Results 1 to 15 of 21
November 21st, 2013, 12:07 PM #1
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
If you could get rid of ten tropes...
The whole question here is if you could get rid of ten tropes permanently, totally erase them from existence for the rest of history, which ten would you choose? You can choose to explain them or not explain them. It could be any trope for any reason at all.
My top ten would be:
1. damsel in distress. I've explained my reasons many times over in other threads for this one.
2. Magic=strange science. If you really honestly think about it, it really doesn't make much sense even if they do have some similarities.
3. The one culture world.
4. Order= good. Chaos means change and change can in fact bring good.
5.The Gods/God are/is evil. It's honestly gotten to the point where it's as preachy and irritating as an evangelists rantings.
6.Rape as a backstory. This is not to say you can't have a character who has had that happen to them and it's issue that needs to be discussed, but this trope is not one of those ones that addresses it in any meaningful way.
7. Women in refrigerators. Need I say more?
8. Kink is evil. Many people would be shocked by how ethical those involved with such "interests" can be.
9.Arcane and Divine divide of magic.
10. Non-descript culture.
November 21st, 2013, 01:11 PM #2
- Join Date
- May 2011
- Blog Entries
I don't believe in tropes. tropes are just classifications people make to divide ideas so that they can join one group and bond with said group by hating on others who are in a different constructed group.
Ideas cannot be banished nor should they be.
20 people could write a story about a woman stuck in a refrigerator. Maybe I'd hate 18 of em and 2 would be the best stories I've ever read. Maybe stories shouldn't be classified and ideas shouldn't be filed away and forced into tropes or called cliches. Isn't it all about what an individual writer does with each story, how well they write it, how deeply they delve into the psyche of their characters, etc, that determines whether a book is worth reading or not?
I think that if writers didn't believe in tropes and just wrote from them hearts then there wouldn't be a problem. If I could banish anything it would be writers following someone else's script and following constructed character sketches and plot lines. When people have tropes and cliches and they're told this is the way that stories are written, and these are all the different kinds of characters you can have, and these are the plots, then writers use those constructs and their stories end up shallow and cookie-cutter-like.
I.E. Television writers.
Lose the definitions and feel the story force. Yay, I think I just found a new signature!
November 21st, 2013, 03:41 PM #3
1) I would ban the trope of using the word "trope" in its secondary, wildly inconsistent, made-up meaning from all discussions of SFFH fiction.
2) I would then ban the use of the word "cliche" from all discussions of SFFH fiction.
3) I would then ban the use of the word "gritty" from all discussions of SFFH fiction (with an exception for people who are talking about a work that has the word "gritty" in the title.)
4) I would ban the use of the phrase "genre fiction" which actually doesn't mean anything because nobody has a consistent definition for this secondary definition of the word "genre" and it causes endless confusion and chest-thumping.
5) I would ban the use of the words "show" and "telling/tell" in reference to discussing fictional works, because the use of these words in discussions of fiction is responsible for some of the most atrocious fiction writing around, IMO.
6) I would ban the use of the phrase "put your characters in a tree and throw rocks at them" in discussions of SFFH fiction. Likewise the phrase "kill your darlings" in discussions of all fiction, particularly SFFH and tv/film sci-fi. And probably any version of the phrase "science fiction is dead or dying."
7) I would ban the use of the word "literary fiction" and especially the phrase "literary fiction is a genre" from all discussions of fiction. (See #4)
8) I would ban the use of the word "fantasy/fantasy fiction" when what the person really means is secondary world pre-industrial fantasy fiction in discussions about what is going on in the field of fantasy fiction. (Epic fantasy is acceptable, however, since that was the old term.) No more pretending half the field doesn't exist.
9) I would ban presenting anything as a rule of fiction writing and of SFFH fiction writing. Stylistic templates used to try to corral other authors are not needed. Ditto for theme complaints.
10) I would ban calling women-written, women protagonist novels romance novels unless they actually are romance novels and any claim that male authors don't write romantic material in their stuff.
I think those are most of my pet peeves. I may have forgot a few.
November 21st, 2013, 03:57 PM #4
Whether any of us like it or not, everything in the world does tend to follow patterns, including fiction. I certainly wouldn't think of people who classify those patterns into tropes as malicious or spiteful. (A little obsessive, maybe, but that applies to a lot of people.)
Getting rid of those or any other ten is not that simple, because a lot of those concepts have real life counterparts. (This obviously doesn't apply to the fantastic ones.) There are cultures that treat women as disposable, there are rape victims that use that as motivation for how they live their lives, there are women who get held hostage, there are people who genuinely think that the rule of law is inherently beneficial, and so on. As long as people like that exist, other people will write both fiction and nonfiction about those things. Some badly, and some well. If it resonates with readers, more people will do it, leading to it becoming, well...
Also, KatG, since you find people who misuse the word "trope" annoying...guess what, there's a trope for that.
