This is an article on a subset of Chinese web novels called “小白文” or neophyte stories. Their characteristics and how to identify them.
Baidu article on “neophyte stories” translated by me, and edited by WanderingGummiOfDoom.
- Neophyte stories is a term used to describe novels with simple plots, and do not have the basic structures of novels. It is filled with meaningless words, which cause the contents of the novel to become bloated, extremely cliché, lacking imagination, and is shallow. It is usually seen in webnovels.
- It describes text that has a lower quality and uses simpler language, but it is very easily accepted by reader. Described positively, it is simple and easy to understand, negatively, it is shallow. The author only cares about the smoothness of the plot, not beauty or the substance. Sometimes, even the plot is not outstanding.
Origin: (from Wikipedia)
The Chinese is 小白文 which is literally little white text. The “little white” originates from 小白痴 (little idiot) but the shortened form has lost its negative connotations and mean “novice” or “beginner.”
The great majority of neophyte stories will have one or more of the following unique characteristics:
- The protagonist has unlimited power, and steps on everyone along the way. The experts that appear in the story can only sigh at how strong the protagonist is once it progresses to the later stages of the story, and are useless.
- Even if the protagonist is entering an extremely dangerous situation, and can only close their eyes to wait for death, they would be rescued right before death. It might be a fortuitous occurrence, or being rescued by someone, including a female character sacrificing themselves to help him relieve the poison. For the protagonist, divine instruments rain from the sky, and are attracted by the halo of the protagonist. The protagonist can be sweeping a room and will likely find one of the best divine instruments. When he is in a dangerous situation, like when he is falling off a cliff or trapped in a cave, he will encounter treasures, immortality pills, and divine instruments that someone had left behind, they will encounter a wonderful pet (Dragon, phoenix, and qilin are the top three choices). If not as great, they will find a secret paradise there which is suited to cultivation. In the beginning, the protagonist is very weak, but their speed of growth is faster than a supercomputer, and almost faster than the speed of light.
- Female characters. No matter the age, species (divine, immortal, demonic, or animal), skin color, hair color, eye color (many types that do not exist in reality), they are almost always extremely beautiful. If it is a harem story, then there is an 80% or greater chance that they will be taken into the harem. No matter what type of female character it is, tsundere, outgoing, innocent, their eyes will light up when they see the protagonist like they see jewels. At the beginning, they will not follow the protagonist, but then the protagonist will exude his “domineering” presence and take them in one by one. The most common qualities are: the number of women that like the protagonist will be no less than five, and there is no upper limit; these female characters will not care how many other women the protagonist has. Usually they will justify this using “He has skill, it isn’t anything for him to take a few women” to forgive the protagonist. It is extremely idealized and not according to human nature. The most important point: almost all the female characters are virgins.
- The protagonist can disregard the gap in levels, and challenge those in levels above them. Fighting above their level is as common as eating. The majority of neophyte stories will have a power structure. Basically, the difference in two levels is drastic, between heaven and earth. The first level has no power in front of the second, and the second level can kill the first with one move. However, the protagonist is an exception. The protagonist at first level can suppress second level characters, and even fight against third level characters. There are even those that can fight ten levels above themselves
- The protagonist will have lots of “younger brothers.” These will follow the protagonist from the start or afterwards, and they are extremely loyal. They would not blink at doing anything for the protagonist. Those powerful characters, like the assassins and masters of a clan or species, will meet the protagonist and become instant friends. Before they become subordinates of the protagonist, their martial power and intelligence far surpasses the protagonist, and they even dare to fight against the protagonist. When they become a subordinate, their intelligence drops by 30%, and will usually shout “Big Brother, go first, I’ll take care of this!” when the protagonist encounters danger. (Usually, it is impossible for the protagonist to even encounter danger.)
- They will usually have one or more extremely powerful steeds or pets, usually those that are mutant or on the verge of extinction. They are raised from birth and they increase in power quicker than the protagonist. They can easily become divine. They are even more loyal than the subordinates. They are usually very adorable or domineering. They are also liked by the female characters of the protagonist’s harem.
- There usually is a big boss that is the most powerful in the world, has high intelligence, and is full of schemes. They would usually try to kill the protagonist. (What intelligence? When they encounter the protagonist, they will idiotically monologue everything and then be killed by the protagonist using one “furious” move). The existence of the protagonist is to defeat this big boss (as well as collect for the harem and all kinds of green hats 【cheating】). However, there is no chance of this in the early parts of the story. It will only come about when the author really can’t keep the plot going and they write out the big boss. (At this time, the intelligence of the big boss is the same as the brothers of the protagonist, one that a Kindergarten child can easily defeat). The protagonist will defeat the boss and the story will end!
