As part of getting things cleaned up here, the time has come to overhaul the Infoboxes.
The purpose of an Infobox is to give you the highlights of a subject in a standardized way. For example, nutrition labels with the calories and the serving size is an Infobox for food sold in stores. It's a brief list to cover the important points.
The Infoboxes here have steadily been growing past the point of highlighting the important points into being used the present most (or sometimes all) of the details about that character. Examples:
- Marty from the Madagascar movies: 36 descriptions in the Personality section and 19 allies
- Lola from Shark Tale: 24 descriptions in the Personality section
- Gladys Sharp from Over the Hedge: 14 descriptions in the Personality section and 10 enemies
All of these are barely even mentioned in the main body of the page. Marty's "funny", "fun-loving" and "humorous" according to the Infobox, but you wouldn't know that by the sentences on the page. Lola's "sadistic", "loathsome" and "obsequious", but you'd never know that by how she's described. Gladys is "sour", "fearful" and "spontaneous", but that's not on the page, either.
At the other extreme is when the Infobox contains more information than the rest of the page. The Infobox for Rocky Rhodes is longer than the rest of the page. It contains fifteen descriptions of his personality, the eleven people he's allies with or enemies of and nineteen things he likes and dislikes.
Not one word of those is in the eight sentences on the page.
The page for Whitey from Flushed Away isn't much better. Four sentences, an Infobox that is four times longer than the rest of the page.
People spent so much time stuffing things into the Infobox that they didn't do anything else. Whitey's page also contains two dozen categories and most of those aren't in the four sentences, either.
That's being lazy. Pages for characters need to be more than just lists. We need to steer people away from taking the easy way and just stuffing items into the Infobox and categories.
Note: each of these examples are from before the adjustments to the Infobox were made.
Infobox weight loss
What I'm proposing is that we remove a lot of entries from the Infobox so that the details can be put onto the main part of the page where people will make the effort to actually say things about the character. This will make the Infobox much shorter and more factual, rather than being a dumping ground for personal opinions.
Here's what will stay:
- image, name, fullname, alias, films, shorts, shows, games, rides:
Identifies the character and where they've appeared. In the case where there are many appearances, we can summarize it like "Madagascar series" and then provide a link to the section in the page that will list them all out.
- actor, actress, voice:
The people that performed the role either in live action or as a voice actor.
One quote can stay and should be their most memorable quote. All others need to go into a separate "Quotes" section.
Here's what will move:
- model, designer, inspiration:
When there is information about how the character was developed, it should go into a "Development" or "Background information" section on the page. In the case of inspirations, only documented inspirations will be allowed. (See below.)
- personality, likes, dislikes:
All info here will go in a separate "Personality" section on the page, but cut back on what's include as much as possible so they don't turn back into a list.
All info about the character's physical appearance will go into a separate "Physical appearance" section.
- affiliations, goal, occupation:
Whatever groups this character belongs to or works with needs to be included as a description of what they do in the story. Same goes for goals and occupation.
- family, home, pets, friends, minions, enemies:
Move this into a "Relationships" section.
- powers, possessions, weapons:
Move these into an "Abilities" section.
- alignment, fate:
Both of these need to be covered by descriptions that are in the main part of the page.
Here's what will be deleted:
The age of a character is rarely given in a story unless it's important to how the story unfolds to know exactly how old that character is. The Infobox doesn't have a "birthdate" field, but same goes for that. Too many times when it isn't important to the story for us to know how old the character is or when their birthdate is, people start inventing ages and birthdates to fill in those fields in the Infobox. So age will be deleted. If it happens to be specifically mentioned for some reason, it can go into the "Biography" section.
Too many times, this gets changed and fussed over as people try to pin down exactly how good or how bad a character is. The information on the page needs to convey that without resorting to rigidly-defined labels.
Reasons for the overhaul
The reason for only allowing documented inspirations is covered in my Similarities and inspirations blog, but the gist is that too many times where people say a character is "inspired by" another character, it's just a coincidence that they have a couple of things in common. That's the nature of storytelling and due to the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of stories and characters that have been created to use for those comparisons. You look far enough and anything can be "inspired by" or "similar to" anything else.
When it comes to personality, likes and dislikes, describing each of those is better than just listing them. For Bolivar Trask from the Marvel movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, there's two ways of describing how he feels about mutants:
- dislikes: mutants
- Bolivar Trask is fascinated by the abilities mutants have, but realizes that they are a threat to the survival of all humans. He studied them in order to learn how to make his Sentinel robots better at hunting them down and adapting to their capabilities.
The second tells so much more about why he dislikes mutants and it addresses a point that was made in the movie: he doesn't hate or dislike them. He just wants to curtail what they could do.
Here's examples from books and movies of how showing is better than listing:
Harry Potter series:
- magic, immortality-seeker, unrequited love, school, orphan
- The Harry Potter books are the story of a boy whose parents were murdered as the result of a prophecy by Tom Riddle who wanted to live forever. At age 11, Harry is accepted into Hogwards School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he encounters a teacher that has a particular dislike for him. Upon that teacher's death, Harry learns that the teacher had been in love with his mother since they were both children, watched her become friends with another person that she later married, and had been bullied by Harry's father while they were all in school together.
Hunger Games series:
- fight to the death, contest, rebellion, defending your family, love triangle
- The Hunger Games books are told from the point of view of Katniss Everdean, who volunteers to take her sister Primrose's place at the first Reaping Primrose was required to be at. As punishment for a rebellion in the past, their goverment requires a boy and a girl from each of the twelve districts to fight to the death in a nationally-broadcast contest. The victor lives a life of luxury in the Capitol and their district receives extra food and supplies for the year. Katniss becomes the reluctant symbol of a new rebellion when she refused to kill her friend Peeta and has to deal with her feelings for him and Gale back home.
- immortality-seeker, oppression, authoritarian dictatorship, traitor, redemtion
- In the universe of Star Wars, Darth Vader is a prominent figure. He was born without a father, having been created by the Force. A prophecy foretold that he would bring balance to the Force and Qui-Gon Jinn took it upon himself to begin training the boy, named Anakin Skywalker. As Anakin grew, he struggled with conflicting emotions such as being in love with Padmé Amidala when that was forbidden since he was a Padawan in the Jedi Order. One of his goals was to free his mother, who was still a slave on the planet he was born, and when he was not able to do that, he began searching for a way to prevent Padmé from dying after behing haunted by visions of her death. Events led him to follow the teachings and advice of Senator Palpatine, who was in fact, a Sith named Darth Sidious and later became Emperor of the Galactic Empire.
After rejecting the Jedi and committing murder at the behest of Sidious, Anakin was defeated in a battle with his current teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The fight left him nearly dead, requiring his body to be placed into a life support suit. He served the Empire for many years as Darth Vader until he was forced to watch the son he only recently found out he had being tortured. At that time, Vader made the choice to kill the Emperor to save his son. Mortally wounded, this led to his redemption before his death.
We're going to get the Infoboxes and categories under control. Both have been used to just dump in lists of tiny details instead of spending the time to show the facts on the main part of the page.
If all someone does is slap a category on a page or dump words into the Infobox, that doesn't help. It makes the Infobox and categories bloated. That's going to stop.
To get us started, the fields are going to be removed from the Infobox template. That way, the parts of the Infobox that are making it so bloated will stop showing up and we can get the info moved into the main body of the page later.