November 21st, 2013, 05:07 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2013
I like to think of tropes and "cliches" as being words audiences or readers use when deconstructing a work. As a writer I never think in terms of either, I just write what I feel is best for the story and what I'm trying to say.
November 22nd, 2013, 12:34 AM #6
If I get rid of some so-called tropes, could I then use them with impunity? Yes, there are some story lines I never want to see again, and there are some that have been done enough to make reading a story less enjoyable (I like it best when I can only guess where the story is heading, and even then I'm wrong, but in the end it all makes sense.) I understand that "been done before" does not equate with "bad", but in my mind, "I saw that coming" is a kind of black mark. For some odd reason certain plot twists will suddenly become common, and because they are done so much they become less effective.
For Ex, how many times have you seen--The evil bad guy is actually the heroes' father/sister/child/brother/wife/childhood best friend/etc. It was great the first few times I saw it, but now it gives me a nagging feeling of deja vu, and it makes me wonder. If the evil bad guy was not somehow connected with the hero, would it be okay to let him fall off the cliff, toss off a sufficiently rude one-liner, and then go get the girl?
November 22nd, 2013, 01:50 AM #7
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
Disagreements aside. Number ten is one I wished I had thought of listing.
November 22nd, 2013, 06:49 AM #8
- Join Date
- Mar 2010
- Landskrona, Sweden
An example for me would be the farmboy saves the world-trope (Star Wars, Eragon, The Wheel of Time). That one is so overused for me that I would not pick up a book that had something like that for tagline. On the other hand, I will not put down a book that I like just because it happens to use this formula. So, for me, it comes down to how it is being used in the story. Even completely original characters or storylines can be bad; just because it's original doesn't mean it's good. And that works the other way around too.
November 22nd, 2013, 05:23 PM #9Originally Posted by MrB
As we've discussed before, just because you like one plotline more than another -- because of your own reading choices in choosing works that had plotlines you didn't like -- does not mean that the plotline you like is any less common or bedrock as a story pattern than the one you decided you don't like. When we look at actual stories, you will see decision tree patterns. Readers are not surprised by the particular decision tree branch you use; they're surprised when they guess wrong which tree branch you went with. Not all of your readers will guess wrong. Some will always see it coming. You can play with their expectations and guesses to try to get a lot to guess wrong, but you won't come up with a pattern they haven't seen dozens of times before when you do reveal which tree branch you used. If they like that particular tree branch, they will be happy; if they don't like it, they may not be -- whether or not they guessed the tree branch correctly. How much they like a tree branch depends on their personal preferences, how engaged they were with the writing and characters, and what sort of mood they are in at the time.
Originally Posted by Riothamus
My best example of this is the year that Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind came out. That year, it was a regular whine on the forums about how they hated and weren't going to read books with rural/nomad younglings who became orphans and then found out they were important and special, dragons, magic schools (Potter backlash,) kid thieves in city sewers, etc. And then they were raving over Name of the Wind, which had all of these things and more. When asked why, they simply said that the book was very good, so they didn't mind. Rothfuss was in fact paying homage to all of those things, while also satirizing them in an exploration of what makes myth and legend. This is a popular theme for fantasy authors (see Robert Holdstock's Mythago Woods.) But if Rothfuss had decided instead to write about an adult, grizzled warrior with a tragic past, etc., it would be just as common. Or if he wrote about a female warrior, grizzled or beautiful -- common. Or a short fat wizard, etc.
Much as I support writers wanting to write something interesting that gets them excited and so will hopefully get others excited, you don't get "interesting" just by picking an item (tree branch) out of column B instead of column A. You get it from writing a narrative that engages enough people (while probably boring the pants off a whole bunch more.) Very few areas of fiction are overly concerned with "cliches." Fantasy writers are because they got a lot of flack for writing "fairy tales" for adults that are somehow more overused and more boring than contemporary or historical stories about a college professor cheating on his wife with a student. And because many fantasy writers are, in my opinion, wrongly taught that their field is all about plotting. So the word cliche is used to mean uncool and it is used very inconsistently. Which is why I find it a useless word. You can call someone out on it all you like; they will do the same to you. If you're okay with it, that's good as you'll be hearing it applied to you a lot if you write any kind of fantasy fiction. And no one will listen when you say their work is cliched. That doesn't mean that it isn't cliched for me to hear all about cliches, and so I would ban that fantasy trope if I could.
I also think trope has a very clear definition.
As for the whole thing about fantasy fiction, what if it is set in an industrialized secondary world with overt supernatural elements being a driving force?
I don't see a problem with the word gritty either.
As for nine my stance on that depends on what you mean by a template in that case.