- This characteristic is suited for modern day neophyte stories. The protagonist is an orphan and adopted by a mysterious old man from childhood, has martial skills, and then goes to school to protect the school beauty and daughter of a great corporation! The protagonist usually sees the school beauty when he is in farmers attire. The school beauty will look down on him. Then a tyrant of the class or the school comes to challenge the protagonist, the eyes of the protagonist exudes a domineering presence, and easily defeats the class tyrant. Interest is stirred in the school beauty. There is a possibility of the class tyrant becoming a little brother of the protagonist. Those that dare to resist the protagonist usually have a terrible outcome. And then people will come to kidnap the school beauty, the protagonist will step out and rescue the school. The school beauty develops romantic feelings for him, and on campus, the protagonist will have ambiguous relationships with other people. In these neophyte stories, the beauties will have extreme dislike of rich and handsome tall men, and only have feelings for the protagonist as a way to satisfy fantasies of the reader.
- Neophyte stories usually will use tildes, and emoticons or there would be conversations between the author and the characters in the text. The personalities of these neophyte stories are hard to pin down, dumb in this instant, and then elegant in the next. There is no precise expression. No matter how intelligent the female protagonist is, she is instantly helpless when she meets the male protagonist. She wouldn’t even know if she was buried, if she is sold, and when the male protagonist explains this to her she would instantly start crying, and then be comforted by the male protagonist.
- The protagonist is trash, and has no cultivation. Then his cultivation will skyrocket due to a chance encounter, pick up a ring (or rock). Then there will be an old grandfather inside. They are all at the peak of power in the world, the king of the fantasy world, an ancestor of a powerful family, the emperor of all beasts. Then they will say they are being pursued by a certain opponent, and managed to hide a remnant of soul in the ring to remake a body and be reborn. They will then help the protagonist walk to the peak of life.
The last point: The protagonist will become the master of the universe in the end (or the god of legend.) Don’t say world, no one will read if you do. Males will put a green hat on themselves, or the people that exchanged green hats will all become part of the harem. The brothers that are with the protagonist will become kings of planets. In the end, the protagonist, the female characters, and the brothers will live together happily. End of the neophyte story.
- Warm and simple female characters
- Protagonist (Usually female) very naïve and dumb, and the story is slightly idiotic.
- Male Protagonist (Or a certain main protagonist) is very “black-hearted” in the story.
Identifying Neophyte Writing
- Looking at the novel name: Usually, non-neophyte writings will not have a very neophyte-like name (but even good stories will have neophyte names like “The Entire Court Falls In Love With Me”). Most neophyte novels have things like princes, princesses, and CEOs. But because many neophyte stories will have a serious, grand and magnificent name, then this is only a rough filter. Not all neophyte names will be neophyte stories so the story has to be looked at.
- Look at the synopsis: Many neophyte stories will show it at this step. If the synopsis is very neophyte, can the story not be a neophyte one? On the other hand, if the synopsis is written very well, then the probability the story is a neophyte one will be greatly lowered. Of course, most synopsizes are not very spectacular or terrible so it is hard to quantify.
Example of a neophyte synopsis
The nine stars connect and created a worldly apparition. Heavenly thunder comes to the world, and a calamity has formed. A youth with a tragic birth receives the inheritance of the ancient demonic gods. Having inhuman power, and being followed by many subordinates, see how he creates his own empire, his powerful business corporations, and search for his birth parents. How he freely lives his life, how he defeats all divine gods and buddhas, how he abuses the trashy gods, how he gets them to bow their heads in subservience to him, and to make them look up at him with awe.
- Chapter Titles: It is possible to see an author’s skill to a certain degree from the titles of chapters. Usually, those who use ancient poems and idioms as the titles of chapters usually will not be neophyte stories because the authors will usually have a relatively high degree of literacy, and it is not very likely they will write neophyte stories. If the titles look neophyte, then the possibility of being a neophyte story increases.
- Looking at the Writing: The quality of writing is the most direct display of success for a writer. Those with great writing will not write neophyte stories, those that have terrible writing will not create great stories. Of course, great writers are very rare, but good writers are more common. If the writing is very raw, the story will not be very mature, and can be seen from evident places. The chapters of the great majority of neophyte writings will be extremely wordy. For example, they would grab onto a subject and repetitiously explain the rationale behind it and how to use it, or to emphasize a certain character’s mentality repeatedly. There are those who would even emphasize the paths and moves of a person’s martial skills, and repeat it over and over. Most of that is to increase the world count. In a neophyte chapter, it is possible to just read the beginning and ending. The process of battle is basically the same for each chapter, because the words used are the same.
Reasons for Popularity
Result of Survey
67.6% of people chose “Relaxing and convenient to read,”
62.1% of people felt it was “fresh and fashionable,”
60.3% felt it was “creative freedom and great variety of content,”
54.6% of people felt it is “from grassroots, and full of personality,”
33.6% of people thought it was “able to interact with the author and readers.”
Source: http://baike.baidu.com/view/1052647.htm taken on 2016-05-28.
Translator Note: The points above are not my opinions and come from the contributions of the baidu encyclopedia. A story having neophyte qualities doesn’t always make it a terrible story, and many stories are written for entertainment.