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SHOULD YOU AVOID TROPES IN YOUR STORY?

July 17, 2019

In one fantasy forum I’m on, the question came up about avoiding tropes. Should the write avoid the usual tropes and what are they? I had an article back in 2016 about using tropes. I figured it was time to revisit this subject.

EVERYTHING IS A TROPE

Just think about it. When you’re writing within a genre, unless it’s a brand new one never done before, everything has been done before. My advice to that is, get over it. That means that no matter what form your story takes, you inevitably use tropes. You have to, or you can’t even construct a meaningful story.

I could just stop the article right here, but let’s look a little further.

The fantasy-focused forum then did a poll and listed a bunch of supposed tropes, and from the list, they basically drew every type of hero and every type of bad guy and asked which you’re sick of. The poll wasn’t near done, but already had a good start with people stating that some were sick of just about all of them.

Okay, the ones with the least amount of hate?

Is every author now going to focus stories around those particular tropes?

Was there some tropes left off?

WHAT IS A TROPE?

A trope is an over-used plot element or character.

Basically it’s something over-used in a story. Period.

In today’s world, with the extremely short attention span of our society, people get bored easily, so everything is boring in about thirty seconds or less.

That would seem to indicate that one cannot come up with much that hasn’t been done before many times over again.

The one thing that’s never duplicated though, is the unique story and the way it’s told by each author. Regardless of any tropes used, each individual author has a unique voice in the telling. That makes a story as individual as DNA.

However, back to the definition of a trope.

Damsel in distress.

Vampires.

The strong and silent cowboy.

The bad guy who’s just evil because he or she’s evil.

The bad guy who’s evil because of a broken home.

The bad guy who’s evil because they were abused as a child.

The poor beggar that turns out to be a prince.

The sparkly vampire.

The hard-bitten detective.

Sound familiar? I could go on and on and fill pages with tropes.

It’s said there are only a limited number of plots. In fact there’s a book about it. So, from that perspective, there are only so many plots which automatically makes EVERY plot a trope.

There you go.

THE BIG QUESTION

The big question leads to my big answer.

Should you even worry about tropes in your writing?

If in your particular genre, there’s a general negative reaction to a certain trope, commercially speaking, maybe it might not be the best idea to forge ahead with a story in that vein unless you’re super-compelled to do so. If that’s the case, damn it all and go ahead.

As for everyone else, screw the tropes. If you get the big idea, the big inspiration, the big Kahuna, I say, go for it and not even worry if it’s a trope. If you happen to realize you’re using one and decide to throw in a little twist to the stereotypical sparkly vampire, or hunky silent cowboy, or something equally typical, please do so! I’m sure nobody would object.

On the other hand, if you use a well-worn trope, yet write a fantastic story because you were unhindered worrying about something as trivial as upsetting the sensibilities of some easily bored people who are upset you’re using tropes, go for it!

SUMMARY

I recently wrote an article about rules. Well, tropes isn’t one of them. That has nothing to do with good writing. Tropes has to do with taste and following trends. I’m not a personal fan of trends. I don’t get bored easily, and never have. On the other hand, there ARE certain tropes I avoid like the plague, like anything to do with vampires. I’ve never been a fan, but I’m also not into cowboy stories or romance, but that’s got nothing to do with whether they’re good stories or not, or whether the writing is any good. That’s personal, genre taste. My taste for thrillers, detective and icky bug (horror) novels are full of tropes. Those kind of tropes don’t bother me in the least. It’s the writing and the stories that affect me.

Happy writing!

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