Originally Posted by imaster
I don't want to ban any actual patterns or elements because as IELighten and others pointed out, I don't know what a writer may do with them. So I can't pick out ten plotlines or elements I don't like because why would I want to lessen the range of stories available to me? I have to see what it is first, and then I may dislike it, think it poorly done or presenting a philosophy or theme with which I deeply disagree. So I went for peeves that I find limit the discussion of fiction that come up a lot in SFFH.
November 22nd, 2013, 05:26 PM #10
I'd do away with the whole idea of tropes altogether to be honest. Some people seem to be so concerned with "deconstructing" them these days that they seem to forget that a lot of them are the building blocks of a damn good story.
November 22nd, 2013, 06:40 PM #11
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Northern California
- Blog Entries
I agree with imaster and PeteMC - that essentially tropes (as patterns as KatG mentioned) can be used well or not.
But I also agree that there are tropes that are overused. We seem them time and time again. After a while, we get tired of it and move on. Ten, twenty or more years down the line, it can be revived and may return in popularity, but for now, it may end up being something to be avoided.
And I agree that there are 'bad' tropes. Patterns of information, story, or characters that hurt us as a society; that reinforce stereotypes and can lead to (or contribute to) real-world, terrible acts of violence. Just saying.
November 23rd, 2013, 04:55 AM #12
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
I wouldn’t ban anything.
Ideas that are outright evil (rape is good) can be protested and, when turned into art, boycotted. Ideas which are factually wrong (the world is flat) can be illuminated and shown to be wrong.
Ideas which are simply silly or often-used can be turned into good art by a good artist. Banning their use would hamper artists.
One of my prime pet peeves is the Chosen One, for instance. But I could enjoy a story if a writer told me Who did the choosing, showed how the One adapted to the Choice, and how S/he escaped the effects S/he hated.
November 23rd, 2013, 07:08 AM #13
To be honest, I think in the end, it all boils down to the skill of the writer telling the story. If their premise is strong enough and their characters engaging enough and their writing stellar enough - they can do anything really.
They can even make you forget that you've seen it all before.
November 25th, 2013, 03:20 PM #14
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
- Middle TN
I like the discussion.
I love tvtropes.org which really dominates my thinking about tropes. After reading myself in circles there I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that while tropes appear to be discrete ideas/bits of story, they are actually are often indistinct, overlapping, and subject to interpretation. They’re kinda fuzzy.
So I understand the reticence for others to just cooperate with the listmaking mode of this post.
On the other hand, tropes can be useful in understanding the gears of a story or at least understanding what you like or dislike about particular stories or genres.
Genres are problematic as well. They really tend to get fuzzy just like tropes themselves. I have a love-hate relationship with even the idea of genre. They seem to have rules until you come to stories that bend things slightly and then people re-name them new genres, which can go on infinitely until each distinctive writer or work is a genre in and of itself. How and where do you draw the line? As someone who actually prefers crossgenre crap the most I find myself reading and writing stuff that confuses my sense of genre.
I agree with the sentiment of TheIELighten but I have a fascination with big picture analysis crap like genre and tropes so I can’t abandon it totally for pure magic. I like playing with structure and expectations and genre can help with both of those even if you are breaking them.
I mostly agree with KatG’s list except that I know I’ll violate it at least a little bit.
RE: Gritty. That was abused to DEATH within the comic book world starting really with The Dark Knight Returns/Watchmen Era (1986-7) and the 1990s basically. I guess the plague has spread to ordinary fiction.
Tentative genre thoughts…
There seem to be a few different major moving parts to genre. One is the kind of plots – romance, action, thriller, suspense, mystery, horror, etc. And on top of that is laid the flavor of the setting – sci fi, fantasy, blah blah blah. There are a billion sub-flavors and combinations of these things depending on your taste and judgment.
Since I consider these all to be flavor elements like in a recipe, our tastes vary and longer discussions will bring out nuance, while “I hate UF, it’s for girls,” just brings out the stupid in you (or me for that matter).
I try to write about what I’m “bored of” or “dislike” with specific explanations and a tone of this is MY TASTE and your taste can be different and we can be friends anyway. I dislike when people use "what they are bored of" to separate and beat each other up with. Just agree to disagree, jeez.
But I'm often surprised at how writers will always use tropes that I’m bored of in new ways or of such quality that I have to like it anyway. For example I am very bored of “the chosen one” thing, but I still loved the Avatar cartoon series. So part of it is about execution.
I agree w/KatG that cliché is just a trope you are bored of or think was handled poorly in a particular work.
I don’t think I’d erase any tropes altogether. I view them more like a toolkit. Some tools are used more often than others, and perhaps too much, but trope abolition is hard to approve of.
I was going to contradict all my caveating above and proceed to list 10 tropes I dislike but I ran out of time on my lunch break.
December 6th, 2013, 10:33 AM #15
The banning seems to take place at the cash register, with good storytelling always in the winner's circle. Tolkien's work is brimful of cliches, such as Tall & Blond equals good; Short, Hairy and Dark equals bad -- yet the guy sure could tell a story.