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Trope Avoidance

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Incanus, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    THAT was my mind numbing non fiction science project which occupied me from mid November last year to early March of this year.

    That said, the settings, races, types of government and whatnot don't matter. What does matter is the story telling.

    The core of my principle world comes from half a dozen old AD&D 'Historical Earth' handbooks respectively dealing with ancient Rome, even more ancient Greece, Celtic Europe, Charlemagne's Europe, Viking Europe, Crusader Middle East, and a few other like sources - about as generic or troupe as you can get. I took those and mashed them together and added some themes I wanted to explore - social change, moral dilemma's, technological compatibility with magic, and Lovecraftian abominations to name the main ones.

    I also kept a lot of things dirt simple. Doing so helps avoid confusion on the part of the reader. A large portion of the map marked 'Raslantar' doesn't say much to the reader. Labeling that same region 'Unknown Southern Plains,' says quite a bit.
    Incanus likes this.
  2. DeathtoTrite

    DeathtoTrite Troubadour

    Sometimes I feel like "trope avoidance" becomes a negative force in writing, particularly when a writer says "I need to avoid dark lord, since that's bad." I don't think, even a trope played fairly straight, is a bad thing-- the issue arises when a trope replaces your own genuine content and creativity. Calling someone the dark lord, and then stopping there would be an example. Creating a dark lord, with their own background, motivation, etc. would be a way that you play the trope straight while still engaging the reader.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I don't believe in tropes. IMO, that word really means "bad writing".

    I do try to avoid bad writing. But everything that is identified as a "trope" (in places such as TV Tropes) has been done *well* by some author or other.

    I really do think "trope" is a word used by people, wittingly or unwittingly, as a synonym for crappy writing. As such, it's not a terribly useful word.

    I therefore declare I shall avoid the trope of trope.
    Incanus likes this.
  4. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    You're laying it on a little thick. For instance, it's relatively complicated to say "It's a device that allows the user to move backwards through the fourth dimension and arrive at an earlier period in history," and relatively simple to say "It's a time machine" and count on audiences to be familiar with that trope.
  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I think skip.know is saying that they're avoiding using the word "trope" to mean bad writing. Or they're going to start using trope to mean bad writing. One or the other.

    People have misused the word to the point where it doesn't mean what it's supposed to mean. Like people think it's a synonym for cliche or convention. Maybe in a decade, it will just be another way of saying "bad writing".
    I don't know, words are weird.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  6. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Making the "good guys" perfect/flawless is one of the worst tropes you can use. Some artists put in character flaws that are really just used to create more sympathy. Bella Swan being a huge offender. Mary Sue on steroids.
    Incanus likes this.
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Honestly, I don't set out to avoid any tropes. I focus on telling an engaging, action-filled story with interesting characters, events and situations.

    I think writers sometimes get more hung up on tropes than readers. More than a few readers enjoy something familiar, over and over again. Yes, there are trends that become hot and those that become stale (to most readers...there is always at least niche of holdouts for anything). I could point to formula romance novels. They sell very well, even though the readers know what's going to happen. Names and places change, but the path of events is largely predictable.

    Focus on the story first, and if it contains a trope you despise...maybe come to 'un-despise' it. Take it and make it your own.

    Take Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever books. Lord Foul, the ultimate evil power as the antagonist. But what I liked was that to so many people of the Land, he was something different, a different aspect. Even his names: Lord Foul, The Despiser, The Gray Slayer, Fangthane, Corruption. Those are all I remember off the top of my head.
    Sheilawisz and Incanus like this.
  8. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

    This has been so overused in storytelling as a whole, that it's more of a cliché than a trope.

    Trope isn't a negative word, as it was said previously.
  9. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    I think Mary Sue has officially been classified as a trope. At least according to that massive tropes site.
  10. Tom

    Tom Istar

    THIS. My most hated fantasy trope/cliche is the Mary Sue. When you make your protagonist the most powerful, beautiful, amazing, perfect Living Embodiment of Good Evah, there's not much room for character development. Especially if you exclude flaws or only give him/her superficial faux flaws that are only there to make him/her "relatable".

