Tropes, and the advice that may or may not be good
What is a trope? You ask.
Well, a trope is defined as any type of figure of speech, theme, image, character, or plot element that is used many times. Usually, the word refers to the widespread use of such things as irony, metaphor, juxtaposition, and hyperbole, or themes such as ‘”he noble savage” or “the reluctant hero” or the dreaded “boy attending wizarding school”.
Many themes and plots have been done to death. All of them, in fact.
It is common to hear that all stories have already been told, so there are no new stories out there.
While this may be true, and “writing to market” has exacerbated this (we will discuss writing to market in another post), it is also true that the strength of the narrative is what makes or breaks a published work.
I talk about a published work because if you wrote something, but don’t publish it, it’ll never be considered a trope or using tropes extensively since no one will read it or know about it.
The question is: are tropes bad?
The simple answer is: No.
I can feel many of you getting excited, your skin breaking out in goosebumps, your breathing getting faster and shallower, and getting yourself ready to tell me why I’m wrong.
Give me a minute, though, then we can talk.
I’d like to give two examples.
One trope I’m intimately familiar with, because I wanted to use it, is: “Protgonist wakes up and…”
I was told by many, many people, “Oh, don’t do that. It’s been done to death. Readers will push the snooze button immediately”. There are numerous YouTube authortube posts about this very thing.
For reasons that I’ll post another time, I’m reading award winning and best selling novels.
Earlier this year, I read “Six Wakes” by Mur Lafferty. Let me tell you, it’s chuck full of tropes, from the protagonist waking up at the beginning of the book, to memory loss as a recourse to give the reader backstory, to so many others I can’t even begin to tell you. However: it is a great book. Outstanding, in fact, and the Hugo and Nebula Awards nominations and prices are very well deserved.
Right now, I’m reading “Mind’s Eye” by Douglas E. Richards. A NY Times best seller. Guess how it starts. Come on, be dearing, what’s the first paragraph about? You gessed it. The protagonist wakes up with no memory at all.
So this is a trope. A trope many will tell you to stay away from. Yet, it is indeed a trope because it is an excellent dramatic device. If your story will benefit from this or any other trope USE IT.
Now, your story has to be engaging, exciting, and it has to grab the readers attention and not let go. Otherwise, your main character will wake up at the beginning of the book and the next chapter will put your reader to sleep. See what I did there? …I’ll let myself out.
At any rate, the point of my post is this: you have to be aware of the tropes. Make sure, if you use them, give them that particular flavor that will say it’s a trope, yes, but the story is yours, and it is like no other.
I’m going to keep the next few posts short, since it has been pointed out that I tend to make them a little long.
So, hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse in the world of tropes. If you found it engaging, like it, so I know.
See you next week.