I wanted to take a moment today to talk about Tropes. If you don’t know what a trope is, there is an excellent webstie you can go and check out, it’s called TVTropes. It has lots of examples of tropes on it, and despite it’s name, it’s not limited to TV, but covers novels and movies as well.
Go check it out, look around. We’ll be here, when you return… in a month.
Back? Pretty addictive, isn’t it?
Okay, so, back to the topic at hand. Tropes. Now, lots of people know what a cliché is, and many writers rightly wish to avoid them in heir stories. But, a trope is not a cliché. Tropes are what define a genre. They are the rules of that genre, if you will. For example, fantasy genres usually demand lots of unclaimed and uncharted wilderness, and epic fantasy in particular demands that your characters go on long journeys through said wilderness. If you don’t have those things in your fantasy books your audience will often be confused, disappointed and even downright angry with you.
I can hear it now, all the screaming coming from that part of you that is your Artistic Integrity, demanding that you are an ARTIST, and as such do not need to follow any rules. In fact, it says, breaking rules is often a good thing, as it leads to original stories.
And this is all mostly true. Breaking rules in order to create a twist or drive your story in an unexpected direction CAN be a good thing. But, breaking a rule just for the sake of breaking it often leads to confusing and difficult to follow stories.
So, before you all go rushing out to break the rules of your chosen genre, don’t you think it’s important to know what the rules are, and why their in place? I do. Besides, don’t think of tropes as limiting. Just like outlining or the three act structure, tropes are a tool that you can use to keep your novel or story tight and well written. Chances are, you’re already using some tropes in your writing without even knowing it.
So, my suggestion is to check out sites like TVTropes, or go to your local library and read up on tropes. Get to know your genre, and you may find that there are tropes you can use to make your story better. And, yes, you may also find ways to break or bend a trope to make your story better too. But before you can do that, you gotta find out what they are first.
So, go find out all you can about tropes, and try using some in your writing. I think you’ll find that they are a big help, both in getting stories moving when things are stalled, getting a story started, or even how to reveal that big twist you want to insert in the story. And let me know how they were useful for you. I know they’ve been useful for me.
Until then, see you tomorrow for Flash Fiction Friday!