    Even the living embodiment of the Light Side of the Force (in Star Wars: Clone Wars) has flaws! She's arrogant, overconfident, and sort of standoffish. That's what makes her a living, breathing, three dimensional character instead of just the living embodiment of the Light Side of the Force.

    And don't get me started on Bella Swan. Could she be even more of a Sue? Her name literally means "Beautiful Swan"!

    Arrrgghh. I hate Twilight.
  11. Manalodia

    Manalodia Sage

    Here I was thinking that writing was going the other direction by writing more overly flawed characters or ambiguous morality. That at least seems to be the trend in what I've heard is on TV and seen in some movies. I can't remember the last time I've seen the perfect hero aside from expecting them in children's television, but even that has changed. I don't worry about tropes, I worry about coherent writing. H.P. Lovecraft was frustrated with the fact that humans can only write/describe what they are familiar with and tried his damnedest to break that mold. It's impossible to not write something we all can visualize or be familiar with because it comes from some aspect of our world or observation.
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    I agree that the word 'trope' is rather ill-defined. For purposes of discussion, I needed a short title to get the ball rolling. I was--and still am--interested in which common fantasy elements people are using and not using, that's the main thing.

    I certainly don't think there is any right or wrong answer, and I believe any one of these so-called overused 'tropes' can be employed effectively in the right hands. I'll continue using the ones that aren't bothersome to me, and shun others that I find less useful for whatever reason.

    Thanks to everyone for responding!
  13. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

    As an Actor, a trope is "a thing you do"

    Everything you do is a trope, or will become a trope when other people emulate your masterpiece. Just make each trope you use matter, and be interesting at the same time.
  14. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I don't think tropes are something to avoid or subvert. They are something to have fun with. The the Jazz singer taking the basic chords of the music and riffing on them to create amazing improvised music.
    cupiscent likes this.
  15. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I don't think there's a clear consensus as to what are the common fantasy elements. I think most people just think "if Tolkien did it, it's a fantasy cliche" but that's not very, y'know, useful as a definition. I like to belief that fantasy and its conventions extend pass Tolkien and his imitators.
    What I'm saying is: a cliche is only a cliche when you call it a cliche.
  16. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    She could if she could already beat the crap out of the bad vampires as a human and took on the role of a 'big sister' to the Cullens lol.
  17. Manalodia

    Manalodia Sage

    WooHooMan, I'd have to agree with you. Fantasy developed from folklore and mythology of cultures around the world; Tolkien used them effectively for his own story and the West clung to it. It really is personal preference in which ones work for a story-teller and how well they can craft it to become their own.
  18. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    It certainly makes little sense to take an extreme approach and try to avoid anything that resembles a trope/cliche because you think your work won't be origina. It is good to be aware of these tropes so you can improvise them as you've said, not just throw them in because you think that's what is supposed to be included in the genre you are writing.
  19. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Twilight hasn't been relevant in like three years. The whole world has accepted that it was a horrible mistake. If you don't bring it up, we can pretend it never happened.

    I should start a thread about this phenomena. I think it's pretty interesting how humanist characters are the standard now rather than the exception. For better or for worse. You're not even likely to see cool simplistic characters like Indiana Jones or James Bond or any 80's action movie heroes anymore.

    I feel like even bad writers - the kind who make Mary Sues - know that good characters are supposed to have some kind of flaws. Like Bella was the last pure Mary Sue and now some new species of bad characters are going to emerge.

    I don't know. Tropes change over time. That's what I'm getting at.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
  20. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    Yes, this! Just because something is a commonly identified trope doesn't mean it should never touch your work. It does mean you should be aware of the ways in which it commonly manifests and think about how it should manifest in your own work.

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