one, but remember to make it engaging.

Play with expectations and keep readers distracted before hitting them with a surprise.

This aside, the most important advice I can give is make your thing mean something. This doesn't necessarily mean add story, just make sure it means something. Anything.

And that's all I wrote.

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